In terms of travel accomplishments, flying cross-country with an infant doesn’t exactly rival, say, Livingstone crossing central Africa or the Polynesian navigation of the Pacific.
That said: given the choice of a middle seat on a Spirit Airlines flight at the height of vacation season with a baby on your lap or dying of dysentery in a village near Lake Bangweulu, Zambia … well, we’ve heard Lake Bangweulu is lovely this time of year.
Assuming, however, that the former option is an inevitability for some of us, here are a few quick dos and don’ts for your journey. Bon voyage, dad.
- Abandon all hopes of speed and economy. You will (probably) be checking a bag. You will need a cab. Save the no-check, public transport-only, last-flight-to-Vegas spree for your next solo, non-business trip. You know, in 20 years.
- Accept that everything will take longer. Why be an hour early to the airport when you can be two hours early?! The good news is that the recent mega lines at airport security seem to be on the wane; the better news is that if your airport offers it, you’re now eligible for those special security lines for babies. You’ll do even better internationally, where babies (and their attendants) are often whisked to the front of the queue.
- Become the master of folding your stroller. If you’re not already, practice at home, rather than when you have 50 strangers murdering you with their eyes at the X-ray machines. Some won’t fit — ask to have it visually inspected.
- No heavy-metal babies. Does your baby love studded jackets? Metal bedazzlements? Overalls with a surfeit of buckles? Break his or her little heart: the metal stays home. Something as innocuous as a sequin can set off the metal detector; you want to avoid any possibility of having to undress your infant in line.
- Know your TSA rights. TSA agents will likely allow you to pass through the traditional metal detector rather than the full-body scanners if you’re carrying a baby. If they’re not obliging, you can opt out. Medical professionals have varying opinions on the safety of full-body scanners. We always opt out, but mostly because we’re contrarian like that.
- Don’t bitch about your kid getting searched. Opting out may mean your kid gets a pat down (this actually does happen, because 2016 — just Google “baby pat down outrage”). Study the TSA procedures beforehand and remember you have the right to stay with your child at all times — even if you’re the one getting the pat down.
- Give the kid a tablet/iThing/snack/pacifier/whatever will keep it quiet. Now is not the time for a lesson on the importance of monkish self-discipline. For your sake and the sake of everyone seated within 10 rows of you, assuage the little despot by any means necessary.
- Congratulations! You made it to the plane. Now enjoy your terrible flight.