‘Tis the season for holiday travel, or if you’re like our family, all year long is really travel season. Whether it be a quick weekend getaway or extended work/play trips, traveling with an infant or toddler adds a whole new set of checklists and logistics to your travel schedule.
As a first time mom (my L.O. is coming up on 18 months), I’ll admit that we’re still figuring this all out, BUT with 13 domestic and international flights under her belt already, including our most recent trip which had us circumnavigate the entire earth, I’d say we’ve had quite a bit of experience thus far. Our daughter was born in Barcelona, so her first international flight was at only 3 weeks old and she’s been on-the-go ever since!
Traveling with a baby can be stressful before you even make it to the airport – there’s always the fears of being “those people” on the plane with an inconsolable baby or the uncertainty of how you’ll be able to manage getting everything done and arriving on time with so much additional responsibility (any mom knows, baby’s have a knack for soiling their diapers just before you’re finally ready to walk out the door!). The good news is, with a little preparation, traveling with your little one should be relatively painless, and the more you do it, the better you’ll (both) be at it.
Traveling with an infant and a toddler are obviously quite different. The older they get, the less they sleep, which means more time to be spent entertaining, feeding, and so on, but here are some of my top travel tips that will help take some of the guesswork out of your next trip and make things just a little smoother, so you can get on with enjoying your time more and worrying less.
Tips for Traveling with an Infant or Toddler
Before the flight:
- A child under 2 years old flies for FREE! As long as they travel on your lap, most airlines don’t charge a full-price ticket. Generally domestic flights won’t charge any fees and some international flights may require a small “lap fee”, so take advantage of this as much as you can before you’re required to purchase their own seat! *Check with each airline to find out the perks of traveling with your child before you book.
- When booking your flight, opt for bulkhead seating or window seats, if possible. Bulk head gives you some much needed extra room, and for longer flights, many airlines can offer bassinets that attach to the wall or seat in front of you, allowing you to be hands-free while baby sleeps!
- When choosing flights, try to pick times that work with your baby’s natural sleep cycles. This allows them to stay on a schedule & helps prevent cranky babies – #winning.
- ALWAYS give yourself extra time to get to the airport/train station/etc. I can’t stress this enough. Getting out the door, installing/uninstalling carseats and lugging the rest of your luggage and stroller in and out of your car or Uber is just going to take longer these days. Not to mention the inconvenient diaper changes and feedings that may arise and the additional time it takes to go through security with these items. Plan accordingly.
- If you are traveling with a car seat, I highly recommend getting a carseat travel bag that will allow you to easily carry it, while also protecting it from the all the dirt and grime it will encounter in the cargo area during transit. You can pick one up on Amazon for around $15-30.
- During check-in, attendants may ask or try to collect your stroller at the counter. Depending on the airline, you almost never have to relinquish your stroller until you are ready to board the plane. This allows you to keep your baby comfortable, saves your back from carrying them, and gives you some extra space for your carry-on items. You will give the stroller to an airline rep or baggage handler at the gate, just before stepping onto the plane, and will usually be able to pick it up in the same place as soon as you deboard. On some occasions, you may have to pick it up at baggage claim, but this is not common in my experience. *FYI strollers are free to fly with and do not count towards baggage allowances.
- Good news – Traveling with your little one is like getting access to the HOV lane! Families with babies and small children are usually given priority in security lines and boarding. Just flag down an attendant and let them escort you to the front of the line.
- In most cases, the 3 ounce liquid restriction does not apply to you. This means you can take water bottles intended for the baby, fruit pouches and other baby foods through security without worrying they’ll toss ’em. Do note, they may need to do a little extra screening in order for you to bring them through, but it’s well worth it.
- When packing your carry-on items, you’re able to bring an additional bag for the baby. We use a backpack specifically for our daughter that has all of her diapers changing equipment, snacks, chage of clothes and toys.
During the flight:
- Cabin pressure changes may cause some discomfort to your little one’s ears. A great way to prevent any discomfort is to breast/bottlefeed during take-off and landing when these changes in air pressure can affect them most. If this isn’t an option, a pacifier is a great alternative, as the sucking motion helps to pop the ears.
- If your child is still comfortable sleeping in a wrap, bring a baby sling so you can be hands-free in-flight while they nap. You may even be able to sneak in some Zzz’s if you’re lucky!
- Don’t overdo it on the toys. Kids are imaginative & can easily be entertained with a few of their own familiar toys, as well as things you can find on board – get creative! *Some airlines offer in-flight toys and activities to keep them busy as well!
- Don’t be such a stickler to your TV/iPad rules during flights. An iPad with a few age-appropriate games and videos that can be played offline can keep kids occupied for hours & honestly, its absolutely invaluable!
- Some flights offer meals and snacks specifically for kids, so you don’t need to lug so much with you. Contact your airline beforehand to make sure.
- Airlines like Etihad have on-board nanny services. These attendants are specifically trained in specialized schools for early childhood development , psychology and sociology, so you can (*literally) rest assured your tots are in good hands.
Have any tips to share? I’d love to hear from you! Drop a comment below.