When my daughter, Lily, was 10 months old, I decided to take her on a six-hour flight to visit my best friend. Obviously, I was delirious from lack of sleep.
The trip was a disaster: I had to empty my bags for airport security, Lily's diaper leaked on my shirt, and she spent an hour of the flight fussing and crying. At least I learned what to do -- and what to avoid -- on future journeys. To spare you the same aggravation, here are some strategies for a more enjoyable adventure.
Though the Federal Aviation Administration and most airlines don't require you to buy your baby an airline ticket, they strongly recommend it. "It's tempting to save money by holding your baby on your lap, but doing so can be very dangerous in cases of hard landings or turbulence," says Peter Greenberg, travel editor for NBC's Today show. "Your infant is safest buckled up in a car seat." Some airlines have an empty-seat policy: You can bring a car seat on board and use it in an empty seat even if you haven't purchased a ticket. But with cutbacks in scheduled service, you can't always count on an available seat. (For international travel, you're typically required to buy a ticket for your baby.) Make sure your car seat is certified for use on an aircraft (the label will say so) and no wider than 16 inches (to fit in most coach seats).