Flying with a Baby:
I remember it like it was yesterday.. preparing for flying with our 3-month old baby from Atlanta to Columbus, Ohio. I had heard all sorts of stories and suggestions from other experienced moms but you never know how your baby will act. Even still at 7 months writing this, every travel day is unpredictable.
I am by no means an expert on flying with a baby. However, in the last 7 months we have flown with our baby boy 10 times. With age ranging from 3 months to 7 months old, I’ve compiled my best tips, suggestions and products to make flying with a baby a tad bit easier (and less daunting!).
If you are curious about product recommendations for general travel with an infant (specifically beach and road trip adventures) you can check out my blog post here.
Planning Your Flights:
Obviously flexibility with travel is not always an option.. However, when you are able to be flexible I would highly recommend booking your flights around the babies schedule.
When James was ~3-4 months, I tried to plan my flights around his nap times. As we’ve flown more and more, this hasn’t always been an option and the reality is, travel (especially flying) is extremely unpredictable. Flight delays, cancellations, hanging out on the tarmac, turbulence.. you name it.
Now I strive to plan our flights around James’ “better times of the day”. i.e. Not in the evenings or around his bedtime **if at all possible** Whenever I have the option, we book morning or early afternoon flights when James is in his best mood.
*Bonus if the flight take-off and/or landing times up with feeding!*
If you are flying with someone else, go ahead and book the aisle and window seat. Leave the middle seat open as we all know no one’s first choice for seat selection is the middle seat. This increases your chances of having the entire row to yourselves (and has worked more times than not on our non-full flights).
On the flip-side, if it is a full flight and there is someone sitting in the middle, most fellow passengers would be more than happy to switch seats around so you can sit together.
While at the Airport:
I’ve learned that flying with a baby is one big game of balance. Getting to the airport too early or getting to the airport rushed are both not ideal situations. Obviously too early is the better of the two…
Luckily we have TSA Pre-Check which makes traveling with a baby and a stroller much easier/quicker. (And you get to go through the “special assistance” line open to people with wheelchairs and strollers which typically cuts the line big time!)
I can’t speak to all airlines but if you are flying Delta, go ahead and add your baby as “infant in Arms” on their online check-in page before getting to the airport. This can be applied to babies < 2 years old.
If you can (1) afford it or (2) have flight status that comes with free checked bags, I say CHECK your bags! Some people might disagree and prior to flying with a baby, I might have been one of those people. I recommend this because from my experience, I could use ALL the hands I can get between a squirming baby, stroller, diaper backpack etc. On that same note, pack an extra outfit for your baby and yourself in the diaper bag just in case.
When James was a little, little guy; I essentially just walked around with his stroller so that he could sleep or look around at the lights. You’d be shocked at all of the new things you will notice when traveling with a curious baby who is taking it all in for the first time.
As he’s gotten older, my ‘game plan’ has changed. I now work to wear out the little man as much as I can before the flight so that he will sleep in the air. Whether that is tummy time on his travel blanket while waiting at our gate or letting him ‘jump on our laps’; the key is tire him out!
BONUS: Certain Credit Cards have airport lounge benefits. In our case, we are Chase Reserve loyalists thanks to all of the awesome travel perks; one of which is the Priority Pass which gives you access to more than 1300 airport lounges around the world. This comes especially in handy if you have a flight delay or need some space (the free food and drinks don’t hurt either!).
Take off and Landing:
Number one tip that I received and will personally give myself is to FEED your baby on takeoff and landing. If your baby won’t eat but will take a pacifier, that works as well. The goal is to get your baby sucking to help release the pressure and ear pain that comes with ascending and descending elevation.
If you are a new mom and you are nursing, please take heart that NO ONE is judging you, NO ONE is watching you and focus on you + your baby. I remember before my first flight with James I was nervous about who would be sitting next to us, etc. The reality is, everyone is in their own world on the flights so do what’s best for you and your baby to help make the flight go easier.
Product Recommendations when Flying with a Baby:
- Doona Stroller / Car Seat Combo
Hands down my #1 travel product rec. Whether for road trips or flying, the Doona has been a game changer for us. I love that we can push him in his stroller through the airport, break it down real quick at the gate to check, pop him right back in when we get off the plane AND it works as a car seat at the final destination. Even better, you don’t need a carseat base if you use the seatbelt method (which is very easy). This makes life much easier whether you are renting a car or hopping in a uber/taxi.
- Portable Sound Machine
I’ve mentioned this in my road-trip blog post but it never hurts to have a portable sound machine on you to help elongate nap time. Honestly I have found that the sounds of the airplane itself tend to act like a sound machine. However, this can be useful in the airport when it gets noisy.
- Muslin Blanket:
Whether you have a little baby who could use some swaddle love, you want to cover up while nursing during takeoff or just need a little ‘cover’ to block out the light on the plane; a muslin blanket has many uses!
- Extra Bottle:
I’ve learned the hard way. Since I stopped nursing recently, I am still getting used to having to prep bottles before the flight. What I’ve learned is you don’t want to be left with no milk when it comes to landing time and be trying to scramble to make a bottle when you have your hands full with a squirmy baby. (So , just make the extra bottle !)
Also – on that note, don’t be afraid to ask the person next to you for help. You’ll likely be surprised at how kind and willing to help MOST people are!
- Infant Tylenol
It’s always good to have some basic baby meds on hand. You never know when you will be traveling and your baby will catch a cold, ear infection, etc. If your baby is sick,
- Travel Diaper Backpack:
My diaper backpack is multi-purpose. From a diaper/wipes/cream storage to holding my laptop, a change of clothes for myself and baby, bottles, formula, etc. It is important to find one you like and one that has a “cold pack” space for extra bottles.
- Small Toys/Teethers
The early days of traveling with James ( I would say < 5 months ) were fairly easy. He basically slept or ate a majority of the time. Every month since then, he has gotten more and more active and this is where small/light toys and teethers come in handy.