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Tips for flying with a baby

Tips for flying with a babyAs a general rule, I don’t like to travel, so I haven’t been through an airport in several years. And while I have flown with an infant before, this was different. When I flew with my son, he was only three months old, and he slept the whole way in this cool little bassinet they had attached to the bulkhead in front of me, my husband was with me, and it was a direct flight. This time, I was with a 14-month old, by myself with a layover in Atlanta. Talk about trial by fire. I looked up all the rules and made several phone calls. But there were several things I learned just by doing it. So if you are facing a plane flight with an infant anytime soon, here are some tips I wish I had known:

1. You can use a stroller in the airport, and leave it at the gate.

I knew ahead of time that I could check a stroller at the gate free of charge. But I didn’t do it, thinking that I wouldn’t see it again until I reached my final destination–and where I really wanted it was in the airport when I switched planes. Turns out, you do get it during the layover. As you go through the gate, there are crew members who whisk away things like strollers and wheelchairs while you are in the hallway leading from the gate to the plane. And they were right there waiting for the people in the corridor when we deboarded the plane. A word of caution though: if you will be going through a big airport on a tight schedule, it would be less convenient to hassle with the stroller, since you have to find an elevator, etc.

2. You can bring a bottle/cup with more than 4 ounces.

Security measures restrict the amount of fluids you can bring on a plane, but infant stuff is different. You can bring food and bottles or cups for your baby through security. Larger airports have a separate screening line for families. You just take it out of your bag and “declare” it. On the way there, I was worried about what I would do for my daughter as far as eating on the plane. On the way home, it was much easier!

3. You can bring a carry-on plus a diaper bag.

But on an airplane, less is more! I read that I could bring a diaper bag in addition to my carry on. It sounded great in theory. So on my way out to Ohio, I loaded the diaper bag up. But then I had to lug around a carry-on, a diaper bag backpack, plus a baby through the airport. And I didn’t use much of anything I brought with me. On the way home, I pared down. I chucked everything but the bare essentials:

  • my wallet
  • phone
  • change of clothes for her
  • socks for me
  • three diapers
  • some toys
  • and dinner

–all in the backpack. It was so much easier!

4. Reserve your seats as soon as you book your flight.

For the way out, I booked my seats right away. But I was back by the bathroom and I wasn’t pleased about the location, so I decided to wait on booking seats for the return flight. I hoped maybe the gate agents could help me get closer to the front. BAD plan. I discovered on the way out that having a little elbow room (even if you’re over the wing or by the bathroom) was much more important than being close to the front. It’s not like you’re going to enjoy the view or the movie, anyway. On the way back, I got stuck in the middle of a row of three people, with a squirming, restless, napless 14-month old on my lap, for three hours. I couldn’t even get to the things in my carry-on. The people next to me were gracious, but it was still miserable, and there was nowhere to go.

5. Short layovers are good.

If I were flying with my husband, I would consider two or three hours perfect–not too short to be nervous about missing a connection if the first leg were delayed, but not so long that you start to get on each others’ nerves. But alone with a baby, I found my one-hour layover on the return flight ideal. I had enough time to comfortably get where I needed to go (even in huge Atlanta), and got to the gate as they were allowing the first people to board–and people with a baby get priority boarding. I didn’t have to worry about how to keep my daughter off the filthy airport floor for two hours. It was great!

If you plan a air travel with a baby anytime soon, I hope these discoveries are helpful!

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