Is traveling with your baby hard? We get asked this question frequently, and I have to say it certainly isn’t the easiest thing in the world. It is doable, though. People comment on how fast time flies by. Just apply that same thinking to a flight! I wanted to share a few tips that have helped us to make flying with a baby easier. Just because you have a baby doesn’t mean that you are restricted from flying and visiting new cities and countries. It definitely is a lot more difficult traveling with a baby; there are challenging parts throughout each day. But, it is worth every second. I have the greatest joy from seeing the world through Kennedy’s eyes; how she’s fascinated by every new person and place that she sees. This post is going to be a long one, but it’ll be thorough, informative, and helpful! Let’s start with breaking it into categories:
- Booking your flight & planning your trip
- Arriving at the airport & getting through security
- Boarding & taking off
- In the air
BOOKING YOUR FLIGHT:
- Know the cost of your baby’s ticket: If you are taking a domestic trip and traveling within the US, the ticket for your baby is mostly free. You are responsible for paying taxes and that’s it! For international trips, your infant’s ticket is 10% of your ticket plus taxes. You will also need a passport for your baby.
- Pick a flight time that coincides with a long nap or sleep: When booking your flight, depending on the flight time, try to pick a time that coincides with a long nap or sleep (overnight / red eye flight). It seems like it would be awful trying to relax overnight with your baby…but, it’s a time they’d be sleeping anyway and I’d rather a sleeping baby for 8 hours on me than a constant entertain me, bounce me, play with me, console me, wipe my drooly mouth, what’s going on, where am I right now baby. It worked well for us. I understand that you can’t always schedule around your baby, but if you have the choice…then opt for the flight that takes off when your baby usually sleeps.
- Reserve bulkhead seats: Make sure that when you are booking your flights and picking your seats that you choose bulkhead seating. Bulkhead seats are the only ones that can accommodate a bassinet for your baby. It’s great that planes have these! If there are none available, check out Seat Guru to find a good seat positioned on your aircraft.
- Ensure “infant in arms” is added as a special request to your ticket: Call the airline immediately after you book your flight; they will need to mail you an actual paper ticket for your baby. You will need to have this when you get to the airport for security and boarding.
- Plan a trip when your baby can’t crawl: Disclaimer: I know this isn’t exactly ideal, but it’s just something to keep in mind. Things are a little easier when your baby can’t crawl/walk/scoot around anywhere. For us, we wanted to take a few trips before Kennedy was exploring on her own everywhere. So we booked a couple trips before she was 8 months old. It’s a great time to travel with your baby.
- Buy health insurance: We never bought any kind of health or trip insurance before we had a baby; now, we just buy it for Kennedy. For what you’re getting, it’s not that expensive and it’s worth every penny. We use InsureMyTrip to find the right coverage for each trip. Better to be safe than sorry. You don’t want to end up with tens of thousands of medical bills, just in case something happens.
- Make sure you have help! Firstly, I hope that you are not traveling alone. Having someone to travel with you and help you hold things (including baby!) is important. I don’t know how some people can do it alone (or have the patience). More power to you! In the Atlanta airport, we always get chosen to go through TSA’s pre-check line when we have Kennedy. It’s nice because the line is faster, you can keep your shoes on (hallelujah!) and you don’t have to wait as long. Every second counts with a baby.
- Apply for TSA pre-check eligibility, here. You can’t count on being randomly selected to join the TSA pre-check line.
- Protocols are different for your baby and TSA is more flexible: 1) You need to take your baby out of the car seat or stroller and carry them through the metal detector. Your stroller needs to fit on the conveyor belt along with the carseat; place the carseat upside down and it’ll fit. If not, just ask a TSA member to visually inspect it. 2) You can bring more than 3.5 ounces of liquid if it’s breastmilk or formula your carryon. On Delta’s website they don’t restrict the exact amount, it just states “reasonable.” We brought pre-made formula containers that were 8.5 ounces each in our carryon and nobody every questioned us. It made things so much easier!
BOARDING & TAKING OFF:
- Request a bassinet / sky cot: When you arrive at the gate, immediately see the gate agents and request for a bassinet (or sky cot, if you’re flying Delta). Your baby must be less than 25 pounds in order to use it. Not all planes have them available, and some only carry a limited number. You can’t reserve them unless you reserved a bulkhead seat. Those seats get chosen so quickly! Ask the gate representative if you can switch seats (if you don’t already have a bulkhead seat) because you have a baby and you’d like the bassinet. If they can’t honor that request, at least ask the person sitting there directly after you board the plane! Hold your baby for added cuteness, too…how could they say no?!
- Because you are traveling with a baby, you’re able to pre-board the plane before anybody else. This gives you extra time to get seated and settled in without feeling rushed. When you take your seats, I suggest preparing a bottle for your little one in case of an emergency meltdown and also for when the plane takes off.
- Gate check your stroller and car seat: Before you board the plane, fold up your stroller and disconnect the car seat from it. You can use a car seat cover bag to protect it from germs and scratches…it will get scratched and possibly damaged otherwise. Lesson learned the hard way. The gate agent will give you a claim ticket. You can pick up your stroller and car seat after you exit the plane. It will be at the gate.
- It’s helpful for your baby to drink during takeoff so that they can pop their ears. They don’t just know how to do it and it can be painful to them. After making the bottle, I would hide it so your baby doesn’t recognize it and want it immediately. Out of sight, out of mind! We have had to do that with Kennedy since she began recognizing (and wanting) her bottle as soon as she sees it.
- Seating: Because you are traveling with an “infant in arms,” you literally have to hold your baby in your lap during the whole flight. This sounds pretty self explanatory, but I have to be honest and say that I didn’t know! I used this harness during the flight to keep Kennedy secured to my body. We also love to use our Baby Bjorn and Moby Wrap when we sleeps; it’s more comfortable for the both of us.
IN THE AIR:
After what is hopefully a successful take-off with your baby you now have the rest of the flight to entertain her or keep her asleep. Just take out the toys you packed and the iPad with the movies. Other than that, you know your baby best. Whether they need to be entertained, kept asleep, or consoled because they are going bananas…just remember that everybody was a baby once. You’ll probably get a few glares from the rude passengers (who cares anyway?) and even some people who may want to make your baby smile.
- Have some entertainment planned: Arrive at the airport with entertainment to keep your baby occupied. Small toys can easily fit into your diaper bag. I’m not a huge fan of letting Kennedy watch too much TV, but when it comes to flying with her…you gotta do what you gotta do! Animated movies (like Toy Story, Mickey Mouse, Frozen, etc.) are a great distraction. You can rent them from iTunes (so cool!) and download them ahead of time on your iPad; plus, it doesn’t take much space in your bag.
- In case of a meltdown, it’s helpful to walk up and down the aisles, bouncing your baby just right. Take a little visit to the back of the plane and talk with the flight attendants…they always seem pretty happy to see a little baby. Likewise, that always cheers up a baby (and relaxes a parent).
- In the meantime, try to keep your baby on their normal schedule (if you have one). Feed them, play with them, and try to get them napping like they would normally at home. This worked pretty well for us with Kennedy and she has slept through an entire landing before. I was pretty happy and relived about it!
- If that doesn’t work…well, everything is an experience. haha. Take comfort in the fact that when you land…you’ll be in a new place!!
When the pilot finally announces the plane’s descent and you know you’re less than an hour away…tell yourself you can do it!! Start preparing another bottle and have it ready for landing. Similarly to taking off, you want to have a bottle ready so your baby can pop his/her ears. After one of our flights, we were waiting to pick up our luggage and several people from the same flight commented on how great Kennedy was (even when she let out a few cries). It’s really heart warming to know how many people actually want to encourage and build you up. It was such a nice way to start our trip.
A lot of people have questioned: Isn’t it hard to take Kennedy on trips? Are we scared to fly with a baby? Isn’t it a hassle? It’s not like she’s going to remember…
These trips aren’t for her, they’re for us. Yes, it’s challenging, time consuming, slower paced, and she isn’t likely to remember seeing any of the countries that we’ve visited together. But seeing the world through her eyes brings me more joy than anything. And, it’s worth every moment.