Baby Steps Blog

Travel with Baby: The Airplane Adventure

Is travel in your holiday future? Take the plunge!

First, a confession. I love to travel. Bus, train, plane, car – sign me up, I’m ready. There was no way I was going to stop going places just because I had kids. So I consider myself a bit of an expert – and now my grandchildren come visit from Alaska! There’s no better feeling in the world than seeing a five year old flying down the corridor at Logan with his eyes and arms wide open, screaming with joy to see you, and yelling, “Noni! We had an adventure!” (That’s after the fourteen hour trip.)

How do you do it, and what are some things that help? Here goes!

Prepare for the worst, hope for the best

As you make reservations, think about what time of day works best for your baby. If  your baby is young enough, most any time of day will be fine – and they are usually pretty happy because you are going to be holding them the entire time! If it’s a long flight, though, and your baby will need to be entertained somehow, think about flying at a time when they’re usually asleep. I always had morning larks and many of our trips were two hours or so in the air – so morning was great. If you know your baby is likely to be unsettled – remember that most of the people on that plane either have had kids, or were once a kid!

Allow time for surprises – Thank goodness you don’t have to go back home for forgotten tickets and boarding passes any more! But something is liable to happen – the parking lot you always park in is full, or there’s road construction. So give yourself plenty of time. Better to sit at the gate with a cup of hot chocolate than to be running towards the gate! (Do remember though that you can get on that plane right up to the time the door closes. If everything falls apart and you’re running towards the gate – you’re probably okay.)

Keep stuff to a minimum – Some websites suggest you bring a ton of “stuff” with you that you might need. Really? Ugh. There’s nothing worse in my mind than schlepping extra stuff through the airport. So pack – check the bag — and pay the $$ – for things you’ll need at your destination. If you’re visiting family, ask them to have diapers (and formula if you use it) waiting for you at your destination. Tuck diapers and wipes into your bag, and a quick change of clothes for the baby and a light top for you, just in case. Most people bring a stroller just so they can use it to push stuff in – but often babies are much happier when you wear them. Bring the easiest stroller you can – when you get to the end of the jetway near the plane they will take it for you and have it waiting when you get to your destination.

Speaking of wearing your baby – this is my favorite TSA statement about traveling with babies:

  • Passengers cannot leave babies in an infant carrier and attempt to put it through the X-ray machine. Babies should be carried through a walk through metal detector by a parent or guardian.

Umm – really?  If you have other questions about TSA stuff, don’t fret about it – go to their website and get the real scoop. It’s at http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/traveling-children

Breastfeeding on a plane – can be a bit of logistics challenge, depending especially on the size of the baby! If you are traveling with a partner, try choosing seats A and C (or D and F) if you are getting on a six-across plane. The B seats tend to fill last, so you have at least some chance of having a little extra space. (And people in middle seats are always happy to switch for an aisle or window seat if you do get “separated”.) If your baby is fairly little, the window seat can be easy to nurse in, and you can turn towards the window a bit for a feeling of more privacy.  If your baby is big/long, the aisle seat may work better. I had babies that hated being covered with blankets, but I have to tell you I’ve seen moms and babies where I wondered why the baby quieted down so quick – and they were nursing and I couldn’t tell! So don’t be afraid to think through what top you’ll wear and practice ahead of time if “showing” anything makes you nervous. I’m not sure I would announce to strangers what I was going to do – if it’s takeoff, nurse the baby. If it’s touchdown, nurse the baby. If the baby is hungry or upset – nurse. Most people will be glad the baby is quiet and not care how it gets that way. If the baby is flirtatious before and after feeds – let them flirt with your seatmates. Makes life simpler that most people fall in love with our babies because they are so cute!

Just do it! – Once you’ve got your motherlegs, travel is pretty easy in the first 6-8 months. As babies get more mobile, it’s more of a challenge. So enjoy this time of introducing your baby to the wider world! (And I suppose I should add, remember that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger….)

Do you have other traveling tips? We’d love to hear them! And post pix too, if you’d like.

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3 Responses to Travel with Baby: The Airplane Adventure

  1. Dawn G December 4, 2012 at 7:58 pm #

    We took Jackson on a car/boat trip at 11 weeks and then a plane trip to Mexico at 9 months. Having repeated the car/boat trip 3 more times and the Mexico trip twice, I can say those first two trips were the easiest.

    The car/boat trip would have been easier if we have been going somewhere with stores, but otherwise, it was easy.

    The trip to Mexico was harder, but we have 4 adults and access to everything but formula. We took our umbrella stroller and gate checked it. We took some food for the plane, but as soon as the TSA agents associated it with the baby we were set. (I do wish the applesauce squeezers were less than 3 oz.) He didn’t need much entertaining at 9 months and we took a direct flight. As he got older (21 months and 42 months) it was easier to take 1-stop flights to give us some time to move around between flights.

  2. Ann W. December 7, 2012 at 10:00 am #

    And use your car seat! Babies travel more easily in familiar surroundings, plus, it gives you the added benefit of being able to put them down and have them sleep – most are used to sleeping in either the crib or the seat, so having that known place to sleep makes travel easier. You’ll also need the seat to get both to and from the airport.

  3. Allison H January 3, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    I am going to be traveling soon from the west coast to the Midwest with my 4 month old! We wont be using a car seat because of the cost for an extra seat- we have a total of 4 flights due to connections and i’d rather wear her because there will be a car seat for her when I get to the Midwest.. I find it hilarious that such a rule exists for sending your car seat through the luggage check!

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