How to Manage Plane Travel with a Baby
It's the moment we've all been waiting for… we can actually get on a plane and go somewhere! It's been a while, so for those of you who have had babies in the meantime, plane travel might look a little different for you now because, well, everything might look a little different for you now! But not to worry, plane travel is still a thing if you have a baby. There's just a few things you need to know…
When can you travel with a baby?
It really depends. Some airlines require babies to be at least two days old, while others insist they be at least two weeks. However, most doctors recommend waiting until your baby's immune system is more developed, which is about a month old. Even more doctors recommend you wait until your baby is three to six months old.
Is your baby a lap infant?
Your baby can be a "lap infant" if they are two years and younger. And this rule is very strict, folks. If your child turns two while you're at your vacation destination, they are no longer a lap infant and they will have to have a purchased seat. But in those golden two years, you save money by keeping your baby on your lap (although some question the safety of this). If you're traveling domestically, your baby won't need a passport, but they might need some form of identification, especially if they're nearing age two, to prove that they can fly for free.
Wear your baby
This is especially useful for lap infants. Having your baby strapped to you in a comfy sling will keep them tight and safe, and most babies feel so cozy in a sling they'll nod right off (hopefully) during the flight.
Priority boarding is there for a reason! Use it! It's so much easier to get on the plane ahead of everyone else to be able to situate yourselves and your baby and all the gizmos and gadgets that come with a traveling baby.
Always book ahead of time so you can get an aisle seat. It's so much easier to be able to get up and bounce your baby around if they're being fussy, or to get to the bathroom to change a diaper. When you get to the airport, you can also ask if there are any extra seats available that you can be seated next to. It never hurts. And if there are any free seats you can finagle your way near to, you'll be very glad of the extra space.
It can be hard enough getting baby to go to sleep, but try it while on an airplane! If you can, time the flight during their normal sleeping hours. If you can take a red-eye, perfect!
Here's a nifty little trick… feed your baby during takeoff and landing to help equalize their ears. The adults already know how to do it themselves, but babies haven't mastered this art yet. The sucking motion during feeding has a similar effect as chewing gum when it comes to ear pressure on planes.
Stroller or sling? Car seat?
Only bring a stroller and car seat if you have to! And if you have to, get a two-in-one stroller and car seat so you don't end up having to lug both of them around. But if your baby is still a teeny tiny infant, you might do better to just bring a sling. You'll be better able to maneuver when you're walking around your destination, and you'll never have to carry the dang stroller up or down stairs. If you are bringing a stroller, keep in mind you can check it at the gate. So if it feels easier to stroll your baby all the way to the gate, do so, and then check it there.
This is different at every airport, but usually they'll want you to carry the baby with you through the metal detector or body scanner. If they don't, simply hand the baby off to your partner. No partner? No worries. A security guard will hold your baby while you are scanned. If you're bringing a stroller, they'll usually want you to collapse it and put it on the belt.
If your baby is very brand new and their immune system is still developing, it's not a bad idea to bring some disinfecting wipes to wipe down the tray table and the arms of the airplane seats. But as they get older, it's okay to relax a bit. After all, contact with the world will help build their immune systems!
If you can afford to, get a direct flight. The less moving around and jostling you can do, the happier your baby will be, and the happier you and your partner will be too!
No, not for you… for your new neighbors! No matter how many precautions you take and how much you try to make your baby comfortable, chances are there will still be a point in the flight where they cry their heads off! You might gain the sympathy and compassion of your fellow passengers by bringing along some earplugs for them.
And now, go forth and have fun on your family vacation!
P.S. This article was geared more toward domestic flights. There are even more things to know about traveling internationally, but we'll save that for another day! Check back later to get more tips, and comment in the comments section below to let us know your own family travel suggestions!