A Noob Traveler's Guide to Flying with a Baby


Tips for Flying with a Baby — amodernmrs.com
I recently took a trip to Texas with my two kids to visit Jodi from God Still Speaks. (Hey, girl, heyyy!) Having only flown before twice in my life, and never with a baby, this was certainly a learning experience. Some things went according to plan, some didn't, but I came out with some nuggets of sanity-saving knowledge that I'm passing onto you. You, the maybe equally-noobish traveler who will be flying with a baby for the first time.

Yes, I did a Google search or two prior to my trip. I read some articles from seasoned travelers. I made notes. I had a plan. Then we went on our trip, and I realized there's no way you can be 100% prepared for something like this. It wasn't completely terrible, but it could have been better. Our next trip will be better due to what I have learned, and I'm hoping I can save another mommy the headaches I experienced. Considering our return flight home went much better than our initial flight, I feel I've earned my soapbox for the next few minutes.... even if I am still a noob.

Here are my tips for a smoother flight with a baby aged 12 months or younger.

1) Pack ahead of time. Like, days ahead of time.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but trust me, you'll want to have a couple of days to make sure you didn't forget something. Check and re-check your list and/or bag(s) just to be sure. Having this extra time will eliminate the stress of time constraint, and possible left-behind item(s) you'll stress over later.

Also, don't overpack. This is a trap we mommies fall into often, especially when our child is smaller and requires more items for existence. You know the saying, "Work smarter; not harder?" Pack smarter; not harder. Unless you're planning on checking bags, and have another adult to assist you in bag management, you'll need to keep everything carry-on-sized. Consider your destination accommodations, and pack accordingly, and remember... baby will do just fine without their agglomeration of clothes and toys.

(If you'd like to see a detailed packing-specific post, please let me know in the comments!)

2) Be informed.

I'm not talking flight number and boarding time (though those are helpful); I'm talking the nitty gritty details about your airport and airline. For example, I knew from flights past that when I got to security, I'd have to remove my shoes, put everything into bins and onto the belt, and progress through to have my palms swabbed. What I didn't know, and hadn't seen listed on any of my prior searches, was I would have to remove my baby from her car seat and put both the car seat and stroller onto the belt. I mean, I get it, but it wasn't something that occurred to me at all, and I wasn't prepared for the extra time that would take me to accomplish. Factor in the lack of adult assistance and personal anxiety disorder, and you get a frazzled, sweaty, bumbling mess. This is not something you want, folks.

Arrive at the airport at least two hours prior to your boarding time. You will need this time to get through security, to your gate, and have enough time for bathroom break(s) and meals as needed. While you should factor in traffic getting to the airport, this two hour window will also allow a buffer in case of unexpected travel delays. We encountered unexpected traffic backups for much of the trip to the airport, and I had just enough time to get through security (especially considering my aforementioned security situation), find my gate, grab a quick meal for myself and the kids, and squeeze in a bathroom break before boarding began. By the time I made it to our seats, I was already exhausted, and I still had a three hour flight ahead of me with a lap baby, which leads me to my next tip....

3) Prior to your trip, check whether your airline has assigned or open seating.

We flew Southwest, and they do open seating. This was a wonderful blessing, because I wanted a row where I could have the window seat for discreet nursing, have L next to me, and as long as the plane wasn't full, have an open seat/tray for a just-in-case. I also wanted to be near the wing because it's a bit louder, and I was hoping the sound would lull E to sleep, as well as possibly muffle any renditions of "The Song of E's People."

While you're checking on seating, be sure to notify the airline that you'll have a lap baby with your ticket. Since lap babies don't have tickets of their own, the airline will need to make note of an infant on your ticket. Be sure to bring a copy of baby's birth certificate and shot record, because the airline will verify baby's age, and some are choosy as to which record they'll accept.

4) Gate check your car seat and/or stroller.

Odds are you'll be transported to the airport via a motor vehicle, and if you're bringing baby with you to the airport, you will need to put baby in his or her car seat to get them there. I strongly suggest bringing your stroller, even if you plan on wearing baby at the airport, because it's an extra luggage-carrying-device. Considering the cost of these items, I'm almost certain you would rather not have them lost or damaged. In that case, gate check your car seat and/or stroller. If your car seat has a base, like mine does, click the seat into the base so it's one piece. You'll rest assured knowing your beloved, expensive modes of baby transportation are nearby and safe, and the risk of them being lost and/or damaged are greatly reduced.

To gate check your items, you will visit the counter at your assigned gate, and tell them you want to gate check your car seat and stroller. They'll ask you for your name and flight information for confirmation, then they'll ask to see your boarding pass. Once all that checks out, and it will, they'll tag your items and you'll be on your way.

5) Bring an extra pacifier, and/or feed baby during takeoff and landing.

Pressure changes are a beach, yo. Older kids and adults can pop their own ears, but babies cannot, and thus will be extremely uncomfortable until they do. Using a pacifier and/or feeding during takeoff and landing will help to ensure their ears are popping regularly, and they remain happy, cuddly, quiet travelers.

I should reiterate that said pacifier should be an extra. As in, not the only pacifier you brought for your trip, or the only pacifier you can access quickly and easily. Bring many pacifiers... if for no other reason than planes are germy places, and you'll probably want to throw that one out asap!

Have you flown with a baby before? Do you have any helpful tips that really made a difference for you and/or your baby? Please share them below!

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