The prospect of traveling with a baby is daunting — will he cry the whole time? Can I change him on the plane? Will I have enough diapers? I just took my first trip with our 10-week-old son and I was nervous about flying with a baby. But I found that, if you’re prepared, traveling with kids isn’t all that different from traveling alone. Here’s everything you need to know to travel with baby. These 21 tips are sure to make your trip less stressful.
Traveling with Baby Checklist – 21 Tips for Flying with Your Baby
1. Pack light and carry on. We always try to pack light, but I was sure we’d have to check a bag on our first trip with a baby. I was wrong. Elizabeth and I fit everything for two adults and one baby into two carry-on rollerboards, a diaper bag, and a backpack. We figured if we needed anything that we didn’t pack, we could buy it when we arrived. I’m so glad we did it this way. Who wants to pay money to check bags, only to wait by the baggage claim with a jet lagged baby?
2. Consider the time of day. If you can, book your flights for a time of day when baby is generally in a good mood. You probably don’t want to subject yourself (or your fellow passengers) to baby’s 6:00 fussy time.
3. Make sure necessities are accessible. Pack snacks (for parents and older babies), toys, adequate diapers, a bag for dirty diapers, wipes, formula or breast milk, a blanket, and any other must-haves in an under-the-seat bag so you can get to them at any time. Here’s a list of items to back when traveling with baby.
image credit: mbrubek
Getting to the Airport
4. Arrive early. This is true especially if you’re traveling on the weekends or during holidays. Give yourself an extra 30 minutes at the airport to deal with any urgent situations that arise (blowout diapers, anyone?). Travel with baby takes longer than traveling alone, no matter how prepared you are. You’ll feel less stressed if you give yourself plenty of time.
5. Drive to the airport. Our lovely friend was kind enough to drive us to the airport at 6:00 am and we planned to take public transit on the way home. Of course, our flight home was canceled and we were re-booked on a later flight. By the time we got to our home airport, we had a cranky baby with two cranky moms. Oh, and it was 10 degrees out. Taking the Light Rail home, then walking 20 minutes with a screaming baby in freezing weather was unappealing. Instead, Elizabeth took public transit home, got the car, and picked up our baby and me from the airport. Having a car parked at the airport would have been expensive, but it would have been worth it in our circumstances.
6. Don’t bring a car seat on the plane. I highly recommend wearing your baby and leaving your car seat in the car. Lugging around a car seat is a hassle and you either have to check it (and risk it being tossed around and damaged) or buy another plane ticket for your baby to have his own seat. Just make sure your ride when you reach your destination has a car seat.
Going Through Security
7. Familiarize yourself with TSA’s guidelines. These are subject to change at any time, so it’s a good idea to review them before each trip. Read TSA’s Traveling with Children guide.
8. Wear baby through security. If you “wear” baby in a sling, wrap, or carrier like the Moby Wrap or ERGO Baby carrier, you can leave him in there when you go through security. I would highly recommend wearing your baby since it gives you two free hands to carry luggage and put it through the x-ray machine. I wore my little guy in a Moby and it was perfect. One thing to note: a TSA agent might wipe down your hands to check for explosives.
9. Don’t worry about baby’s footwear. Children under 12 can leave their shoes on so there’s no need to remove baby’s shoes or socks.
10. Prepare your liquids in advance. Make sure you have all of your liquids in 3 ounce containers in a plastic bag, just as you do when traveling without kids. There is one exception: If you’re traveling breast milk or formula, you can bring larger containers, provided you declare them to TSA officers. Learn more on TSA’s website.
11. Bring a baggie with ice for breastmilk. If you’re bringing breastmilk through security you’ll want to keep it cold. Instead of using resusable ice packs (which I was afraid TSA might not allow) I filled ziploc baggies with ice. That way, when the ice melted, or if TSA wanted me to dump the ice, I could get fresh ice from any of the restaurants through security.
In the Airport
12. Ask for better seats. Make sure, at the very least, your family’s seats are together. Better yet, get seats toward the front of the plane so you can exit more quickly when you reach your destination. Elizabeth asked if we could move closer to the front of the plane since we were traveling with a baby and the gate attendant did us one better — he gave us an entire row to ourselves! Thanks American Airlines!
13. Know that not all restrooms are family restrooms. I was dismayed when we discovered multiple (huge) restrooms at DFW Airport without changing tables. We wandered until we found a “family restroom” to change the baby.
14. Change your baby often. It’s not easy to change a baby on a plane since your choices are changing him on your lap or in the cramped, dirty airplane bathroom. I recommend changing him often in the airport where you have adequate room.
15. Grab a bite near your gate. If you have a layover and need to grab a meal between flights, eat near your departure gate. That way you won’t be running through the airport with baby, trying to get to your gate, when your meal takes longer than anticipated.
16. Feed baby. I found the time before and between flights was perfect for a quick meal for my little one. I fed him more on the plane, but the pre-flight snack insured he wasn’t starving as we were boarding.
17. Preboard! I was super excited about my first preboarding experience and it was great. No rushing to get to the front of the line or worrying that there wouldn’t be room for my carry-on in the overhead bins.
On the Plane: Flying with Baby
18. Make sure baby is fed. A hydrated, well-fed baby is a happy baby. Nervous about breastfeeding on the plane? Forty-five states have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public, but people have been known to complain about breastfeeding moms on planes. If you’re traveling with another adult or child, have him sit in the middle and you can take the window; it will give you more privacy. You might also want to bring a Hooter Hider or blanket to cover up (but don’t feel like you have to). I didn’t have any problems breastfeeding on any of the four legs of our trip.
19. Nurse during take-off and landing. Sucking on something can help keep baby’s ears clear so he’s not in pain during the flight. If you’re not breastfeeding, offer a pacifier or your (clean) finger.
20. Have a plan for changing baby. No one wants to have to change a baby’s diaper on a plane, but any parent knows that blow-outs happen at the most inconvenient times. Be prepared in case it happens to you — where will you change baby? What will you need? How will you handle the logistics? Here are some tips for changing baby on a plane.
21. If baby cries, don’t fret. Our little one was great on the way to our destination and cried much of the way back. He refused to nurse or take a pacifier and none of the usual tricks worked. For the most part, people around us were sympathetic; many of them had been in our position before. And the white noise of the plane helped drown out his cries. I found it was easiest to change my baby on my lap.
Traveling with a baby and flying with your baby doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Just follow these tips and you’ll be prepared for whatever the airlines — and your little ones — throw at you.
Do you have any tips for traveling with a baby or flying with a baby? Add them in the comments!
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