Thanks for visiting! If you’d like to read more family travel tips, kids’ activity ideas, and stories from life with our two girls, follow our blog on pinterest, subscribe by email, and/or join the conversation on the Nothing if Not Intentional facebook page!
We just returned from a week of sand castles, sun hats, and seashells with our two favorite girls. Naturally, all I want to write about now is TRAVEL! Kid-friendly travel is my favorite thing to read and write about anyway, which if fine since this post about dealing with sleep issues during travel is one of my most popular posts!
But let’s not talk about toddlers today. Let’s talk about flying with babies. Flying with babies doesn’t have to be a dreadful experience. Actually, I kind of like it! We’ve traveled enough by now (Nate is a pilot, after all!) that we have a pretty good system in place. In fact, on our last flight (with our girls–2 1/2 years and 9 months), a flight attendant said to me, “Wow, I’m really impressed with how organized you guys are! Flying (with kids) overwhelms most parents!” For this travel-happy mama, could there be a better compliment? I think not! Okay, want to know what works for us?
Tips for Flying with Baby
Wear your baby. We always bring a stroller (or our neighbor’s GoGo Babyz, which is awesome!), but it’s helpful to have your hands free in the airport when you’re lugging around two suitcases, three carry-ons, three personal items, two kids, and the overpriced lunch you grabbed in a rush on your way into the terminal. Bonus: the stroller is then free to be used as a luggage cart.
For a lap infant (children under two who fly for free on domestic flights because they sit on your lap), you can usually gate check your stroller and carseat for free. (Some airlines limit stroller weight to 20 pounds. This eliminates most double strollers.)
I bring several huge garbage bags and twist ties to put my car seats in because it keeps them clean and offers the tiniest bit of protection. (Edited to add this reminder: the FAA says that the safest place for your child is in an airplane-approved carseat. Please keep this info in mind when choosing how to fly with your infant!)
With that said, once our lap infant moved out of her infant bucket seat, I started bringing a cheap travel seat (this Cosco Scenera) because I didn’t want her good car seat to be damaged.
While we’re talking about lap infants, call your airline before you fly to add your child to your travel documents. Your ticket will indicate you have a lap infant.
Additionally, bring a copy of your child’s birth certificate to prove that he or she is, indeed, under two.
For takeoff and landing, lap infants can’t be worn. (If someone understands the logic, please explain!) But you can strap your baby in for naps as soon as you reach a comfortable cruising altitude.
Thinking about traveling abroad with kids? Check out this post! 14 Things to Know about Traveling Internationally with Kids.
Travel during nap time whenever possible. Flights pass quickly when babies sleep.
Should you purchase a seat for your baby (or toddler), there are special seating rules for car seats. We knew that car seats and kids couldn’t go in the emergency exit row. But, until recently, we did not know that they were also prohibited on some airplanes in the row behind the emergency exit. Similarly, the preference (or rule, in some cases) is that car seats are next to the window.
In this day and age, you may have to pay if you want to guarantee your family sits together. On several airplanes, window and aisle seats are now offered only to passengers willing to pay for a seat upgrade. True, most passengers will agree to trade so you can sit together (like the man on our last flight who said, “You just tell me where to sit. We’re all going to Charlotte! Seats don’t matter to me!). But a passenger who paid for the window seat may be reticent to give it up just so that you can sit next to your spouse.
Babies Need to Eat
Conventional wisdom says that babies need to pop their ears during takeoff and landing. Nate (speaking as a pilot) says that babies only really need to drink/suck on the descent. Their ears will adjust naturally on the ascent. (Unless, presumably, they have an ear infection or other ear problems.)
We usually make our own baby food. But fresh food doesn’t travel well, so we bring store-bought food with us when we travel. One of my most brilliant ideas has been to package one sample spoon (like these) in with every container of baby food. I know, I know–disposable spoons and plastic containers aren’t eco-friendly! But we make exceptions when we travel. And it’s so helpful to have those two items readily available as we fumble our way through meals on the road. We also LOVE washable bibs that are easy to fold and throw in even the smallest diaper bag! We have two of these. I chose them in part because they’re free of BPA, latex, and PVC.
Don’t use water from the plane bathroom for anything besides washing your hands. This was new to me! Don’t rinse pacifers and cups with it, and definitely don’t drink it. On a recent flight, Nate was going to rinse a sippy cup in the bathroom. The flight attendant freaked out and brought us several bottles of water to use instead. She said the bathroom water is “purified” with chemicals, and it has been known to make grown men very, very sick.)
Pack Your Bags!
We use every inch and pound of allowed luggage; therefore, to make sure our bags aren’t too heavy, we don’t leave home without this luggage scale.
Should you decide you’re up for laundry on your trip, bring laundry pods or samples instead of your normal full-size detergent.
Heading to the beach? Check out our tips for taking baby to the beach!
I have a well-stocked travel toy bag. (You can read all about it HERE.) But, honestly, babies don’t need much. Barf bag puppets, peekaboo, and a few snacks (cheerios and baby puffs worked well for us!) might be all you need. Since babies like to toss their toys, make sure the toys you do pack are washable.
To minimize trips to sinks, we bring lots of links to attach teethers and toys to our baby carrier, car seat and even clothes. Suction toys (like these) can also be helpful. My real-life friends know that I’m a little bit of a freak when it comes to germs. Okay, who am I kidding? I’m a total freak about germs! Not surprisingly, I bring wipes to clean tray tables, arm rests, changing tables, and little hands. So far I’ve resisted the urge to clean the hands of my fellow passengers or force my family to wear masks.
Puppy pads make great disposable changing pads.
Dress your baby in layers. We were stuck on the runway in Guatemala in a plane with no air conditioning when our oldest was seven months old. She was miserable. Other times, we’ve found the plane to be chilly.
Check the TSA website before you go to see what’s allowed for luggage and carry-ons for babies. There are exceptions to the 3-1-1 liquid rule for babies. For example, you can have bottled water and baby food in your carry-on, and most airlines will allow you an extra carry-on diaper bag for free.
Even with great planning and organization, kids are wild cards. We always bring earplugs for other passengers, just in case. If nothing else, your fellow passengers will likely appreciate your humor and thoughtfulness.
Thanks for sticking with me! That was a ton of info. Okay, your turn. Have you flown with your babies? How did it go? I want to hear your best travel tips!
Check out these posts in our popular Traveling with Toddlers series: Packing Tips and Navigating the Airport Surviving the Plane Ride Managing Sleep-Disruptions You can find this post at some of these great link parties and Tuesday Tots!