UPDATED: Traveling With Baby (Without the Headache) - Top Tips for Air Travel
Updated: Feb 23, 2019
When Everly was two months old, she took her first flight. Not just any flight, but she flew all the way from Los Angeles to New York...
...And I tore my hair out for weeks leading up to that day. What would we carry on? What would we check? How would she handle takeoff and landing? Would she cry the whole way?
I can't tell you how your own baby will tolerate air travel, but I can tell you what helped Everly and exactly how we got all that insane amount of baby gear from the west coast to the east coast.
What You Need:
Airlines will allow you to bring for your baby (at no cost):
-A Car Seat
-A Diaper Bag
-A Breast Pump
-Breast Milk/Formula/Juice in "reasonable" quantities
You can find more information on the TSA website. As a breastfeeding mama, I had been advised to pack a small bottle (4 oz or less) of cold breast milk straight from the fridge as I left for the airport. The milk would warm to room temperature as we traveled and could be used as a wet pacifier if baby started to fuss. (As I mentioned previously, my baby hates bottles.)
I had also been advised to print out the TSA guidelines re: breast milk to hand to any agent that gave me trouble about carrying liquid. Turns out, I didn't need it. I simply alerted the screening agent that I was traveling with a breast pump and milk -- and no one really cared.
Going Through Security:
Depending on your travel plans and any connections you might be making, you may want to travel with a stroller. Alternately, you could opt to baby wear in the airport.
At this point, I've done both. With the stroller, it was great to be able to utilize the lower basket during a layover and made for less that I had to carry from gate to gate. However, my husband had to pack it up in its carrying case each time we boarded. I would not have been able to do that while flying solo. (For what it's worth, I've heard raves about the ease of a YOYO Stroller.)
If you're traveling light, making a direct flight or traveling without a partner, I'd suggest baby wearing.
Whichever you decide, TSA will ask you to remove your baby from his or her carrier and hold them as you walk through the metal detector. If you have a stroller, you will need to remove any items and TSA will inspect it separately.
What to Carry and What to Check:
This is a personal decision, but this is what we did. Keep in mind, I handled the baby and my husband dealt with much of the baggage, including packing up and gate-checking the stroller.
(A backpack, if possible.)
- Breast Pump in a Carrying Case
(While I didn't need to pump on the flight, I would have been SOL on arrival if the airline had lost this.)
(We used a travel case so our beautiful and pricey UppaBaby -- with the toddler seat + infant insert -- wouldn't be ruined.)
-1 Bag Per Person
-Dock-a-Tot or Pack and Play/Travel Crib
(Again, I advise a travel case.)
-Car Seat + Base
(Also in a travel case. Heaven forbid this gets lost, you should be able to rent one at a car rental service.)
Note: If you choose to check a car seat or stroller, you should NOT be charged a checked baggage fee.
On the Plane:
We traveled with Everly as a lap infant, rather than buying her own seat. I made sure to book myself a window seat with my husband in the middle.
If it's an option for you, we had luck with upgrading to JetBlue's Even More Space seats for early boarding and additional legroom. I booked a window and aisle seat, leaving the middle open. If you're lucky, no one will pay to upgrade to that middle seat. But if someone does, they would likely be more than happy to swap seats with your partner if needed.
I was advised to nurse Everly during takeoff and landing to keep the pressure in her little ears at bay. But I just couldn't time it right. The plane would begin taxiing, I'd nurse, and then the plane would stop and wait. By the time we were ready for takeoff, Everly had completely finished eating and was sound asleep on my chest.
Luckily for us, the pressure change didn't seem to bother her one bit.
To be safe, be sure to have a pacifier on hand or something for your baby to suck during that time.
At two months old, Everly was content to sleep on my chest for nearly the entire flight. As babies get a bit older (and more interested in putting things in their mouths), I'd suggest stocking up on antibacterial wipes for all nearby surfaces and keeping plenty of toys and books in the diaper bag.
We also used these noise cancelling/white noise headphones to help her stay asleep amid in-flight announcements and other noisy disturbances.
First of all, get that baby changed as close to boarding time as you can. Hopefully that will keep them dry a bit longer on the flight, although we all know those blowouts can come out of nowhere.
There are many differing opinions on where to change your baby on an airplane. I had no interest in attempting to wrangle my baby on a changing table in a tiny onboard restroom, so I had a plan.
Keeping our diaper bag within arm's reach, I discreetly armed myself with a changing pad, clean diaper, wipes, and a plastic bag (we use doggy poop bags... whatever works).
I quickly laid the changing pad across my husband's lap, set the baby down on it and changed that diaper as quickly as I could, stashing it away in a plastic bag and tying it up before anyone could smell a thing. (I even practiced speedy diaper changes at home leading up to this moment to see how quickly I could get the job done.)
In order to do this, it's important to dress your baby in something you can easily get them in and out of. You'll want to pack extras of everything, just in case, along with extra clothes for yourself!
One mom told me her daughter peed on her during a flight, and she (the mom) had to travel the whole rest of the day in pee-soaked pants. No bueno.
I like to apply this to everyday outings, as well. My diaper bag is always stocked with a pair of leggings and a tee-shirt.
More Travel Hacks:
-Before you jet, order diapers and wipes on Amazon Prime to be shipped to your destination.
-If you are breastfeeding, look online ahead of time to see if the airport has a lactation/nursing room or a Mamava pod where you can privately, quietly nurse your baby.
-Opt for a nursing scarf that is easy to maneuver if you'd like a bit of privacy to nurse on the flight.
-If you are traveling to a different climate (ahem, a snowy one), ask a friend or family member to meet you at the airport with extra blankets or a snow suit for the baby. Don't forget to pack a little hat and extra socks in your diaper bag!
-On that note, remember that babies should never be strapped into their car seat while wearing outerwear. Always layer blankets and coats comfortably on baby after they've been buckled in. (See below for what NOT to do.)
-Ask local friends and family with kids if they have any gear you can borrow. Often times, grandparents or parents with slightly older babes will have cribs, pack and plays, strollers or car seats that you can utilize while you're in town. The less gear you have to check, the better!
-If you can't borrow, you can rent gear from a service like Baby Quip.
-You can use your cell phone as a baby monitor in a pinch! Just call your partner's phone and leave theirs with the baby while keeping yours on mute + speaker. That way, baby can't hear you, but you can hear her. (Personally, I pack this little guy in my bag.)
Happy trails, Mamas! May the odds be ever in your favor.
Mom Needs Merlot