Traveling with your baby: Tips and Tricks for a Successful First Flight By: Collette Stohler
The thought of the first flight with baby can strike fear even in the hearts of the most seasoned travel veterans. As a new parent, even leaving the house after having a baby can feel like an Olympic sport and booking your first flight with baby can be downright terrifying. However, with a little planning, a few key tips, and a good sense of humor, you’ll be on your way to successfully traveling with your baby. Do not let the fear of traveling with baby rob you of creating precious memories. Here are ten things to know before your first flight with baby!
1.) You can travel with breast milk & formula:
As a mother (or father), you’re able to travel with breast milk and/or formula in quantities greater than 3.4 oz or 100 ml to feed your baby. This is also applicable to other ways that you feed your baby such as with toddler drinks or food pouches as food for babies are considered medical supplies. According to the TSA website, “Your child or infant does not need to be present or traveling with you to bring breast milk, formula and/or related supplies” This means that these rules are applicable whether you are traveling with or without your baby.
In the United States, you can bring frozen breast milk or fresh breast milk with you through TSA. You are also allowed to bring whatever ice or accessory is required to cool the milk such as an ice pack or frozen gel pack. When passing through security, TSA officers may ask to test your breast milk with a vapor strip. If this happens, you can kindly ask the officer to change into a fresh pair of gloves to test your milk. Don’t fret, mama. The vapor strip does not touch your breast milk. According to the TSA website, “Screening will never include placing anything into the medically necessary liquid.”
Additionally, breast pumps are allowed on airplane as they are considered medical supplies. Whether you are pumping or breastfeeding, many airports have private, safe, and secure feeding pods in the airport.
While most TSA officers are well educated on this subject, it is recommended to bring a copy of your rights with you while flying in case of the odd encounter.
2.) Learn the rules of your airline
Many rules for traveling with baby vary by airline so it’s important to know your rights. Here are a few key questions to ask before picking an airline to fly:
- Does your airline allow preboarding for families? Most do, but some, such as Southwest Airlines, allow families to board after their priority customers.
- Does your airline allow diaper bags in addition to carry-on bags? Check the baggage policy on the website.
- Does your airline allow breast pumps as an additional bag on board? Some do as breast pumps are considered a medical device.
- If you’re flying basic economy, are you able to reserve seats in advance or not? If you are not able to reserve seats together, you may not be able to sit together. For this reason, it is recommended to skip basic economy fares.
3.) Pick flight times that offer you the best chance of success
Prior to booking your first flight with baby, think about your general routine for the day. While you might not have a schedule, you understand good and bad times of the day. Try to avoid flight times where baby is likely to be fussy (i.e. early morning flights and night flights *ahem witching hour*).
4.) Baby needs to be on the reservation
Children under the age of two can fly for free within the United States when booked as a “lap infant” on a flight. When it’s time for your first flight with baby, make sure to add your baby to the ticket that you’ve booked, even if they’re flying as a lap infant. You can do this during the booking process by adding a lap infant or you can call your airline after booking your ticket to let them know. There needs to be a record of your baby on the flight, even if they don’t have their own seat.
Additionally, it is important to bring some sort of identification for you baby (birth certificate, passport, immunization records, etc.) in case the airline asks. TSA doesn’t require proof that the child is under the age of 2, but the airline may ask.
Please note that the safest way to fly with an infant is to have the baby fly in his or her own car seat in their own seat.
5.) Carry-on essential items
Airlines lose luggage all the time so come prepared and carry-on the essential items for baby such as:
- Diapers (my rule of thumb is 1 diaper per hour of travel + an extra day in case of delays).
- Change of clothes for baby
- Changes of clothes for Mom (because as a rule, when baby poops, it’s usually on Mom.)
- Changing pad
- Diaper bag that I can bring to the bathroom (I use a Kibou fanny pack)
- Bottles to feed my baby
- Extra breast milk (I use the Ceres Chill breast milk chiller)
- Sleep sack if it’s a long flight
- Medication for baby
6.) Wear your baby
Wearing your baby through the airport will help keep your hands free throughout the check-in process, security, and boarding. Your baby will also love feeling close to you in the baby carrier!
7.) Relax your nap schedule
Babies love routine and so do parents. In a perfect world, the plane would take off on schedule and nap time would be while you’re in the sky. Go into your first flight with baby knowing that travel days are usually hectic, and things won’t go according to plan. Try to relax your nap schedule for the day so that you don’t make yourself crazy. Watch your baby’s wake windows and look out for his or her sleep cues so baby doesn’t become overtired.
8.) Feed on takeoff and landing
Babies don’t know how to clear their ears during takeoff and landing so giving them something to suck on is extremely helpful. Try feeding your baby during takeoff and landing or at the very least, give them a pacifier to help their tiny ears clear.
9.) Free Checked Items
When it’s time to travel with baby, there are certain items that are free to check to your destination. In addition to your allowable checked baggage, parents can check strollers, car seats, child carriers, and booster seats for free at check-in or at the gate. If you have a stroller that is carry-on size, this is also allowable (pending the rules of the specific airline) in addition to your allotted carry-on allowance.
10.) Rent Items at your Destination
Kids require a lot of stuff, even when you’re a minimalist mama. One of the easiest ways to streamline the travel process and minimize the stuff you need to pack for your travels is to rent baby items at your destination through companies like BabyQuip. You can rent car seats, cribs, pack & plays, and even the SNOO! These items can be delivered directly to the airport or to your hotel or vacation rental.
While booking the first flight with baby can seem terrifying, we’re here to tell you that you’ve got this! Remember to relax, breathe, and give yourself grace throughout the process of traveling with a baby. Don’t worry about the crowds around you and try to focus your energy on your baby. It will all be worth it because these memories with your baby will last a lifetime.