Flying with a baby seems to be one of the biggest mental barriers keeping families from traveling. Our baby’s first flight at six weeks wasn’t optional as we were moving from Los Angeles, to Cambridge, England. But, we realized that it was completely doable, and with so many places we wanted to go, there was no reason to hold back just because we had a baby.
We recently tallied it up, and over the last 15 months, our son has gone on 33 flights to 14 countries and 4 U.S. states. Not every flight is completely tear free, but we’ve made it through without any major meltdowns or one of us swearing off flying with an infant ever again. Generally, our best advice is to travel early, travel often, be prepared, and don’t stress! Sometimes it’s the little things that can make the biggest difference, and these are our eight best tips that have helped us have a smoother flying experience.
1 Use a baby wrap or carrier
Carrying our baby helps us be hands free, and helps him settle down for a nap in a busy place like the airport or on the plane. While some airports will make you take your sleeping baby out of a stroller or car seat to go through security, most places have let me walk through without pulling my baby out of a carrier.
For the first few months, I used a soft fabric wrap, similar to a Moby or Solly Baby wrap. After that, we switched to an Ergobaby carrier, which has been great for the airport, all-day hikes, and everything in between.
2 Find the Family Security Line
While not all airports have a family line, it’s worth finding the ones that do. It’s much less stressful as often both the people in the line and the airport employees are a bit more understanding if you’re slow, and are prepared to deal with your stroller and extra liquids.
3 Make friends with your seat neighbors
One of my biggest fears on our first flight was that my tiny baby would be crying uncontrollably, and everyone on the plane would be shooting daggers in our direction. While this situation wouldn’t be pleasant for our baby, us, or anyone else, I’ve come to not worry so much about what other people think. Everyone is either a child, was a child, or most likely has a child, so most people are pretty understanding.
I think our baby sometimes gets bored with the same two faces popping out from behind a blanket to play peek-a-boo, and he loves attention from just about anyone else. On our last few flights, fellow passengers have turned around and leaned over their seat just to say hello or play peek-a-boo, which switched our baby from a few cranky cries to a sweet smile and friendly jabbering.
4 Travel over a nap time
Considering nap time may be the last on your list when trying to schedule flights, but air time feels so much shorter with our little guy snoozing. While direct flights are usually more convenient, two flights turned out to be better than one on our last trip. Our baby took a long morning nap on the first flight, had some time to stretch his legs during a quick layover, then took a shorter afternoon nap towards the end of the second flight. He woke up happy and ready to explore for the rest of the day, and then right to bed at his usual time without any complaints.
5 Stroller/car seat combos work great
For all of our flights this last year, we walked 1.5 miles to the train station (we usually left early enough that buses weren’t running, and taxis are just expensive), took a 40 minute train to the airport, then made our way through security before we boarded the plane. We occasionally rent a car, so it’s much more economical to bring our car seat with us. We haven’t used our stroller too often once we’ve made it to our destination, but it’s much more convenient to click the carrier/car seat onto the stroller than having one more thing carry it around. We’ve used the Baby Jogger City Mini stroller, which is light and folds up easily, and works with most car seats with an adaptor.
Now that our baby is a bit older and definitely not going to sit in his car seat for any portion of the airport, we check it in before we head to security. But, it’s still convenient to have the stroller/car seat combo if we have a journey on public transit between the airport and where we are staying.
6 If possible, breastfeed
Like I previously mentioned, my first flight with our son was a long-haul flight from the West Coast of the U.S. to London. Aaron had already flown over, and I thank my mother a million times for going with me, even though I thought I could do it alone.
Our baby was six weeks old, and because he was born almost four weeks early, he had a really hard time breastfeeding. I had been pumping and bottle feeding, and trying to transition to nursing, but was so worried I’d be trapped on a plane and not be able to feed my baby. We made it through relatively smoothly, but I understand the concern of dealing with bottles or nursing when you’re in a tiny seat on a plane 40,000 feet up in the air.
Since that time, feeding my baby when traveling is the least of our worries as nursing became second nature to both of us. I understand that some people do not want to breastfeed or cannot breastfeed, and that is completely fine. This is simply my experience of what has made travel easier for us!
7 Bring your baby food and water
The 3 oz or 100 ml limit doesn’t apply to baby food and bottled water, so don’t worry about bringing too much (I mean, within reason. I try not to pack the whole cupboard). I’ve brought large bottles of water and plenty of baby food pouches, all of which have made it through security.
8 Pack light, except on diapers
Packing light for just me can be hard, and gets even harder when I think about all of the different scenarios I want to be prepared for with our baby. I always bring a few extra sets of clothes for our baby and at least one for me as there are bound to be some extra fluids flying around (especially as things can be a little explosive in the early months!). Plus, I pack a plastic bag to store anything that gets dirty. Whatever diapers I think I’ll need for the flight, I’ll usually double that just to be safe. For everything else, I’ve whittled it down to just the essentials and use things that are multi-purpose. It’s so much easier to move around with less stuff to carry!
What is your best tip for flying, with or without a baby?