Allow me to completely skip over our vacation for a minute, an answer the question that everyone really wants to know: How did we survive flying with a baby?
While it worked out pretty well, and I haven't ruled out flying in the future, it was something I spent a lot of time thinking about and planning for. I always find I handle situations better if I've run though every possibility ahead of time, so that when something does happen, I don't have to think. I just react. And I've got everything I could need at hand, so I can do it quickly.
Our flight to Florida was at 9:30 am, which meant we had to leave our house slightly before E usually wakes up. However, we've pretty much figured out his sleep at this point, so we put him to bed 30 minutes early the night before, and he woke up right on time. The early morning meant that he was a bit sleepy and calm through check in and security. I wore him through the airport and he didn't put up much of a protest. Our bags were searched in both directions - apparently food and baby wipes will set them off, both of which we had with us. However everyone was very friendly and understanding, and it wasn't that big of a problem.
As we waited for our flight, E ate/stole some of my bagel, watched the people around us (and only poked one person in the head, who was luckily a grandparent and totally unphased), and was actually taking a nap while strapped to my chest as we boarded the plane.
The flight down was almost uneventful. Sure it took a lot of energy to entertain a baby. There were a lot of toys and snacks and crawling back and forth between us. Eventually he got tired again and was struggling to find a comfortable position to sleep, which lead to a bit of fussiness, but really it wasn't that bad. He ended up in a face plant across Tom's legs, and slept for almost an hour. By the time he woke up, it was almost time to land! We even had an extra seat next to us, but never really used it!
Our flight back was a bit different. It was later in the day, but timed around when E would be eating, which would help for take off. However, it ended up delayed half an hour before we even got to the gate. Hoping to keep him distracted and not starving, we sat down at a restaurant to get some food. Unfortunately the food took forever, and a cranky E melted down and then fell asleep right before the food got there. It was nice he got a quick 15 minute nap in, but we ended up pressed for time, and with a still hungry baby.
This time we weren't lucky enough to have an empty seat by us, and although my mom had wished us a 'grandmother' to sit by, we instead got a woman who wanted nothing to do with a baby. Totally fine, but you try explaining to the world's most outgoing 9 month old why the person two inches away doesn't want to be friends. He tried everything, and then just resorted to staring at her awkwardly, while trying to secretly touch her. I must have sounded like a crazy person saying "No E, she is look don't touch" over and over. His little arm kept trying to sneak over and I'd have to pin his arms down again or hand him over to Tom.
We were also delayed on the runway for a while waiting to take off. At this point our flight was over an hour past when it was supposed to take off, and no amount of puffs was keeping E happy. He was melting, and we finally decided just to feed him and forget about the bottle on take off. It was fine in the end, but sometimes all the planning in the world just doesn't work with babies.
His only other meltdown revolved around trying to find a comfortable sleeping position again. It lead to a stressful 15 minutes for Tom and I as he crawled back and forth between us, crying and spinning in circles, but ended with him passed out on Tom, and sleeping for an hour! Again he woke just before our flight landed, which made the second half of our flight way more enjoyable. We still went through a ton of snacks, toys, distractions and singing of songs, but multiple people complimented him after the flight (even stopping us in the bathroom after!) so his meltdowns couldn't have been as bad as they seemed to us. It helped that the flight was full of children, so we didn't feel like we were alone with our situation. Also having him pop up from our seats and wave and giggle at the back of the plane goes a long way, I think. I'd definitely look past some cries if I got some giggles and a smile at the end.
I will say that everything took much longer. Moving our high volume of luggage. Getting through security. Getting in and out of our seats/the car/anywhere. Time seemed to creep by, and we were exhausted at the end. Having both of us there made things way easier (shout out to anyone who has flown alone with kids!).
Overall this was my game plan for surviving, and it seemed to work. (This is half here for reference for myself if we decide to do this again!)
Carried on the Plane
Change of Clothes: Two for E, one for each of us, plus a wet/dry bag just in case.
Diapers: WAY more than we could possibly need. Same goes for wipes.
Food: ALL the snacks. Puffs, finger foods, mum-mums. You name it, we had it.
Toys: I purposely had picked up some new toys I knew he'd like and that he hadn't seen before. I also threw in a few old favorites. Anything I thought would entertain him but wouldn't get lost easily.
Books: My favorite are these "indestructible books." They're easy to pack and don't take up a lot of space, and E can go to town trying to eat them. They also keep him entertained with their awesome pictures.
Pacifiers: Always a must with E, we made sure we had them attached to him so we wouldn't lose them.
Cleaning Supplies: I was terrified of getting sick, especially with how bad flu season is. We turned off our air vents above us, and wiped down ever surface with Lysol wipes to try and avoid as many germs as we could. We also had hand sanitizer with us. It did lead to a funny moment, though, when a passenger seated across from us shouted to get our attention- horrified when E was chewing on the arm rest. I let them know we had cleaned it earlier, and if it kept him happy, I was totally okay with it.
We also chose to fly JetBlue - half because I love them, and half because the TVs would also hopefully distract E. We chose seats with extra legroom to give us a bit more space, and chose to check our stroller and car seat. This bag was awesome for the car seat (and hiding extra diapers in!)
Packed and Checked
I mentioned that we checked the car seat and stroller. We actually gate checked the stroller, although we used it more as a luggage rack than a baby carrier in the airport. We didn't pack too many toys since E is more interested in people and exploring at this point. And actually my parents showed up with more toys than we did, so they had him covered!
We tried not to over pack and only brought a couple extra and warm clothes (which came in handy - not because E was cold, but because he doesn't like to crawl in shorts apparently!). We packed a few things he can't live without, like his sound machine, and a few just in case things like baby Tylenol - although I also had the address of a 24 hour Walmart near by for anything we'd forgotten.
We chose not to pack other things, like a baby monitors - figuring we could get through the week without it.
Other Helpful Things
Since we were flying within the US, we were able to buy a lot of stuff when we landed, as opposed to packing it. We stopped by a Target and picked up formula and diapers for the week. We also rented a pack n play and a high chair for use while we were there. This was super cool and helpful, since we had considered just buying a cheap pack n play for the week and then getting rid of it. We chose not to rent a car seat, just because I couldn't be sure of the quality, and our ability to use it correctly. We know our seat pretty well, and we're pretty close to retiring it for a bigger one, so if it got banged up during the flight, we were okay with that. I will say that Tom got really good at installing/uninstalling it though!
I also had bought a new carrier recently with the intention of wearing E in the airport that I think worked out well. It allowed E to be close to me (which was key this week when he was feeling overwhelmed by everything new) and still look out and watch people. It's definitely my new favorite carrier - we even had someone stop us and ask what type it was so they could buy one.
In the end, it went better than I expected, and gave me the confidence to maybe do it again. It was definitely the most exhausting and stressful part of our trip, but we managed to do it without too much stress, no fights, and only minimal tears - win!