Patrick and I are new parents, and we recently embarked on our first trip with our one-year-old son.
We did a lot of research on how to prepare for such an adventure, and we are now officially experienced family travelers! We thought we would share with you what we learned:
For Domestic flights, yes, children under two fly free (AWESOME). But be sure to call and let the airline know! You might be upgraded, and they will let you board early. International flights will, unfortunately, charge you a number of fees even if your baby is not taking up a seat. Each airline has different rules on the matter to best to call and get the facts straight from the source.
You’re going to need your baby’s birth certificate. Locate that with plenty of time in case the worst has happened (you lost it) and you need to order a new one.
One trick (if you’re traveling with your partner) is to book an aisle and a window seat. Then maybe (just maybe) nobody will book the seat between the two of you and you will have extra room for your baby. Of course you risk having a stranger sit between the two of you, but most likely they will switch seats to let the family sit together.
If your baby is small enough you can request a special wall-mounted bassinet! They go by weight and it varies by airline. Check ahead, but if your baby is under 25 lbs there is a good chance you will qualify.
Bring new toys your baby has never seen before. Maybe bring one old toy for comfort. New is exciting for baby and will entertain them for much longer than something they see/touch/taste every day. We had success with a busy board.
Time is KEY
Give yourself ALL THE TIME. You’ll need to add diaper changes and naps into your timeline and those are unpredictable. Giving your family more time to do everything is very important. Get to the airport early.
If naps ARE predictable, time your flight with a nap if possible, for obvious reasons.
You can travel with formula and breast milk! TSA will not confiscate. Woo hoo!
Bring the stroller even if you plan on wearing your baby the entire trip, because you can use it to lug all that extra stuff around and then check it at the gate!
The stroller is free to check! Also free to bring along is a car seat! If you’re bringing a car seat it is best to bring a bag to store it in or it can get damaged.
Bring Enough of Everything
Stock your diaper bag. Bring enough diapers, enough socks, enough clothes…you don’t want to be missing ANY of these things in the case of a blow-out or a super cold airplane cabin. Oh, and bring a blanket too!
If you’ve got a bored and wiggly baby, maybe this is the time to allow some cartoons on the tablet. We rarely allow our son screen time, so when he does get the opportunity to watch something it gives us at least ten minutes of valuable stillness. Also download (in advance) some games they can play with and music they can listen to on your phone. You can save it for a last resort, but in the case of a melt-down because they want to be crawling all over the cabin floor but can’t—this can save you.
Remember, don’t stress if your baby cries. Don’t worry about the other people around you. Just do what you normally do to soothe your baby. Most likely there will be other babies crying on the plane. You are not alone and people understand.
Now, time to have some super awesome family fun! RELAX. It’s going to be incredible.