Traveling with a baby wasn’t nearly as complicated as we thought it would be. In our experience, getting through security and boarding the plane were surprisingly a breeze. Here are some tips and takeaways from our recent flying experiences.
Before the Flight
Count your blessings! If your child is under two years old, they can sit in your lap and you don’t need to buy a seat for them. You’ll also be able to bring additional carry-on baggage with a baby, but be sure to check with your airline about what they will allow.
- Pack what you need and buy the rest. We packed just enough diapers and wipes to get us there and bought more once we arrived. We flew direct so our time in the air was short, but just in case of a diaper blow-out we also packed an extra outfit in the baby bag. Here are some suggestions on other items to consider packing:
- Baby bag + travel bassinet — Like most first-time parents, we bought lots of baby stuff that looked totally cool but we never used. This bag, however, is NOT one of those items. We LOVE this thing! Willow slept every single time we put her in it (granted, she was milk drunk most of the time, but that’s beside the point).
- Baby monitor — If you check 1,000 times per night to be sure baby is breathing, you’ll want to bring your monitor with you. Remember to pack the charging cables!
- Baby bath chair — we used this collapsible bath chair both in the bathtub as well as at the beach! This chair was so helpful to have and took up very little space in our checked bag.
- Sound machine — Willow’s noise of choice is ocean waves (which is ironic, considering on her first two beach trips we could have let her listen to actual ocean waves but the air conditioning was way more important).
- Federal regulations require everyone to have a photo ID, but what about babies? We’re embarrassed to admit that we completely forgot to bring any paperwork with us on Willow’s very first flight, but shockingly not a single person at the ticket counter or in security asked us for documentation on her (which is kinda scary if you think about it)! Nonetheless, be smarter than us and if you have a birth certificate for your child, bring it with you. Otherwise, bring any paperwork provided to you by the hospital that includes the baby’s name as well as the name of both parents.
- Bring your stroller and car seat (don’t forget the base!)…you won’t be charged extra for any of these items! We recommend NOT checking these items like you would a checked bag, but tell the ticket counter that you plan to “gate check” them instead. See below on how the gate-checking process works!
- We found that it was easiest to manage our luggage, stroller and bags if one of us wore Willow in a wrap or carrier. It kept our hands free and Willow seemed to like it better, so it was a win-win for us.
Getting Through Security
- When you approach the security line at the airport, don’t be shy about asking if there is a separate stroller line. They may wave you to the front of the line, send you through the TSA Pre-Check line, or do nothing at all. Just be ready to roll with it.
- The TSA considers breast milk, formula, and juice in the same category as liquid medicine, so it is not subject to the 3 oz. rule that applies to other liquids or gels but it may be subject to additional screening (i.e. they may open the bottle and dip in a test strip). You can also bring frozen ice packs and empty bottles (as long as they are in your carry-on bag). Hooray!
- Breast pumps are considered to be medical devices by some airlines and are therefore not counted as a carry-on item. This rule is not consistently interpreted, so check with your airline first if you plan to carry your pump separately from your carry-on bag.
- You will need to carry your baby through the scanner. Meanwhile, if they fit your stroller and car seat will need to go on the belt and be scanned OR they will need to be hand checked and tested by a TSA agent. (How sad it is to be living in a time when we have to check to be sure there are no explosives being hidden in baby strollers and car seats.)
Boarding & Flying
- As you board the plane, a gate agent will give you a tag for your stroller, car seat and base. You can attach the car seat and base together, then simply leave each item right outside the plane’s door before boarding. When you land, don’t forget to retrieve these items from the same spot right outside the door of the plane…you’ll definitely need them later!
- Emotionally, Brittany was a nervous wreck about Willow’s first flight, but she timed her schedule perfectly and made sure that Willow would want to nurse around the time of takeoff and sleep for most of the flight. Sure enough, our little Peanut zonked out right on time and never made a peep!
- Sometimes, however, babies just don’t cooperate. On one flight Willow got super fussy, so Brittany went through the checklist of what could possibly be bothering her. Is she hungry? Does she have a dirty diaper? Is she sleepy? Is she not feeling well? Is she uncomfortable? If you’re in this situation and nothing seems to work, our suggestion is to take a deep breath and remember this: There’s a good chance you’re the ONLY one who is stressing out. You’re NOT a bad parent and even if you feel like everyone on board is upset with your little noisemaker, you can’t worry about what others think. What your baby needs most is to feel like she’s the center of your attention so tune everything (and everyone) else out and do whatever you can to try and console her. In our case, we were high enough in the air that Brittany was able to get up, walk to the back of the plane and rock Willow to sleep in the space between the restrooms and the flight attendants’ service area.
Two More Tips
- Show love and extend grace to others (even if they don’t reciprocate). One of the fastest ways to make your travel experience a miserable one is to let stress get the best of you. All too often when we travel we allow relatively trivial things upset us. Sometimes it’s as simple as a snarky comment by a spouse, or other times it’s a random traveler or employee who pushes our buttons. Regardless of where the frustration comes from, knowing how to deflect it and keep a positive attitude is the name of the game. The next time you’re traveling and sense yourself getting angry, take a deep breath, say a prayer, and remember that there’s nothing the devil would enjoy more than to turn your adventure into a disaster. When you focus your energy on loving others in the midst of your travels, we promise you’ll find joy in the journey.
- Be a difference maker with your words. On one flight Willow was crying and wouldn’t stop. Brittany, Willow and I were all a hot mess when the gentleman sitting next to Brittany leaned over and offered some encouragement that literally brought Brittany to tears. If you see a parent having a hard time, a few kind words can make a world of difference.
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