Is the entire thought of flying with baby completely anxiety-producing? That’s how I felt before I did it for the first time when Aidan was 9 weeks old. Now that he’s a toddler, I realize just how easy I had it on that trip! It definitely took a lot to get us all organized for the trip – but the trip itself was way better than I anticipated.
Here are some tips I have gathered along the way to help you prepare for your child’s first voyage:
BOOKING THE TRIP
- Time your flights. For infants, it’s too hard to predict naps in advance so my recommendation is to either plan to depart mid-morning (so it’s not too daunting to get there in time) and/or in the evening (when they are bound to be exhausted and will hopefully sleep most of the time).
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
- Infants don’t need ID or a birth certificate to travel domestically.
- You are allowed to bring a “reasonable amount” of formula, breast milk and water for formula through security. It’s not legal for them to ask you to taste the milk. I had about 8 bottles of breast milk and formula on our first trip. Newark Airport didn’t blink an eye. West Palm made us put it in a separate bin to be X-rayed (no idea why). Note: If bringing formula, I recommend bringing ready-made even if your child uses powder – it is a warmer temperature and you won’t have to worry about mixing.
- Ensure you are up-to-date on the latest rules before you go by checking out the TSA website.
WHAT TO BRING
- *Must-have* item: baby carrier. I am personally obsessed with the Ergo because even now at a whopping 28 lbs., the occasional carrier ride doesn’t kill my back the way the Bjorn did when he was half the weight. Stay away from the slings until they are regulated to be safer. Before Aidan could hold his head up, I was a big fan of the Moby wrap and that’s what we flew with on our first trip. (On the way home we lucked out with a free seat.)
- Consider bringing a boppy pillow if you have enough hands. This is helpful for baby to sit on when he doesn’t feel like being in the carrier as well as at your destination.
- Try to pack just one bag for you and husband and a separate bag for baby. That’s the ideal amount to travel with and will make it easier to find everything.
- If you don’t have a bag for your gate-checked items, you can use a trash bag. Some airlines request that you purchase a cover from them if you don’t have one.
WHAT TO SEND
- Highly recommend shipping key items to your destination in advance, e.g. diapers, wipes, clean bottle and wash, formula (if needed) and perhaps other items like a new toy, swim gear, sunscreen, etc. You can ship overnight (most destinations) for free from diapers.com if you spend their minimum. I haven’t tried them because they were pricey for what we needed but my friend swears by babiestravellite.com – they not only ship to your destination but will also pick up and ship back to your home. Check out their baby bundles for good suggestions on items you may need.
BEFORE YOU BOARD
- Check in the day before and try to change your seats if you see a group of three seats open together – this way you have a chance of having a free seat for the baby (if you didn’t purchase one). We lucked out and got a free seat on our return leg. Confirm with the gate agent before boarding so you know whether to bring the car seat on or check it.
- Make sure to tell the ticketing agent that you have an infant so they can mark it on your ticket. Otherwise, sometimes they’ll make you go back to the counter at checkpoint.
- If you are pumping, try to time it to pump before you board. Pumping is not generally as efficient on board due to the altitude, not to mention it’s quite difficult to take over the bathroom for 15+ mins (I know from experience)!
- Change baby right before the flight – if you are on a short enough flight and there are no accidents, you’ll avoid having to change again on the plane.
- If baby is sleeping, board the plane when they first begin boarding (use your perk of boarding those with infants first!). If baby is fussing, have your husband/travel companion go on first and check the stroller and set up the seats and put the bags in the overhead. Then you can just bring baby on at the end of the boarding process.
- Ingratiate yourself with your nearby passengers. Although infant cries sound much louder to the parents than surrounding passengers with all the white noise (I find it’s usually toddlers you hear screaming, not newborns), it always helps to be nice to others just in case.
- If you have to change a diaper, there is a pull down changing board in the bathroom. It is hard to manuever in there because it’s so small, so just bring essentials to the bathroom not the whole diaper bag. (Pack a separate case or little bag of essentials you can just pull out of the diaper bag at the appropriate time.)
- Take off and landing are the most painful on baby’s (and everyone’s) ears. If baby is sleeping, don’t disturb him/her. But be ready to pop something in baby’s mouth if he’s up – nurse/bottle/pacifier. If you are feeding via bottle and it’s not feeding time, have a separate two ounces ready so you don’t waste a whole bottle. The sucking motion helps their ears and distracts them (like chewing gum).
WHEN YOU LAND
- In our experience, the stroller unloading process at the gate has been rather slow – I personally recommend waiting with baby inside the terminal while husband/travel companion gets the gate checked items.
Good luck and enjoy your first trip! Remember to take a picture on board to commemorate the occasion (don’t be embarrassed!).