April 17, 2015 11:00 AM

When Debbie Matenopoulos realized she would be flying solo for her daughter Alexandra Kalliope‘s first overseas flight, the anxiety immediately set in.

During a Friday appearance on the Hallmark Channel’s Home & Family, the “Family Member” admitted she even considered canceling her vacation, planned so that her family could meet her baby girl for the Greek Easter.

“At the last minute, Jon, my husband, couldn’t come so I panicked and I thought, ‘I can’t. I’m just going to cancel the flight and they’re just going to have to see the baby another time,” Matenopoulos, 40, says.

“Then I took a deep breath and I said, ‘Come on, I can do this! So many other mothers do this — I just need to have a game plan.’ So that’s what I did.”

Jeremy Lee/Crown Media Family

Before setting off on their adventure, Matenopoulos took her 5-month-old daughter to the doctor for a routine check-up. “It was a $25 visit and it was the best $25 I ever spent,” she admits.

“One of the main reasons babies cry on planes is because of the difference in the air pressure.”

Armed with a clean bill of health from Alexandra’s pediatrician, Matenopoulos — who “did so much research, I was so scared” — made sure to schedule her connecting flight at a smaller airport to avoid switching terminals. The first-time mama also opted for a redeye to keep her baby on the same sleep and feeding schedule.

“What I did was, to have less stuff on me … I combined my diaper bag and my purse,” she shares, adding that while her daughter slept soundly in her Lillebaby, Matenopoulos was wide awake.

But one of the It’s All Greek to Me author’s biggest worries was the reaction of her fellow flyers. Fortunately, Matenopoulos came prepared.

“I was really concerned for the passengers traveling around me so I had this idea on the way out and I did it on the way back as well … I thought, ‘Hopefully, this is going to work,’ ” she explains.

After presenting each of the passengers surrounding her seat with a goodie bag — inside was a note from Alexandra promising to “try to be very good,” mints, gum, chocolates, vitamin C, Sharpies, a note pad, ear plugs and lip balm — Matenopoulos was thrilled with their complete understanding.

“It went really well … they were so helpful,” she says. “They all took pictures with Alexandra and they said, ‘Do you mind if I send these pictures to my wife? This is such a great idea!’ ”

Courtesy Debbie Matenopoulos

Home & Family airs weekdays at 10 am ET/PT on the Hallmark Channel.

— Anya Leon

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