Baby On Board: The High's (and low's) of Plane Travel

Please tell me I’m not the only parent who first thought the idea of traveling with a baby was about as fun as getting sprayed in the face while changing a diaper (moms with little boys, you know what I’m talking about). Excuse the visual but, prior to traveling with my son, just the sheer thought was overwhelming. Not only did I have no clue what to pack, how to manage the security line, or where to sit on the plane, but then the inevitable happened…my husband was on location working and would be meeting us at our destination. Not only would I be traveling for the first time with my 9 week old son, I would be doing it alone. In theory it sounded doable. I kept thinking to myself, “fabulous single parents do this everyday! You got this.” But in practice…well let’s say it took some practicing!

So, after taking Camden on 10+ flights in the past 7 months, a handful of which have been done solo, here are my top 10 tips for traveling with an infant (most of them learned the hard way):

Before leaving

1. If at all possible, get a nonstop flight. Layovers with a baby + belongings are not an easy ride. However, if you have a layover, and if you have a choice between shorter or longer layover times, choose longer. Trust me, you will appreciate the extra time to change diapers, stock up on essentials, and let your child relax. It’s nice having time at the gate to collect your thoughts and check emails. Even a young baby can benefit from stretching out on a blanket in between flights. Playtime at the gate equals nap time on the plane! If you can, schedule your flight to avoid the busiest times of day at airports (8 to 10 AM, 4 to 7 PM).

    Camden enjoying playtime on the airport floor. Yes kids, we keep it classy.

Camden enjoying playtime on the airport floor. Yes kids, we keep it classy.

2. If you are flying solo with your child, have loads of luggage, or traveling with a furry friend, consider contacting a concierge service to assist you. They meet you at curbside with your checked-in ticket, walk you through security, and stay with you until you board. They also give you the option of meeting at your destination for assistance. Concierge companies servicing LAX are generally $75, so I would assume other international airports have a similar price point.

3. Something I learned that has truly been a lifesaver is to order to your destination. We typically order a box of diapers, formula, or whatever else we might need during our trip. Added bonus, delivery is free on orders over $50, and the box always magically arrives the next day! This way, you don’t have to pack every little thing and can avoid grocery shopping when you land.

4. Dress your baby for diaper change ease. I always have Camden in an onesie and pants for travel, which gives you quick access to diaper duty. My favorite onesies are by Paige Lauren. They are extra soft and comfy which is a plus for a travel day.

What to Pack

5. Make sure you have a copy of the birth certificate that lists age and proves that you, in fact, gave birth to your bambino. If you don’t have that handy, a state certified shot record will also work.

6. Diaper Bag Essentials for Carry-On: Make sure to pack an extra change of clothes as cabin pressure can cause stomach pressure (trust me…I explosively learned this the hard way)! You will also want to pack enough diapers for the duration of the travel, plus any potential delays that can occur. Bibs and burp cloths are another a must. I literally pack about 8 in my carry on just to be safe. My favorites for travel are Angel Dear burp cloths and Poncho Baby Reversible Bandana bibs (I mean, how cute are they!). Make sure to have enough bottles with formula or pumped milk for the whole day. You never know how delayed a flight can be, and what would be worse than stuck at an airport with no food for your child! I like to pack fun toys that Camden is not used to seeing to keep him interested, as well as snacks. Plum Organics Puffs and Little Yums Teething Wafers are great for older infants as they lend for easy clean up. For toys, I am a fan of cloth books by Roger Priddy. Easy to pack, read and throw around on a plane. Something to note: the flight attendants can warm food and bottles for you, just ask!

   Camden in his Poncho Baby Bandana Bib.

Camden in his Poncho Baby Bandana Bib.

7. Stroller vs. Carrier vs. Car Seat: This is probably the biggest dilemma I encountered when first traveling, and also the #1 question I get from new moms. I can only share with you my personal experience and what I think is most efficient. I always bring the stroller and car seat and here is why.

Car seat: I bring my car seat for 2 reasons. First, I need the car seat when I get to my destination. Second, if the flight isn’t fully booked, most airlines like Southwest will let children ages 2 and under have a seat free of charge! That’s right, no annoying lap child business for the duration of your flight. In order for your infant to have their own seat, they must be in a car seat. When you check in, you can ask how booked the flight is. If you have some extra jingle in your wallet, you also have the option of purchasing a ticket for your infant. Some airlines will offer discounted rates for children 2 and under. If you gate check your car seat, I would recommend getting a cover to keep it protected and damage free. We use the Britax car seat travel bag and it's great. It fits most standard infant and toddler car seats. Note: You always want to gate check your car seat as opposed to checking it with your luggage. If you check it with your luggage there is always that chance of it being lost, damaged, or late to your destination.

Stroller: The reason I bring my stroller is simple. I literally throw everything on that thing and whisk through the airport. At first, I thought bringing a clunky stroller would only drag me down. But in fact, it’s been quite the useful luggage tote. If you are traveling by yourself and won't be met at your destination, a stroller is truly a lifesaver. The benefits far outweigh any drawbacks. The stroller we use is the Britax B-Agile, it also comes with a travel bag for when you gate check.

Carrier: I have flown with and without my carrier. FAA rules say you have to take your child out of your carrier during security check. I was able to leave him in once and walk through the metal detector. Other times I was asked to take him out. So for me, it’s just as easy to take the stroller and use it as a toting tool. When it comes to the carrier, it’s really a matter of preference. If your child loves their carrier, then why not! The carrier that I use and recommend is the ERGOBaby for facing in. If your baby is one who prefers facing out, then the Baby Bjorn is the way to go.

On The Plane

8. Make sure and feed during take-off and landing. Babies don't know how to pop their ears, so it's helpful to offer a bottle (or booby :) when the plane takes off and descends to help ease pressure.

9. Changing facilities

Some smaller planes don’t come with changing tables in the bathrooms and those that do often only have one per plane. Check with a flight attendant to know which one, and always do a change just before boarding.

10. Be open: Despite your efforts to pack toys, books, and iPad’s, your child may be much more interested in rotating the arm rest up and down, over and over, or ripping up your boarding passes and trying to stuff in their mouth (I know my kid does). I’ve learned baby and mom are happier when I just go with it!

For additional information on traveling with children, check out TSA website.

Do you have any advice about flying or traveling with little ones? Must have baby items? Any major travel stories? I would LOVE to hear your thoughts...

Happy Travels!