I’m going to change gears from parties and recipes for a minute and talk about my other favorite thing, my little guy K. Since K was born in April, he’s been on almost 20 flights including one six hour flight to San Francisco from DC. Because we’ve flown so much, I’ve been asked numerous times if I have any tips for flying with a baby. I am not an expert in traveling with babies by any means but I do know what works for us. Flying with a baby doesn’t have to be a scary thing and hopefully at least one of these tips will make your trip a little easier.
- Gate check your car seat and stroller – You can gate check your car seat and stroller for free on almost all major airlines (here’s a list to check policies) so I recommend bringing your car seat/stroller/travel system to move baby around the airport. Go to the gate agent and ask them for tags for your gear. You’ll leave them at the bottom of the jet way and pick them up in the same place when you land so you only have to carry the baby and your carry-on items on and off the plane.
- Give your baby something to suck during takeoff and landing – Babies don’t know how to pop their ears as the altitude changes so help them out by giving them something to suck (breast, bottle, or binky) while you’re taking off and landing. This will help avoid any issues with their little ears.
- Let people help you – There will be times when no one offers to help but the majority of the time people will see you, that cute baby, and the pile of stuff you’re carrying and offer to help. You don’t need to be superwoman. If someone wants to put your car seat on the security belt so you don’t have to do it while carrying your baby, let them.
- Put things through security in a particular order – When you’re putting things through the security belt, don’t just put them on the belt in any which way. Have a plan and it’ll be so much easier. My plan is that I put all of my bags/stuff up on the table (not the actual belt) while K is still in the car seat. I take the car seat out of the stroller and put it on the ground (with K inside) while I put the stroller through the belt first. Then I take K out of the car seat and put the car seat through the belt second. Then I push everything else through after my stroller and car seat. When things come out of the other side, it’s easy for me to setup the stroller, put the car seat in, and put K in the car seat. Then my hands are free to get all of my bags and other stuff.
- Bring your best baby carrier – This one is mainly for if you are traveling by yourself. Bring your favorite baby carrier (Ergo, Bjorn, Pikkolo, etc.) and use it to carry the baby through security. It’s one of the only things that doesn’t have to go on the security belt and you are going to want your hands free to put all of that stuff on the belt. It’s also great to carry your baby onto the actual plane after you’ve checked your stroller but you will have to take baby out for takeoff and landing for safety reasons so if you’re hoping they can just sleep in there the entire flight, you’ll need to come up with a different plan.
- Announce all your liquids and baby food – You can bring any food, formula, water bottles (to make formula), milk, etc. that you want through security as long as it’s for baby. They are going to have to test it so it’s easier if you just tell them up front (or at least put it in a bin on its own) what it’s for. It’ll save everyone time.
- Use the family/priority lane to skip security lines – Every airport other than one that I’ve been through has a priority or family lane. Ask the security officer at the front what lane you should go in with your baby and use that lane. It’s typically like a fast pass lane at Disney where you get to go to the front and not really wait in security. There’s nothing worse than standing in a security line for 30 minutes with a screaming baby, nothing worse for you or the people around you.
- Bring a breastfeeding pillow even if you’re not breastfeeding – I know you’re probably thinking, how a I going to carry a pillow with everything else I have? Pack it onto your stroller in the airport and use a baby carrier (see #2 above) to free up a hand to carry the pillow. Why? Well for one, it makes feeding on a plane easier but honestly the reason I bring my pillow is because it gives my arms a break when baby wants to take a nap. There is nothing worse than being in the middle of a 4-hour flight and having to wake your sleeping baby because your leg fell asleep and you need to move. If baby is sleeping on the pillow in your lap, you can move all you want without waking him up.
- Get a window seat – I know people say to get an aisle seat when the baby is older and needs to move around but I’ve found that a window seat is much better with a baby just because nursing is easier and more private, especially if you have a baby who hates being covered. It also keeps you a little further away from all the noise of people going up and down the aisle. Again, you want to do anything you can to get baby to sleep.
- Check for any free seats together when you check-in – Assuming you brought your car seat with you (tip #1), check with the ticket counter or gate agent to see if the seat beside you is open. Or if there are two open seats anywhere on the plane. If there are, ask if you can switch to one of the two open seats and bring your car seat on the plane with you. It’s actually safer to have the baby in the car seat (so the airlines are typically okay with it) AND so much easier for you.
- Break out that new toy – Like everyone else, babies get bored. That long airplane ride is a great opportunity to break out a new toy you got in the mail three months after your baby shower. We all like new shiny things and babies are no different. So bring that new toy AND a couple of old favorites, just in case baby doesn’t actually like the new one.
- Set yourself up before you takeoff – Before you put your diaper bag under the seat, take everything out of it that you think you’re going to need – supplies to feed, change, and entertain baby – and put them in the seat pocket. If you’re worried about germs, try packing this stuff in a big Ziploc bag that you can put in the seat pocket. It’s tough to get into a diaper bag at your feet when you’re holding a baby so having them in the seat pocket makes them accessible when you need them.
- Plan for 2x the scheduled time – When packing my diaper bag and carry-on, I always put in double what I think I’m actually going to need. So if I’m scheduled to go through two feeding times, I’ll bring four bottles worth of formula and plenty of diapers. Planes are delayed way too often to plan on one going as scheduled and you really don’t want to be stuck circling in the air because of a storm and run out of formula.
- Dress baby in something simple to change – We always put K in a comfy sleeper when we fly. It’s not only more comfortable for him, it’s easier to change his diaper and his clothes if disaster strikes.
- Get seats in the front/middle of the plane – I know most people say to sit in the back of the plane but I disagree. Unless you think you’re going to be walking around the flight attendant area, I would highly recommend sitting toward the front of the plane if possible. The back of the plane is really loud with the bathroom door shutting, the flight attendants opening and closing the food trays, and all the other kids who are sitting back there. You want baby to sleep and loud noises are a sure-fire way to make sure they don’t.
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