This is a guest post by Nick, husband of Jean and dad of Nori. Read part 2 about the in-flight experience, and part 3 for tips on hotels & accommodations. You can also see our newborn travel post here about traveling with a 2-month old. While many of those tips and products still apply, here’s some updated tips now that she’s 8 months old!
As I’m writing this, we’re 30,000 feet in the air in the middle of our 12th flight with Nori. You’re probably thinking “she must be a pretty good traveler if you’re writing a post on a plane with a baby, right?’ Haha right. You should see Jean right now. The lady across the aisle is wondering why I’m typing this instead of helping my wife wrangle our feral squealing cat of a child. While flying with a baby is always going to be unpredictable, we’ve at least managed to find a few tricks that make it feel easier. But these are just tips that helped us—your baby mileage may vary.
PLANNING & PACKING
1. Consider Baby-Friendly Airlines
We’ve flown with Nori on almost all the major airlines, and although Southwest isn’t our top choice when traveling without a baby, they’re an excellent option when flying with little ones. They have a super flexible change / cancellation policy and allow priority boarding for families with kids under 6, which makes the unassigned seating system more palatable. There were SIGNIFICANTLY more babies on our Southwest flight compared to other airlines, and other parents were letting out visible sighs of relief to see their baby wouldn’t be the only one screaming while other passengers try to watch A Star is Born.
Southwest is also the only airline that allows 2 free checked bags per ticketed passenger in economy, in addition to the free checked car seat and stroller per child that most airlines offer. For airlines, it’s also worth mentioning JetBlue as their staff and flight attendants have always been exceptionally helpful and kind to us as new parents.
2. More Than Just A Car Seat Bag
As mentioned, since a car seat is free to check at the ticket counter or gate, top off your giant car seat protector bag with a few extra items like a bag of diapers or even a small portable high chair. This was a tip from multiple readers, but do note that this is technically probably against the rules aka find a quiet corner, stuff that bag discreetly, and don’t overload it.
3. Become a Packing Cubist
Our home is a mess, but when it comes to packing I’ve started channeling my inner Marie Kondo. I use an array of packing cubes in every bag, but they’re especially helpful when traveling with a baby to keep toys, medicines, and food sorted and easily accessible. For a checked bag, our Delsey 25″ roller suitcase has been a trooper over the years. Plus, the spinner wheels roll super smoothly making it easy to maneuver with one hand while pushing a stroller with the other.
4. Check Yo Seat Before You Wreck Yo Seat
When traveling together, Jean and I check our car seat and stroller at the gate to minimize damage or the chances of lost luggage, but that means both pieces have to be collapsed and go through the x-ray belt at security. The car seat must go face down (remove the baby first, please), so also remove pacifier clip and teething toys in advance unless you don’t mind some immunity boosting conveyor belt cooties.
If traveling solo with an infant, I would just check the car seat and stroller at the ticket counter (not the gate) to avoid being overloaded. But also don’t be afraid to ask people around you or the gate agent for help carrying baby gear down the jetway or lifting luggage into overhead bins.
5. For Nursing Moms
Jean’s new travel uniform is the draping, generous cardigan with plenty of loose fabric. Paired with a nursing tank, it gives easy boob access any place, anytime—plus she uses the cardigan sides as a privacy shield.
6. Babywear Through Security
Our first flight with Nori, we held up the security line for 5 minutes trying to balance a squirmy baby while collapsing a stroller and car seat. The eye rolls behind us were practically audible. Now, one of us always babywears her through security. We’ve never had an issue going through TSA using a wrap or my personal favorite Baby Bjorn Mini—just make sure your carrier doesn’t have metal on it like ring slings.
As for our travel stroller and car seat, the Babyzen Yoyo and Nuna Pipa infant carseat combo (adapters required) has worked wonderfully for us. Get really good at opening the Yoyo with a flick of the wrist, and you can impress even the most stone-faced TSA agent.
7. Get TSA Pre-check
If you don’t have it already, TSA Pre-check saves a ton of time and hassle at security for frequent fliers. You can keep your shoes on and leave your personal liquids and laptop inside your bag. And with baby and gear in tow, every extra item you don’t have to deal with through security is a win (Kids 12 years and younger can come through with you at TSA Pre-check).
8. Bag Your Liquids Inside Your Baby Bag
You’re allowed to carry on liquids greater than 3 ounces (i.e. water bottles, formula, milk, meds, food) if it’s for the baby. They’ll do a secondary inspection of liquids after the security belt, though, so if you don’t want someone rifling through the entire baby bag, separate your baby’s liquids into a large plastic Ziploc bag and take that bag out for the x-ray belt and inspection.
Ok, got all that? This was the easy part. Next up…