Holiday Travel With Your Baby
With the holidays fast approaching, you may be thinking about (and possibly stress over) flying with baby. My son and I took over 25 flights together during his first year, often just the two of us. I picked up some great tricks along the way. I used to get anxious when I traveled, but I can honestly say that once I figured out the best flow of traveling with a baby, it was incredibly fun and helped me reframe what I thought about traveling. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”
Here are a few of my tips and tricks for traveling with a baby!
If you are visiting family – with plans to visit again – try and arrange to have as much of the ‘gear’ as you can there so you don’t have to travel with it. For example: a pack and play (or whatever you are planning on your baby sleeping in while you are there), car seat, stroller, etc. When traveling with your baby, simplicity is key and minimizing the amount of STUFF you will have to keep track of will make for a smoother, dare I even say, relaxing travel day! If you have an excited family member (grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc), see if they can pick some things up for you, such as diapers and wipes. This way you can plan on bringing only what your baby needs for the day of travel and you won’t need to take up all of your precious baggage space (which doesn’t come cheap these days!) with disposable items. Another idea for a longer trip is to order what you need ahead (i.e. diapers or even a pack and play) and have it delivered to your family’s home or the hotel.
If you are bringing a stroller, this will need to either go through the metal detector, or get wheeled through and then checked by TSA. It is best to plan for some extra time for yourself to get through security. There is no feeling quite like being stressed in the security line. The easiest way, in my opinion, to go through security is with your baby in a baby carrier like an Ergo. They are able to stay snuggled in close and you have less to take apart at security or before you board. Also think about diaper bag organization before you get to the security line. It’s a big stress relief to just pull out the plastic bags with your liquids (including pumped milk, formula, and any bottled water to mix with formula). Be sure to inform TSA when you get to security, as baby’s food can exceed the 3.4 ounce limit.
You are able to gate check your stroller for free. It’s a really convienent way to get through the airport as you are able to pile ALL of your things on your stroller while your baby is snuggled in close in a baby carrier or in the basket below if you choose to leave them in the stroller. Take a moment, before you leave, to familiarize yourself with your car seat’s seatbelt installation method. You can bring the infant base for the seat but it is 100% safe to not do so as long as you know how to install the seat with the seatbelt. If you choose to have your child on your lap versus in their car seat on the plane, you can gate check the car seat too.
Families with young children get early boarding status. Definitely take advantage of this one! It is so nice to be able to take your time down the jet bridge, and if you are gate checking this is where you may need extra time breaking your stroller down, etc. Once you get into your seat, take out what you think you may need for the flight so it is easy to grab at a moment’s notice. Some things I always make sure are within arm’s reach are: diapers, wipes, snacks for myself, and baby if they are eating solids, entertainment for your baby (games, books, etc), entertainment for myself if my baby goes to sleep, and water. Getting yourself comfortable will help you feel more relaxed, and hopefully will in turn make your baby feel more relaxed.
Your baby really does follow your cues and if you are feeling stressed, they will react to that stress by crying, which will in turn lead you to feel more stressed! When I was flying solo with my son, I would always look around in the boarding area to see if there were other parents flying with young children. I made a lot of new friends this way, and it made the flight a lot more enjoyable, even if we were both walking up and down the aisle trying to get our baby to fall asleep. I really loved nursing my baby on take-off and landing as this helps equalize the pressure in their ears, since chewing gum is out of the question for a 6-month-old! On the topic of nursing, wearing comfortable nursing clothes such as a nursing tank top, a shirt you can easily “half-lift” to latch your baby on, and a big shawl are wonderful for nursing on board the flight. Picking a window seat can give you room to nurse and feel less exposed, but an aisle seat is a wise choice if you feel like your baby would benefit from walking/gently bouncing to get them to sleep. I would rock my son to sleep in the Ergo baby carrier, and then be able to go back to my seat and enjoy a podcast or a movie I rented on my phone. (I would usually rent or download something the day before so it was ready if this nap magic did indeed happen!) If you are choosing your seat assignment, sitting in the back is usually where there will be more families, and that was a plus. However, the plus side of the front is getting off of the plane sooner after landing.
As with most things in parenthood, it’s a lot of trial and error! I certainly had my fair share of moments traveling where things didn’t go as planned. Ahem, like when I got to my gate and realized all of the diapers were in my checked bag! I remained calm, laughed at my mistake, and told my 4-month-old son, “well, this is all part of the adventure! Let’s go see where we can buy some diapers in this airport.”
Editor’s note: Many people have big feelings about the buying a seat versus lap child debate on airplanes. The decision is yours but before you make this call, read about the pros and cons of putting them in a seat on the plane and know your rights if you do buy them a seat. Here is some good information. Click here. And here.
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