Traveling with infants isn’t easy, but with a few tips and tricks, you too can conquer this. I like to think of it as a skill you can hone, and you can do it too! David has now been to Florida, Nashville and Atlanta in his 13 months and we’ve all survived. Let us know if you want us to add to this with car travel tips!
I’ve categorized my tips into loose areas below, which I hope are helpful! Also, the writer/creator of Lucie’s List, Meg Collins, wrote a great short digital book on her tips, which I found invaluable. A few unrelated items to note:
- I guess it’s a trend to get everyone on the plane a goody bag? Don’t do this. It sets the bar too high for the rest of us, and isn’t going to make anyone less annoyed about a crying baby. They will just have to deal – hey, some people would rather that than constant annoying conversation near them. They are babies, who cry – I dare anyone to tell me they never cried as a baby. It is not a personal failure on your part if your kid cries. You have enough to carry and remember without being a baby apologist.
- Seconded by listener Lindsay: “Don’t feel bad and don’t apologize. Babies are babies. They cry. They whine. They make noise. They need their diapers changed. They need to be fed. They cannot articulate and tell you what’s wrong. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for having a baby on a plane who happens to act, I don’t know… Like a baby!”
- From listener Toni: “If this is financially available to you, fly first class if you’re traveling with an infant on your lap. It’s totally worth it. (I understand this is a luxury not everyone can afford.)” This is likely way more feasible for domestic flights – take a look at the price different that some airline websites give for first class vs. economy and if it offsets the cost of baggage since often first class gets a certain number of bag(s) free.
- Make a checklist of the essential items you & your kid need, and if possible the week before the trip. Keep the list on you as you think of things. This way you aren’t just trying to throw things in as you think of them and end up under- or over-packing. It also helps you see what you’re planning and can be a double check against stuff you really don’t need. “Do I go through 3 swaddles in a given week?”
- Bring a change of clothes for the baby and an extra shirt for you in your carry on. I was covered in baby food that my kid squeezed out of his pouch during a moment’s inattention on my part and luckily I didn’t have to wear sweet potato and turkey for the rest of my travels.
- Consider ordering your diapers, wipes, baby food, throw away sippy cups like this to be sent to your destination. Sure, you can maybe pick them up when you get there as an option but having it there already sure saves precious relaxation time.
- From listener Toni: “Be prepared to have your bags checked. A lot. My bags were searched 4 times! Always because of the baby’s stuff.” So an organized diaper bag is key!
BOARDING & SECURITY
- Wear the baby! You need your hands free, even if you are traveling with a partner/companion.
- If you’re traveling alone, load up audio books, playlists or your best podcast to listen to while the baby sleeps – you can use the free hands to feed the baby or if you’re traveling with infant-in-arms, listen to something while they sleep (arms being occupied).
- Gate check the stroller and car seat if the baby isn’t using it on the plane. I’d recommend using a nylon bag to cover the car seat like this one. I noticed that when I got off the plane, the bag had a bunch of scuffs, which I’m glad didn’t end up on my $200 carseat, but the $12 bag. Worth it.
- It comes in a stuff sack, so for the infant bucket seats, I brought my Britax travel system all put together, and when it came time to board, put the baby in the carrier that was already strapped to me, rolled down the jetway, popped the seat out, covered it, and folded up the stroller.
- From listener Lindsay: “Just remember, strollers and car seats can be gate checked for free, whether you are traveling with a lap infant or bought them a seat.”
- For the bigger, bulkier convertibles, try strapping the seat to a mini-dolly with bungees like this thingy.
- If you’re flying at bedtime – mentally prepare yourself that the baby may not sleep when they normally do at home. Listener Toni suggests flying at bedtime if possible to maximize the likelihood they will sleep.
- Need to go to the bathroom? Either corral a friendly flight attendant (now is not the time for shyness) or wear the baby to the bathroom (did I mention that all shame has likely left the building?).
- Make sure you take care of yourself too – not an easy feat with the wrigglier babies. Play hot potato with the baby and your partner in order to eat and drink. Traveling alone? Consider bringing (empty when going through security) a lightweight water bottle with a stopper of some kind so that when curious kiddo knocks it around, you don’t shower yourself or your seatmate. Granola bars and apples are also great portable snacks.
- To me, Puff the Magic Dragon is not longer a euphemism for more adult things. It is a dragon made of puffs, which have magical abilities to quiet the baby for a few minutes. Snacks are key, regardless of the choice you make of puffs, yogis, snack bars, etc.
- I’ve heard many people tell me that you should plan on nursing during takeoff and landing to help the baby’s ears pop. While this is likely sound advice, be careful here. You do not want to artificially hold off the baby from eating/nursing when they are actually hungry so you can wait for either thing. That leads to a cranky baby and that is something to avoid at all costs. Feed them if they’re hungry and they may end up sleeping right through either event – you can pop a bottle or boob in their mouth if they stir again.
- If you need to prep a bottle, do so after going through security and before you board – get it all ready to go, and perhaps adjust for a potential bigger feed if you are able to stuff the kid to sleep. If they are uncomfortable, they may drink more than normal.
- From listener Lindsay: “Don’t sit too close to the bathroom. Yes, convenient but major distraction when trying to get a younger infant to sleep!”
- If the baby’s staying in your room, can you set up your travel crib on the other side of a room divider, in a walk-in closet or a large bathroom? This may seem cruel but for parents with babies who don’t sleep well, if they stir and then see you in the room, it’s game over and you’ve got a 4am wake up time. Putting at least a partial wall between you and the baby (without the door fully closed if you prefer) gives the their own “room” and puts you out of their direct sight line. Obviously consider the baby’s safety first when doing this.
- If possible, bring a white noise machine – this blocks noisy neighbors, loud street noise and generally thin walls from disturbing the baby. If you’re visiting a new place, you’ll never truly know what the noise situation is.
- Keep your sleep routine and schedule! Things are going to be off – the kiddo is in a new place and did this weird thing called air travel, so they will likely be all over the place – tired, amped up, and curious so the max amount of normalcy that you can provide is key.