Traveling with Babies

A few people have asked me to give tips on how to make traveling with a baby easier. It has been a busy topic on the baby message board that I frequent, with lots of tips and lessons learned as we all fly with our babies for the first time. Since we have flown with Tommy at least once a month since he was ten weeks old, I guess that gives me the qualifications to give advice on the subject. So here goes:

  • Pack light for yourself since you are bound to over pack for the baby.

  • Do your best to arrive a early. Everything will take longer with a baby.

  • When you check-in, make sure they give you a separate boarding pass for baby, even if baby is flying on your lap, TSA requires a boarding pass for everyone.

  • Once your baby can walk, I recommend packing a copy of their birth certificate in the diaper bag or your purse. That way you always have it in case the airline wants to verify that they are under 2, and still allowed to ride for free on your lap. All it takes is one idiot who thinks your tall 13-month-old might be over 2 years old.

  • If your baby will be flying on your lap, it never hurts to ask the gate agent if there will be an empty seat for your little one.

  • Take the opportunity to pre-board if you can. If you have a toddler who loves to run around, I don’t recommend pre-boarding. Let them run around as long as possible and then board the airplane near the end. 

  • If you can avoid having to bring the stroller and car seat with you (if you can borrow them at your destination), do it. It’s much easier when you have less stuff to lug around. I LOVE using our baby carrier when we travel. I still use it even though Tommy is 16 months old. If we have any distance to walk or if we have to take a tram or shuttle it saves us so much headache to know he’s safely strapped to me, and I have my hands free. I can even go to the bathroom with the carrier on!

  at Las Vegas airport last summer

  • If you are flying with a newborn, I highly recommend wearing them in a sling, wrap or carrier while you are at the airport. If baby is strapped to you, strangers will be less likely to want to touch your baby with airport germs. Or get one of these onesies.

  • If you must travel with a stroller, practice folding it down so you can get through security easier. On our big stroller you have to remove the back wheels so it will fit through the X-ray. Annoying, but it was helpful to know that ahead of time.

  • Many infant car seats fit best through the x-ray machine when they are upside down and the handle is clicked all the way back.

  • If your stroller or car seat won’t fit through the X-ray machine, don’t stress. TSA can visually and physically inspect it. Just ask.

  • Baby must be removed from the car seat, stroller, sling or baby carrier when going through security. You just carry them through. At NO time should a TSA officer ask you to be screened separately from your baby. I have been told that parents have the option to ask for a pat-down rather than take their baby out of the carrier. I haven’t tried it and it is not listed anywhere on the TSA website. I imagine if my baby was asleep in the carrier I would try this. 

  • To get through the security screening with ease, wear slip-on shoes and don’t wear heavy jewelry or a belt. Make sure you remove baby’s shoes too.

  • When walking through the metal detector, don’t let your little one touch the machine. TSA will make you go through again. If they are in a bad mood, they might have you do an additional screening (pat-down).

  • You are allowed to bring more than 3 oz. of formula, pumped breastmilk with you on the plane. You must declare it when you go through security. Breastmilk is even allowed if you are not traveling with your baby. Baby food and juice for baby is also okay when baby is with you. Since many TSA geniuses may not know this info, I would recommend printing out this article and bringing it with you if you need to travel with formula or breastmilk. Especially if you are not traveling with your baby.

  • Don’t stress about holding up the line at the security checkpoint… if other passengers don’t want to wait, they can get in another line. They will understand once they have children. Many of the big airports have separate lines for families.

  • If you are bringing your car seat, pack a very large, clear, plastic bag in your diaper bag. That way if you have to gate check your car seat, you can put it in the bag to avoid getting it too dirty in the belly of the airplane. Sometimes the airline employees will have one when you check in or at the gate if you are gate checking. They don’t always have one, so it’s better to bring your own. Some car seat companies make zipper bags specifically for this reason, spending the money is up to you.

  • To avoid baby crying because of the change in air pressure, try nursing or bottle feeding during takeoff and landing. Sometimes a pacifier can work. Some airlines ask that you hold the baby a certain way during takeoff and landing, but you can’t necessarily feed them in that hold. So, I would recommend that you nod and smile at the flight attendant and then do what you want once the plane is zipping down the runway. Once the flight attendants are strapped in their seats, they can’t come over and make you change how you hold the baby. (insert evil laugh)

  • You have every right to nurse your baby on the plane. If you can get a window seat, you will probably be more comfortable. This website has some great tips on how to handle if someone has an issue with you nursing on the plane. I have never had anyone give me any trouble while nursing on the plane, and I don’t even nurse with a cover anymore. I would not recommend using a blanket that the flight attendant provides as a cover, many times they are not clean.

  • Does your little one use a pacifier? I recommend getting a pacifier strap to keep it secure and safe from falling on the floor. Most airlines don’t vacuum or shampoo the carpets very often. For us, the 5 second rule does not apply to airplane floors.

this is a BooginHead PaciGrip

  • Pack a few extra toys or whatever will keep your baby occupied on the plane. From my experience, flying with an infant is way easier than flying with a toddler, especially one who doesn’t want to remain seated. With our toddler we have found that the items in the seat back pocket plus a plastic cup from the flight attendant make excellent toys.

  • If you are taking a long flight, I highly recommend packing an extra change of clothes for the baby and for yourself in your carry-on. The last thing you need is a diaper blowout on your lap at 35,000 feet and no change of clothes!

  • If your baby becomes THAT baby and cries on the plane, try not to let it stress you out. Your baby will sense your heightened stress and it will be harder to calm them down. It happens. Other passengers will get over it. Don’t let nasty looks and comments get to you. I once saw a mom with a colicky baby bring a dozen or so sets of ear plugs and offer them to her neighboring passengers. She had to fly for a funeral and knew her son was going to be that baby. I thought that was a nice gesture.

  • Almost all commercial aircraft restrooms have changing tables. Use them! And do not leave dirty diapers in the seat back pocket. It’s gross!

  • Depending on the airline and depending on the type of aircraft, you may be able to reserve a bassinet for your baby. A friend of mine was flying with her 4 month old and they got to the airport really early to try and do this. What happens is they move you to a bulkhead seat (if the seats are available) and give you a bassinet that attaches to the wall. It has to be stowed during takeoff, landing and heavy turbulence, but it’s great for a babies to sleep in without having to be on Mom or Dad’s lap. I believe they’re only helpful for real little ones. If you are interested in this, I would recommend calling your airline to see if it’s something they even offer (not all airlines do). If they do, then you will have to get to the airport really early to reserve it. The airline rep on the phone won’t be able to reserve it for you.

  Hi Mom!

  • Don’t dress your baby in overalls when flying. The extra metal may set off the metal detector. Once Tommy was wearing OshKosh overalls, (the ones with the traditional buckles and a ton of snaps) and we had to get our first TSA pat-down. The woman was really nice and Tommy flirting with her seemed to make her night. But if we had been running late, we might have missed our flight.

  • If you are you worried about your car seat or stroller getting lost or damaged, Google the airline name and “Contract of Carriage” to find out what their policies are and what they are liable for. I know of one airline that keeps loaner car seats at their Baggage Service Office in some airports in case a checked car seat doesn’t make its flight and the parents are stranded without it, and unable to leave the airport. I know some parents have purchased a cheap $40 stroller to travel with because they didn’t want their $600 stroller to get damaged.

I am sure there are more tips out there based on everyone’s experience. So feel free to share!


About wobetxela

Artist, mom, traveler, hiker, babywearer (for as long as they'll let me) and hobbyist photographer.
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