Last month we took a family vacation to visit my parents and extended family in California. Unlike our trip to Florida and Georgia, this time, we had to fly.
I admit I was a bit nervous to fly with my little one for the first time since I really had no idea how he would react.
He did well actually, slept for most of the trip on my shoulder and only cried a little when he realized he couldn’t crawl around the chairs and got bored.
Here I’m sharing some of the things I experienced or observed others doing during Baby H’s first flight experience and I used these tips for making my own traveling with baby checklist.
Tips for Air Travel with a Baby
Identification for Baby.
Bring the baby’s birth certificate as a form of ID. I would recommend researching the airline’s policy to see if they require anything else. We flew Southwest and were also allowed to show immunization records instead, but I found having the birth certificate was easier than going to the doctor to get an updated immunization record. Not all airlines ask to see the birth certificate though, so research their requirements or call and ask.
Does the baby need a ticket? Or do you intend on flying with an infant on your lap?
Again, check the airline policy to confirm, but the FAA allows children under the age of 2 to ride as a lap passenger and so an individual seat is not required. This is one of the hot topic mommy war items though since it is safer to buy a separate seat ticket and strap the baby in the car seat to the airplane seat. How much safer, I cannot say, and I don’t think I’ve ever noticed a car seat used on the plane before.
I chose the lap baby option for two reasons. One is obviously the cost of the additional ticket. The second is I figured Baby H would be happier and maybe somewhat quieter if he was held by me than if he was stuck in a car seat again for a long trip.
I mean, he did scream for most of our 12-hour road trip earlier that month. Since I was holding the baby on my lap, when we checked in they stapled his boarding pass to mine. One thing to note is even if you check-in online and print your boarding pass, you’ll still need to go through the full-service check-in to get the baby’s boarding pass.
You may ask, can I wear my baby through airport security? Yes! I think babywearing through security is a brilliant option. I had Baby H in a wrap and I just had to go through the metal detector and have my hands swabbed. Easy-peasy. I did need to take off my shoes and put everything in the bins, including liquids in a baggie, for TSA screening like usual. However, the airline did not allow babywearing during the flight.
Gate checking items.
I have seen people use strollers to help carry the carry-on items and just gate-check them before boarding. People also gate-check car seats for use at their destination.
Picking your seat.
Southwest lets you pick your seats as you board, but the great part about having a child is you get priority boarding! So even if you check in late and get an awful C position, families with children under 6 years of age board directly after the A position.
We tend to pick a seat near the exit row so it helps to be able to get on early to get a good seat. Our flight to California wasn’t very busy so we had an extra seat next to us, which made it easier to get stuff out of our diaper bag and have elbow room when Baby H decided he wanted to climb all over us.
We weren’t as lucky on the return flight though. Our return flight was packed and so we ended up sitting in the very back of the plane. That actually worked out well since it is extra noisy behind the wings and hopefully helped drown out baby cries. Breastfeeding Moms will likely pick a window seat for privacy, so again getting on the plane early helps with that.
Have the baby swallow during take off and landing to help avoid pain associated with pressure changes because we know that with babies on planes ear popping is painful. I had a bottle ready to go during those times and Baby H did not show any discomfort during take-off or landing. (He cried during other times, but not during takeoff or landing when he was busy with his milk.)
Packing the diaper bag/carry-on.
I had to be careful with packing our diaper bag since I didn’t want to get caught with any contraband water bottles! (We bought those immediately after security on the way to our gate.) We had to be prepared for any situation and have everything on hand.
I packed several extra changes of clothes for the baby (and an extra t-shirt for myself if he spit-up on me) as well as plenty of diapers and pre-measured formula in my favorite dispensers. I also had pockets full of pacifiers, teething toys, and rattles. We ate before getting on the plane and so we got an extra order of fries to bribe Baby H with to be quiet.
On the way back we picked a healthier option and got some Lil Crunchies to bring in the carry-on. Having extra clothes and diapers is so important – little man had a major blowout on the way to the airport and we quickly changed him in the car since everything was within reach.
I only researched two airline policies before booking my flight so I’ll share the ones I looked up below:
Has anyone else had a recent flight with a baby? Do share your tips if I left something out!
Join the Working Mom List
Join the Working Mom collective and get support and tools to help you thrive! Subscribers get access to my library of resources and printables.