All of our family (and most of our friends) live out of state. This means we will probably be having MANY flights in the Mini Minch's years. Our first trip happened when he was only 3 months. Luckily for the first time, it was both me and the hubster. It was good prep for my first solo trip with the little guy the next month. Both of those trips had layovers both ways, which means 8 takeoffs and 8 landings. Yikes. Not to mention time between the flights to occupy a baby. Since it can be stressful to fly with a little one, I figured I'd give some tips based on my recent experiences.
Let me tell you, I was a little nervous the first flight and thought about being one of those extra awesome moms who make a treat bag and hand out earphones. But...yeah...ain't nobody got time for that.
When it comes to packing, remember for the most part you'll be somewhere that you can grab things you forgot. Or just buy things if they are too big to pack. To save space, we only packed enough diapers to last us the flight and drive to our destination. We just bought a pack of diapers both places we ended up going. Saved us a ton of space. We bought travel containers for his body wash/lotion. We didn't bother bringing diaper rash cream or meds since he wasn't using any when we traveled and if it was something we ended up needing, we could just run to the store.
We got lucky and didn't have to travel with a pack and play or travel crib since we were meeting family both times and we chose to have them just buy used ones. It ended up being cheaper than either paying for an extra bag or renting one, plus they'll get use multiple times in future trips. If that's not an option, look into rental companies near where you are staying. It might be worth the cost to rent it and have one less item to have to carry around in to the airport.
As far as lap vs their own seat, at a young age I think it makes more sense and it's easier to have them in your lap. Not only will it save you money, but you also don't have to lug around the carseat. Plus, if they are on your lap you can comfort them and keep them occupied. While it takes up a decent amount of space, I recommend bringing a boppy type pillow. The regular boppy is too large for flying, but this one was the perfect smaller size to fit in my lap. MiniMinch slept on this almost the entire time we flew. If you buy from there, use code Bump50 and it will be free, just pay shipping. :)
If you are nursing, try to time feedings for takeoff/landing. The sucking will help keep their ears from popping, kinda like how you chew gum for flights. This helped a TON for us. He would start nursing and then typically just be asleep by the time we were in the air. Honestly, I pretty much just kept ready to nurse at all times because if he'd wake up, I'd just nurse him again. It was the easiest way to keep him satisfied. If you aren't nursing, try a bottle or pacifier since it will work the same way. Between nursing and BLW though, it saves me from having to carry formula or special food.
Dress yourself and the baby comfortably! Slip on shoes and no belt if you can to make security easy. I was actually quicker getting through with a baby than almost everyone by themselves because of that. I also don't bring any liquids in my carryon so that saves me from pulling stuff out. For MiniMinch, I usually opt for a romper when we fly. They're just as easy as a onesie, but they look a little nicer. If you're nursing, a comfy top that pulls up easily with a cami underneath.
Now the big things...strollers and carseats. IMO it's easiest to drop the carseat at checkin. This is why we chose the lap option. That thing is too bulky/awkward to deal with in an airport. Also, make sure if you are still in an infant seat, you don't forget the base! We almost did the first flight since we we're so used to just grabbing the seat out! As for the stroller, we chose to keep it with us rather than only use a carrier. The main reason: even if we were carrying him on us, we could use the stroller for our carryon. It also gave him somewhere to sit while we had meals while waiting. To save space, we packed the Boba in our suitcase and instead I used a ring sling for carrying him. It was easier to slip him on/off while seated plus it doubled as a blanket to throw down during layovers, plus it could be used as a cover for nursing if you need more privacy.
We kept our carryons as light as possible and only used a backpack. For him we only brought 1 outfit change (which we never ended up needing any flight), 1 pacifier, and 2 toys-one that rattled and one that was softer. We brought his fave robot toy since it has a good amount of things to keep him interested. And to save space in the bag, I just hooked it outside to the backpack strap. I also made sure not to give him this toy a few days before the trips that way he wouldn't be bored by it on the plane.
For his diapers, we used the same diaper clutch/changing pad that we use every day. I HATE carrying a diaper bag and this thing typically fits in most of my larger purses. Has everything I need together and it's plain enough that Mr. Minch can just take it when he needs it. I can't find the exact one we have online, but it's really similar to this one. I love that it gives a clean place to put the baby on (airports/airplanes are GROSS), has a place for diapers and wipes, and has baggies to put a dirty diaper in. And it takes up very little room in a carryon.
Overall, the most important thing to do is try to stay calm/relaxed! If baby gets cranky, try to have a sense of humor about it. Joking helps and people are less likely to give you the evil eye. For the most part, he was amazing. We got tons of comments about how great he was and they didn't even realize there was a baby most of the time. I'm attributing that to good flying karma from all those years when I used to bring toys for kids in my carryon and help other parents when their kids got fussy. He did have one meltdown at the end of a flight thanks to a dirty diaper, but we just joked about how we were all sick of flying and everyone was saying that they're surprised he was good that long.
For both trips he was too young for sunscreen so we didn't have to pack that, but will use a travel container for the next trip. Instead we brought hats to keep him covered and for the beach we got him a good floaty that had a sunshade. We got our float from Walmart and chose it because it folds down easily into a little bag so simple to pack. It also had the most coverage with the shade. He was a little small for it (he was only 3 months instead of the 9 month minimum) so we broke a pool noodle in half and stuffed it around him. lol It worked great.