Tips and must-have items for flying with a baby

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My husband and I recently traveled with our four-month-old for the first time. Flying can be so unpredictable when it comes to delays, layovers, and wait times, let alone trying to handle all that with a baby! I was nervous and a bit stressed, but, I’m happy to report that everything went way better than I anticipated.

Here are some things we learned, travel essential items we love, and things we wish we would have known ahead of time to make traveling with a baby a bit easier.

Packing Tips:                                                               

  • Use a diaper backpack as your personal carry on. Pack things for baby and use it to store your own things such as your cell phone, wallet, and a few snacks
  • Bring more than enough diapers and wipes and at least one extra outfit for the baby
  • Put formula container inside a plastic bag to prevent it from spilling in your bag
  • Bring small entertaining toys such as crinkle bags and rattles. Our baby even played with the burp cloth for a while
  • If visiting relatives or friends, see about borrowing a pack and play from someone once you’re there. You could also have a pack and play shipped directly to where you’ll be staying so you don’t have to lug one with you (that’s what we did!)
  • Invest in an inexpensive baby monitor that you can use just for traveling so you don’t have to unhook the one you use at home. We found it helpful to have a monitor with us in case we were hanging out outside once the baby went to bed.

Navigating the Airport with a Baby

  • Use a baby carrier (we used the Ergo 360) while in the airport to free up your hands so you can still wheel luggage, get things out of your wallet, etc.
  • Baby needs a boarding pass even if they are traveling as a lap child. This one was a curve ball to us. We had no idea he’d need a boarding pass until we got up to security. We had to go back down to ticketing, add him as a lap child, and print out a separate boarding pass just for him.
  • Get a car seat bag that doubles as a backpack. If you plan to bring your own car seat with you, this is a must-have. It’s a huge drawstring bag that has backpack straps and makes it so much easier to carry the car seat throughout the airport
  • Security has separate lines for people traveling with small children. They’re usually shorter so your baby doesn’t get super fussy waiting in long lines. We had no idea about this. My husband just happened to see a sign and it saved us a good 10-15 minutes not having to stand in the regular line. Both airports we went to had separate lines.
  • You can go through the metal detector wearing your baby in the carrier. You don’t have to take your baby off of you which really makes it easier; they just swabbed my hands after we went through.
  • If formula feeding, buy a bottle of water right after you get through security to easily make a bottle on the plane
  • Car seats and strollers need to be tagged. The nice thing is, you can bring these items with you directly to the gate but they need a printed tag from the airline. We didn’t know this and heard them announce it right before we were boarded. Thankfully, you can easily get a tag from the customer service desk once you’re at your gate
  • Change baby’s diaper right before boarding. One of us would take the baby to the bathroom about 10 minutes before boarding so his diaper was freshly changed before we got on the plane to avoid having to change it in the tiny airplane bathroom.
  • Board with family boarding. We flew Southwest Airlines which meant we automatically got to board in between the A and B groups. As long as your child is under six, you can qualify for family boarding.

Tips for on the Plane

  • Put the baby on the seat in between the two of you if you’re traveling with someone, even if the baby is a lap child. We just kind of held the baby on the seat. Once people see the baby, it’s likely no one will want to sit with you or ask you to move the baby. We ended up getting a row to ourselves this way on both flights even when they said it was going to be completely full.
  • Feed/give a pacifier during takeoff and landing this helps the baby’s ears with the pressure changes and is also soothing for them.
  • The plane will act as while noise, no need for a sound machine. On our first flight, our baby fell asleep in my husband’s arms right after takeoff.
  • Don’t bring out toys right away. For most babies, being in a new environment is entertaining in and of itself. Once our baby woke up, he just looked around for a good 20 minutes before we even had to bring out a toy. Have them look out the window. Get up and walk them down the aisle for something else to look at/do if on a longer flight when the seatbelt sign is off.
  • Use the carrier to help them go to sleep. On our flight home, the baby didn’t fall asleep right after takeoff like he had the first time. My husband ended up having to strap him in the carrier and walk him up and down the aisle when the seatbelt sign was off. After about 10 minutes, he fell asleep and we transferred him out of the carrier and he slept in my arms the rest of the time.
  • Remember that babies cry and life will go on. We’ve all been on a flight with a crying baby and although it might not be fun, it’s likely you’ll never see those same people again. Someone gave me the advice that in the worst case scenario the baby would cry the whole flight but then we’d get off the plane and life would go on for everyone. That really helped me not stress too much.

Travel Essentials Items We Love (all on Amazon):  

  • Blackout pack-n-play cover. This creates a dark environment for baby to sleep, is lightweight for packing, and is made out of super stretchy, breathable material. Our baby slept 10-11 hours at night no problem with this.
  • Portable baby monitor hook. This hooks around the pack-n-play and makes it easy to attach and angle the baby monitor camera.
  • Inexpensive baby monitor to use only when traveling. I highly recommend bringing a baby monitor with you when traveling especially if the baby will be sleeping in a separate room or if you’ll be staying in a large house or going outside while the baby is sleeping.
  • Sound machine. We got the Hatch Rest to use when we travel. It uses WiFi and can be controlled from your phone which makes it super convenient. I would turn it up when we were watching a movie or if a dog was barking just to make sure he didn’t wake up. Worked like a charm. He slept through everything!
  • Baby Carrier. We love our Ergo 360 carrier. It’s sturdy and both my husband and I can wear it and adjust it to fit us. It also has a little detachable pouch that I used to store my phone and ID in when we were in the airport.
  • Travel blackout curtains. These aren’t necessary if you have the pack-n-play blackout cover but we used both. These curtains have suction cups making them easy to use on any window. They really help darken the room and work great during naps when it’s brighter out.
  • Stroller fan. We used this in the airport when we were hot from standing in lines and on the plane when the little air vents just weren’t cutting it. We also used it in the car when it was hot and it can be attached to the pack-n-play to create some airflow while the baby is sleeping.
  • Travel bath. Since our baby can’t quite sit up on his own yet, we needed a little in-tub recliner but wanted something that could fold up and pack in our suitcase. We originally purchased a different one but he kept slipping in it and hated it. Then I found this one and it was so much better! Just big enough for him to sit in but small enough to fit in our suitcase. It worked perfectly.
  • Bottle drying rack. With all the little parts of bottles, having a drying rack that fits all the pieces is essential. This one is compact but has all the components to keep bottles dry. It’s definitely a must-have when traveling!

I hope this makes your trips stress-free and smooth sailing. Happy traveling!