Flying with baby can feel like a daunting task, especially that first trip you take. But with a little preparation, it doesn't have to be.
We've done everything from the quick hour-ish-long flight to 20 hour transit time overseas with our son starting at 3 months old. I've done it with my husband and I have had to take an overseas trip alone with baby before. I have found that the toughest age to fly is between 16 - 24 months. Littles are fairly mobile and touch everything at 16 months, but are still considered a lap child and don't require purchasing their own seats yet, which happens at 24 months.
Check out the Traveling With Baby post for what you should pack - in addition to that list, below are some considerations if you are traveling by air.
When you fly with a baby, first things first:
Do you need a passport?
If you are leaving your country of residency, then yes, you will need a passport. In the United States, passport photos must have a white background and the passport holder must have their eyes open. Babies included. I would recommend putting a white towel in the carseat and try to time it so that they aren't napping. We've gotten our photos at Costco and the nice person there has worked with us...over and over and over...
Plan for a passport to take 4-6 weeks (unexpedited) to arrive. At time of publication, this was the gov's site to start a passport application.
A Global Entry pass will allow you expedite coming in through border patrol. More importantly, it allows you to use the TSA Pre-check line. Everyone going through Pre-Check will need one to use the line, but once you have it, you don't need to remove shoes, electronics, or liquids under 3oz from bags. It's $100/person and lasts for 10 years. It expedites the security line through an airport significantly, especially if you have an infant with you.
It can be a lengthy process so plan ahead. For more information and to apply for Global Entry click here.
TSA Airport Security Check
It can feel like a junkshow going through security when you have a little one. Babies need to come out of strollers, even if they are sleeping. They also need to come out of baby carriers and I've been asked to send my carrier through x-ray before, so plan to unstrap yourself. Strollers, if unable to fit into the x-ray machine will be visually inspected by a TSA officer.
You are allowed to bring milk/breastmilk for baby and juice for toddlers, TSA will need to test if it's an explosive material and likely just swab the outside of bottle. They may also ask you to open the lid and may even ask that you pour a little into a disposable container for their test. But they can't ask you to pour it out completely or contaminate it by dipping anything into it to perform a test. If you don't want to open it, that's ok too, you just need to inform the TSA officer and they will need to do additional steps to test it.
The same goes for any medicines you have in your first aid kit as some are over 3.4oz. So be prepared to pull those out also and inform your TSA officer.
For more specifics, as they can change from time-to-time, click here.
What to pack in your overhead carry-on
What you pack or forget to pack and make or break the air travel experience. Trust me, I know first hand! I don't alway have an overhead carry-on for short domestic flights, but it's a must for any overseas travel. Here is what I will always pack:
Extra diapers - 2 days worth in case my luggage is lost and getting to a store to buy more isn't feasible because of what time we land.
Extra change of clothes - for both me and baby. Me because you never know when blowouts or epic spit-ups are going to happen. Baby because the same. I will usually only pack an extra shirt for myself, but 2 extra outfits for baby.
Breast pump and all the breast pump things or extra formula. We used the Similac Ready Feeds because I didn't trust I'd always be able to find bottled water.
This is where I'd keep the first aid kit mentioned in a previous post.
Extra snacks for me, especially if I'm nursing, I pack the Majka bites.
What to pack in carry-on backpack?
In addition to the overhead carry-on, I will pack a back pack that I keep under the seat in front of me. This is because it's not always feasible to get into the overhead compartment and you will need things with you immediately.
Diapers - I will keep as many as will fit into a gallon Ziplock bag.
1 Pack of diaper wipes
1-2 packs of sanitizing wipes
2-3 packs of travel tissue
1 extra baby outfit
3 burp cloths
Sassy diaper sacks - these are nice smelling plastic baggies to throw away dirty diapers, but we use them for everything on the plane (wipes, tissues, etc)
Swaddle blanket - light ones as it can get cold but these are not too bulky.
Formula with nipples (feeding during take-off and landing will help with baby clearing their ears). Plan to use the boob if you're nursing.
Nursing cover, if you're uncomfortable nursing in public. This will help you feel less exposed.
What to wear while traveling
In general, you want to be as comfortable as possible. But also, I have found the more pockets I have, the better prepared I am to always have a pacifier handy or a tissue. So besides comfy and stylish slip on tennies, I wear pants with pockets like jeans (I have the BEST postpartum jeans that I will post on another day) and a travel hoodie (that I will also do a post on another day). And of course a shirt that makes it easy to nurse like my Miz Moo shirts.
Things to also know:
You will need to let the airline know if you are traveling with a lap child. A child can be in your lap and forego getting their own ticket until they are 24 months of age. Domestic flights are free, but they need to know and will tie your child's name to your ticket as well. International flights for baby cost a small portion + fees, taxes for baby - even for babies under 2 years of age.
All baby gear will check for free. This includes carseat, pack and play, etc. etc. FREE.
They will usually allow early boarding for passengers traveling with infant.
If you have a stroller to check, don't forget to get the "pink" tag or the gate-check tag and retrieve it when you deplane. Very few instances will you need to pick it up at the baggage carousel area rather than at the plane exit.
Aaaaaaand I think that's it. We'll be traveling by air soon so I'll let you know if I forgot anything critical!
And one last thing - don't stress if people give you the side eye if your little is upset. Your baby has every right to be loud and crying if they want to be. Just like the loud talkers in 10B and 10C. So don't sweat it. Most people have children of their own and it's no biggie.
Safe and peaceful travels to you.