Would you believe me if I told you that Kennedy, a mere 20 months old, has been on 7 roundtrip flights (and one more one-way) since she was two months old? That’s fifteen times at the airport. We also have two more roundtrips scheduled this fall (possibly three!). I think it’s safe to say that we have really got it down when traveling with her. She has had the pleasure of flying Southwest (which we fly most of the time), Delta, Air Tran, JetBlue, and Spirit.
While it may sound a tad ridiculous about how much we fly with her, we actually love it. If there’s an option for us to fly, we will usually do it, provided that the fares are affordable. We also told ourselves that we weren’t going to let our love for travel be compromised because we have a baby (this will probably change once there is more than one child…ha). Plus, infants can fly free until they’re two, unless you purchase an infant fare where you bring their car seat to sit in on the plane. We have never done that. Kennedy is a great flyer. We haven’t contracted any deadly diseases from the stale airplane air and we have never had any problems.
I will say that I am absolutely no expert and I do not know all the rules for every airline, but we have found a couple of things that may be helpful for parents traveling with children under two. Okay, so maybe it’s more than a couple of things as this post is long, but you get my drift. All of these are based on our domestic travels around the U.S. (sorry, no international experiences for this young girl yet). I hope that my checklist and tips will help ease the fear of flying with a baby! Some of these are kind of no-brainers, but I like to be thorough. So humor me.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE FOR THE AIRPORT, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE:
- Checked your airline’s website for policies and any information you can find about flying with an infant. If you can’t find anything, be sure to give them a call.
- If you want your baby/toddler to ride in his/her car seat, make sure you call the airline and purchase the infant fare to make sure a seat is reserved. These fares are not usually available online.
- Birth Certificate (or copy, if the airline will accept that)
- Any liquids he/she will need in a separate ziploc bag (you can bring over 4 ounces of liquids for babies) so you can take it out to go through the scanner at security. Make sure you include hand sanitizer.
- Car seat. If your baby will not be riding in it on the plane, you will need to check it. Most airlines will do that for free.
- Stroller. Yep, we have forgotten that before. That was fun carrying a 15-month-old toddler to Long Island. Not.
- A Luggage Strap for Carseat. This has been an absolute lifesaver when trying to get the carseat just from the car to the check-in counter. It’s hard enough for two people to push/pull bags of luggage and a stroller, and when you add a car seat into the mix, it’s torture. This cheap strap we got on amazon may not look fancy, but it attaches the car seat to a piece of luggage. Our car seat is incredibly heavy (it’s the Graco Smart Seat All-in-One) and the strap works great. Problem solved.
- Boppy or some kind of pillow for the baby to lay on. We stopped using this after Kennedy turned 1.
WHEN YOU’RE AT THE AIRPORT:
- Do a full service check in. You may need to present his/her birth certificate and they will print you a boarding pass.
- Look for the family/medical security line. That line is shorter! See, there are perks to traveling with a baby!
- Always ask to go through the metal detector, not body scanner, while holding your baby.
- When you get to the gate, go up to the desk and ask to “gate check” the stroller. That means you will leave the stroller on the jet bridge to the door of the airplane and it will be waiting for you there when you get off the plane.
- While you’re there, ask the gate agent how full the flight is (if you are on a Southwest flight). If they are completely booked, the baby is sitting on your lap. If they are anything less, claim a seat for that baby! The flight attendants are usually really nice about letting you do that.
- Many airports we’ve been to also have kid play areas. These are fun, even for small babies, because they like to watch kids play. If you have extra time or waiting for a connection, let your baby/toddler out of the stroller and run around (if mobile). Stimulate him/her as much as possible in hopes to tire him/her out for the next flight.
- If possible, do not feed your baby/toddler until you are on the plane. It’s a good way to keep them quiet, happy ,and help their ears.
SURVIVING THE FLIGHT:
- Feed the baby on the way up or down (breast or bottle, whatever you fancy), or use a pacifier. This helps with ear pressure. If you have a toddler, offer a sippy cup.
- Always have snacks on hand for the antsy toddler. And lots of them. It’s amazing how still my kid will sit when she has a good snack in front of her.
- Try everything you can to get them to sleep and pray they do.
- Don’t be afraid to ask the flight attendant for anything. Even if it’s for extra juice, snacks, or even to go walk back to the galley to check out where they make the drinks.
- Make sure to download episodes of your baby’s favorite shows or games onto your phone or iPad, so you can access them above 10,000 feet. We always have a couple episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Bubble Guppies on hand. Board books and small toys have worked well for us, too.
Most of all? Have fun! Flying is fun with your baby (at least we think so)! The biggest thing for us is teamwork and having our system down! Any of you travel pros have any additional tips and suggestions you’d like to add? Leave them in the comments!