A few weeks ago, my husband and I packed up and took our son on his first trip. Going from Philadelphia to Atlanta required us to travel by plane and when we first started planning out the trip, I began to think whether this was the right thing to be doing with a four-month-old. I thought about everything bad that could happen and how stressed out our son could possibly get, but after some research and finding faith in our parenting, we went on the trip. And I am happy to report that the trip was a full success! On the flight there and on the way back, numerous passengers and the flight crew said that they forgot that he was even on the flight because they didn’t hear him cry or make a peep. On the way to our destination, he slept the entire flight, but on the way back he was awake for half of the flight, but we managed to keep him calm and comfortable. So on that note, I want to share with you my tips for traveling with a baby.
The one thing that they do say is that the younger months, when baby is less active, is the best time to travel with a baby. We, fortunately, hit the sweet spot to travel with our son because he takes about three naps a day and can go up to five hours without eating (though we never wait that long to feed him because I like keeping him on his eating/sleeping/playing schedule). But even if your baby is not at the sweet spot and he or she is either eating more often or sleeping less, traveling with a baby can still be a breeze as long as you’re prepared.
Just as a note – I know that you may be thinking “How can you give me advice? You’ve only traveled once with your four-month-old.” The tips that I am providing you are from my personal experience combined with experiences of other moms that I know who have traveled with their babies combined with some research that I have done. So, here we go.
1. PLAN AROUND YOUR BABY’S SCHEDULE
When I started doing my research, I found that a lot of people recommended taking earlier flights so that you are more likely to have baby sleep on the flight. People have found it to be a success especially when their baby’s first nap was the longest nap of the day. In our case, our son’s longest nap is actually his second nap, so we went with taking afternoon flights.
The biggest thing to take from this is plan your flight around the time that your baby usually naps. And though it’s tempting to let your baby fall asleep in the stroller as you navigate around the airport and prior to boarding, try to keep baby up if he/she can manage it so that baby is more likely to sleep throughout the entire flight which will make your life so much easier.
2. PREPARE FOR TIME GOING THROUGH SECURITY
Here’s the one thing that you have to be prepared for if you’re traveling with your baby by plane. Security can be different depending on what airport you are flying from in regards to the process, but most of it is standard by TSA.
First, when it comes to baby’s food, you’re allowed to bring through the essentials you need for your baby. If you are breastfeeding, you are allowed to bring up to 3.4 oz of breastmilk through security. Also, if you’re feeding your baby formula, they’ll also allow water if it’s being used for the baby. The best thing to do is to check TSA’s traveling with children section on their page to stay up to date with the procedures and what they allow through security.
When heading to the security checkpoint, make sure that
you have a boarding pass for the baby. Even if the baby isn’t going to be in a seat, you’ll still need the boarding pass that shows “Baby in Arms”. For international travel, you’ll need the baby’s passport as well, but within the country, baby just needs the boarding pass.
When going through security, you’ll either be in the regular security line or a special assistance security line depending on the airport. When we were leaving Atlanta, they put families with babies through the special assistance line with was a lot more helpful because I didn’t feel as if we were holding everyone up.
The process of going through security can be strenuous, but once you do it once, you’re pretty much prepared. After you remove all your electronics out of your bag and remove your shoes, the travel system will have to come apart and the car seat will need to be put on the line or if you have stroller that folds up, they’ll have you collapse it and put it on the line too.
You’ll carry baby through a metal detector and then come out the other side and have to assemble everything back together. When I went through security, they didn’t make me take my pump out of my pump bag – it was just the computer and camera that needed to come out.
It took us a max of 15 minutes to go through the security point once we knew what we needed to do.
3. HAVE THE RIGHT TRAVEL ESSENTIALS
I did a variety of research to find out what exactly was essential for us to get to make traveling with our son painless and what kept him comfortable.
For a four day trip, my husband and I checked one bag that included our clothes, our son’s clothes, and his Dock-a-Tot, which we take absolutely everywhere. If we didn’t pack the Dock-a-Tot, we wouldn’t have needed to check a bag and instead, we would have just brought along two carry-on bags. (Travel Tip: If you’re ever going somewhere where you can put everything in a carry-on. Do it. And if you don’t want to carry it, “voluntarily” check it for free.)
Additionally, we brought through the travel system that doubles as a stroller and a car seat, two backpacks, a diaper bag/pump bag, and the baby equipment travel bags.
The travel bags were the most important things that I wanted to get prior to departure. One bag carried the car seat and kept it protected and clean while the other carried the stroller part of the travel system when it collapsed. Both of these bags were checked at the gate and returned to us at the gate when we landed. So, the only things that we carried onto the plane were the diaper bag and our backpacks.
My biggest saving grace was our baby carrier – I have the one from Boppy. Right as boarding started, we put our son in the baby carrier and I walked around which put him immediately to sleep since it was around his nap time and then we boarded. I carried him in the carrier throughout the entire flight, which allowed me to keep him close and hands-free.
I’ve linked all of the essentials that we brought with us for travel below.
4. BE IN THE KNOW
When traveling, know where your nursing stations are and what privileges are allowed for families with babies.
One app that I found super helpful, as a nursing mom, was the Mamava app. This app allows you to see whether there are any nursing stations in the airport and where they are. The app also works for searching for nursing areas in all places and if you know of one that isn’t listed, you can add one yourself. This app gave me the ability to find a nursing pod in one airport and know when it was available and it let me know that places such as Minute Suites gives nursing moms free 30 minutes to nurse in one of their rooms.
Another little perk that I found out is that families with babies are allowed to board early – in some cases, before first class. When they call for persons that need special assistance or a little more time boarding, that’s when you can head on and start putting things in the overhead compartment and getting to your seat. Not everyone likes to take advantage of this.
For example, on our way to Atlanta, we boarded during our regular time since it gave me more time to walk around with our son in the carrier so that I could bounce him to sleep. But on the way back, we boarded early since he was already sleeping and it’s typically better that I sit down and get away from the noise once he is sleep.
SOME ADDITIONAL QUICK TIPS
- Frozen breastmilk is typically easier to get through security, but if you don’t want to carry it through, there’s a service that allows you to send your frozen breastmilk to your destination – Milk Stork
- Get to the airport AT LEAST two hours prior to departure. If that’s your typical, then keep with it. The baby doesn’t add a crazy amount of extra time.
- During takeoff and landing, nurse, feed or give your baby a pacifier to help with the pressure change. Our son didn’t seem affected by it, but there are some that say their babies did.
- If you don’t want to bring your bulker breast pump, the Willow or the Elvie are smaller and more portable breast pump options.