I recently returned from a vacation in Europe. All told, my wife and 10-month old son managed to commute between Vancouver, Toulouse and Barcelona with six separate flights. Some were long, eight-hour hauls, while others were shorter. Flying with a baby isn’t easy. Tearful screams echoing through your small cabin while (seemingly) angry passengers glare can be tricky to deal with. You find yourself counting the seconds. It’s stressful and exhausting. But it certainly underlined some key lessons that are worth remembering when you face other professional or personal obstacles in life. Here are four life lessons I learned from flying with a baby.

Plan to pivot

Come up with a plan, but be prepared to pivot if the shit hits the fan. When will baby eat? Can you pre-prep the formula bottle? Do you want to be first on the plane, or last on? Can you fan-dangle yourself a baby bassinet? All good questions to ask before you arrive at the airport. Once you’ve arrived, be prepared to adapt to the circumstances. So much can throw your baby off on the plane ride. It could be a weird time change, the soulful screams of other babies or issues with air pressure. Who knows. But at least with a plan (and a backup plan), you can anticipate the issues you know are going to crop up to leave you more time to manage the problems that you won’t see coming. 

Work as a team

Teamwork, so crucial in the workplace, is critical to surviving a long flight. Having someone whose right in it with you can be a balm to your own mental health as you manage a rambunctious baby in a tiny seat. Your teammate can help share the load or prep essentials like the baby’s bottle. If shit gets really real and the poltergeist possesses baby, consider breaking the flight into shifts so each parent gets a rest. Most importantly, they’re there to celebrate the little victories when they happen. For us, that meant savoring a moment or two as baby dined contently on currywurst at Frankfurt airport and toasting success when, after 30 minutes of tears and bedlam, baby went into a deep slumber allowing us to watch several crappy airplane movies.So if mom manages to coo baby to sleep after 20 minutes of wailing, make sure you give her some kudos for her great work. Same goes for a team member completing a report before deadline. Congrats and acknowledgment make the world go around and are also a key component of teamwork. 

Build community and identify allies

Odds are for every judgy grump flying with you, there’s a bunch of understanding parents and people who “get it”. They’re happy not just to put up with disruption but also lend a helping hand. This team of allies will likely especially include other babies flying with you and their parents. A nod or a word or two can go a long way to bind you together. Plus don’t forget the airline staff. They’ve got a particular incentive to help support you with whatever you need to keep baby chill – the contentment of the rest of the cabin. Identify your allies early on so if you need them, you can activate them.

Be mindful of your surroundings

Once you’re in the sky, take stock of the plane. Are there little alcoves or hallways in the back the plane that baby can play in? If so, adapt to your confined space and make it a new playground for baby. Generally we found airline staff incredibly accommodating, provided you aren’t camped out in their meal prep space when they are trying to serve dinner. Being aware of your surroundings isn’t just good advice for the Batman – it’s also valuable for parents trying to occupy their little one. If you are lucky, you can pre-book a bulkhead seat prior to the flight. This will allow you to utilize a baby bassinet – key for a longer flight. 

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