I found myself pondering on all three as we flew with Jordan for the first time ever. I had done some premature research by glimpsing at some friends' blogs, skimming over some internet suggestions, and even spoken with some more seasoned traveling parents. Looking back, we missed some pretty obvious things.
I knew we were allowed to gate check a car seat and stroller - I did not know where exactly the "gate" was that we were to do so - neither did Andy as he carried the car seat up the plane's staircase. I know now - you get your tags for both at the gate and then leave it outside of the plane entrance - if there's a tunnel, you take it into the tunnel, if you board the plane by walking up stairs, you leave it at the base of the stairs. I felt beyond novice as I advised all the flight attendants that this was my child's first flight ever, hoping that tid bit of information would justify our ignorance.
I knew Jordan could fly free on one of our laps until he was 2 - I did not know I should bring documentation of such in the form of a birth certificate. I have since scoured the FAA website (it's not a friendly one) for exact regulations because one of the Southwest representatives told me the FAA fine is $10,000 if I do not have adequate documentation on a flight. I'm not sure whether to believe her since I can't easily navigate the FAA.gov website but I quickly obtained a copy of his immunization records from his pediatrician via fax (love technology at times like this) which suffice as evidence of his birth date for now. Being that the birth certificate does not have a photo of him, it seems like a rather useless regulation that can easily be manipulated but that's just the auditor in me thinking outloud.
I knew feeding him during take-off would help reduce the change in air pressure by distracting him - I did not know the sights all around him at 4 months would make it hard for him to focus or that the tiny seats make it hard to feed (if the elbow rest is on the right, it's hard to feed him on the left and vice versa and I always had one elbow rest up since Andy and I had two seats between us).
A full flight makes for very difficult feeding, especially since larger passengers tended to pick the empty seat next to Andy (maybe because he doesn't take up much space so there's room for them to overfill and because we have a baby in our aisle, so it's a mutual agreement that neither will be too irritated?.. not sure but we are 2 for 2) but it's smart to ask ahead of time, say while you're boarding to the ticket attendant or the flight attendant who greets you as you enter the plane.
One thing that never crossed my mind in preparing for Jordan's first flight was the possibility of a diaper change. I figured he has slept through 9 hours in a diaper, so what was 3.5 hours? He figured he'd poop while in the plane, not once or twice, but three times would do just fine. What I have since learned is there are usually diaper changing tables in front of the plane but lucky for me, we had our own pad and room on the flight he chose to poop multiple times. We went into super speed diaper changing mode but the airplane air mystified him as he marked his territory on the empty seat between us which we quickly cleaned with a wipe and hand sanitizer (but makes you think twice about how clean airplane seats are, eh?). Note - make sure your husband does not laugh and happily exclaim to your baby, "Marked your territory eh son?!" outloud on the plane for nearby passengers to hear. An announcement is not necessary and this is unlike the announcement that it is his first flight to score some empathy points.
As for the crying, it's inevitable - it will happen even if for a bit and I felt quite prepared as I planned for the worst and hoped for the best. I thought Jordan did quite well as he was easily calmed if we held him close and whispered his favorite song into his ear - The Wheels on the Bus go round and round.... round and round. I'm not sure why that's his favorite, but he absolutely loves it. Works every time! The other thing you can hope for (which I didn't but I may going forward now) is that someone else's child is worse than your own so yours will always seem great in comparison. We had a couple screamers on the flights that Jordan was not too happy on, but everyone near us seemed amused by his short spouts of crying while many concocted their faces into big goofy smiles in an attempt to get a smile out of him. Thus far, Jordan does not like to smile for strangers (except at Church). Stranger danger!
But all in all, traveling with Jordan was really not as bad as I anticipated. And, as I sat there yesterday with him asleep in my arms, a bit nauseous (you can't take Dramamine when you're nursing), munching on the in flight peanuts, lost in my gaze at his adorable sleeping face, I couldn't help but wonder, Is he enjoying this flight? He looks so peaceful and so--dang it, this freaking static is SO ANNOYING I wonder if Andy - nope, no static on that short hair. UGH!!!!!!!!!! Where's my hair tie? UGH!!!!
So there you have it. Static cling wins as the worst.