Flying with a baby can be daunting. Even experienced jet setters often get a little bit anxious about their first trip with an infant in tow. Don’t fret though. While, it’s certainly not a walk in the park, it doesn’t have to be terribly difficult either.
Below is a guide on how to travel with your baby as well as a baby travel checklist. This should give you everything you need to ensure a pleasant trip.
Successful trips require some planning even if you’re traveling on your own. If you want to make it to your destination with your baby and your sanity in tact, thinking ahead and knowing what to expect can go a long way.
Planning & Preparation
It all start when you schedule your flight. When you’re booking your seats, you will want to sit as close to the front as possible. This makes boarding and deplaning a lot easier. In addition, the back tends to be a lot louder due to vibrations from the engine which can make it harder to get your little one to sleep.
You will also need to decide which seat you want within the row. Some people prefer the window seat since it provides nursing moms with a little more privacy. The window seat also minimizes the impact that a crying baby has on other passengers. On the other hand, the aisle seat lets you get up and down easier if you need to get to the restroom for a quick diaper change. In addition, some parents are able to soothe crying infants by walking them up and down the aisle. If you’re in an aisle seat, this will be a little easier.
Children under 2 years of age can fly for free on most domestic airlines since they can ride in someone’s lap. This is a great way to save money. Having said that, for longer flights you might still consider getting a seat for your baby. If you bring an FAA certified car seat, your little one can sit in a familiar place throughout the flight. It’s also the safest way for your baby to fly in case of turbulence, and might be more comfortable for both of you.
I have included a checklist in the second part of this article that outlines everything that you will need to pack. However, depending on your particular circumstances, you might not need everything on the list. To the extent that you can lighten the load, I strongly recommend doing so.
If you’re taking a two week trip, don’t pack two weeks’ worth of clothes, diapers, and food. Instead, bring enough for a few days, and plan on doing some shopping and some laundry. That said, it is a good idea to pack a couple extra outfits in your carry on in case of a blow out.
Unless you’re planning to do a ton of walking when you reach your destination, I would recommend leaving the stroller behind. A baby carrier works fairly well in most situations and is much lighter and more transportable. If you do need to bring a stroller, umbrella strollers are best since they are light and compact.
If you’re staying at a hotel or Airbnb, call ahead to see if you can reserve a crib. That way, you will save yourself the trouble of having to bring one with you.
One other thing to keep in mind is to pack your carry on bag so that you can access important items quickly. After all, you don’t want to spend 15 minutes digging through your bag to find a fresh diaper or a snack for your little one.
At The Airport
When you get to the airport, check to see if your flight is full. If it’s not, there is a good chance you can get your seat moved so that you and your family have your own row. That can make for a more pleasant flight for you as well as other passengers, since there will be a buffer against any crying.
When it comes to boarding, there are a couple of schools of thought. Some people like to board early since they move a little more slowly with a baby in tow. On the other hand, if you board early, that might mean that you need to entertain your baby for an extra 30 minutes or more on the plane while everyone else boards. My recommendation if both parents are traveling is that one should board early with all of the carry on bags, while the other waits in the airport until the last possible minute with the baby. That way, you minimize the amount of time that your little one needs to spend on the plane.
On The Flight
If you have an FAA certified car seat with you, make sure you know how to install it once you get on the plane. It’s actually not a bad idea to take the instruction manual with you just in case. Though, there is a good chance you can pull up instructions on your phone in a pinch.
As you prepare to take off, get ready to feed your baby. Some infants experience pain in their ears as the plane gains altitude. The good news is that the sucking motion associated with bottle feeding or nursing can provide relief. Keep this in mind for descent as well.
By the way, if you formula feed, you don’t need to put the bottles into quart size bags and you aren’t limited to 3.4 ounces. Just be prepared as security may stop you and ask to test or screen the formula.
Some infants cry on planes and others don’t. Toys, books and other diversions can be a good way to calm your little one down. Sometimes a change of scenery helps as well. So, if the seat belt sign is off, you might take a stroll up and down the aisle.
If your baby does cry on the flight, you will get understanding looks from some passengers and eye rolls from others. Usually this depends on whether or not they have kids themselves. While you should certainly try to soothe your baby during bouts of crying, don’t stress too much. Your little one won’t be the first to cry on a plane, and the flight won’t go on forever either.
Baby Travel Checklist
When you’re packing for a trip, it’s really easy to overlook something. Preparing a checklist can be a great way to help ensure that nothing important gets left behind.
- Baby food. If your baby is eating solids, be sure to bring some baby food. I find that pouches work best when traveling since babies can often consume them without utensils.
- Bib. If your little one is a messy eater, you probably want to bring a bib so that you aren’t dong any unnecessary outfit changes. On the other hand, if you can get by without it, it’s one less thing to pack.
- Plastic utensils. If your baby is eating solids, it’s a good idea to pack some utensils.
- Formula. This is a must for formula fed babies. Of course, if you’re nursing, it’s not necessary.
- Water. If you’re little one is drinking water, be sure to bring a bottle or two.
- Snacks. In addition to bringing some meals, it can be a really good idea to have some snacks on hand. Cereal is a great option since it stores well and isn’t too messy.
- Bottles or sippy cups. Unless you’re exclusively breastfeeding, you will want to pack some bottles or sippy cups.
- Breast pump. If you’re pumping regularly, you might want to bring the pump with you on your trip. This can be an especially good idea if you have someone that’s able to stay home with your baby one night while you and your spouse have a date night out.
- Nursing cover. If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll want to bring a nursing cover so you have a little privacy.
- Diapers. Be sure to bring enough diapers for your travel day, plus a few extra. You never know when your little one is going to go through more than usual. Plus, you want to be covered in case your flight is delayed.
- Changing pad. Bring a changing pad so that you have something to put down when you change your baby.
- Diaper cream. If your little one is rash free, you might be able to put this in a checked bag instead of a carry on. But, you’ll want to make sure to have it with you on your trip.
- Wipes. Just like diapers, you will want to have enough for your travel day, with some extra just in case.
- Hand sanitizer. You might not always have the luxury of washing your hands after a diaper change. Airplane bathrooms are tiny, so it can be tough to wash up when you’re in there with a baby. Besides, when you’re at the airport, you might have to change your little one in areas other than the bathroom. So, it’s best to have some sanitizer on hand. Airports are crawling with germs after all.
- Plastic bags. You will want a way to keep soiled diapers separated from everything else if you need to keep them in your bag after use.
- Diaper bag. A good diaper bag can make it much easier to carry everything you need, and keep things fairly organized.
- Clothes. Be sure to take a couple of extra changes with you in your carry on just in case of a blow out.
- Socks or booties. These will keep you little one’s feet warm.
- Shoes. If your baby is walking, bring shoes. If not, I would recommend leaving them behind.
- Sun hat. If you’re going someplace sunny, be sure to bring a sun hat.
- Toys. You will only have room for a few choice toys in your carry on. Try to bring a couple of different types so that you can keep your baby entertained on the plane.
- Books. A couple of books are really helpful in fighting off boredom. Luckily, babies generally don’t mind reading the same thing a few times.
- Baby monitor. You will want to have a way to keep tabs on your little one once your reach your destination. This is particularly important if you’re staying somewhere other than a single hotel room.
- Nightlight. A nice way to provide just enough light for those middle of the night feedings and changes. Then again, if you’re trying to travel light, you can probably leave this one behind.
- Travel bassinet, crib or playard. Unless you’re staying somewhere with sleeping accommodations for babies, you’ll have to bring your own.
- Sheets and bedding. Don’t forget the sheets that go with your bassinet, crib, or playard.
- Sleep sack or swaddle blanket. If you’re using one, be sure to pack it. It can be hard for babies to sleep in unfamiliar surroundings, so you don’t want to make it any harder.
- Baby soap and shampoo. Since little ones usually have their own soaps and shampoos, you’ll want to be sure to pack some.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste. If your baby has teeth, don’t forget to bring these along to keep them clean.
- Inflatable bathtub. This is strictly optional. It can make bath time a little easier. Then again, if space is tight in your suit case, this is an easy one to eliminate.
- Nose aspirator. Often times, babies pick up colds on planes with all of the germs floating around in the air. Since infants tend to be nose breathers, you’ll want to be sure to have a way to clear any congestion.
- Tissues. Great for runny noses, and cleaning up all sorts of minor messes.
- Blanket. A blanket can be a great thing to have on hand as you travel throughout the day. They are great for keeping little ones warm of course. But, they can also be a nice thing to spread out on the ground to provide your baby with a nice spot to sit or lie down.
- Pacifier. If your baby uses one, you’ll want to have a pacifier on the plane. They can help soothe your little one and cut down on crying. They can also help relieve ear pain during take off and landing.
- Baby carrier. These are a great way to free up your hands as you move throughout the airport. It’s much easier to carry your baby in a carrier than in your arms. Carriers are also much more portable than strollers.
- Car seat. If you have booked a seat for your little one, you will want to bring an FAA certified car seat for the flight. That way, your baby can sit in a familiar seat, and may just be happier and more comfortable. Car seats are also the safest way for infants to fly. On the other hand, if you’re checking your car seat, you’ll want to bring a good car seat travel bag.
- Stroller. I included this on the list in order to be comprehensive. If there is going to be a lot of walking on your trip, you should consider bringing a stroller. Umbrella strollers are generally best since they are light weight and compact. You might even use your stroller to carry some bags and lighten the load when you’re at the airport. That said, if you can get by with just a baby carrier, it’s one less thing to bring with you. It’s also worth noting that if you’re planning to hit the beach, you’re better off borrowing a good stroller for the sand after you arrive. These tend to be a bit too large to travel with easily.
- Teething ring. If your baby is teething, you will definitely want to bring one of these along.
- Medicine. Just putting this on the list in case your little one is taking any medicine. You certainly wouldn’t want to take a trip without it.
- Burp cloth. These are great to have on hand if your baby spits up a lot. They are actually great general purpose mess cleaners as well.
- Baby sunscreen. If you’re going someplace sunny, and your baby is over six months, bring some sunscreen. Just be sure to get one that is made for infants.
With that, you should be all set for baby’s first trip. Hopefully, everything will go smoothly. But, if you do run into some bumps along the road, try not to let it get to you too much. It’s all part of the journey. So, take a deep breath and enjoy the ride. Play your cards right, and you will find that it’s not so difficult to manage baby jet lag.