Flying with a baby requires patience, mental toughness and killer organizational skills. But you’ve got this! Follow these helpful hacks and hints to make your journey a little easier and keep those skies friendly.
photo: Donnie Ray Jones via Flickr
Timing is everything. Try to book your flight during baby’s nap time. All the new sights and sounds of airplane may be distracting, but you have a better chance of having baby sleep the flight away if you stick to your usual schedule. Bring a special blanket, lovie or story to make the airplane feel more like home, and follow as much of your usual nap routine as you can to signal it’s time for sleep.
Choose your seat carefully. Most airlines will register babies under age 2 as a lap baby, meaning you’ll hold them on the flight. You can also choose to purchase a separate seat and bring a car seat for baby to sit in. Choose a window seat if your child would enjoy looking outside, or if you want more privacy for nursing or more room for your baby’s feet, head, and inevitable wiggles. Go for the aisle if your little is on the move. Pro tip: Before you board, ask the gate agent if you can be moved to a spot with an empty seat next to you. Also, if you’re breastfeeding and prefer to sit next to a woman instead of a man, explain the situation and see if they can accommodate you.
photo: Rachel Sokol
Make a checklist days before your trip. You won’t forget anything if you start packing, at least mentally, days in advance. As you go through your daily routine, write down everything you use in a day, from baby’s comb and diaper cream to a favorite blanket and sound machine. You may not be able to bring it all, but thinking ahead can help you determine which are necessities.
Pack light. Lighten your load by shipping diapers, wipes, extra formula and baby snacks to your destination in advance via Amazon or Diapers.com. If you’re staying in a hotel, bed-and-breakfast or rental home, ask if they provide baby items such as cribs, high chairs and baby tubs. If not, find out if you can rent them through a local company.
photo: Matt Brubeck via Flickr
Stroll or carry. The choice is yours. If toting baby in a carrier brings them, and you, some comfort, you’ll move quickly through the airport, including security: You’re not required to remove baby from a carrier before you go through. If you need a car seat and stroller at your destination, you can check them with your luggage, usually free of charge. Or you can also gate-check both the stroller and car seat. They should be waiting for you when you exit the plane. But if you have a connecting flight, be aware that you might have to wait a few minutes for them. Don’t want your gear to get damaged? Use Prince Lionheart checkbags for strollers and car seats. They keep them clean and make them easier to carry and identify.
Put must-haves in a carry-on. Pack a day’s worth of diapers, pacifiers, wipes, food, formula, bottles, medications, and an extra change of clothes for baby and yourself. It’s a lot, but that way you can handle spitup or blowouts on the flight and don’t have to rush to the store upon arrival if your checked luggage doesn’t arrive with you. Before your trip, stop by the sample section of any major drugstore for TSA-approved small containers and liquid products that don’t exceed liquid limitations for carry-on items. Put super important documents, such as the plane tickets and personal ID, in a colorful pouch or folder that can easily be spotted without digging around. Call your airline, or check their website, to find out if you’ll need to bring a birth certificate for baby.
Keep ’em busy. To keep baby occupied on the flight, pack a few favorite toys and a couple of new ones. Choose quiet items that boast the most play value, such as sensory books, toys they can manipulate with their hands, and teethers. Older babies may be entertained by a show on the iPad, a kid-friendly app or photos on your phone. And never underestimate the power of distraction that new, non-baby items may have when confined to your airplane seat: a water bottle, a crinkly wrapper, the in-flight magazine and the aircraft safety card can all be fascinating to little ones.
photo: Kona Gallagher via Flickr
Don’t be intimidated by TSA liquid rules: You’re allowed to bring breast milk or formula for your baby. Pack it in a separate small bag in your carry-on and alert the agent before your belongings are inspected. Always bring more formula or milk than you think you’ll need. If you’re planning to nurse onboard, a shawl offers you privacy, in addition to doubling as a blanket for baby. And that way you can leave the bulky nursing cover at home. At the airport, looka round for a nursing lounge. More and more airports are offering them, and they can be handy during layovers or flight delays.
Stock up with snacks. A hungry baby is never a happy baby. If your little one is eating solids, leave room in your carry-on for favorite snacks. The ideal pick is something that takes a while to eat, like chopped grapes or puffs.
What are your tricks for flying with your baby? Share your secrets in a comment.