Shortly after our son was born, we packed our bags for a wedding in Seattle, WA. At 5 weeks old, he was on his first of many flights. I was nervous, I over packed and was scared he was going to cry the whole time. Instead, he was near perfect. He nursed during take off, napped the duration of the flight and nursed during landing. Luck or not, he gave me the confidence that we can do this. Our love of travel will not be compromised with a little one.
We traveled to California for Thanksgiving (4 months old), Idaho for Christmas (5 months old) and internationally to the British Virgin Islands (6 months old) to break in our son’s passport. Needless to say, his passport now has stamps from Taiwan, Amsterdam, and Brussels within his first 2 years of life.
Obviously, not every flight has been perfect, but I have learned what works and what doesn’t whether you’re traveling solo or with your partner.
Here are a few things that I’ve found helpful:
Traveling with an Infant:
- Time: Give yourself time. Start with adding an extra hour buffer. This will reduce stress and allow adequate time to get through an extended security process, trip to the restroom for a pre-flight diaper change and to grab any last minute snacks.
- Records: Bring a copy of birth certificate and must up to date immunization records. Airlines will want to see these documents to prove your child is a ‘lap infant’ (under 2 years old).
- Seating: I went back and forth on window vs. aisle seat. Window seats provide more privacy and allows you to take over the corner (this is great when your kiddo gets bigger!). However, I think I prefer the aisle as it allowed for easy access to the restroom or walking the baby if he/she get fussy.
- International flight? Check with your airline as some will provide a baby bassinet if you request the bulkhead seat.
- Clothing: Pack extra clothes for you and your baby! An extra T (and leggings, if room) and two PJs or onesies for the baby. Put them in zip lock bags, so you can contain the soiled clothing after changing. (My son puked all over me during take off one flight. It was not fun spending the rest of the flight smelly and wet). Don’t forget one cloth bib for drool/spit up since it will help minimize an outfit change.
- Warmth: A wide scarf can act as a swaddle, nursing cover or a wrap on a chilly flight. I like the Vinyasa Scarf from Lululemon.
- Boob/Bottle Service:
- Stay hydrated. You are allowed to bring your own big, clear water bottle through TSA if you tell them you are nursing or it is for formula. Do not bring a metal bottle as it causes additional screening.
- Feed during takeoff and landing to prevent ear issues with the change in air pressure.
- Nurse away. However, if you struggle nursing in public like I di, I recommend pumping before your flight. Frozen bags of breast milk are great too, but be sure to keep all milk cold using a small ice pack and soft cooler. I use this one from Medela.
- If formula is your jam, pack your bottles with desired ounces of water and have portioned formula ready to go. Mix only when needed. I used this Munchkin formula holder and Enfamil on-the-go packets. I always had a few in my diaper bag for emergencies.
- If you ask nicely, flight attendants will warm up your bottles using a coffee pot and hot water.
- TSA: Allows formula, breast milk and juice in quantities greater than 3.4oz (100 ml) in carry on and does not need to fit within a quart-sized bag. Separate these from your other carry on liquids. Ice packs and other snacks are also allowed, but may require additional screening. Learn more here.
- Snacks: When your child graduates to solid foods, organic baby food pouches and puffs are lifesavers. I slaved away making my own baby food, but after too many diaper bag explosions and rotting empty containers, I turned to store bought for on-the-go. Everything in moderation, right? Be sure to pack these in a separate ziplock bag to expedite TSA security screening.
- Diapering: A diaper for every hour of travel and wipes. You most likely won’t use this many diapers, but travel is always unpredictable with delays, blowouts, etc.
- Books & Toys: A couple toys and books are essential, but you don’t need a bunch. A few of my favorites: Baby Einstein Musical Toy, Sassy Suction toy (grips to the tray table), Lamaze Cloth Book, and Peek-a-Who.
- Lost & Found: Secure-a-Toy straps or rings are also handy for keeping toys/books/sippy cups attached to your carrier, stroller, high chairs and more.
- Quiet Please: I used pacifier and clip (to avoid dropping on floor) to ease discomfort while taking off and landing. Any type of sucking helps clear the ears. If a paci isn’t your thing, a chew toy or feeding your baby works too.
- Bag lady: I flew with my giant diaper bag for the first year. Overtime, I’ve slowly downsized to a backpack and I couldn’t be happier. It counter balances the weight of the baby in the carrier. I wish I would have switch sooner. That said, if you always use your diaper bag, don’t try something new the first time you fly.
- Hands-Free: Go hands-free and wear your baby. Unloading a stroller while trying to balance a baby multiple times is not easy and you will have to do it quite a few times: security screening, boarding and landing, transportation shuttles/rental cars, etc.
- Check it: Check your stroller and infant car seat at the check in counter – it’s free! When your baby upgrades to a convertible car seat, invest in a wheeled carrier if you have to bring it with you or rent it at your destination from your rental car facility or a site like Baby’s Away. uberFAMILY in another option, but is only available in limited cities, learn more here. I purchased travel bags to protect the stroller and car seat. It keeps them clean(er), minimizes damage and provides a little extra space to squeeze in a pack of diapers, wipes and extra swaddles/toys for your destination. This helped free up space in our regular luggage too. You can plan to buy or ship diapers, wipes, and snacks to your destination.
- Caveat: If your child does not like carriers (or you do not feel comfortable with a carrier), use your stroller! Simply don’t overpack the basket below as you will need to pull everything out to go through security and when you gate check.
- Sleeping: Most hotels and vacation rentals can provide travel cribs/pack-n-plays. If not, post a “Borrow/loan” listing for your destination city and a friend can help you out.
- Sound: I loved this travel sound machine, however many free white noise apps or YouTube videos will satisfy the same need. I used on the plane in addition to bedtime.
- Travel-size: Don’t forget to bring baby soap & lotion, dish soap to clean bottles/sippy cups/toys, and baby laundry detergent.
- Splurge tip: Sign up for TSA-Pre✓. The infant’s liquids will still require an extra screening, but not having to remove your shoes or liquids from your carry on makes it worth it. Not to mention, the line is usually a lot shorter!
The more you travel, the easier it gets! Be sure to review TSA Guidelines and your specific airline rules before you go. Have your own tips? Share in the comments below!
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