We've been fortunate enough to be able to travel a lot in Ayrton's 19 months of life on this planet. After 30 flights with him, we've gotten our system down to a science. Knowing we travel a lot, I’ve had many people ask me for tips on traveling with a baby in particular, so I’ve decided to do a series of posts for traveling with under 2’s. For this first post, here are my tips for flying with babies and little people.
1. When booking flights, check the infant policy for what you are allowed to bring for an infant. Most airlines allow you to have a carry on for the baby as well as checking 2 – 3 infant items such as a car seat, stroller and/or port-a-cot. Some airlines are specific about which items you can check and others just say how many infant specific items you are allowed.
2. Don’t underestimate the value of red eye flights with tiny babies. It was perfect to have flights that took off right around bedtime when Ayrton was really little. The older he got though, the more that became a bit of a nightmare – I would discourage red eyes whenever possible once kids get to be around 1 – unless you know you have a row to yourself (and/or you’re buying a ticket for your kid) so they can lay down to go to sleep.
3. When flying internationally, call your airline as soon as you book to find out if there are bassinets available on your flight, and if there are, if you can reserve one. Some airlines let you pay a small fee to guarantee you get a bassinet (worth it!). Others don’t charge but are first come first serve, but they will at least note that you want one and you’ll get it unless there is a younger baby that needs one. Bassinets really only work up until about 12 months at the max – but they are a lifesaver, especially if you’re traveling alone.
4. When checking in, ask if there is any possibility of getting a row to yourself. If you’re nice and they have open seats, usually they will try to block a row for you so that the open seats in your row will only be used if they have to be. (Often this ends up being the row reserved for wheel chair passengers if they don’t have any, which means you also end up with extra leg room.)
5. Check your stroller and use a carrier in the airport, even if the airline will let you gate check it. That way you can skip the elevator search and get through the airport faster. Just keep in mind that most babies will not want to be carried in any carrier that is not forward facing by the time they hit 4 months, until they are big enough to go in a carrier on your back, so I suggest investing in a carrier that has multiple options for carry direction.
6. At security, always ask if your baby has to come out of the carrier. Usually the answer is yes, but every once in a while someone will let you go through without taking baby out. This is more often the case when you are traveling alone and look flustered.
7. Baby liquids are not the same as other liquids. I’ve never had a problem taking any full bottles, baby food or baby medications through security. As long as they are for baby, you should be fine, just ask if they need to be taken out for security screening or if they can be left in the bag. In the US, they usually just want to screen your bottles in a separate screening process.
8. Bring a blanket to wrap baby in (I usually bring a warm blanket and a muslin so I’m prepared for any temperature) to keep the infant seat belt from rubbing on sensitive baby skin. (Other items to have with you will be in my post on packing lists).
9. Some flight attendants are really helpful in warming up bottles, but they usually have to do it by putting it in a bowl of hot water so it can take quite a while. We travel with a thermos full of hot water (for formula) or warm milk (once they are drinking milk). It usually stays warm for about 12 hours and it keeps you from having to deal with a baby that is getting more and more worked up while you wait for the bottle to be warmed. The other option is to try to get your kid used to cold formula or milk ahead of your flight – that didn’t work very well for us, but when he’s starving he will drink it cold.
10. If your baby is drinking formula, invest in the individual packets of formula rather than carrying your formula in one of the split containers or the can. Not all brands make these packets, but if yours does, they’re worth it. You can carry a lot more extra formula in case of delays, they are more compact and easier to pack, formula will be fresh, and you won’t have to worry about it spilling all over your bag if the lid comes off.
11. Make sure to have something for baby to suck on at take off and landing. If you are breastfeeding, no worries. Otherwise a bottle and/or pacifier will work great. Most babies fall asleep shortly after take off anyway since the plane engines are great white noise.
These are the biggest things I’ve learned flying with Ayrton, but please feel free to ask me if you have any other questions, and watch for my posts on ground transport, hotels and packing lists!