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Tips for Air Travel With Infants

The Tiny Dancer is 9 months now, and in her short life, she’s already traveled to NY twice – she’s a little jet setter.  The first time we flew to NY she was 6-months old and my husband was with us.  The second time was this past week and it was just the two of us.  With two trips under our belts, I have some tips for people traveling with infants – these are some things that helped me out…

1.  Fly with Both Parents – I know this is not feasible for everyone, all the time.  BUT if it is at all possible – the trip is much easier when both parents (or another responsible person) are there.  Picture this:  You have to go to the restroom or buy some lunch to take on the flight – it’s much easier when you can leave the bags and the baby with someone while you run around and take care of whatever needs taking care of.

2.  Buy the Baby His/Her Own Seat – This is also probably not possible for everyone, all the time.  But if it’s in your budget, get the baby his/her own seat.  Unfortunately, gone are the days of reduced rates for kids, so if you know you are traveling, try to get your tickets on sale or get them far enough in advance so you can get a good deal.  It helps to be able to put the baby down and not hold the baby the whole time.  If the flight is less than 3 hours then you probably don’t need the extra seat, but for anything longer – especially if you’re traveling alone – you will need a break.

**Update 2.22.11 if you sign up for the email newsletters of some airlines like JetBlue and South West you will find out about sales and can get some really cheap tickets!  I found flights from San Francisco to NY for $99 each way!

3.  Bring Antibacterial Wipes – The first thing I do when I get to my seat (baby or not) I wipe down EVERYTHING with antibacterial wipes – the seat belt hardware, arm rests and tv controls, tv, tray table, window sill, reading lights and fan vents.  Anything that you touch (or baby might touch) needs to be wiped.  You don’t know who was sitting there before you and what germs they left there for you.

4.  Baby Carrier – Bring your baby carrier of choice – even if you are bringing your stroller.  When I was traveling on my own, the stroller ended up being my baggage cart and I wore the baby.  I would not have been able to get around any other way – we just had too much stuff.  I prefer the BABYBJÖRN as my carrier of choice but any one will do.  If you need help finding one check out my previous baby carrier review.

5.  Favorite Toys - You probably already have a few on hand at all times but I had five of the Tiny Dancer’s favorite toys with me – when she got tired of one, I whipped the other one out and they were on constant rotation.

6.  Books – If your baby likes books you may want to take a few small ones along.  Reading soothes the tiny dancer so I brought along two of her favorite books – one finger puppet book and one Indestructibles book.

7.  Food/Snacks – I’m breastfeeding the Tiny Dancer so I didn’t have to bring formula or pumped milk but I did have snacks on hand like rice crackers and puffs.  They were more to keep her busy as they aren’t a filling meal but they definitely help pass the time.  I don’t know the travel restrictions for formula or expressed breast milk but I know there are exceptions to the “no liquids” rules – check the TSA website for more info on traveling with baby formula, breast milk or juice.

8. Extra Diapers - Bring more than you think you will need.  The last thing you want to run out of on a flight are diapers.

9.  Extra Wipes - These come in handy in any kind of situation and you want to be ready – for any situation.

10.  Extra Outfit – For the baby (and one for yourself if you have space).  You never know when accidents happen and you don’t want to spend the whole flight smelling like poop or spit up and getting off the plane full of stains.

11.  Mini Pillow - This is key for nursing moms.  I use the Boppy at home but it’s too big to bring on a plane.  I bought a small cushion (about 16×12) and made a small pillowcase for it – I left one edge open – like pillowcases for bed pillows.  I pack a burp cloth, nursing cover and two receiving blankets and store them in the pillowcase.  The pillow goes in a tote and I usually keep it in the trunk of my car so I can nurse anywhere.  When I fly, I just take the tote with me and I can nurse on the plane without taking up much space and spilling over onto my neighbor.

12.  Get to the Airport Early – Check in on line and print your boarding passes at home so when you get to the airport all you have to do is drop off your bags and go through security.  Even though I was flying domestically, I got to the airport 3 hours early.  Everything takes longer with a baby and I didn’t want to feel rushed so I got there early.  I’d rather wait for a flight than run to my gate.

13.  Get on the Plane Early – Remember the days of waiting at the gate waiting for your row to be called and hearing that families with small children got priority seating?  Well, that’s you now!  Take advantage of it, you need the extra time and help so use it!

14.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help! – I need to remind myself of this because I hate asking for help.  When it was just me and the tiny dancer I had to handle:  stroller, car sear, car seat base, 3 carry on bags – oh, and the baby!  I was fine getting around the airport because I was wearing the baby in a carrier and the stroller was my baggage cart.  The hard part was going from the walkway onto the plane.  Once I left the stroller at the end of the gate, I had to get all the stuff onto the plane.  On the first flight I didn’t ask for help and carried everything and some kind passengers saw everything I was handling and volunteered to help me.  After that leg of the trip, I just asked the stewards to help me get to the stroller and they were all very accommodating.

15.  Weather Appropriate Clothing – We went from 70 degree weather in California to freezing weather in NY.  I put the Tiny Dancer in warm pajamas for the plane ride so she could be comfortable and I packed her heavier outerwear so that it was easily accessible when we got to NY.  On the trip back, once we were inside, I packed her warm outwear into our checked baggage (before checking in) so it was one less thing to have to deal with on the flight.

**Update 2.22.11 I forgot to mention maybe the most important tip!  Feed/nurse your infant on take off and landing so as to relieve pressure in their ears from the change in altitude.

Of course each baby is different so if you know there are particular things that soothe your baby, by all means bring them.  I think the main thing is to plan in advance and make a travel check list.  You may be able to pack for yourself before a flight but I wouldn’t recommend last minute packing when a baby is involved.  With so much to do, you don’t want to be frazzled.

One last thing to keep in mind is your baby’s comfort and other passengers’ comfort.  Babies first flight is probably not the time to enforce or start any particular training that involves crying.  I was a bit more lax on the flight because I didn’t want the Tiny Dancer’s crying to disturb the other passengers.  You don’t want to be the parent of “that baby.”

Stay tuned and I’ll post up a travel checklist and a DIY post on how to make a travel nursing pillow :)

P.S. Did I miss anything?  What are some of your travel tips??

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4 Responses to “Tips for Air Travel With Infants”

  1. Mayette says:

    Great tips! I saw a recent post of yours on the Indestructibles books and it convinced me to go out and buy some for my nieces and nephews! Btw, Asiya looks so adorable in her Hello Kitty beanie!

  2. gfunnymoney says:

    you must have ESP, im traveling with Ruby soon and TODAY this dilemma was racing in my head. its such a stressful thing.

    the last time i flew i too bought her own ticket, the plus to this is also more free checked bags, two for her, 1 carry on and her car seat AND stroller are all free, **on southwest airlines only**. other airlines will charge you for all the checked stuff *at least most if not all others*. plus its safer. and ever held 15lb of baby in a tiny airplane bathroom trying to pee? you dont want to. haha. the downside to flying w southwest is its not assigned seating, so i once got stuck in the very back of the plane w her and all her stuff. i was also called last (they dont do that whole women w kids thing anymore first).

    so i hit every single person with her car seat on the elbow the entire isle. boo!

    • GDK says:

      hahaha, yes, i had to hold her while i went to the bathroom – not fun! i actually put her in the BABYBJORN to go to the bathroom and that made it a bit easier.

      Oh, and checked bags – I forgot to bring this up – yes, a benefit of the extra ticket is getting to check an extra bag – which you will need because the baby requires so much.

      I flew JetBlue and had a great experience. One note about strollers, car seats and car seat bases – at least on Jet Blue – they count as assisted movement equipment (same category as a wheel chair) and they DON’T count as carry on items or checked items – they are freebies. I’m not sure about other airlines – each airline is different but I bet they have similar policies.

      Whatever you do, always check with the airline’s policies.

      Have a fun, safe trip!
      :) G


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