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Air Travel with a Baby

Air Travel from Maine to the Dominican Republic

We said goodbye to my family in snowy Maine and boarded a southbound plane.  Petra and I took her first plane trip when she was two months old , and now at five months she was already a traveling pro — having logged more in the air and on the road miles than many kids ten times her age. I was way more relaxed having already seen how she reacted to air travel, and now having my husband with me, I knew this trip was going to be okay.

I knew I would do the majority of the caretaking on this flight to the Dominican Republic, since Petra’s favorite thing to do when traveling is nurse herself to sleep. But still, it was a big relief to know that I would be sitting next to someone I knew and loved. I followed the advice that breastfeeding, especially during takeoff and landing, can help alleviate air pressure changes on a baby’s ears, but it can be a little awkward breastfeeding so close to a male stranger (as on our first flight to Arizona). More importantly, my seat partner this time could help entertain the baby, and I didn’t have to worry as much about annoying the nearest passenger to me if she started kvetching.

Petra flying to the Dominican Republic

Flying with my husband also meant that there would be another person to hold Petra so I could even go to the bathroom — an act that quickly becomes a luxury for a new mother.

Not to mention the fact that someone else would be there to share the excitement and adventure of traveling with a baby.

Flying with a baby practical matters

Petra travels as a lap infant on planes. You are not required to buy an extra seat for your baby on the plane until he or she is two years old. If you want to buy a seat and strap them into a car seat you can, but we travel on a tight budget and this didn’t seem at all worth it to us. Although Petra’s safety is a top priority, the benefits of a car seat in a plane crash seemed pretty minimal to us.

We traveled on Jet Blue from Portland, ME to Santiago, DR with a short layover in JFK. I actually appreciate layovers  now that we are traveling with a baby. Now I prefer to break up long  air trips with a place where Petra can walk around (in mom’s arms or on her own)  and have an easy place to feed her and change her diapers.

Petra in a waiting room

The first flight to JFK went quickly and smoothly. We took advantage of the airline policies that allow people traveling with small children to board first.No sooner had we boarded then Petra nursed and fell asleep for almost the whole flight.

[adsense]The second flight — our first international flight as a family — started out a little rough. While waiting on the runway for our turn to take off, and Petra started getting a little cranky (like every other air passenger in such a circumstance). But Petra’s annoyance quickly turned into full on screaming. I couldn’t get her to nurse and I could feel the hatred pouring out of everyone sitting near us.  In that instant I felt like the traveling mother’s nightmare was coming true. My baby was going to be screaming bloody murder the entire flight. I was going to have the sole responsibility of making my child and everyone on the plane miserable. But there was nothing to be done except go through the list of distractions:

We tried a pacifier, a  little television, some shiny toys, and finally some singing calmed her down enough so she would eat and go to sleep.

Petra on an plane to the Dominican Republic

Petra woke back up half an hour later, but this time was happy happy happy.

We then set foot on foreign soil for the first time as a family.

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Filed under: Air Travel, Caribbean, Dominican Republic, Travel With Family

About the Author:

After traveling on her own for three or four years, Chaya met up with Wade Shepard, the editor of VagabondJourney.com. They were married in 2009, and continue to travel the world together with their young daughter. From time to time Chaya blogs about family travel and life on the road. has written 102 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

Chaya Shepard is currently in: Xiamen, China