TRAVEL 101: FLYING WITH AN INFANT
Flying with an infant is a daunting thing. Trapped in a confined space, in a seat, for however long. Full of strangers. You can’t stop along the side of the road and get out, or walk around to soothe. There are so many uncontrollable factors. Not to mention dragging all of your luggage, baby’s luggage, birth certificates, wallet and IDs, yourself, baby, carseat + base, stroller and whatever else you might need through security. It gets to be incredibly overwhelming.
Here are the things that I learned after flying with Tess as an 8 month old, things I wish I would have know before and things that I would definitely skip. Plus check out my free Airport Baby Checklist.
1. Baby stuff travels free. Diaper bag included.
We fly Allegiant to Florida to stay in my parents condo 1-2 times a year. It’s not the most luxurious flight, but they are super cheap. Like most airlines you’re allowed one personal item, this is usually where we pack all our clothes and skip paying for a carry-on since we have a washer & dryer in the condo. I was panicked, thinking I would have to pack everything for Tess and myself into this bag. But as I was preparing to book the flights, I started reading about traveling with children on their site. A diaper bag is an item that flies free. You don’t have to check it or stuff it into the overhead bin. It’s amazing. Your stroller and carseat also travel free which is amazing too.
2. Gate Check Your Carseat and Stroller
Like I mentioned, you’re allowed to bring your carseat and stroller for free on most flights. The thing is the airlines are not liable for any damage your baby gear might endure on the flight. Might not be a huge deal to some people, um…but I love my Thule Urban Glide and I don’t want anything to happen to it. SO, I checked the website for Allegiant and saw that you can either check your stroller and carseat at the counter, OR you are allowed to gate check these items. In other words, they ride in the cabin at the front where the wheelchairs and other handicap accessories are stored during the flight and unloaded before deplaning. Um, why would you not? Seriously. That way you know your carseat and stroller are FOR SURE going to end up on your plane. You don’t have to worry about it being missorted, plus you don’t have to go wait at the baggage claim to pick it up! Once you get off the plane, it’s right there waiting for you. Win, win. I would not do it any other way.
3. Pull Your Wipes Out At Security
Both times we went through security my baby wipes got flagged. Which meant they pulled me and my bag aside, went through it and then even swabbed the wipes. I guess maybe it’s because I use Water Wipes and they have more liquid than some? I’m not entirely sure. But either way, save yourself the hassle and pull your wipes out of your bag and toss them in a bin when you’re going through security!
4. Pack Extra Clothes, for You & Baby in your Carry-On
We stayed pretty clean honestly, but Tess did spit up on me during the flight. It wasn’t much so I didn’t end up changing. But I’ve heard the horror stories from Mama’s who ended up gutting it out through a whole day of travel covered in poop. Doesn’t really sound like the way I want to start off any vacay. In addition, I’d recommend packing Ziplock bags and your favorite stain remover to save your clothes and protect any clean items that are tucked in your carry-on. Better to be prepared and not have to use it than to be caught with your pants down.
5. Nurse during Take-off & Landing
This is something that I had heard from several other Mamas, in order to make sure your babe’s ears pop they need to be swallowing. The paci won’t do the same thing because they aren’t forced to swallow anything down while sucking on the paci. So, if you nurse, pump and bottle feed, or formula feed just make sure you have it ready for your baby to be guzzling during take off and the landing. Luckily, my flight was just long enough for Tess to get a full feeding at takeoff and again at landing. But if you have a shorter flight or a little one who might not eat again if they get a full feeding at take off, you might want to save a little for the landing. Even if it means a shorter nap while in the air — I’d rather have a fussy babe who’s ears have popped than a screaming-in-pain little one fighting those ear drums!
6. Bring A Nursing Cover
Tess hates the nursing cover. She just does. I don’t know if it’s because she’s such a curious kid or what, but she always wants to see what’s going on around her. Which also makes it difficult to get her to focus and nurse sometimes. Since I mentioned that nursing during the take off and landing are essential — it’s important to get that babe nursing. So I used my Native Wilds nursing cover (similar here and here) and it actually helped her nursing and also blocked out all the stimulation and allowed her to fall asleep! Mind you every other time I’ve used my nursing cover she has fought it, big time. But when I used it on the plane, she nursed and then snuggled up to me to go to sleep and slept for a while curled up in there in the dark. I think that I would buy a Milk Snob if I had to do it over again, they seem more fitted and better for multi-use.
7. Be prepared for layovers and delays
Luckily we didn’t run in to this issue — our flight home didn’t leave on time but we were only about 15 minutes off schedule. But if you have long layovers or are traveling at a season/in a region prone to storms leading to delays, be prepared. My checklist allotted for 3-4 toys BUT if you have a lengthy layover or anticipate delays you might want to make room in your personal carry-on for toys. Anything to entertain that little bean while you’re stuck with very little to do and few options for entertainment. This is another reason I added my baby carrier to the checklist. Tess will settle down pretty quick if I strap her in to my ErgoBaby carrier and walk. Since we were super early to the airport for our first flight, this is what we did! It kept her calm and quiet for about an hour and a half before we were able to board, which was HUGE.
8. Birth Certificate & Social Security Card
Check with the airline you’re planning to fly with but almost all major airlines require proof of age for your infant. Not only that, the birth certificate serves as proof of parenthood. Carrying your child’s birth certificate with is something that is a little bit of a hassle but I respect the effort to protect children. Really its to prevent the transportation of children without their parents’ knowledge, i.e. child trafficking victims, kidnapping victims, etc. Although, we weren’t even asked to provide Tess’s birth certificate for one of our flights, but it’s inevitable that if you didn’t have it — they’d be requesting it. So, just be prepared with your child’s documents, just in case!
The biggest thing is just try to be flexible. And patient. Your little one is up for a huge adventure in the airport. Don’t stress about what other people might be thinking or that they might be annoyed because a) it doesn’t matter and b) they’re probably more sympathetic than anything!