If you loved traveling before you had your baby, you should still be able to love traveling after your baby. Both my husband and I have traveled the world: around the United States, South America, Asia, Europe, Africa, you name it. We still have numerous places on our bucket list, but now we have our newest addition to our family and oh how things have changed when even thinking about going somewhere! Traveling with a baby is no small endeavor. Babies are so small, but everything that goes into traveling with them somewhere is not.
The first flight I took with my five month old baby was a domestic five-and-a-half hour flight. It doesn’t seem THAT long. But real talk— I was pretty nervous to take my baby on a plane. I think this is also because I am such a people pleaser. I’ve seen it before (years before I had my baby) on a flight from LA to Boston where a couple got spoken to by not one, but four different people about their shrieking, screaming baby in the first hour of a red-eye flight. Though I wasn’t taking a red-eye, I pictured myself pacing the back of the airplane with my screaming son, while people darted expressions of either pity or utter fury and annoyance at me for five-and-a-half whole hours. Oh. My. Goodness.
Luckily it didn’t go that way AT ALL. But with my anxiousness mentioned above, this is probably why some parents don’t dare fly unless necessary after a few years, and some parents fly when baby is more than a few weeks old! Whatever happens, always remember that you’re doing your best for your baby and what works for you as a parent is most important. I have come across some great tips, tricks, and work-arounds that make the process easier. I wanted to share what I find successful to help you a little…or a lot! This list is pretty extensive, but I promise something in here will help you.
1. BOOKING YOUR FLIGHT/ CHOOSING YOUR SEAT
My first tip for flying with a baby begins even before you get on the plane. It starts with booking your flight. The airline and your seating arrangement can make a huge difference on how your experience goes, so this is an important planning step.
Bassinet: If you are on an international flight they will often have a basinet available. You do have to book in advance as you need a particular seat, it will probably cost a bit more. However, this will make a difference in comfort for you and your baby. No bassinet: You have two options below that will depend on the age of your baby and if you are flying domestic.
- The first option is paying for an extra seat next to you and bringing your carseat to buckle into that extra seat. Your baby can sleep in the carseat with his seatbelt on for quite some time.
- The second option is having your baby be a lap child. Call the airline before the flight to register your baby if you’ll have them on your lap. Purchasing another seat is not required, but you have baby on your lap the entire flight. If your flight is a few hours and your baby is at the standing or walking age, you can still bring baby as a lap child if he or she is under two years of age. I’d suggest paying more for extra comfort seating for yourself. We chose this option and had our son standing in front of us to play at times when he wanted to stretch out. It was perfect because he didn’t require us to walk him up and down the aisle.
Both options have pros and cons, but you also have to do what is cost-effective and comfortable for you as a parent. Another suggestion with choosing your seat, is to book an aisle seat and window seat if you have your partner along with you. Aisle seats particularly make for easier access to the bathroom or if you must get up and walk baby around. There is a good chance that the middle seat will remain empty, which is what happened to my husband and I on one of our flights. You can also ask at check-in if they can fill that seat last, but it will obviously depend on who is helping you and if they are having a good day! If baby can stretch out in their own seat once the seatbelt light turns off, it makes for a more pleasant flight for everyone.
2. CHECK IN ONLINE
Check in online in advance! This option is always available starting 24 hours before your flight time. You can print off your boarding pass, and won’t have to wait in line at the ticket counter.
3. WEAR COMFORTABLE CLOTHES
With going through security, having a baby on your lap, and maybe breastfeeding, comfortable clothes is highly important. Slip on shoes is key, too, instead of having to un-tie sneakers or un-zip boots in the security line. Also, don’t wear jewelry because it will make the security line easier! Some suggestions of clothing for breastfeeding moms would be a button-down top, a stretchy top with a boatneck or lower neckline, or top specifically made for breastfeeding moms. If you are breastfeeding, also wear a bra you’re completely comfortable to nurse in while on the plane. In my experience, I am more comfortable breastfeeding on a plane in a nursing bra that can easily be pulled up or pulled down. Some of the nursing bras I have also have the clip on the strap, and it’s so annoying to fiddle with that at times. I’ll save that for another day. For a flight, I prefer a cotton, light-weight bra without the clips and it is much more pleasant!
4. TRY NOT TO FLY ALONE
In my experience, there was two of us and one of baby which makes it a whole lot easier. If you have family or friends along with you, too, then that will be comforting to know you can pass the baby around a bit for everyone to entertain baby. It’s helpful. If the flight is long, it just helps things be moremanageable because there are extra eyes and hands. If you must fly alone, then read onto #3 below.
5. USE A BABY CARRIER/BABY SLING
Use a comfortable baby carrier because this will make your entire experience from the minute you get to the airport to being on the flight a better one. If baby is small enough, you can also use it while you sit in your seat while they sleep or feed. There are a TON of options and try out some before purchasing one because the choice is very personal.
6. SECURITY LANE
Some airports will have a security stroller lane (if you have your stroller). You go through the X-RAY machine while you carrying baby instead of those newer body scan machines. If you use a baby carrier (as mentioned above), then you will even have an easier time going through the X-RAY machine!
7. CARRY ON – DIAPER BAG BACKPACK
I suggest bringing one piece of carry-on luggage with everything you need in it – baby necessities and things for yourself (i.e. snacks). Thinking about bringing more entertainment for yourself? Don’t bother with much if you’re traveling solo. A book or perhaps a movie is about all you’ll likely be able to manage without disturbing baby if he or she falls asleep. If you have to bring two pieces (like a purse as well), just remember you’ll have to put one of the pieces up in the overhead compartment. If you’re alone, then it may just be a lot to handle. I personally love a backpack diaper bag, but this can get tricky if you also have a baby carrier, so plan accordingly. My favorite backpack diaper bag is the Be Nurtured by Ju-Ju-Be.
8. DESTINATION APPROPRIATE STROLLER
Depending on baby’s age, this can be a compact umbrella stroller if you’re not going to be using it too much, or a larger, sturdy stroller if you’re going to be walking around for hours at your destination and need shade for the baby. You can check-in the stroller before going through security, or you can do it at the gate. If you have a good carrier, then your preference may be to not have your stroller in the airport. However, it will depend on whether you have a long layover and baby will sleep in the stroller, then it is worth checking at the gate. When you gate-check you just leave the stroller at the door of the plane. The benefit of this is once you get off your flight, the airline staff brings it back right outside the plane when you land. It’s like white-glove service, ha ha!
You may not want to board first if you can avoid it. If you do board first, it gives you WAY more time to get situated on the plane. However, it is just extra time spent entertaining baby while everyone else boards the plane. If you choose to board at the end, then you will just be waiting in the gate area. However, baby may have more time to stretch out legs and use energy. Boarding is just a waiting game. You’re either waiting in line at the gate, waiting in line on the jet-way, or waiting in your seat for all of the other passengers to board. So, if you want to let baby play in the airport for a bit longer or do a last diaper change, that could be good, too. The plane won’t leave without you, and they always do one final boarding call.
10. FEED FOR TAKE-OFF AND LANDING
Baby could be feeding by breast, bottle, or even snacks. It really doesn’t matter which method you use as long as your baby’s jaw keeps moving and they are sometimes swallowing while the cabin pressure changes. Little ones are usually happiest after eating (and quiet during!).
11. KNOW WHAT TO PACK
As far as baby’s needs, you have to know what to pack. This will make your flight and entire travel with baby much easier. Check out my list here.
12. UTILIZE! UTILIZE!
Utilize things around you for baby’s amusement, too. If your baby seems to be getting bored with his or her toys, find things you find suitable for them to play with. Maybe it’s a water bottle, your cell phone (turned off), your brush that may be in your bag, etc.
13. CHANGE SCENERY
If are sitting in your seat the entire time and your baby gets fussy, then baby might like movement and want a change of scenery. Ask if it’s okay to stand with your baby in the back of the plane for a little while. Walk the aisle if it is a time where flight attendants don’t have the food cart out. Changing their scenery instead of sitting in your seat the entire time could be helpful. The flight attendants usually have no problem with parents doing this for a few minutes at a time, as long as the fasten seatbelt sign isn’t on.
Those are my 13 tips! If things get stressful, do your best to give your baby what they need but remind yourself that you will likely never see the people on your flight again in your life. There is only so much you can do to calm a fussy baby in the confines of an airplane and many people understand how stressful it can be to travel with a baby. I think most people just want to see that you’re making an effort to calm/soothe a crying baby and inevitably sympathize with you. DON’T STRESS! With a little work, you will manage to get through the flight without a dirty look.
I hope this helps! What helps you when traveling with baby?
Now it is your turn to share your tips below for me and others who come across this post. Good luck mamas and don’t forget to breathe!