Traveling with a baby can be super intimidating. The “firsts” for most things with your first child are all super intimidating but there’s nothing like being trapped in the air on an airplane to make even the most confident parent a little nervous.
Roy was 6 months for first flight to DisneyWorld (don’t worry, this was not a trip specifically for Roy to see Disney – my dad is Disney obsessed and takes our whole family every few years). Rishi wasn’t going to be with me on the flight out so I searched high and low on tips for traveling with a baby before that first flight.
Because Rishi’s family isn’t local, we’ve traveled with both kids when they were babies. We took Roy out to California for his rice ceremony when he was 9 months old. We took Penelope for her ceremony when she was about 5 months (check out this post for all the details on her annaprashan).
By the time we took Penelope out to California I was more worried about Roy behaving than I was about Penelope since we had a few flights under our belt with babies!
If you’re planning on traveling with a baby, here are a few tips to ease your fears.
21 Tips for Traveling with a Baby
1. Check as many bags as possible.
Rishi and I are carry on kinda people. We travel light and don’t need much when we jet away for the weekend. This all changed when we had kids. When you’re traveling with a baby, you need a LOT more stuff.
Now we carry on one bag with a change of clothes for each of us (2 for the kids because you just don’t know what to expect), any essentials we need for our daily life (like my glasses), and diapers and formula for the kids.
The less you have to carry, the less stressed you’ll be going through security, boarding your plane and during your flight.
2. Buy what you can at your destination.
Depending on where we’re going, we put what we need in our carry ons and pick up things like formula, diapers and wipes at our destination! It saves room in your suitcase and it’s not like you’ll be taking home all of those dirty diapers anyway. 😉
3. Wear your baby through the security check.
We bring our stroller when we travel but I always strap on the kids when we go through security (when they’re not walking). Your hands will be full with carry on bags, diaper bags and travel documents so strap them on to keep your hands free. (I love the Baby K’tan because it’s compact and comfy.)
The security people and other travelers are also typically really kind and gracious when they see you’re traveling with a baby. 😉
*All airports are different and I’ve heard some airports need you to not wear your baby through security. I’ve never had this happen but it could. Regardless, wearing your baby will give you a free hand for putting bags on the belt.
A security person will typically take over your stroller to check it over and wheel it past the check station if it doesn’t fit on the belt.
4. Do the priority boarding for “families and people needing extra time”.
I always thought this was a terrible idea since your kids are trapped in a tiny place for even longer but trust me, it’s not a bad idea. You can get on the flight and get all organized before it fills up with strangers.
5. Know that not all airplanes have changing tables.
There was a fellow first time mom flying with her baby on my first flight with Roy and she burst into tears at the news that our plane didn’t have a changing table.
You’ll have to get creative with how to change your kid in the bathroom but as long as your mentally prepared for this, it won’t be so bad. 😉 Inevitably your child will have a blow out the second you board the plane so be ready.
6. If your baby is formula fed, fill the baby bottles when you board.
If you didn’t pre-fill your bottle, do it when you board. The flight attendants are always super gracious when you tell them you have a baby and ask if they can fill the bottle with water. It’s also a nice heads up to them if it’s your first flight with your little one so they can be a bit more helpful.
7. Have your baby suck on something during take off and landing.
Whether your feeding them or they’re sucking on a pacifier, ensure that they’re sucking something to prevent their ears from popping.
One note – don’t overfeed your baby. If our baby just ate, I would only give them an ounce or two and feed it to them really slowly. The last thing you need is an overfull baby who vomits all over everything. 😉
8. Bring your baby’s favorite toy.
(If they have one!) Whether it’s Sophie the giraffe or a stuffed animal, bring a few things that they love!
9. Buy new toys.
Babies are a little easier than toddler with this but I bought 1-2 new things for each kid before traveling. Sometimes having a new chew toy or something to play with was better than the tried and true toys.
10. Bring extra everything…
Think you’ll need 2 diapers? Bring 6. Have a small 10 pack of wipes? Bring the big one. Does your baby like pacifiers? Pack 5 and put them in 5 different spots. And definitely pack a couple extra outfits.
Here’s the deal with flying. You never know if you’ll be stuck in an airport because of a delayed flight so the last thing you want is to be left rationing out formula or not having enough diapers. Yes, you can always buy some if you’re still in the airport but it’s like 500% marked up so just bring a few extra things.
11. …but don’t overpack.
You don’t need to bring shoes, bows, books, etc that your baby doesn’t actually need. Bring the necessities (food, diapers, change of clothes) and leave the rest at home (or packed in your checked bag).
12. Wear your baby for naps.
This one is personal preference but I didn’t wear Roy for his first flight and when he passed out on me I was elated. Yay! No crying baby! He’s asleep!
And then I realized I was trapped.
He was in a weird position and I couldn’t hold on to my magazine well enough to read it and I didn’t have a screen to watch a movie. Fail. After that, I strapped them on if they seemed like they were going to fall asleep.
13. Don’t bank on them napping.
Honestly the younger they are the more likely they are to nap. Airplanes are loud and they’re usually cuddled up with mom or dad and they’re ready to just snooze. But as they get older and more aware of what’s going on, they might just be up wanting to watch the world go by.
Half of traveling with a baby is just being mentally prepared for things to happen, so just be mentally ready for a wide awake baby for your whole flight and have some toys ready for when that happens.
14. Don’t feel bad about walking your baby.
Nobody likes a crying baby and if walking up and down the aisle keeps your little one happy, do it!!
15. Get the aisle seat for shorter flights.
There’s nothing worse than being trapped by a window and needing to change your baby or walk him to calm him down. Give yourself easy access and get an aisle seat.
15. Gate check strollers (and car seats if you have them).
It’s super convenient having your stroller with you to hold all of your bags, etc. Just check it at the gate when you board!
We use a travel bag for our stroller because I’ve heard tons of horror stories of checking strollers. This one guarantees your stroller so if something happens to it, they’re replace it for free!
16. Rent carseats at your destination.
If you’re renting a car I highly recommend renting car seats too. You have so much stuff to bring when you’re traveling with a baby so renting larger things is the best! It’s also so much easier than lugging a car seat through the airport!
17. Make sure you add “child in arms” to your ticket.
Sometimes you have to go back in and add it after purchasing your ticket or even calling the airline. They don’t always make it easy to add!
And if you’re traveling with someone else, make sure whoever has the child listed on their ticket has that child when going through security. There was a mom ahead of me in line once who didn’t have her baby listed on her ticket but had her baby with her. The baby was listed on her husband’s ticket and he had gone on ahead of her without the baby. He ended up having to called over the intercom to show his ticket! I’m not sure this would happen in every case but be warned that it could.
18. Call ahead to your hotel to get a crib in your room.
Hotels typically have cribs or pack n plays available for you to use (and if not, it’s good to know that!). Some hotels have even left us diaper pails and baby bath supplies!
19. Remember that everything is temporary.
When they inevitably cry for whatever reason, remember this. It’s always worse for the parent. And this too shall pass.
Yes, it may be annoying to other people on the flight but they’ll live. It’s a minor nuisance. And the more stressed you get, the more stressed your baby will get. Relax!
20. Also remember that you know your baby best.
There will always be “well meaning” travelers who will tell you that your baby is hungry or tired and needs xy or z but just remember that you know your baby best.
Don’t let someone else make you feel like you’re not doing your job or that you’re being a bad parent. By reading this blog post and doing your best to prepare yourself for traveling with a baby, it’s proof that you ARE a good parent and doing the very best you can!
21. Don’t plan anything for the day you arrive.
Traveling with a baby can be really stressful and very draining – for you AND your little one. Don’t add to the stress by having dinner plans or obligations the day you arrive at your destination.
As with most things, the first time you do something is always the most intimidating! Try not to stress too much and enjoy yourself! Don’t let the fear of traveling with a baby prevent you from doing it. The more flights you can do before your kid turns 2 the better because it’s free! 🙂