January 7th. It was a day I was dreading; the first day I would be traveling with my baby. He was 3 months old, and I had spent about 2 of those months worrying about how I would navigate air travel by myself with my little one.

I am actually a very seasoned traveler. My job has had me flying all over the country up to 40 days/year for a while. During my pregnant year of travel I had my eyes peeled for strategies other moms were using to successfully travel with baby. So in an attempt to spare you some of the stress I encountered, here are my strategies, and mistakes, so you can have a smooth baby travel day!! Good luck!

1.  Booking

 First you have to book your flight. I had to make a decision. Do I make the 1.5 hour drive to the major airport to have a direct flight or do I take a puddle jumper from my local tiny airport and have a layover? I decided that it would be better to have the short drive and a layover because I would have access to him. If he is screaming in a car seat in the back of the car on the highway while I am stuck in traffic trying to make a flight time, I am just stuck. However, if he is screaming during a layover, I can work through my soothing strategies. Done.

Second: Flight times. I chose to go with a late morning flight. Lets be honest. Getting out the door in the morning is a struggle on a good day. Don’t add stress by trying to make an early flight. Give baby a chance to eat, and more importantly poop. Lord knows the more you can do to avoid changing a dirty diaper on a plane, the better.

Third: Seat choices. Don’t be cheap. This is about survival people. Regular seats these days are super jammed together. Spring for the extra leg room seat. Every inch counts. They won’t let you in an exit row with a lap child, but you can book the extra leg room space.

Fourth: Call the airline. Let them know you have a lap child. They will make sure you are booked in the right spot which will save you an issue when you get there.

2. Packing yourself down

Stroller, cars eat, sling, etc. What is the best way?! I decided that munchkin was big enough to be in the stroller without the accompanying car seat and I was also fortunate that I was visiting family, so my mom borrowed a car seat from a friend for when we arrived. So I decided: stroller and harness.

And here is the best thing I did people: FANNY PACK! I’m telling you. This was the key to success. With this simple device, I had perfect access to my cash, id, phone, headphones, power pack, and pacifiers. Don’t worry. If you don’t fancy yourself cool enough to pull off a cochella style retro/ 1980’s amusement park parent fanny pack, they have great rock climbing versions like the one I wore. (See photo)

Diaper bag: I have the best diaper bag ever. It is backpack style by Okkatots. It has visible spots for everything you might need, and you can fit your laptop in it if you need to. Genius.

Traveling with baby Flying with baby

Traveling with baby
Flying with baby

3. Wardrobe:

Ok people spandex is key. Yoga pants and a yoga zip up. These allow for maximum movement. You don’t have to wear a belt that may catch on stuff, the jacket is light enough to not be too hot but offers enough coverage to not be too cold. And best of all, when you are strapped down with all of the stuff including your child….you can still pee. I did it 4 times. Last but not least, zip up boots offer freedom from shoe tying at security. Dress baby in a long sleeve onesie with fleece stretchy pants if you have them.  I discovered that they repel wetness and keep munchkin’s legs warm.Oh, and of course, socks. Covering arms and legs will keep the germs off your kiddo as much as possible. Be sure to have extras in the diaper bag for both of you in case of a mess.

Don’t be a diva. Put your hair up. It can and will get caught on something, or munchkin will grab onto it. Ouch.

4. Security:

Once again, this is about survival. If you have not gotten your TSA precheck, look it up and do it asap. This will keep you from having to remove shoes, small liquids and laptop. It is good for 5 years and you will get to go through that short line instead of standing with all of humanity in the long general line at most airports.

You will have to take munchkin out of a stroller to go through the scanner, but you do not have to take him out of a sling or harness (by the way I recommend the ergo baby)

Breastmilk and formula are allowed through security in larger quantities than 4 ounces as long as you can see through the bottle. They will put it in some kind of bottle scanner, but they will not open it. I use these Similac 8 oz travel bottles so that I don’t have to worry about temperature. Just shake, open, add nipple and feed. Also, my favorite diaper bag accessory is the surgical underpad. It is a disposable changing pad like the ones they had under you in childbirth. Most of the places you will be changing munchkin are…well…gross. So keep those around to put down on bathroom changing tables, etc. I even use them at home so we don’t have to constantly change the cover on the changing table.

5. The flight:

  Most of the time, when the gate agent sees that you are traveling with a baby, they will let you pre-board. You will have to gate check your stroller. Be aware that the flight attendant will make you unhook the harness for take off and landing. They can’t actually explain to you why this is safer than having your baby properly strapped to you, but they get a book of policies from the FAA every year and this is one of the policies… so there you go. (One of them actually pulled the book out on me when I asked about the logic behind this. No sweetie, I believe you, I just don’t understand WHY.)
   I have been told that the best way to keep the baby’s ears from hurting is to feed them during take off and landing. Good luck with that if your baby feeds on demand. Meaning- Oh! hes hungry 20 minutes before take off, let me just hold off…Um, no, that was not going to work for me. So I just made sure he had a pacifier during take off and landing and that seemed to work. The engine noise put him right to sleep, so that was fantastic. However, I was fully prepared to purchase drink vouchers for my row should he melt down. Once again, don’t be cheap. This is about survival. 🙂

Mistakes I made:

1. I forgot deodorant. Not cool for anyone especially my poor child who was strapped to me all day.

2. I had to feed him in the car after we landed which meant I couldn’t take him out to burp him…which resulted in a mega gas episode that evening. I should have fed him at baggage claim before getting stuck in the car for an hour.

3. I forgot to repack the wipes on the way back. Wet paper towels will work in a pinch, but they are generally around a wall in an airport bathroom, which means leaving baby on the table which is dangerous. Just double check that you have wipes.

Happy flying!!