Baby's First Flight
We flew with our little one at 8 weeks, 12 weeks, and again at 14 weeks old. Are we crazy? Maybe. But we all survived and actually had some fun! Plus we got out of the house and saw family - which was much needed for mom & baby. Trust me, the hardest part is convincing yourself you can handle it.
For perspective, here is where we flew:
8 Weeks Old: Chicago to Puerto Rico / 4 hour flight / 4 Days / 3 Nights / Family Vacation
12 Weeks Old: Chicago to Florida / 3 hour flight / 4 Days / 3 Nights / Visiting in-laws
14 Weeks Old: Chicago to Oregon / 4 hour flight / 4 Days / 3 Nights / Mom & baby solo trip
Here is how we did it!
Go for non-stop and at ideal times for the baby’s nap schedule.
When we book flights for ourselves, we usually look at price. Point blank. But with a new baby in tow, we decided that having a non-stop flight was the first priority. Having a stop just seemed risky to me. The chance that we could get delayed and then stranded…with a baby…in an airport…in a random city…with limited diapers. Just no. So we looked for non-stop flights. Because getting there is half the battle!
Next, we prioritized the timing of the flight. For us, we knew the baby was less fussy in the mornings so we looked at morning flights for both coming and going. The idea was that he would be awake in the car and going through security. Then hopefully sleep on me for the duration of the flight - and he did! By the time we got to our third trip with the baby, however, I went with a late afternoon flight on the return trip and it worked just fine. He didn’t sleep as much, but he was still happy and not cranky yet (i.e. it wasn’t past his bedtime).
Last, we added the infant lap child to our reservation. Each airline handles this differently. For American Airlines, we had to call to add the baby. You have to give their full name and date of birth. For United, we were able to add him to the reservation online. For both airlines, however, we noticed we were not able to check in ahead of time because of the infant. We had to physically go to the check-in counter when we arrived for our flight.
NOTE: We called the airlines ahead of time to see what sort of documentation was needed to bring the baby on our domestic flights (not international) and they both said that nothing was required. The TSA agent checked our IDs and boarding passes, as normal, and checked to see that the lap infant was on one of our tickets (it will be printed on there). That was it! Super simple, but confirm with your airline before you go. And international travel is different (I believe you have to get a passport for the baby that expires in 5 years).
If you’re nursing or want privacy, take the window seat.
Oh, this was key! My husband usually likes to sit on the aisle so he can stretch out. But with the baby, I started thinking about privacy while nursing and not getting bumped by the drink cart. I decided the window seat was best for me (mom) and that hubby had to take the middle.
Well - technically we ALWAYS book the aisle and window seats, just in case the middle seat remains open. Then we get the whole row to ourselves! This has worked for us many times - one time on an 8 hour flight to London - woo hoo! But this did not happen on any of our flights with the baby, so we just gave our aisle seat to the person who was supposed to sit in the middle of us, which they were always happy to take. Done and done!
AIRPORT & SECURITY
Pack minimally and efficiently. Only carry-on what you need. Check the rest!
Plan to wear baby or put baby in the stroller so your hands are free.
Venturing through the airport and security is THE hardest part of traveling with a baby. There, I said it. Once you’re on the plane, you are golden! Even if the baby screams for the entire flight, the flight will end, and you will reach your destination. But not unless you get your butt through the airport, checking bags and all, and board the flight on time.
I’ll admit, the logistics of getting myself and the baby PLUS all of our stuff through the airport was stressing me out. And we are seasoned travelers! I mean, between my husband and I, we took over 100 flights one year (2016 - let’s not do that again, thanks!). But with the baby, I started thinking about all of our baggage, getting to the airport on time, and getting through security without losing anything. So we came up with a plan.
First, we drove to the airport and parked. We live in the city, so we never do this. We always take an Uber. But with the car seat, stroller, and our checked bag, I just felt better knowing we could drive ourselves to guarantee enough trunk space and control the timing.
Second, we gave ourselves extra time. The first time you fly with the baby, give yourself an extra hour (or more, if you’re an anxious flyer). We knew we needed time to park the car and take the shuttle from the lot to the airport. Plus time to check our baggage (we normally carry on). Plus time to get through security with breast milk and a BABY, which we had obviously never done. So we gave ourselves an extra hour or so and it seriously helped my stress level.
Third, we packed minimally and efficiently. I felt like the less I had to carry through the airport, the better. I made sure the diaper bag was packed with only what we needed (see packing list below). We normally each pack our own suitcases, but this time we combined our clothes (and the baby’s) into one suitcase that we checked. We discovered that you can use the car seat without the base, so we left the base at home. We bought travel bags for our car seat and stroller, to make packing and unpacking easier and to prevent damage.
Fourth, we checked the rest of our baggage. Car seat? Checked it. Suitcase with clothes for mom, dad, and baby? Checked it. The good news is, the car seat and stroller are free to check. You can choose to take them through security and gate check. This is a good idea if you have extra people in your party who can help, because it is a lot less likely the car seat or stroller will get lost.
Fifth, decide whether to use a stroller or wear baby. For our first and second trip with the baby, we both went. We ended up taking the stroller through security so the baby could lie down and sleep while we were going through the airport. Again, he was only 8 weeks old, so he slept a lot! My husband was able to disassemble the stroller for security while I held the baby. This worked wonderfully. We were able to put my diaper bag under the stroller while we waited at the gate. I even got an iced coffee because my hands were free and baby was snoozing away in the stroller! When our flight started boarding, we broke down the stroller, put it into the travel case, and gate checked it. This all worked great for us!
For a complete list of our stroller, car seat, and more - check out my post on Baby Travel Gear!
UPPABABY VISTA STROLLER & BASSINET TRAVEL BAG
The bassinet and the stroller base fit into this travel carrier. It has wheels, so you can roll it like a suitcase. If you register the travel case, you’ll also be covered under warranty for any damage that happens during travel. I really love this travel bag!
UPPA BABY MESA CAR SEAT TRAVEL BAG
Same as with the stroller carrier, the car seat fits perfectly in this travel case and protects it from damage. The bags also have convenient luggage tags built in.
WEARING BABY & FLYING SOLO
Make sure your hands are free.
On the third trip, I traveled solo and wore the baby. I wore the baby in the front and had the diaper bag on my back with the Snuggle Me strapped to it. That was it. I checked the stroller & bassinet combo. I checked a small suitcase. The friend I was visiting let me borrow her infant car seat. Otherwise, I would have checked that, too. Also, if I would have brought the car seat, that would make three large pieces of luggage and I could only manage two (one in each hand) entering and exiting the airport. In this case, I had planned to ask for a cart when I arrived at the airport and at baggage claim.
I kept my phone in one pocket and my ID and credit card in another, for easy access. I also made sure the baby and I were dressed in layers. I clipped his paci onto the carrier. I wore clothes that didn’t have extra metal or zippers on them so I wouldn’t have to take anything off going through security. I knew exactly where my liquids were in the diaper bag, in case I needed to take them out.
When it came time to go through security, I took off my diaper bag and laid it on the belt. I have TSA pre-check, so I kept my shoes and sweater on. I asked if I could wear the baby through security, and they said yes. We had zero issues and everyone was super helpful.
I was more thoughtful about what I was going to be carrying, since I needed to be hands-free. I even skipped my iced coffee until I landed at my destination! Trust me, having your hands free is key! I will say, going to the bathroom while wearing baby is tricky, but not impossible. You’ll make it work. Once on the flight, everything was easy and familiar again. You got this!
When I wore the baby through the airport, I used the Infantino carrier. Then I had Remy wear a cloth bib to help with all of his drooling (haha! He is in a huge drooling phase) and I clipped his pacifier to the carrier. Then we were ready to go!
TAKE OFF & LANDING
As I said, once you are on the plane, things get easier. I made sure to board during the family boarding time, so that I could get organized without smacking someone in the face with my diaper bag. Before I knew it, I was in my seat with baby in my lap and diaper bag under the seat in front of me. The only thing I knew HAD to happen was that I feed him at take off and landing. I read a lot about this and nursing / feeding helps their ears pop. I also think it is perfect timing because usually he falls asleep right after a feeding and that buys me an hour (or more) of quiet on the flight.
I kept the baby awake until we actually started our ascent and then started feeding him. Once he passed out, I put him on my lap in the Snuggle Me that I brought. This worked great! He was comfy and my hands were free. I actually watched a movie and had some water! Not too much though, because I didn’t want to get up and go to the bathroom :) On the descent, we fed again and then we were in the home stretch. When I flew solo, I took my time getting off of the plane, since I had to get the baby back into the carrier and such. When I flew with my husband, we got off the plane just as quickly as we normally do.
Before I get into packing, I wanted to mention that, even though it may seem complicated and a bit stressful - it is worth it to get the baby used to traveling young! I feel so much more confident now that I have managed to get him to another state without incident. I’m serious! It is like a big check mark for me. To know I can say YES to some trips. To know that I can do it on my own or with my husband. To know that, even if some things go wrong, it will still be an experience for us and we will have fun!
Oh, and everyone will ask if they can help you. So if your panicking or your baby is having a complete meltdown, accept the help.
DIAPER BAG PACKING LIST
Here is what I packed in the diaper bag. To make it easier on myself, I keep a running checklist in my phone so I can just go through it and add what I need to the bag. For diaper bag, I use the Fawn Design backpack and I LOVE it. It was gifted to me and I am so happy it was because it’s both stylish and functional.
DIAPER BAG PACKING LIST:
Wipes (1 new pack)
Extra onesies (2)
Burp cloth (1-2)
Socks (2 pair)
Travel size toiletries: shampoo & wash, lotion, brush, diaper cream, baby Tylenol, etc.
Antibacterial wipes (1 pack)
Plastic bags for dirty diapers / soiled clothes (2-3)
Formula & bottle
Travel sound machine & cord
Extra shirt for mom (1)
Extra shirt for dad (1)
Phone & phone charger
Snack (especially if breastfeeding)
Reusable water bottle