Yes, it is possible to survive your first flight with baby.
A little more than one month ago, we took our first flight with our then 8-month-old baby. As a first-time mom, I was so nervous to make that trek. One thousand questions went through my head. How will I carry everything? Will my child scream the entire time? Will her ears hurt? How does the stroller thing work? Well, I am happy to report, we had absolutely no problems and my child slept literally from takeoff to landing on both the flight to our destination and on the way back. And while I don’t know if we’ll always be so lucky, it was painless enough that it made me question why I had been so worried and waited so long, punishing myself with awful six to eight hour car trips during the past few months. As summer ramps up, I know a lot of families will be traveling and a lot of people will be taking their maiden voyage through the airport with their little one. Here are some of the most important things to remember for airport travel with a baby.
1. Gate-check your stroller.
We gate-checked our stroller, which meant that we pushed it through the airport and got a tag to leave it at the terminal gate right before we got on the plane. It was waiting for us in our new destination as soon as we got off of the plane. It gave our daughter a safe, familiar and comfortable spot as we were in the airport so I could be hands free to do other things as needed.
2. Check your car seat.
Car seats do not count as luggage, so drop that extra weight off as soon as you get to the airport. Bonus points if you buy a car seat bag that can be carried as a backpack to make things even easier when arriving to and leaving from the airport.
3. Bring as many home items as reasonably possible.
Obviously you are traveling by air, so your luggage space is limited. However, bring those small items that help settle your little one — for us it was the DockATot, a nightlight and the sound machine, but it could be anything that will make sleeping easier. Whatever it is, try to reproduce that space of comfort as much as possible once you reach your destination.
4. Strategically plan your travel times, if possible.
When we booked our flights, I chose to travel first thing in the morning when my little one is on her best behavior and a little past her bedtime so she would be sleepy and easily go down when needed. We also allowed and encouraged her to look around and stay awake, while we were in the airport waiting for our flight to takeoff. Between these two choices, she easily went down for a nap as soon as we got settled in our seats and I fed her — sleeping from before takeoff until just after landing. As a parent, you know your child’s prime times so work around those if you can.
5. Separate your baby food and milk so that you can easily inform TSA.
I’m not sure about everyone else, but, at the time of our trip, we were still mainly breastfeeding our little one and I was feeding her homemade purees. We packed both items in a little lunch box and separated it from the other bags, informing TSA. On the way, these items were frozen so we passed through security with no issues. On the way back, our leftover baby food had thawed out and was more of a liquid mush. Since TSA couldn’t open the container, my husband had to volunteer for a very intimate pat down as part of their procedure. The TSA agent that helped us was very nice and walked us through the whole process, but, if you want to avoid getting too close to a stranger, try to keep any home-packaged food and drink items frozen for travel.
6. Bring several options of small toys, pacifiers, etc.
Make sure you bring a few small toys to entertain your baby, as well as pacifiers, changes of clothes, wipes, diapers and anything else you may need in the airport. If you do this, when something spills, you won’t be put in a panic because you have to clean the item as your child is about to go into full meltdown or you’re running low on something.
7. Minimize the items you’re carrying through the airport.
With a baby, diaper bag and stroller, you already have your hands full. You don’t want to be distracted keeping up with anything you don’t have to keep up with, so check as much luggage as possible.
Happy and safe travels, and may the odds be ever in your favor!