Here is AC's (and my) flight log:
Nov. 2009 = 1st flight, 4 months old
Jan. 2010 = 2nd flight, 6 months old
March 2010 = 3rd & 4th flights, 8 months old
May 2010 = 5th & 6th flights, 10 months old
July 2010 = 7th & 8th flights, 1 year old
Nov. 2010 = 9th flight, 16 months old
Jan. 2011 = 10th flight, 18 months old
May 2011 = 11th & 12th flights, 22 months old
Sept. 2011 = 13th & 14th flights, 25 months old
14 flights in 2 short years. My girl has racked up some serious sky miles. Her teacher said yesterday, "Wow! You must be a pro at it then." My response, "No, not a pro at all. But I've learned to manage the chaos."
Here are some things I've learned about flying with a baby/toddler.
1) Before the age of 1, they will probably sleep most of the time. Make sure your seat has armrests. Your arms will get tired much more quickly than you realized.
2) Bottles and some sippie cups will leak due to changes in air pressure. I've found my diaper bag full of milk or water on multiple occasions. Waiting to mix a bottle or make a sippie cup until you get on the plane or when the babe needs it is helpful.
3) The security people will not be very helpful to you. They usually won't (or can't) help you load or unload all your things in the bins.
4) Any thing you take on the plane has to go through the x-ray machines. Even strollers and car seats. This is not a very pleasant experience when flying alone with a child (probably due to #3 listed above). Equipment that you can maneuver with one hand is essential.
5) Don't wear nice clothes. Your clothes will get puked on, peed on, pooped on, sweaty, have food/drink spilled on them, and/or super wrinkly. The same goes for your kid. We always wear black or navy clothing (don't have to worry about stains) and flip-flops.
6) Always ask for "NO ICE" in your free drink. The flight attendants don't come back immediately to pick up the empty cup and the leftover ice will look like a very fun toy for Baby/Toddler.
7) If your kid takes a pacifier, bring at least 3. You should NEVER use a paci that has fallen on the floor. I've seen some nasty things on the floors of a plane.
8) If you don't want anyone else to sit with you, it's safest to go as far back in the plane as you possibly can. Not many people want to sit back there. Plus you are closer to the flight attendants should you need any help.
9) Don't drink anything for a few hours before boarding. Using the restroom will be tricky to say the least.
10) Bring a little ziploc bag for trash. Toddlers will spit out snacks and you will use a lot of wipes/tissues. It's nice to have a place to stash all this yucky stuff until the flight attendants come by to pick up the trash.
11) Try to feed your toddler a meal before leaving home. Even if you have to feed him at a time that isn't normal for him. Taking a hungry toddler on an airplane is a recipe for disaster. Sure, you can give him snacks at the airport, but snacks have a different effect on his blood sugar and energy level. This is crucial.
12) Portable dvd players or media devices are great for your toddler. Tips: Make sure it is fully charged (there aren't any outlets on the plane). Bring headphones of some sort (others on the plane don't want to listen to 2 hours of Barney or Nemo). Make it a movie/show your kid has never seen before (new movies will hold his/her attention longer than an old familiar one).
13) Your kid is going to cry. Get over it. You won't die. Neither will the people around you. Sure, it's embarrassing, but there really isn't much you can do. It will happen. It doesn't even phase me anymore.
I'm sure there are more things that I could add to this list. Each trip brings with it a new and different challenge. Despite the week it takes to prepare and the anxiety of being on the plane, I'm just so thankful we are able to make so many trips home. It really is everything to me.