Flying with kids can seem daunting
When flying or considering flying with a baby or toddler, book your flights, if possible, far enough in advance, so you have plenty enough time to plan.
The first flight for our daughter was when she was 5 and a half months.
I was a nervous wreck. What if she screams the whole time? Will the pacifier or bottle really help her ears? What if she won’t sleep?
Looking back now, flying with my daughter as an infant was soooo much easier than flying with her as a toddler.
When should you book your flight?
Book your flight at bedtime, nap time, or when it is time to eat. This works great if you have a baby. My own advice didn’t work so well for us now that my daughter is a toddler.
Honestly, book the flight when you know your baby will be most calm and receptive to playing or being put to sleep. This clearly will be different for everyone.
Things to take into consideration: If I book a flight during nap time, will this be more stressful for me? What will be less stressful for me? What will I need during the flight to be stress free?
A happy mom equals everyone else being happy, so how the time will affect you is important too.
Now that our daughter is older, she doesn’t sleep any where unless it is her crib or the car, so a nap time flight would be miserable for us and all the other passengers.
Due to our experience with our last flight, the best time for us to fly is first thing in the morning.
Do what works best for you and your family.
Take nap time into consideration and how long they typically sleep
Take advantage of the times your baby sleeps. If your baby or toddler is a good sleeper and they can fall asleep any time any place, I would consider booking your flight at nap time. Especially if there is real potential for them to sleep.
Book your flight during the time your baby or toddler will sleep the longest, obviously depending on where you are going and how long the flight is your baby could sleep most of the flight.
Our first flight with our daughter was only 2 hours. We booked a 7:00pm flight because we hoped she would sleep the whole way because her bedtime is at 8:00pm.
You never know what might happen on their first flight even if they normally sleep at a particular time.
The pressure could bother their ears. They could be overall uncomfortable because it is something new.
You never know how your baby or toddler will react until you do it, but as always, plan for every scenario.
Our first two flights with our daughter, we got super lucky.
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How can you help the pressure on baby’s ears?
If your flight is scheduled for your baby’s normal eating time, try to entertain them until take off.
The suckling motion of bottle feeding or breastfeeding will help with the pressure in their ears that comes from takeoff.
You can do the same for landing.
A pacifier is also an option for take off and landing.
Do you need a birth certificate to fly with an infant?
We have never needed our daughter’s birth certificate for domestic flights.
Only once have we had some one make a big deal about whose boarding pass she was attached to.
You truly never know what can happen when going through a security check.
It is always best practice to bring it with you just in case.
When flying with an infant, give yourself plenty of time
I chose to wear the baby throughout the airport because we decided to check the stroller and car seat which I will discuss next.
Because I wore the baby, I was sent through a typical metal detector instead of the body scanner. After the metal detector, TSA will pat you down and swab your hands.
Of course, my hands were flagged for “something”, and I had to be patted down again without the baby this time.
During all of this, my husband has to make sure we have our million bags all together in one place, and now he has to get the baby because they are patting me down, and I am not allowed to touch anything. We were a hot mess.
Expect the unexpected and try to prepare for chaos. If you are traveling by yourself, try really hard to have a minimal number of bags. Decide what you REALLY need on the plane and either pack the rest or leave it at home.
Should you check your car seat and stroller?
If you are traveling with an infant, I would consider babywearing and checking your stroller and car seat with your luggage.
For our first flight, we put our daughter in the Solly Wrap and checked the car seat and stroller with the bags.
When you are traveling with infants, you can check the stroller and car seat free of charge. Most airlines allow you to have one carry-on bag assigned to that infant on top of your carry-on.
We bought this car seat travel carrier and this stroller travel carrier. The car seat traveler carrier was big enough to hold our infant car seat and the Dockatot we brought for G to sleep in at the Airbnb plus anything else we might have wanted to put in there for her.
The car seat came out unscathed as did the stroller. We put a blanket around the stroller because the stroller traveler carrier was not as thick as the car seat traveler carrier.
If you buy a stroller traveler, you may have to remove the stroller’s wheels to get a proper fit, but it worked out for us not removing the wheels.
We have a Nuna Pipa infant car seat and a Nuna Mixx stroller for reference (love both by the way!).
If you are traveling with a toddler, if you are not still babywearing, I would highly recommend taking them through the airport in a stroller.
The stroller does have to go on the belt for a security check, but overall, we felt this was a lot easier than the first time we flew.
We simply used the stroller bag, and checked the stroller at the gate. When you do this, they will have the stroller at the gate waiting for you.
*You can also take your baby through security and the airport in the stroller and car seat and check everything at the gate.*
**The complimentary stroller and car seat check applies to most airlines.
Limit your carry-on items
We had, what I felt like, was a lot of miscellaneous carry on items.
For our first flight we had the diaper bag, a small cooler/lunchbox for the milk, pumping bag, my husband’s work bag, and my work bag; it was just, for me, way too much stuff.
Add in a squirmy baby, and it starts to be a lot to carry.
On our most recent flight, we had the diaper bag, my purse, my husband’s work bag, and our carry on luggage. Everything felt a lot more manageable this time around. I really think having the stroller helped a lot too.
How to entertain a toddler on a flight
Make sure you have enough to entertain them for the entire flight.
If the tv or a tablet entertains them, then that’s what you use. Do they like to color? Do they like playing with blocks?
When packing their carry-on consider what they are interested at the time and have that with you, if possible.
With that being said, I made sure I had all of my daughters favorite things to do at the time.
At the time of this flight, she liked to move blocks from one bucket to another, so I packed her blocks and the small buckets she would use to transfer them.
She had just started getting into coloring, so I packed a coloring book, plain paper, and crayons.
I also packed reading books because she really enjoys to sit and look at the pictures and to be read to.
Packing snacks was a must because we were going to in flight during her morning snack time.
This was all great for the flight there, but being off schedule for the weekend and the complete lack of sleep, made for a miserable flight home.
Try to stick to your schedule as best you can, and force those with you to be respectful of it.
Traveling with breast milk
I was exclusively pumping for our daughter’s first flight, so I was having to travel with expressed milk. I had 2 bottles prepared and extra milk in a lunchbox/cooler.
My pump comes with these storage bottles which is what I put my expressed milk in to be sure there was no leaking.
These are the bottles we use. I had the bottles and extra milk inside of a small lunchbox/cooler with 2 ice packs.
Both ice packs stayed solid enough to make it to our destination, but on the way back, TSA asked us to throw out one ice pack.
We have two different types of ice packs, which TSA allows as long as they stay solid. If they are remotely squishy, TSA will throw them away.
Depending on the airport, your milk and even prepared formula will either be put into a machine to be tested or tested with testing strips.
There isn’t a volume limit, but everything that is liquid is subject to testing.
**always double check with the particular airline you are traveling with**
I have the Medela pump in style pump which I had in the diaper bag. This went through security no problems.
I used this inverter, so I could still pump once we got into our rental car because if you remember from this post my car already has a 120v outlet. Here is the Medela pump car adapter if you prefer to have a pump specific adapter.
Calling all nursing and pumping mamas!
Mamava is a pod for nursing and pumping moms. They have an app you can download to locate one of their pods. Their pods are in airports (select terminals and airports), around select cities, and in select stadiums.
This is not an affiliate post, but Mamava is a pretty awesome concept, and I can’t wait to see it grow even more. The pod offers privacy for mom and baby. We actually didn’t have any at the terminal we were at, but there were some at the airport.
Some airports have nursing rooms that also offer privacy for mom and baby to nurse or pump. Check with your airport or their website before arriving.
We had planned to go into NYC on this particular trip and used the Mamava website to map out places I could pump while we were there, but unfortunately, the weather had other plans.
The rules for flying with a baby
Pay attention to the fine print and rules when booking your flights
We booked our flights online with the infant in lap option. If you choose the infant in lap option, your baby will fly with you for free. Most airlines allow children under the age of 2 to fly for free if they are on your lap for domestic flights.
You can opt to have them in their car seat, but you will pay for the seat.
Check with the airline you are flying with because not all airlines allow you to book the infant in lap option online. There are select airlines where you will have to call reservations to add the infant on lap option.
****book your flight online first then call reservations***
Some airlines charge a booking fee if you make reservations through the phone, so book the adults first then call the airline to add your infant on lap.
Do babies fly free internationally?
International rules for infant on lap are a little different.
We haven’t flown internationally with G yet, but we had a trip planned.
Most airlines charge 10% of the flight for an infant on lap situation. This is usually taxes and fees.
So, international flights are not free for an infant on lap.
**As always double check with your airline before booking your flight.**
Flying with an infant or toddler doesn’t have to be stressful. All you need to do is follow the tips above, plan ahead, and get to the airport early.
Take a picture with the pilots and flight attendants! Ask for your baby’s first set of wings!