I have flown with Harlow a few times now (plus one road trip) and have picked up a few tips along the way that helped keep our sanity. Note: these are travel tips for one child. I am sure once you throw 2 or more in to the mix, everything is different. So for now, one child it is.
I’m going to do a 3 part post and break it down in to traveling with an infant (5 months in our case), a toddler (11 months in our case) and flying without a baby, but with a breast pump.
Flying with an infant (5 months):
The first time I flew with Harlow she was around 5 months old. Ciaran wasn’t flying with us, so that added another element of stress to the situation being on my own and with all the gear. I was breastfeeding, pumping and she had just started solids, so I had so much to bring with me.
Before You Leave:
- Check with your Pediatrician that it’s ok for your baby to fly and get a written note, just in case (reasons for concern may be an ear infection or fever).
- Bring a copy of the birth certificate, just in case (I wasn’t asked for ours, but I know other friends who have had to provide theirs). When booking your flight (and if you are opting to hold her on your lap), make sure you actually add your child as a passenger on the ticket reservation. There should be a drop down option for passengers. Select child, under 2, and add her name.
- At 5 months and a very short flight (1 hour flight), I didn’t feel buying her a seat was necessary. I just held her on my lap rather than paying for a seat. For a longer flight, you could look in to buying a ticket and using the car seat (I’ve never done this).
And of course, pack all of the necessary items such as clothes, diapers, bath stuff & food that you would normally pack for a trip.
What to pack for the plane:
- If you are travelling on your own, you are going to want to consolidate your purse in to your diaper bag or luggage and just carry your wallet and phone.
- Dress your baby in clothes that can quickly and easily be changed and that are comfortable.
- Breast pump, all the parts, the cooler pack, and anything else you use to pump. Note, the cooler packs must be 100% frozen, or security will throw them out. I know from experience. There is something in them, that when not frozen, poses a security risk.
- Warm sweater for mom (or whoever is traveling). You most likely will not have the chance to sit back and relax and read magazines like you did during your pre-kid days, so I would suggest skipping the $5 magazines.
- Baby food – I was making my own baby food at the time, so I brought some frozen baby food that I stored in my pump bag with the frozen cooler packs. Mine were tested by security, so be prepared for that. I stored the bib & spoon in my checked luggage since I wasn’t planning on feeding her any solid food during this short journey.
- Fully stocked diaper bag.
In the diaper bag you will want to pack:
- A warm sweater and a light blanket as it is generally cold on the plane. Note, I used the traditional udder cover nursing cover, but the Milk Snob multi-functioning nursing cover is such a clever idea. It is a car seat cover, a nursing cover, can be thrown over you while on the plane, or used as a blanket for your babe in the airport or on the plane as well. I will be snagging a few of these up whenever I have baby #2.
- Pacifer (if you use one).
- Nursing cover, only if you nurse and only if you use one. I was pretty good at just using swaddle blankets for nursing, but I wanted my specific nursing cover that went over my neck to avoid any added stress of keeping it on while nursing on the cramped plane.
- Spare clothes in case there is an accident (for you and your babe).
- Bottle (if you are bottle feeding, plus some spare formula, just in case).
- Bags for dirty diapers or potential dirty clothes.
- Hand sanitizer.
- Changing pad if you don’t have one built in to your diaper bag.
- A few toys (outlined below).
What to do in the airport:
I was pumping at the time and carried some breast milk with me just in case. The milk will be tested by security with little strips, so be prepared to take it all out of the bag and have your pump bag completely searched.
- If you bottle feed and haven’t already prepared bottles, prepare the powder in advance and once you get through security, get some water and get it ready to go. You will want to feed the baby at take off and landing. It will be easier to have the bottle ready to go rather than trying to get the bottle out, get water and prepare it all on the plane while also holding the baby. Leave it in the front pocket seat for easy access. If you have a picky baby who only takes warm bottles, ask the flight attendant right when you board for warm water for the bottle or see if they can help you get something warmed up before other passengers start getting on.
- Some people are apprehensive to bring their big strollers and opt for an umbrella stroller, but I brought our travel system and it was the best thing ever. I clicked Harlow in her car seat, she slept a little bit, I had a place to store my diaper bag, my breast pump, snacks (for me) and a blanket for her to lay & sit on while waiting for our plane.
What to do for boarding:
- Change the diaper right before boarding.
- They let families with small children board first, so definitely take advantage of this. It takes a bit of time to get on the plane with you, the baby, the diaper bag, the carrier, the breast pump (for me) and to get situated.
- As you board, gate check your stroller and car seat. They will give you a tag to claim them when you get off. In most cases, you will pick it up right when you walk off the plane, where you dropped it off, not at baggage claim. Also, it is typically the last thing to come up from gate check, so don’t be in a huge rush to get off first…unless you have an upset baby, of course.
What to do while on the plane:
- Nurse or bottle feed on take off and landing to help their little ears.
- I brought our baby carrier on the plane thinking I might wear her, but I didn’t end up using it and just held her while she played and slept. However, I DID use it for when we landed and I needed to get all of my belongings together on the plane and pick up the stroller and car seat.
- At 5 months, she wasn’t really interested in any toys. Harlow much preferred an empty plastic bottle, looking out the window, hitting the tv screen and just taking everything in. She also slept for a good portion of the flight which was a huge help.
- I did pack a few toys such as her O Ball, Sophie the Giraffe, a mirror from her play mat and a few other small toys. Pack these in your diaper bag.
Some people make those little packs of goodies for other passengers that say be nice this is my first time flying and include ear plugs and such. I thought about doing that, but opted out and thought it was silly in the end. Some people totally get it and some people are just assholes and nothing will stop them from being an asshole. If your baby cries, stay calm, don’t worry about what other people are thinking and remember that you will never see them again so who cares.
*And I feel like I need to say this to avoid any car seat controversy. Harlow is in the carseat for some of these pictures without any straps on. She was not in a car, on the plane or even in a moving stroller in these pictures. We were sitting on the ground together. These were taken while waiting to gate check our gear. ALSO, her straps are low in one of the pictures. Again, I know where the straps/plastic clip is supposed to go, but this was just thrown on after changing her diaper and while waiting to board/gate check.