As some of you may know, last October we made the crazy decision to fly across the country with our two little ones from Southern California to Maine. We had never flown with either of our kids, let alone in the middle of COVID. I am one of those people that has to be extremely prepared to eliminate as much worry as possible. I did TONS of research before we left, so here are my 10 secret tips for flying with a baby!
*Just for reference, we had an 8 month old and a 2 year old (27 months), and our flights were 6 hours long*
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Secret Tip #1 Get Your Baby Their Own Seat
I know this may not be feasible for you. If it’s not, don’t worry. If a plane is not fully booked, sometimes they will allow you to use a seat for your lap child (for free!). I held Hudson most of the time anyways, but the extra seat was SO nice since it was such a long flight. I didn’t have to hold him for hours while he slept, which meant I had a lot of freedom to get up and move around if I needed.
*If you are nursing, it’s nice to have the extra room so you aren’t constantly bumping into strangers while trying to feed your baby.
Secret Tip #2 Try to Book Your Family as Close Together as Possible
We booked two rows back to back and put my toddler in the seat behind my 8 month old, so if he kicked the seat in front it wouldn’t matter.
Secret Tip #3 Get a Special (lightweight) Travel Carseat for Your Toddler
I was adamant about putting my kids in carseats in the airplane. In my research I found that infants/small children can easily get injured if there’s severe turbulence if they are not in a carseat. Our biggest mistake was bringing Thomas’ HUGE convertible carseat. Tommy was exhausted from lugging it around the airports. Next time I would definitely get a rolling travel bag like this one or a lightweight carseat (like this) purely for traveling.
Secret Tip #4 Buy a Stroller Gate Check Bag (if you are bringing a stroller)
You can actually take your stroller through security and check it at the gate (as well as carseats), which I definitely recommend. This means they will bring your stroller to your gate at your destination so you don’t have to wait until baggage claim to get it. Putting your stroller in a travel bag helps protect your stroller from dirt, rain, pieces going missing, scrapes, scuffs, everything. I got an XL one and I was able to fit my UppaBaby stroller with both seat attachments. (I did have to break the stroller down completely, all the way down the wheels though so be prepared for that.)
Secret Tip #5 Bring SO Many Snacks!
Snacks are the best kind of distraction. I packed a day’s worth of baby food for my 8 month old, puffs, etc. For my toddler, I packed fruit snacks, granola bars, PB&J sandwich, veggie straws, Annie’s bunnies, applesauce, the works! I also packed lollipops and apple juice to give him something to suck on during take off and landing, which seemed to work because he never complained about his ears.
*Airlines allow a higher amount of liquids for young children. For example, formula, breastmilk, baby food, juice, etc can go over the 3.4 oz limit.
Secret Tip #6 Pack Multiple Options for Entertainment
For my 8 month old, it was tough to keep him entertained. Luckily he slept and ate most of the time, but the rest of the time I tried to keep him busy with teethers or books. For my toddler, I brought TONS of options. He had headphones to plug into the airplane so he could watch movies. I brought his Kindle Fire loaded with shows and movies. Packed in his little dinosaur backpack were cars, a coloring book, and a magnetic coloring board. I didn’t want him to even get the chance to be bored!
*An extra secret tip I have is to buy NEW toys and make them a surprise on the airplane. Kids are often entertained much longer by something new than something old!
Secret Tip #7 Bring Extra Clothes
As a parent, I’m sure you already know this and do this. BUT just in case you forgot, bring extra changes of clothes for EVERYONE. If your baby has a blowout, you spill juice all over yourself, or the plethora of things that can go wrong does, you will want a change of clothes. It’s good to have extra clothes anyways in case your luggage gets lost!
Secret Tip #8 Take Advantage of Boarding Early
If you have little ones in carseats, most airlines will allow you to board before everyone else. I always thought it was a bad idea to do this because your kiddos are sitting on the airplane for longer. However, it’s great to have extra time to buckle in carseats, figure out seating arrangements, put bags away, etc. If it’s your first time flying with a carseat, I would definitely recommend it. It takes a lot of the stress away because you don’t have to rush to figure everything out.
Secret Tip #9 Give Yourself a lot of Extra TIME
If you are the person who arrives an hour before your flight, races to the gate, and barely makes it on the plane usually, don’t try that with kids! It takes hours to get through big airports with kids. Checking in with all their extra gear takes time. Going through security with baby food and strollers takes time. Getting to the gate and changing diapers or taking little ones to the restroom takes time. To avoid even more stress from traveling, give yourself a ton of extra time.
Secret Tip #10 Count Your Carry-Ons
Remember if your child doesn’t have a seat, they don’t get a carry on. Most airlines, however, will allow you a diaper bag along with your carry on if you have a lap child. Each passenger with a seat usually gets one carry-on to store overhead and one purse or bag that will fit under the seat in front of you. Pack your necessities in the bag you’ll be keeping in your seat and any extras in the one you are storing overhead so you don’t have to get up every time you need something.
There’s tons more I could say about traveling with little ones, but for now I will just say to enjoy it! Flying with kids is a whole different ballgame than by yourself. It’s not relaxing in the least, but there’s something magical about watching your kid take it all in. My son at age 2 was fascinated by the wings, the pilot, and the big blue sky. It was so fun to see him experience that, and it made all the stress and hard work worth it!
Please let me know in the comments below if these 10 secret tips for flying with a baby helped you, and if you have anymore tips that have made traveling with kids easier.