It may seem counter-intuitive, and I know this is one of those perks to having a child that you’ve been waiting forever to take advantage of, but: Stay off the plane as long as you can!
Obviously, for a parent flying solo, this may be more challenging. Unless you’ve packed so that all you need fits at your feet (which is actually a good goal), you need that precious overhead space. But if you’re flying with your partner, ask him or her to get on the plane with the pre-boarding families and get you all set up while you and the baby or children stay off.
When we fly, my husband Aron gets on board first and grabs the necessary overhead space, placing only what we need at our feet. If we’re traveling with a carseat, he’ll set that up; or he’ll gatecheck the stroller. I’ll stay behind with our son and the diaper case. (This is a great time to do a pre-flight diaper change.)
The flight attendants sometimes see me with the baby and will double-check: “would you like to pre-board?”
Don’t be tempted! Stay off until the last possible minute—just be sure to stay close to the gate. Even once you’re in the gangway, bounce them in a carrier or keep playing until they really need you to board. I promise you it’s worth it: there’s no reason to spend any more time entertaining a baby in tiny little row (or trying to keep him asleep over the overhead announcements) than necessary.
[photo my own]