No one plans to take their baby on 25 flights their first year of life, but that’s what happened between our kid’s birth and his first birthday. One of these trips was international, one was completely spontaneous (we bought the tickets four hours before the flight due to my dad’s unexpected surgery), and none of them were easy. But they were all manageable.
New parents who’ve seen our baby’s crazy travel itinerary have asked about our experience and what we do, so I thought I’d share them here. I found other people’s blogs helpful before our first flight, so why not share our own wisdom?
- We don’t buy the baby his own seat. Our little one can get pretty fussy in his car seat, but he always did really well in the baby carrier (in our case, the ergo), so we always opted to carry him as a lap child. Also, we’re cheap, and he’s free until two, so we took advantage of that! But people say the car seat is the safest place for the baby, and I believe it. We just chose the option that was easier for us and guaranteed a quieter baby.
- Whether you use a car seat on the flight or not, take a baby carrier for going through security. We put the baby in the ergo, and then we’d have two hands to get trays, take off shoes, take out liquids, put bags on the conveyor belt, and etc.. They don’t make you take the baby out of the carrier to go through security (They will make you take him or her out of the carseat or stroller.) You’ll just go through the metal detector, then test your hands.
- Diaper Bag:
- take more diapers than you’ll think you need (just in case!)
- all the other stuff you usually carry around
- a change of clothes for baby
- a change of clothes (at least another shirt) for parents. Once our baby pooped through his clothes and onto me. I had a change of clothes for him, but not me, so that was a rookie mistake!
- TSA should allow you to carry breastmilk and formula through. If you have ice packs, though, they need to be completely frozen. They’ll throw them out if they’ve melted.
- Nursing covers are helpful for their obvious use, but also for darkening your baby’s surroundings (or at least making them less interesting) to encourage sleeping.
- Swaddling blankets like the Aden & Anais kind are thin and easy to roll into a diaper bag. They’re great for throwing on the floor of an airport for tummy time.
- Strollers: We have one of those travel systems where the car seat fits on the stroller, so we take those all the way through security. All airlines we flew (Delta, United, EVA, Frontier) let us gate check those for free. Occasionally, we’d put the baby in there after we got through security, but if not, we put our backpack or diaper bag on it. Super handy!
- Our carseat fits through the TSA security screening deal, but our stroller doesn’t, so they just wheel it through another way and hand-check it. The agents would prefer that you fold your stroller up, and it fit through the screening thing, but not all of them do. That’ll just depend on your stroller. After your first go at it, you’ll know what yours is capable of.
- Some airports (like MSP) are so great about letting families through in the fast lanes. Just let them know you’re a family traveling, and most likely they’ll wave you through to either the TSA pre-approved line or the elite-class line. Not all airports are like that, though (SFO & DEN are not).
- Try to get in aisle seats. If traveling together, my partner and I usually sit across the aisle from each other. That way, either one of us can take the baby and walk him up and down the aisle if necessary. I would also go to the very back when I boarded and bounce with the baby until everyone boarded. Then, slide right into my aisle seat once it was time to go. Easy access to aisle has been so helpful!
- Try to nurse or give the baby a pacifier or a bottle when ascending and descending. It helps with their ears popping from the altitude change. Some babies really hate it, ours didn’t seem to notice it too much. But the nursing/feeding definitely helps.
- We usually check bags. We used to be those people who always carried on all our bags, but it’s too much for me to lug around a diaper bag, a baby, stroller/car seat + baggage. So these days we usually pay the extra money and check bags. If you opt to check bags ahead of time and pay for it online, it’s usually cheaper than if you do it at the airport.
- Take a direct flight whenever possible. Connecting flights might lead to missed connections, possible items left on planes, longer travel times, and double the take off and landings (which I think are the hardest part).
99% of the time people tend to be really nice and helpful. We’ve only had rude comments twice. Once, we deserved it (baby was teething, upset, and on the 2nd leg of a connecting flight…it was a bit of a nightmare, but this is also the last time we flew. I think flying with toddlers is a whole different beast! …sigh…)
The other time we totally didn’t deserve it, so I called her out. I told her she was being unreasonable and that babies are allowed to travel, too. Don’t let people push you around just because you have a baby with you, but understand that a flight with a baby can be a less than pleasant experience for everyone (especially the parents!)
Finally, have no fear. You can do it! And if your baby is a mess, well…it’ll be over soon (or eventually).