Tips for flying with a baby from experienced PEPS parents

Updated Oct 2016

1000000128Traveling with a baby is always a hot topic in PEPS meetings, and there are lots of things you can do to make the trip go smoother. We asked parents to share their top tips on the PEPS Facebook Page and we received so many great ideas, we had to put it all in once place so new parents can benefit from your experience! We’ve updated it too with ideas shared at PEPS Groups in 2016. Thanks everyone for your ideas, and let us know in the comments what worked for you on your next trip!

 

Planning

  • Practice “being in a plane” at home to see how you can soothe and care for baby.
  • For traveling out of the country, passports and permission from both parents are required.

In the airport

  • If you take formula, security will open it to check, so if you have the kind that doesn’t have a cap (ex. Gerber Gentle) you will want to bring a bottle or way to store the opened formula. Gel ice packs may not be okay in security.
  • More info on liquids and baby foods from TSA
  • If you have a soft carrier, you can wear them right through the security checkpoint. And, many airports have a medical screening or family line you can go through if you’re carrying breastmilk or pre-mixed formula. Sometimes, the line is faster than the regular security line!
  • Gate check or check your stroller, car seat or base. Consider getting a bag to put them in.
  • Do a diaper change immediately before boarding and if traveling with a partner have them board first with all the stuff and then board very last with your clean-diapered baby.
  • Think about putting a sign on your carseat or carrier that reads something like, “please don’t touch, your germs are too big for me.”
  • Ask security to change their gloves to reduce exposure to germs.

Where to sit on the plane

  • Confirm multiple times that your seats are together. Seats for your family can be in different rows.
  • Window seats are great for nursing, but aisle seats are great for getting up to bounce the baby.
  • “Buy your child his/her own seat and bring the car seat on the plane. It’s worth the extra ticket for safety.”
  • For babies held on laps, it’s a good idea to call the airline to let them know they are with your reservation.
  • Board early or late? Two perspectives: “Ignore the early call to board with small families. Go last and minimize time on the plane.” Or, “Take advantage of early family boarding.”

“Regarding buying a seat, for babies under 9 months, going on the lap isn’t bad (bring photocopy of birth certificate). However, older than that is really tough. When you’re sitting at your computer buying the ticket and $500 seems crazy… well, it seems like a bargain weeks later when you’re sitting with a squirmy 1 year old on your lap, and the guy in front of you put his seat back, and the baby wants to get down, etc. etc.”

Packing

  • Bring baby’s birth certificate, some airlines require it.
  • Bring toys that can be attached to plastic linking rings and connect it to the back of the seat – keeps toys from getting thrown on the ground and dirty.
  • Bring toys that are easily washable in a sink and easily packable. Also, use disposable placemats to put on the tray table if you plan to hold your baby. It’s entertainment plus it covers up the nasty table.
  • Stuff diapers throughout your bags in case you lose a bag.
  • Keep wipes handy.
  • Use pacifier wipes, inflatable nursing pillow and disposable changing pads.
  • Bring liquid infant Tylenol just in case.
  • Hand pump might come in handy.
  • One mom wore her Chew Beads – accessorize with toys!
  • $10 worth of Dollar Store stuff – like pads of stickers, books, toys, etc. (enough to share with other toddlers…the flight attendants will love you).
  • 1 diaper for every hour in transit, door to door, plus lots of wipes, 2 baby outfits and a blanket for the plane.
  • Baby in a onesie with baby legs for easy diaper change.
  • Bring extra change of clothes for everyone. (Walking off the plane with poop on my dress was awful!)
  • Great quote: “Momma, wear layers.”
  • Ziploc bags are great for dirty clothes and diapers.
  • Hats and or SPF clothing to protect your baby’s skin from the sun
  • If you’re going to check your child’s carseat, know that it will usually be counted as an extra bag and the baggage-handling machines at airports can rough them up.
  • Research medical options at your destination and consider bringing your provider’s hotline number.

When you are onboard

  • Use sanitizing wipes (not baby wipes) to wipe down EVERYTHING you will touch on the plane… buckle, tray, buttons, bathroom. Those surfaces are where the germs transfer, not the air. A sick kid/family is no good on a trip!
  • Planes are louder than pumps – use a nursing cover instead of the tiny bathroom.
  • Wear a dark nursing cover all the time. It will help keep you clean, provide shade for a nap, and in one worse case scenario, catch copious amounts of vomit from a suddenly sick baby!
  • Ideas for holding baby comfortably include an inflatable travel pillow, a travel boppy, FlyeBaby, and a bed pillow.
  • For ears and pressurization – breastfeed or pre-portioned bottles during landing/takeoff. Also, blowing on baby’s face causes them to swallow and reduce pressure on the ears.
  • The 10 or 20 minute rule – have ideas for distractions that take about 10-20 minutes. For an infant, make a Mommy playlist – songs to do (and repeat), a session of finger plays, a gaze and chat, over the shoulder looking around, walking the aisle, feeding, changing – all of these are things that you will do anyway… but breaking them up and feeling like you can move on to something else can help! This becomes small toys, crayons, books for an older baby and more for a preschooler.

Take your gear or leave it at home, both perspectives:

  • “Ergo, no stroller, no car seat, the younger the better! Breast feeding? Super easy, nurse on takeoff and landing if they’re not asleep. Can they eat? A container of puff snacks keeps them busy opening and closing the container.”
  • “For plane travel: Carrier & stroller are both musts. Find a kind-looking granny-type who can hold your baby in a pinch. If nursing, have mental armor on for potential dirty looks that come with baby dangling his feet in your neighbors lap while he eats.
  • Rent items like strollers, car seats, cribs and other items, example Baby’s Away.
  • Ship diapers or other baby supplies directly to your travel destination.

Travel might be fun or necessary, and sometimes there are alternatives to travel:

  • “Mostly, we just stay home and make our families visit us. Traveling with a toddler is stressful for everyone and I find it takes weeks to get them back to normal. We paid for my mom to fly out to Seattle so we could have a long weekend trip alone. Totally worth it. Just my two cents.”
  • “If you have visitors, don’t try to be a perfect host. Let them care for the baby while you get rest or a shower, or ask them to help with chores while you care for baby.”

And, thanks to these PEPS Parents who remind us:

“Stay calm and don’t worry about anyone else. Take your time. I used to rush at the airport; now I stroll though security at whatever pace is needed and take time regrouping after. It helps the stress level for sure.”

 “Overall, people have been very kind on planes. Good luck!”

More ideas:

Rebecca Micci, infant sleep consultant, shares info on Helping baby sleep on vacation.

PEPS Parent Shannon Stabbert wrote this post on traveling with a toddler on her blog.

  One thought on “Tips for flying with a baby from experienced PEPS parents

  1. October 7, 2014 at 10:38 am

    This is so useful to know! I get worried about travelling long distances in the car yet alone on a plane! Don’t feel as bad now!

  2. Anna
    October 17, 2014 at 5:38 am

    In 5 flights with our baby/toddler, we have never had our car seat count as an “extra bag”. We gate check the thing, and have never had a problem with baggage handling.

    We have been very happy with the Gogo Babyz Travelmate, which is a contraption that straps to most carseats to give them a handle and wheels. (Other companies make similar products, but I can only speak from direct experience for this one. Easy to use and durable, in our experience.) Kid rides in this makeshift “stroller” (and gets a real kick out of it), smaller bags can hang off the top. When the kiddo was smaller, Dad would wear her on his chest through the airport, and the Gogo-Stroller-Thing served as a luggage cart (perfect, it turned out, for our travel crib).

    I whole-heartedly second the advice about sanitizing your space on the plane. I used to think this was a germophobic thing to do, and then actually tried it after reading some horrifying things about the cleaning standards applied to planes between sets of passengers. That was the first trip (with or without a kid) during which NONE of us came down with some nasty cold. My anecdote is not a clinical trial, but for now, it’s enough for me. 🙂

    One last piece of advice: Blue painter’s tape is a wonderful lightweight source of fascination for older babies and toddlers. Seriously. That masking tape stuff you use to create edges; cheap and available at hardware stores. Bring a few feet to dispense during the flight; it is effectively weightless in that amount and takes up no space. This is one thing that always gets packed in our kid travel kit. After play, it removes easily with no mess, and I have no idea why they love it. But. They love it.

  3. Anna
    October 17, 2014 at 5:43 am

    One other thing: If you bring those food pouches that are so popular lately (the twist-off and squeeze purees that come in a million chia flavors), be aware that the TSA could technically require that you open EVERY ONE YOU BRING for testing. Most of these need to be refrigerated after opening and are recommended to be tossed out soon after that. So only bring as much as you are willing to lose or think your kid will eat through over a couple of days!

  4. Shannon Stabbert
    October 17, 2014 at 6:57 am

    Flattered to have been quoted here! I’ve never had a carseat (or stroller) count as an extra bag, but that’s just domestic flights. A stroller and car seat bag are a must I’d say, a cheap investment to protect an expensive one. Plus you can toss bulky jackets and random extra stuff in it if needed. I always use the stroller as a free luggage cart, and baby wear… life saver!

    The bathroom (also wiped down) is also a great source of entertainment for babies and toddlers. Aside from stuffing and unstuffing a tissue box (desperate times…), I also find a couple of dry erase markers are great for drawing on the mirror. One of those tiny bottles of bubbles like you get at weddings can be blown in there, TP is always loads of fun… just make sure to notify the flight attendants if you make a dent in the supplies. Also, make sure not to bogart the one bathroom with a changing table.

    I’ve been told that if you book the last row with two adults and a lap infant, they will not sit another adult in that row (of three seats) because there are only 4 oxygen masks per row and they need the fourth one for flight crew. So, you can kind of get that seat for free. Or get moved if the flight is super full or overbooked.

    Also, I’d never sit on the aisle with a child in my arms. Twice, on one flight, I had items fall out of an overhead compartment and nearly smash my sleeping daughter in the head. Hit my protective hand instead, hurt like hell. The way those carts and people go up and down the aisle, a sleeping or nursing child is in real danger of getting hit in the head.

    Do NOT be tempted by the lure of Benadryl for a red eye flight… it can make some kids hyper (even if they’ve had it before), and make for a nightmarish flight, or so my doctor warned.

    Bring Tylenol and/or Ibuprofen for a long flight. My daughter spiked a 104 fever on a 6 hr flight, it was super scary and we were so grateful to have some.

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  6. Amy M
    November 2, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    Several notes from a Flight Attendant: strollers and car seats almost always fly free, at least domestically. The product FlyeBaby is not FAA certified so you’re taking a risk that the flight attendant won’t know this. The safest place for you baby is in a car seat – I recommend using a bottle to feed for take off and landing so you don’t have to take your baby out of their car seat to feed, although I recently flew a trans-continental flight with a six-week old and he slept through take off and landing. If you need to pump during flight I recommend doing it in a lavatory – just please tell a flight attendant so she/he isn’t concerned when you haven’t come out in 15 minutes. All American carriers have thousands of dollars worth of emergency supplies onboard and 24/7 access to medical help should your child spike a fever or have another medical problem, but I recommend carrying the basics like baby tylenol and benedryl. Please use the changing table in the lavatory and do not do it on the seat. The diaper should go in the lav trash receptacle – not in a seat back pocket and definitely not in a FA’s hand! Use a vomit bag if you like. In conclusion, please ask a FA if you need any help at all. A lot of us are parents or grandparents and are happy to lend a hand! Also know that we have common-sense limits: My coworker was recently requested by a passenger to “change my baby.” So he found another baby on board, ask her parents if he could ‘switch’ babies for a moment, and returned the new baby to the lazy, entitled, and now thoroughly confused parent. 😉

  7. Amy M
    November 3, 2015 at 12:10 am

    Here is a link to some more notes I made on flying with babies: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1AfXB07x8CVzwxlTsei6bciN9cEfCi2dEYX9WR6IuaXk/edit?usp=sharing

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