These days, flying with a baby can be pretty overwhelming! Times have changed and the old days of dashing through security, grabbing an US Weekly and tucking into your seat for a snooze at 30,000 feet are O-V-E-R.
My first time flying with an infant was with my son Hedley when he was just five months old – a long weekend in New Orleans, just the three of us. NOLA with an infant! Can you imagine? I could barely manage the crowded airport and busy streets teeming with drunken revelers. I left vowing to make a better baby travel plan! The trip was worth it in the end, though, as my “hotel” weekend with my hubby led to the birth of our second little one, Lachlan!
So after that trip and countless others, here are my lessons learned and I hope they lead to a smoother flight for you and baby!
1) Identification – If you’re traveling abroad, you’re going to need a passport for your little one. Taking that passport photo can be tricky! Avoid pacifiers, hats and headgear. Try laying your baby on a white bed sheet and snapping a shot when he or she is looking forward and not screaming! Good luck! If you’re flying domestically, check with your airline. Many do not enforce the infant identification rule, but it’s wise to bring your baby’s birth certificate just in case.
2) Breast Milk & Formula – Good news! Despite having to chug down your coffee and toss your water bottles before going through security, the liquid rules are looser when it comes to formula and pumped breast milk. So feel free to bring your bottles (according to the TSA it has to be a “reasonable quantity” so stick to baby bottles instead of a two-liter). Ice packs are also okay as is liquid medication for your baby. It’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the TSA’s rules in case you’re questioned.
3) Security – The most stressful part of flying with a baby is getting through security and it gets more complicated with each child you add to the mix. Here is the order in which I recommend tackling the process. 1) Take baby out of stroller/car seat and collapse, put onto belt. 2) While holding baby, remove your shoes (laceless sneakers, flats or loafers), and place them along with your phone, computer, or other electronics on belt. 3) Pass through as quickly as you can to the other side. 4) While eying your stuff, quickly get baby into the car seat/stroller then collect your loot. I won’t tell you my exploding-diaper-through-security-all-over-Mommy story right now because I wouldn’t want you to cancel your travel plans.
4) Gear – Many of you are going to bring car seats, strollers, carriers and more with you on your trip. Who can survive a single day of motherhood without multiple pieces of gear? I recommend keeping your stroller or car seat and frame with you and checking it at the gate rather than checking it with your luggage. That stroller will come in handy when rushing between gates and, if your flight gets delayed, you could end up spending hours in the airport and you’re going to want that car seat for naps. You can check both the car seat and stroller when you board the plane. They will be waiting for you in the jet bridge when you deplane.
5) Boarding – Many airlines still offer early boarding to families, which is nice but by the time the rest of the passengers have shuffled on, you’ve already been sitting there for 30 minutes. A friend gave me this wonderful tip. If you are traveling with another adult, have that person board first while you stay behind with baby. Trust me, it is much easier to fly with your partner or a friend than to fly alone with an infant. Have your travel partner check the gear, put the bags in the overheard, and wipe down your seats and armrests. Airplanes are ridden with germs so it’s a good idea to give a quick wipe to any areas that baby will touch. Then after the other passengers have all boarded, you and baby can waltz onto the plane and take your seat. By the way, I recommend a window seat because they have a few extra inches of arm room.
6) Whaaaa! – There’s a screaming baby (or four) on every flight. Little ears are very sensitive to changes in pressure so it’s a great idea to nurse or bottle-feed your baby when taking-off and when the plane begins its descent. If your baby isn’t hungry, a pacifier will do. The simple act of sucking makes the whole experience, well, less sucky for them.
May you all travel safe this holiday!
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