Given the success of our Atlanta trip, Stef and I took Isabella to her first adventure on a plane! We were extremely nervous for it, given all the horror stories I had heard about traveling with kids.
Turns out, it was pretty fun, and Isabella was all smiles for the entire trip- including takeoff and landing.
Here are some tips from my own experience traveling with a 5-month old:
- Fly a Good Airline- Do your research on airline policies and whether or not they allow you to board early if you have a baby. Also see their policies on strollers and car seats. For example, Southwest, allows you to take in your car seat for use inside plane for no additional charge if the plane has empty seats.
- Know Closest Changing Table in Plane– Make sure you know which restrooms have a changing table. As life would have it, Isabella exploded not once, but twice—consecutively. Only one restroom had the changing table so we had to make sure we waited for that one to be available. Changing a baby in those bathrooms is extremely challenging if you’re used to bigger space but it helps if you go in there with that expectation. Ensure to bring a diaper changing mat so that you don’t have to worry about layering the table while carrying a baby in one hand and your supplies in another. It’s also important to note that that certain airlines may not have a changing table. Here is a good list from Trips with Tykes.
- Bring Copy of Baby’s Birth Certificate- If you’re used to flying using online check-in, you’ll need to allocate more time to make sure you are able to make the line to see a representative. They will verify you are traveling with your child through baby’s birth certificate and will indicate on the parent’s boarding pass.
- Bring your own Car Seat- If you’re planning on doing some of your own exploring with a car rental or taking an Uber, I highly recommend bringing your own car seat. There is no guarantee that your car rental location will have car seats available, and because they are used so often by different people, you cannot ensure they are at their best. If you are taking an Uber, chances are they won’t have any car seats with them, unless you happen to go a city where Uber allows you to select a car seat option for UberX with an additional $10 surcharge. In those instances, they provide only forward-facing car seats suitable for 12 month old children, so for us it wouldn’t have worked anyways.
- Be Prepared for Airline Security- Carry-on for a baby is no joke. With airline security, the car seat, stroller and bags must all go through the baggage scanner. If you’re carrying any breastmilk, you must let a security agent know ahead of time. The 3-1-1 rule does not apply as there is no maximum quantity cap. (TSA Procedures for Traveling with Children here) If you’re departing from outside the United States, make sure to be updated on the country’s security policies.
- Make Airplane Turbulence a Game- At one point near landing, the plane starting having some turbulence. Wide-eyed and awake, we started playing peekaboo with her at that time, and she then started giggling with every sudden drop. We were terrified, she was fully enjoying it!
- Keep Inventory of What You’re Carrying!- When we got into security, we realized we had left the car seat base in the rental! Needless to say, ensure you’re not leaving anything behind, anywhere. You are lugging around many things so if traveling with a partner, I would recommend dividing up the items so each person is responsible for certain things.
- Plan Rest Periods- Before Stef & I were parents, we were the type of traveler that started early and ended late, trying to squeeze time as much as possible. With a baby, we have to make sure she’s well-rested and eating—and you have to make sure you have energy at a good level. As such, plan for a lot of down-time throughout your days, with multiple opportunities to head back to the hotel for baby to sleep.
- Feed During Take-Off and Landing– To prevent pressure in their ears, feed them during taking off and landing. If you’re able to sleep them for it, that is even better. We had no issues with Isabella during these periods, she was happily drinking her milk!
- Take Many Pictures and Videos!- Your baby won’t have any memory of how much they enjoyed the trip, so make sure you record moments for your child to see later. They’ll always think it’s cool they got to travel around with their parents from a young age.
Overall, it was totally doable. I think the biggest thing is doing it the first time. After that, it shouldn’t be too hard. We’re already getting ready for her next trip: Los Angeles!