You have an infant. All at once, life has become about just making it through the day without someone (you or the baby) having a meltdown.
For new moms and those who have been at this gig for a while, it becomes far too easy to allow the “routine chaos” of life become the new normal. But life doesn’t have to be that way. Everyone deserves a break — especially moms!
Then why is it so hard for moms, specifically those with infants, to travel? Far too often the anxiety and worries about traveling with a baby stop parents from chasing the experiences they crave.
As the mother of a nearly seven-month-old preemie, I get it. It takes time getting used to simply getting out of the house in the mornings! But after lots of thought, planning and reflection after flying with my daughter, I have a fairly simple system to help eliminate those pesky “mom worries.”
I hope these five steps (plus the linked travel accessories) will help give moms reading this a boost of confidence when it comes to flight logistics with a little one — you can do this!
Step One: Make a list & have a plan
I am a huge list person, but I realize that may not be everyone’s forte. For those non-list moms out there, I have included what my Packing List for Mom and Baby looks like prior to a trip with my daughter. Feel free to use it as a template or reach out for help organizing yourself before you travel!
Step Two: Arrive two and a half hours early
This is a must. Everything will take more time than you think.
First, confirm your departure airport/airline has a curbside drop off location. Then, have your spouse, significant other or travel partner drop you off there with all of the luggage and the baby in your easy and inexpensive Snap N Go stroller frame. While you are checking the luggage and picking up hard copies of the boarding passes, have your counterpart park the car before returning to the terminal to meet at security. Your spouse or travel buddy should bring the car seat and car seat base if you are not renting one at your arrival destination. This is the travel bag we use and have loved. Hard copies of the boarding passes are dated, but they make it much easier to manage than waiting on your digital boarding pass to load while you have a baby in your arms.
If you have some time remaining — great! Grab a beer or pre-vacation cocktail and start enjoying yourself.
Step Three: Only positive thoughts when going through security!
This will be the most difficult step. My husband usually gets very uptight and anxious at this point and my mantra to him becomes, “Take a deep breath. It is all downhill after this!”
After you have provided your government ID and boarding pass to the TSA agent, baby needs to come out of the stroller immediately. If you don’t have a large enough diaper bag to put your shoes, phone, wallet, etc. — bring a separate bag. Everything goes into one bin. The car seat goes into your second bin and the stroller gets broken down before going through the designated scanner.
Walk your little bundle of joy through the metal detector. Once your first bin is scanned, grab the antibacterial wipes you already have handy in your diaper bag. You will want to give the inside of the car seat and stroller handles a good wipe down before placing your baby back into the car seat to head to your gate.
Step Four: Pre-Flight Prep
This is everything you will want to do in the 20-30 minutes prior to boarding.
First, get a quick diaper change in before boarding. Changing a diaper in an airplane bathroom is not an experience you will enjoy. Next, whether you are breastfeeding or using formula, have bottle ready to go before you board. Keep your antibacterial wipes handy either in a pocket or an easily accessible spot in your diaper bag.
Once your flight begins boarding, take your baby out of the stroller. Break down the stroller and place your car seat and base into a car seat bag. You will be able to gate check both fairly easily.
If baby is fussy in the security line – don’t cave in and give the bottle too soon. Timing is everything once you get to this point.
Step Five: Flight Time = Bottle Time = Nap Time
Taking a quick step back to the planning phase, confirm your airline allows mothers with infants to board early. As an example, my husband and I only fly Delta. We have learned that Delta does not allow parents with infants to pre-board, but you can if your child is toddler-aged. Do your research prior to your flight! Some airlines will also send you a “flying with baby” airline-specific email if you remember to click “traveling with infant” when you purchase your ticket.
Once you arrive at your seat, hand your baby off to your travel partner and wipe down everything with an antibacterial wipe. Get yourself situated and start the feeding prior to take off. You want your baby to have taken half of a normal feeding prior to take off. Timing is key! You want your baby sleepy, but you also want to ensure he/she is still eating when you begin gaining in altitude to avoid having discomfort in the ears.
Hopefully you have located a window seat and can lean into the corner and place your baby on your chest. On our last flight, my husband and I were both able to get 45-60 minutes of sleep on our hour and a half flight. It was pure bliss.
You Have Arrived:
Lastly, plan to divide and conquer your arrival just like you did your departure. You head immediately to the baggage claim after picking up your car seat bag and stroller from the gate check location. All the while your travel partner can grab the rental car or cab/Uber. You made it!! Now it’s time to enjoy your vacation with your entire, beautiful family.
Coming up soon — how to handle a cross country road trip with an infant after my family completes a Georgia to Pennsylvania drive in mid-June.
Feel free to reach out to me with any questions on traveling with a baby or for booking your next trip at firstname.lastname@example.org.