Traveling with infants and children under 2
I’ve really been meaning to write this post for a long time. I find this is one of the most common mom questions I see on every mom blog and in social media. Let me tell you, everyone has their own opinion on at as well! While there are many circulating opinions, there are some hard facts that cannot be denied regardless of what anyone has to say. However, I’m always open and love hearing from other moms what they did and any lessons learned along the way for anything. Let’s face it, momming isn’t easy and if someone else has paved the way, rock on! Let’s hear how we can maybe make our lives better in the process.
Now that Alexandra is 15 months old, we’ve probably flown with her at least 10-12 times in her short time here on this planet! Our first experience at 6 weeks to Paris to the latest trip to South Carolina just last week at 15 months old! In that short period of time, I’ve learned a LOT! First being, traveling is no longer about me taking a nap and reading a book, its work! Its stressful, it makes me anxious and really you have little to no time to yourself - quite literally because you have a baby on your lap!
While all of our experiences have been different I can say it was easiest in the beginning before she hit 6 months. Before then she couldn’t really do much and we basically just slept and breastfed, ahhhh when life was easy! LOL At this point, we’ve gone through a few stages as outline below and they are VERY different!
First, I want to break this into two categories. As a mom to ONE child under 2 I’ve witnessed two types of baby travel. One is PRE-walking and one is POST-walking. TWO completely different travel companions. In fact, the POST walking one can even begin a bit earlier. In my case, this began at 10 months. When I used to LOVE to travel with her then it took a quick turn for the worst and I was like “What the heck was I thinking?” Yeah, so two different experiences for you, the child AND the passengers. Keep in mind, there are multiple parties involved here, however don’t let it bring too much weight to where you stress about the third party when let’s face it, you’re just trying to make it through the 2 hour and 48 minute flight!
PRE-Walker/Sweet and innocent infant
Ok. so our first travel experience was with a 6 week old, on a transcontinental flight to Paris. Yes, we were those people. Don’t worry, you will get a lot of judment but don’t fret, do what is best for you and get it cleared by your doctor - which we did! Yes, we had to go through a bunch of hoops like taking her to get her passport at 3 weeks old and Yes, we had to take her mugshot which was the cutest and funniest thing I’ve ever seen!
First, IF AND ONLY IF you are flying OUT OF THE COUNTRY you will need a passport for your new infant. Yes, there is a fee and there is also a fee with the airline. In our case it was like $50 so just make sure to CALL and check before booking and just assuming you don’t have to pay or do anything except show up with your baby.
Also, Depending on the state you live in there may be guidelines for infants so make sure to check your local passport office and in our case it was the United States Post Office. Some locations DO process and take photo’s and some do not. Again, it all varies by state to make sure to check before you go through the whole sequence and are unable to get anything accomplished that day. Drudgery!
If you are flying WITHIN THE COUNTRY OF BIRTH you DO NOT need a birth certificate or anything else frankly besides your baby. I see this on every mom site and its divided on those who say you need it. No, you do not need it if your baby was born in the USA, is a legal citizen and are flying within the USA.
IF you are flying within the USA or outside its in your best interest to call the airline after you book your trip to add your infant and request a bulk head seat with a bassinet if you are flying a long distance. Like cross country or to another country I’d highly recommend it. Some airlines its first come first serve and others you can reserve it but definitely do it as soon as you book your ticket! And remember, be nice to the airline attendant. You get more with honey than you do with vinegar so ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS be nice and appreciative.
Second, what to check and what to bring with you on the plane. My best advice, keep it as light as possible. Only the necessities! And I know you may be thinking, but they are the necessities, but no really. ONLY NECESSITIES! IT will make your life that much easier.
Things you should always check:
If you are traveling by car from anywhere chances are you have a car seat and you will need it at your final destination. Always check this. We own an Uppa Baby Car seat and we bought the traveling case to go with it. Highly recommend investing in this. It saves your car seat and in the long run saves you money.
If you are taking a stroller and only have one child, check the damn stroller. For the love of all that is, please check it! If you don’t already own one, invest in a baby carrier so you can wear the baby. IT makes life so much easier. You have two hands and are much more nimble. When you get to security you go through the smaller screening and they just test your hands and you are free to go. Strollers while traveling are the biggest pain in the a$% to deal with at security and on the plane so just leave if you can! WE did the same with our stroller and purchased the carrying case for our Uppa Baby Stroller. Now she has a smaller stroller and it came with a case but we rarely take it as we usually are going to see in-laws and most of the time they have one - which brings me to my third point.
Always see what others have at your destination BEFORE just taking it with you. For instance, a pack and play. Our in-laws purchased one when she was first born, I highly recommend this. My mother and most friends with kids have one as well that we can at the very least borrow. WE never take it when seeing family.
If it’s winter or my suitcase is too heavy I will also throw in our heavy winter jackets in the carrying case because car seats are always free. you do not have to pay for those on MOST airlines. Check before you fly!
Upon entering the plane, with your baby in the carrier and you only carrying your baby bag as a carry on. This includes all of your personal items AND the baby’s things.
When you get to you set, remove the baby and set him/her on the seat. Remove the carrier and stow it away. Remove any items you need for the flight in the first 30 minutes and pack everything else above. Or, if you have room, stow it below the seat in front of you. I need the leg room and can’t afford it so I put it overhead. There are times when I’ve kept the bag at my feet when she was very small when I was traveling along just because I had no place to put her so I wanted everything accessible.
Here’s another tip. Before she was walking I always go the inside seat next to the window or bulk head as mentioned above. Now that’s shes walking I always get aisle to be able to get out and walk the aisles more and to have access to the overhead bin.
Always check the app post check in to see if there are open seats around you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve changed seats last minute because there was at least 1 seat open in the row to give us more room. I’ve even given up Economy Comfort to get a seat in a back with multiple seats open in a row. Do whatever you need to do to give yourself the most room possible!
PRE-Walker (AKA 0-9 mos approx) & POST-Walker (9 mos - 18 mos)What to take with you on the plane:
AT least (1) Pre-filled bottle with breastmilk or just the dry formula. I usually take 2 just in case. I take a mini cooler with me and keep the breastmilk in until I need it. I will also have a water bottle that I take with me that I can fill at the station with water for myself or for the formula bottle.
*Keep in mind these do get checked at security and you will have to wait for your bags after you are screened but it maybe adds another 5 minutes to your travel time. It’s really no big deal. Also, I always traveled with frozen breastmilk and my pump so those also too have to be scanned separately, or at least the breastmilk does. Make sure when you travel your breastmilk IS FROZEN. You can have a bottle prepared but at every TSA I’ve been told having it frozen makes the process so much easier.
Just a note to add on this and a horrific story! You know the mom brain, its real. So real in fact that I did the whole thing I’m describing above on numerous occasions and there was ONE time when I got on the plane and realized I had left ALL OF MY FROZEN milk (72 ounces to be exact) and my pump at security. Yep, gone. All of it. I was mortified and couldn’t get over it for weeks actually. You work so hard for that milk and then just……GONE! I died.
Diaper Bag - see A & B below!
A. Diaper bag with the following for (0-9 mos) -
Don’t carry a purse. Just put the things you absolutely need in your diaper bag. Less bulk = better. 2 prepared bottles, 1 extra change of clothes for the baby, 1 extra shirt for you, 1-2 spit up cloths, teething toy (aka sophie), squeeze pouch baby food (Plum Organics, Happy Baby or whatever your fav brand is here), Teething crackers once she was 6 months (see recos below) Tylenol or Motrin, 2-3 pacifiers with the leash, a couple small rattle toys, diapers, wipes, diaper creme (I love the butt paste stuff its a stick and is little to no mess.)
B. Diaper bag with the following (9-18 mos)
Same notes as above except add any food your child may be eating. For my 14 month old I pre-make chicken sausage, had cut up cooked sweet potatoes, blueberries and puffs. All prepared in their own individual containers. On the way back I had steamed edamame that I just popped in her mouth and some chickpea pasta with peas. In addition I always carry Happy Baby Organic Puffs or Teething crackers and always Organic Baby Food pouches like Happy Baby. I try to focus on more veggies than fruit and UNDER 10g of sugar for the package and always organic.
For toys, I brought more teething type rings, books, and the key item - pre-downloaded Baby Bum on my computer with a set of baby acceptable headphones. This guys honestly made my trip! She sat still and even fell asleep for 45 minutes of the 2 hours and 35 minute flight. Heaven. She sometimes stood at my feet and I held the ipad or she sat in my lap. Either way, its a major lifesaver. We are not fans of screen time but this is a scenario in which you will want to take advantage of it!
4. Extra Clothes for YOU and FOR your child! When she was an infant I always took extra clothes for her but for me? Never occurred to me! I always had wipes and things for stains and for my clothes but thankfully I never needed it! <Insert this latest trip> About an hour into our 3 hours flight (first leg) I felt a very warm sensation on my leg into my crotch….I immediately pulled her off my lap to notice she had completely wet through her diaper and I was soaked in pee…. Only to realize I had to travel like that the rest of the day! Thankfully I had clothes for her, but nothing for me. So I learned my lesson!
I hope this is helpful to you as I wished I had known all of these things prior to flying! Would love to hear your experience in the comments below!