When you first arrive home from the hospital with a new little bundle of joy, the mere thought of going to the grocery store with said little one in tow can be daunting (especially if you’re a first time mom), much less any sort of air travel. But after taking nine major trips in nine months, several where we visited more than one state or country, I’m here to tell you it can be done and give you my best tips for traveling with an infant.
Not only can it be done, but if you’re prepared it can be done with only a couple stress induced panic attacks. Just kidding…sort of. Truth be told, traveling with a little one can be stressful. I know, shocking! As if you didn’t already know that.
During these trips we’ve dealt with mid-flight diaper blowouts, missed naps, Baby Girl and I getting put on a different flight than MJ thanks to an overbooked flight, and the sudden onset of projectile vomiting in the middle of an airport in a foreign country. Fond memories indeed!
Even with all of these unfortunate episodes, traveling with Baby Girl really wasn’t that tough. Sure, it’s definitely a far cry from the days when I was able to plop into my airplane seat with my Starbucks chai tea latte and a magazine and relax for the entirety of the flight. But all things considered it hasn’t been that bad, the key is being prepared.
Here are several things I’ve learned along the way that have made for much smoother trips.
1. Wear Your Baby in a Baby Carrier or Wrap.
I have a Gemini Beco carrier that I’ve used since Baby Girl was a newborn and I love it! Thankfully, she loves it too and I still use it to this day. This made getting through the airport a breeze, because it frees up your hands for carrying or rolling other luggage. Lord knows, you’ll have plenty of baggage when traveling with a baby.
You also don’t have to take the baby out of the carrier when going through security. Instead, you simply go through the metal detector and then a TSA agent wipes your hands with a small piece of cotton, they test the piece of cotton and within a minute you get the all clear sign and you’re on your merry way.
2. Bring a Stroller.
This might seem redundant given that my previous tip was a different method of transporting your baby, but hear me out. The reason I suggest this is if you have a stroller in tow, more often than not, the agents will take pity on you and send you through the either the pre-check or the preferred member security lines.
We’ve been saved by this a few times when we arrived at the airport a little too close to our departure time. Plus, if the baby isn’t in the stroller you can always use it to carry your diaper bag, purse, etc.
And if you’re worried about having to pay an extra fee, don’t be. You’ll be able to gate check it for free and most airlines will let you check a stroller and car seat with your luggage at no cost or for a nominal fee.
3. Ask if There is a Family Security Line
If you don’t want to go the stroller route, just ask one of the agents to direct you to the family security line. Much to our surprise and delight, we found some airports will offer a separate security line for families. The bonus is that most families don’t know about this option, so these lines are extremely short.
4. Check if Your Airline Offers Family Boarding
Some airlines will also offer family boarding prior to the general boarding giving you a little more time to get on the airplane and get settled. For instance, Southwest offers family boarding right after the A group.
5. Check Your Seats
You can check out your seats ahead of time on either www.seatexpert.com or www.seatguru.com Both of these websites give insight as to the best seats on your particular airplane, as well as which ones to avoid, for instance seats that don’t recline or are even more cramped than usual.
We neglected to do this and we paid dearly for it on a 7+ hour flight to Hawaii where not only did our seats not recline but they had less leg room than the rest of the seats on the plane. Major planning fail. This is good travel advice even when not traveling with a baby.
6. Make Use of the Airport Lounges
If you have a membership to an airline’s lounge for business travel, like American Airlines Admirals Club, make use of it while waiting for your flight. These lounges allow you to stretch out and relax a bit more, as well giving you a quiet space for a sleeping baby or a more spacious (and cleaner) bathroom to change a diaper. Some lounges even offer a special room for families, full of toys for babies and kids.
7. Choose Flights That Start Around Nap Time
The smoothest flights we had were ones that started around nap time. Baby Girl would usually drift off to sleep during takeoff, take a normal length nap, and wake up happy and ready to go.
8. Breastfeed or Bottle Feed During Takeoff and Landing
If you don’t do anything else on this list, at least do this. Takeoff and landing are the hardest on the baby because of the change in cabin pressure. Often the baby’s ears will hurt from the pressure and the only way to relieve this is to get them to swallow, so if you’re breastfeeding bring a nursing cover and if you’re bottle feeding bring a bottle.
Quick side note, if you have a baby you are allowed to bring a bottle that has more than 3 ounces in your carry on. TSA will just run it through a different scan and return it to you.
9. Bring a Pillow and Small Blanket
If you can get your baby to sleep on the flight you’ll obviously want them to sleep for as long as possible. To accomplish that both you and your baby need to be as comfortable as possible. The best way of doing this is to have the baby sleep on a pillow on your lap.
This frees up your hands and the pillow helps cushion the baby from movement, whether that is turbulence or you changing position when your leg falls asleep.
10. Download Movies on iPad or Tablet
Normally I’m not a huge fan of lots of screen time for infants, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Baby Girl loves the movie Frozen (who doesn’t?), so we downloaded this onto our iPad and it was our saving grace. She would watch it straight through with barely a peep. She didn’t even need the volume on, so it was great for entertaining her during the flight or during a long car ride.
11. Pack Snacks in Your Carry On
I don’t know about you, but whenever I travel I always want a snack within reach. Babies are no different. If they’ve already started solid foods bring a puree food packet or their favorite finger foods. This also helps to entertain them in a pinch.
12. Bring New Toys or Toys Your Baby Hasn’t Seen for Awhile
Stashing away small toys for a week or so before a trip and then bringing them back out on the plane works wonders for entertaining a fussy baby. Or in a pinch you can always run out and grab a couple small new toys. Also make sure to bring any favorite toys, particularly if they have a comfort toy or lovely.
13. Download Music and White Noise on Your Phone
We downloaded lullabies and Dr. Harvey Karp’s White Noise album on our phones and they both worked great for calming Baby Girl. When she was only three months old we took a six hour road trip and had these playing almost the entire ride. At times it was the only thing that would calm her. Bonus- bring a cord that will connect your phone to the audio in your rental car.
14. Pack a White Noise Machine
There’s nothing worse than having noisy neighbors in a hotel, especially when you have a little one who needs to nap. Drown out their ruckus with a white noise machine.
15. Stash Extra Outfits for Both Mom and Baby in Your Carry On
I always pack extra outfits for Baby Girl in the diaper bag, but had to learn the hard way when it came to stashing an extra outfit for me. As a result I spent a long 12+ hour travel day in a too tight, thin airport t-shirt.
16. Leave the Pack-N-Play at Home
When it comes to a pack-n-play; beg, borrow, or steal (okay maybe not steal), but don’t bring one unless you have to. Not only are they cumbersome and take up precious space in your rental car, but you’re also going to pay to check these puppies.
Most hotels will have cribs or pack-n-plays upon request. If you’re traveling to visit friends or family, ask if someone you know can lend you a pack-n-play during your stay. If all else fails you can rent one from a local baby rental supply store. Here’s a great resource list
17. Stay in a Hotel that has a Separate Sleeping Space
If you don’t want to go to sleep when the baby does at 6:00 pm, consider looking for a hotel that has rooms with separate sleeping and living spaces. We often stay at Embassy Suites because they always have a separate living room and their rates won’t break the bank.
We also travel with a baby monitor to keep tabs on Baby Girl in the next room. If your hotel doesn’t have separate spaces, just put the pack-n-play in the bathroom. The downside to this is you’ll have to go down to the lobby to use the restroom.
18. Add Your Baby When Booking Your Flight Online
When booking your flight online check the box to add a lap child or infant (as long as they are under two years old) to your ticket. Adding your baby then saves you from having to wait while the ticket agent adds the baby to your ticket.
Also take note, if you’re traveling internationally the baby won’t need a separate ticket, but you will need to pay additional taxes for the baby’s travel.
19. Bring the Baby’s Passport or Birth Certificate
Most airlines require you to show identification for the baby that proves they are under the age of two. If you’re traveling outside the country a passport is non-negotiable.
20. Finally, Learn to Roll with the Punches
There comes a time when you just have to accept the fact that traveling with a baby is an entirely different animal than traveling solo, and things aren’t always going to go smoothly.
So buy the tacky airport shirt when your baby throws up all over you, walk that fussy baby up and down the aisles until they fall asleep, and try to keep a healthy sense of humor when standing in the tiny airplane bathroom changing yet another diaper blowout.
Hope these tips for traveling with an infant help make your next trip just a bit smoother. Good luck and bon voyage!
Leave a comment