Tackling flying with an infant
We did it! We all survived our first trip with baby Holden. We jumped in with both feet as we decided that our very first flight with baby would be all the way to Germany for The Video Summit Leipzig. And guess what? It.Was.Awesome.
I spent hours pouring over articles on how to travel with an infant and the best practices for flying with baby. Fortunately, so many of our friends have children and had more than enough advice to offer us.
My search yielded more information and best practices than I could possibly handle. I wrote down everything that was applicable to us and our way of traveling and tweaked them how I saw fit. I’ve included what I thought was the best advice and information for traveling with babies below.
Booking an airline ticket for your baby
The good news is that as long as your baby is under two years old, they will fly free on nearly all domestic flights. The bad news is that it is a strict policy. If your baby is flying one day past their two year birthday, you’ll need to purchase a separate seat for them. We got super lucky on our flight to NYC and had an entire row to ourselves. We were able to make Holden his own little sleeping nest in the seat between us and he absolutely loved. it. It wouldn’t hurt to inquire if there are spare seats on your flight. If that’s the case, most airlines will offer your little one a seat of their own at no extra cost.
As for international flights, most airlines will charge ten percent of your ticket price for lap infants (i.e. if your ticket was $1,000, the cost for your little one would be $100). Bassinets are available on most flights but will need to be booked in advance. Most bassinets only fit in bulkhead rows and come with a weight limit. Be sure to double check the aircraft that you are flying on and seat yourself in the appropriate area.
I had one hell of a time trying to ensure that we were assigned a bassinet. We flew on an American Airlines operated Air Berlin flight and things got a little murky. In the end, I emailed, facebooked, tweeted, called and finally got through and was promised that there would be a bassinet with our name on it. And let me tell you, all that extra trouble was worth it. H is getting heavy and it was nice to have a place to set him when he fell asleep.
Bring a copy (or two) of baby’s birth certificate
When traveling with children, it is always advisable to have a copy of their birth certificate on hand. There’s nothing that can dampen a family vacation more than being accused of trying to steal your own child. Chris and I printed out multiple copies of H’s birth certificate and made sure that we each carried one. It was especially important for me since I still carry my maiden name while Holden has Chris’ last name. It was also advised that if I were to ever travel with Holden by myself that I should have a signed document from Chris stating that he was aware of our travel plans and vice versa.
Packing the essentials
From my research, I discovered that most airlines allow the little one to have their own carry on. That meant that I was able to have both a small and large carryon for myself and a separate bag for Holden. In lieu of a diaper bag, I packed a small backpack that had everything we needed to travel with baby. Our sweet little guy was battling his first cold (like a champ, I might add) and I made sure to pack his liquids bag with baby tylenol, gripe water (he loves the taste of it), and baby Vicks. Since he’s strictly breastfed, there was no need to carry additional bottles, formula, or milk. I also packed his changing pad and a dozen diapers. When in doubt, pack more than you think you’ll need. We quickly learned that cabin pressure dramatically affected our little guy’s diaper output.
Holden’s backpack also included two spare outfits in case any sky high blowouts occurred, a blanket that Holden could play on in between flights, two small packs of disinfectant wipes (because I’m that mom), a few pacifiers, a pack of wipes, and a new toy that H had never seen before. I made sure that the latter wasn’t too obnoxious (i.e. noisy) and would hold our little guy’s attention. In the end, I went with a small teething toy that also lit up when shaken. He absolutely loved it.
Breeze through airport security
When it comes to getting through airport security with babe in tow, preparation is key. Chris and I have TSA Pre-Check (if you travel more than twice a year, it’s worth the investment) and Holden is able to accompany us through the accelerated security process. That being said, Pre-Check only works in the U.S. and even then, not every airport or airline recognizes it.
To be on the safe side, I made sure that all of our liquids were packed in clear ziplock bags and easily accessible. I purposefully chose a comfortable outfit with shoes that I could easily slip on and off. If Holden actually enjoyed being in his baby carrier, I would have worn him through security. Instead, we kept him in his stroller until it was time to go through the metal detectors. I then carried him through with me as Chris attempted to shove his car seat and stroller through the scanners. I was “randomly selected” every time we went through security to have my hands swabbed but that took less than a minute and then we were on our way.
If you’re flying with infant formula or milk, TSA states that you should notify the officer at the beginning of the screening process. Your liquids will be screened by x-ray and may have to go through an additional testing process. You may also bring canned/jarred baby food along with you and traveling moms, you do not need to have your baby present to transport breastmilk through airport security.
Check baby accessories for free
Airlines are pretty understanding when it comes to the sheer amount of items you need (or think you need) when it comes to traveling with a baby. Most baby safety items can be checked for free. That includes car seats, strollers, and pack ‘n plays. We ended up bringing our travel system with us and checked it at the gate. We were advised to bring a protective case for our car seat and stroller but since we’re cheap we ended up sticking them in large double bagged garbage bags. It worked like a charm. Just let the gate attendant know which items you are going to gate check and they will offer you the appropriate bag tags.
Instead of lugging around a pack ‘n play, I requested an infant crib from all three hotels we stayed in. If I’m being completely honest, Holden slept in them for a grand total of about fifteen minutes but they were nice to have nonetheless. We are flying to Hawaii in a few weeks and I’m planning on bringing a pack ‘n play with us. We’re going to be spending a lot of time with family and it will be nice to have a place for the little guy to nap whether we’re out and about or in the hotel.
It’s true that babies can read and react to your emotions as a parent. The less stressed you are, the more comfortable your baby will be. I had to remind myself that everyone on our plane was a baby at some point and that I had every right to travel with my son. I had a slew of snarky comebacks on hand should anyone have commented on traveling with an infant. Luckily, Holden was an absolute dream and received multiple compliments on his in-air behavior. We even had one gentleman track us down after our flight home and give us two thumbs up while exclaiming, “Good baby! Good good baby.”
It also doesn’t hurt to dress your little traveler up super cute. In our case, Holden donned a comfy airplane onesie and the most adorable aviator hat. Instead of eye rolls and heavy sighs, he received smiles and laughs while boarding and disembarking the plane.
Flying with an infant can seem daunting but a few additional preparations can make for a somewhat enjoyable experience. Be prepared to laugh at yourself and not let the opinions of other flyers influence this unique time with your baby.