We just got back from our first vacation as a family (and our first time flying with a baby/toddler), and we. learned. a. lot! Since travel is starting to pick back up, I wanted to share with you everything we learned, as well as some extra travel tips for parents flying with a baby (1-24 months old).
I would like to note, this post is a little long, but. only because I wanted to be as thorough as possible! I have broken down each tip into five different categories (When Booking, When at the Airport, When Boarding, When Flying, and Random Tips). As always, feel free to reach out with any questions, and feel free to add your own flying tips in the comment section below!
Don’t plan flights around their schedule
In a perfect world, flying with a baby would be so simple and our kids would nap like angels the whole flight… But the truth is, that might just not happen. You can always try to travel around your child’s schedule in the hopes they will sleep, but they also might be too interested in all of the new things around them, and then you’ll have an overtired baby on your hands. Overall, you know your baby best, so this tip is just here to give yourself some grace when selecting flights… If naps don’t work out and you have a cranky baby on your hands, It’s one day and you (and your family) will get through it!
Be selective about your seats
If you’re able to select your seats during booking, pick a row on the plane that makes the most sense for you and your family. I personally like being as close to the front of the plane as possible so we can get off as soon as we can, but I’ve heard arguments for sitting in the last row of the plane that really make sense, too. If you’re in the back of the plane you will be right next to the bathrooms, and will only have to possibly bothering just the people in front of you (if you worry about that). Lastly, the flight attendants are within arms reach if you need anything… Seat selection isn’t the most crucial thing to think about prior to travel, but if you’re trying to be really methodical about your selection I hope these arguments help!
Buy your child a seat, if you are able
Children aren’t required to have their own seat on flights until they are 24 months, but if you are able to afford a seat for them this will make flying with a baby/toddler much easier. For our first vacation with our son, we decided to fly with him as a lap child because prices were SO expensive, and it went really well (considering the circumstances). But he sleeps so well in his carseat, so having it on the plane would have been great! Not only could having a carseat on the plane help your child sleep, but it keeps them off of you and limits them crawling all over the place. Overall, it just makes things much easier for you as a parent. But, again, it’s totally not necessary if you want to take advantage of flying with your under 24 month old for free.
Register your “lap child” prior to arriving at the airport
If you decide to not buy your child their own seat, you will need to register them as a lap child. You can certainly do this at the airport when you check into your flight, but I like to worry about as little as possible when traveling with kids. Look up traveling with a lap child on your specific airline’s website, and there should be a number for you to call to register their name and birthday with your ticket. It’s very quick/simple, and then you won’t need to worry about it on travel day!
When at the Airport
Keep all necessities handy
I always like to keep all necessary travel documents in a folder in my carry-on. But, when traveling with kids, you will need to be sure to keep everything they need handy as well. This includes lots of snacks, toys, medications and extra clothes (for everyone!). This list will be different for every family, so simply make a list before packing so you know you’ll have everything you need within arms reach.
Check your bags
Before our first flight with Jack, I was really trying to pack everything into carry-ons. After driving myself crazy, I finally decided to check a large bag. I usually hate checking bags because I’m paranoid they will get lost and I hate waiting for them after flying, but oh my god not having to carry your bags along with a mobile toddler and a stroller is life changing! 10 out of 10, would recommend!
Additional tip: Put as many of your liquids in your checked bags as possible. This will help you when going through security and you won’t need to fumble through your bags to take out 5 different liquid bags. If you are traveling with any liquids, put them all in the same carry-on so your only needing to go through one bag at security check points.
Wear your baby through security
If you have a baby carrier, wear them through security! This will keep you hands free, and you wont have to worry about collapsing your stroller and holding your child in the security line.
Keep your stroller on hand
Keep your stroller with you in the airport, but keep it folded until you get past security. You can certainly use it when in the security line, but TSA will most likely have you take your child out and fold it up to go through the metal detectors. We found it much easier to just baby wear until we were past TSA.
Buy some steamed milk (or hot water) before boarding
If your child still takes a bottle, get them some warm milk (or warm water for formula) at a coffee shop prior to boarding. This will help sooth them and keep their ears popping during take off.
Gate check your stroller as soon as you arrive at your gate
So, when we first flew with our 14 month old, we didn’t realize how gate check worked, haha! We thought you just brought your items to the gate with you and pass them on right before you board. But, you need to actually check the item in with the gate attendant *prior* to boarding begins. So, when you get to your gate, head to the desk and check in your stroller. They will give you the proper tags so you can pass it along when you are ready to board.
Use Family Boarding but board your baby last
I saw this tip prior to our first flight with Jack and we would recommend this to everyone! Family boarding is typically for families with children under 6 years old, and allows families to board typically after first/business class (or the first boarding group depending on the airline). If you’re traveling with your partner, have one parent board during family boarding with as many bags as they can. This will allow you to set up your seats and sanitize everything before your child gets on the plane. Have your partner board the plane at the last possible minute so you can keep your baby on the plane for as little as possible.
Bottle/breast feed, use a pacifier or headphones during takeoff and landing
Using a bottle, breast or a pacifier during takeoff and landing will help pop your child’s ears and keep them comfortable during the flight. I have also heard that using other the ear headphones can help alleviate pressure, but a pacifier and bottle worked great for our 14 month old.
Bring all the snacks
Pack double the amount of snacks that you think you’ll need. You never know if you will have delays or if you baby decides they hate their favorite snack all of a sudden. There is also a great toddler snack hack for plane rides on Kids Eat In Color’s Instagram if you’re looking for a great way to entertain and feed your kids!
Bring some favorite and new toys/books
You know your child best! Make sure you have some of their favorite toys and books to keep them occupied during travel days, but also get something new to keep with attention. Also, remember that a baby’s attention span is very short, so you will need new entertainment every 5 minutes.
Save electronics for last
I am not opposed to use of electronics with kids, but try to save it as a last resort on a plane since that’s probably the last card you’ll have to play!
Walk the isle
Give your baby a break from trying to contain them in a seat and let them walk up and down the isle after the beverage service. You’ll both get a much needed stretch, and you’ll get lots of smiles and waves in the process.
Don’t worry about other passengers
You have enough to worry about when flying with a baby/toddler. Please please please don’t worry about what other people are thinking when sitting next to you on the plane. Most people are very understanding and nice. You’ll get way more compliments on how cute your baby is, as opposite to people rolling there eyes at “yet another kid on an airplane.” And, in my not-so-humble opinion, anyone that can’t deal with a baby on a flight should talk to their therapist instead of bothering you with their unsolicited advise/opinions.
- Remember, flying with a baby can be hard on everyone, including your little one. Give yourself, and your kid(s), some grace.
- Make your travel day mantra, “Time is finite.” The flight will end. You won’t be in the airport forever. Tomorrow is a new day.
- Dress your baby in footie pajamas. It makes things much easier while changing them, and you won’t need to worry about them losing a sock. If your child is walking, just slip their shoes over the onesie if they want to walk around.
- Mamas, wear your hair up… Trust me, the last thing you want is a squirmy baby pulling your hair on a crowded airplane.
- Travel with a copy of your child’s birth certificate. Your airline may need to see it to confirm your child’s age when boarding, and TSA might do a random ID check (this is typically for safety and to check for child trafficking).
- If you’ve been toying with the idea of TSA Pre-Check, get it! Children under 12 don’t need their own TSA Pre-Check and can go in line with you. You don’t need to remove anything from your bags or remove your shoes. TSA Pre-Check also has an average security line wait time of 5 minutes! Totally worth it!
Did I forget anything?! Let me know in the comments below, and be sure to keep an eye out for a few more blog posts coming soon on packing and planning a vacation for babies/toddlers!