I know the feeling. You have a baby, and after the hectic first few weeks or months, you’re eager to travel again, but figuring out what to bring, how to navigate airports/airlines and what to do with the baby when you’re onboard are overwhelming. New parents have been asking me a number of questions on the subject of traveling with a baby lately and so I’ve decide to share the answers I gave here.
Should I bring a carseat?
This entirely depends on what type of trip you are going to be embarking on. Are you renting a car? If the answer is yes, then you can always rent a car seat from the car rental company. Are you going to be doing a mix of car rentals, taxis and Ubers? Then you will probably want to bring your child safety seat. Keep in mind that many car seats like the Chicco KeyFit 30 Magic can be used safely without the base, so you may want to consider leaving it at home to reduce weight. If you’re baby is still riding in the car seat with a stroller attachment then it would also be a good idea to bring it.
What can you check for free?
Car seats, car seat bases and strollers can be checked for free on most all major airlines including Delta, American Airlines, United Airlines, Alaska Airlines and their partners. You will have to decide at the airport whether you want to check it at the counter or wait until the gate. Some people like to check their car seat and stroller at the counter and carry the baby through security with a baby carrier like an Ergobaby 360 . I prefer to have the stroller with me, because I can use it to carry our diaper bag and other personal items. American Airlines allows a complimentary diaper bag for each infant under two (not all airlines do so you may need to check). Bring your car seat with you through security only if you’re going to use it in your stroller attachment, otherwise it’s just extra weight. Most airlines will include a Pack ‘n Play or baby bed as part of your standard baggage allowance, so you will have to pay for this, but Alaska Airlines allows you to check a bed for free on domestic flights.
Where should we be sitting on the plane?
It’s good to remember that children are not allowed to sit in emergency exit rows, so resist the urge to book a seat there for the extra legroom. Booking a seat in the back of the airplane is never a bad idea as those seats are most likely to go unbooked on a crowded flight. This means you might increase your chances of having a free seat next to you. I’m a big believer in having an aisle seat with a baby, especially if you are traveling alone, so you can get up and walk around and make trips to the bathroom easily. On international flights you should try to score a bulkhead seat with a baby bassinet that will be attached to the wall during the flight. To do this, call the airline you’re flying ahead of time and tell them you would like to request the bassinet. When you arrive at the airport request it again at the check-in counter and then follow-up at the gate. It’s supposed to be first come first serve (there’s usually one bassinet onboard), however, I find the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Airlines have rules about how many babies can sit in one row and so there’s always a chance that you will get moved if two families have booked seats in the same row. I find the airlines generally try to be quite accommodating and so you should always smile and ask if there is anything they can do for you when you check in. If the flight isn’t full, they can put you and your partner in an aisle and a window and block out the middle seat so that you have more room or they can move you to a less crowded part of the plane etc…
Does my baby need a ticket?
Children can ride on your lap until they turn two. This is free on domestic flights, but they still need to be listed on your ticket. Sometimes you can add them during the online booking process, but most likely you will have to call the airline and add them over the phone. On international flights you will have to pay a fee for a lap infant. This will be about 10 percent of your ticket price. Do not wait to do this until you get to the airport as you may have to pay more or risk being able to board the flight at all. As soon as you book your flight, call the airline, add the infant and pay the fee. Just like adults, babies will have to have a passport to travel internationally. Wylie had his passport photo taken when he was 7 days old.
What stroller is best for traveling?
When Wylie was young, we liked to travel with him in his car seat with an attachment in a Thule Urban Glide 2.0 . This is not the most compact option, but it was durable and had plenty of room for us to stash things beneath when we were walking through the airport. The moment Wylie turned six months, I switched to the Babyzen YOYO, a compact and well made stroller that folds up to be so small, it can fit in an overhead bin. Depending on how full the flight is, the airline may still ask that you gate check it if you already have one carryon bag and one personal item.
What items are essential for bringing to the airport and on the airplane?
Babies are permitted liquids on the plane so you can take breast milk and formula, pureed food packs, diaper cream and baby sunscreen and children’s water bottles that are bigger then 3.4 ounces through security. It’s best to have these items sealed in plastic ziplock bags and taken out of your carry on baggage and placed directly in the tray to avoid an additional screening check. It’s possible screening agents will want to swab the bottles and maybe even take a sample of milk or formula for testing. If you want to avoid this, then make sure your breast milk/formula is still frozen when you go through security. If you’re breast feeding (and this is a good thing to do during take off and landing as it will help keep your baby’s ears from popping), then bring a soft cover up.
And bring some fun stuff. If you have a teething baby, this is the time to brake out that chewable bracelet or necklace you got at your baby shower. Bring a colorful, articulating toy that can suction onto the tray table. A book or two is always good. For babies one or older, bring a sticker book. And these Crayola Sketch Wizard are amazing!
A few other tips:
There are undeniably a number of things you will need to bring when traveling with a baby, but try not to go too crazy with toys and equipment. If you are going to be renting a car at your destination, consider leaving the car seat at home and renting it when you get there. The more you bring, the more you have to deal with and remember. Try to bring things that can do double duty!
The one thing you don’t want to forget, or skimp on, is snacks. Happy Baby Clearly Crafted Stage 2 Organic Baby Food packs were essential until Wylie could start eating solid foods.
If you’re baby is soothed by a pacifier have one or two or three stashed in your pocket!
If your baby has a passport, he/she can sign up for Global Entry. You should too if you’ve haven’t done so already. More on that here.
Try to schedule flights to correlate with your child’s nap time. A sleeping baby on the plane is probably best for everyone!
Have additional questions come up? Please let me know in the comments below.