I am far from a pro at flying with a baby, but with all of the trips we have been on in the first 2 1/2 months of Michael Zion’s life (4 and counting!) I figured someone, somewhere might possibly glean something from what I have learned firsthand. I researched a TON before departure day, and from what I understand, most airlines abide by the following guidelines. (Be sure to check your airlines rules beforehand though, to be sure!)
Packing: For a short weekend trip, I found it easier to simply share a suitcase with my LO. For a longer trip, say a week, having separate suitcases for me and him made staying organized a breeze! Some essentials we packed included: multiple changes of clothes (weather dependent,) a couple blankets for tummy & sleep time, pacifiers, a favorite stuffed animal or lovey, a diaper bag with a changing-mat for on-the-go changes and insulated bottle holder, (my favorite one is made by Nuna!) a baby carrier, a breast pump, bottles, and bottle cleaners! (Diapers and wipes can be purchased most places, so if you don’t have room, skip them!)
Liquids: The TSA considers breast milk, formula, and juice in the same category as liquid medicine, so it is NOT subject to the 3 oz. rule that applies to other liquids or gels. With that said, they are particular about having said liquids in their own separate container. To make your life easier, keep all milk or formula in a small cooler or bag and place it in its own separate bin. Don’t be alarmed if/when an agent inspects your liquids, which sometimes may even include taking lids off to perform a simple test to ensure it really is what you claim it is.
Security: When traveling with an infant, give yourself a solid two hour window from arrival time to take off time to eliminate any unnecessary stress. My experiences going through security have been a breeze only because I was not pressed for time. That being said, when you arrive at security, I recommend placing your electronics and milk in two separate bins right away so you don’t forget, and then do the remainder of your belongings as you normally would. You will be required to fold up your stroller base and car seat and place them in the scanning machine as well, but do this last and keep your baby in the seat until you are completely finished so you can be hands free! You will carry your baby through the scanner, and then wait until the car seat comes through to the other side! And remember, they will likely inspect your liquids, but this should not take longer than a couple minutes to do.
Baby Carriers vs. Strollers/Car Seats: Personally, I have not used a baby carrier in the airport yet. However, I have friends that have exclusively used their carriers to transport their babies while traveling and swear by them (think: less bulk, free hands, less fuss going through security.) However, If you must bring your stroller and/or car seat to your final destination, plan to keep your little one in it until you arrive at the jet bridge at your gate. You will be administered a tag by an airline attendant for each item and will be able to roll your stroller to the plane door and retrieve them directly upon exiting the plane at your destination. I have found this method extremely helpful, as it allows me the freedom to use the bathroom easily while traveling alone (#realtalk,) keeps my belongings safe and out of my hands in the storage compartment below, and encourages my little one to sleep!
Boarding: I have utilized two different airlines with my son so far, and both have had different approaches to boarding. Most airlines give priority boarding to those traveling with young ones under 6 years of age. The first airline I traveled with enabled families with young children to board with those in wheelchairs before everyone else, and the second airline's policy placed family boarding after the "A" group, which still left many seats to choose from. If you are checking your stroller and car seat on the jet bridge, you will do so at the very end, to the right or left of the plane door. It is easiest to remove the car seat from the stroller base, fold the base first, and then remove your baby from the car seat. These items are then placed in the belly of the plane. Just ensure that all of your checked pieces have the tags showing for the baggage handlers.
Infant in Arms: If you are not planning to purchase an additional seat for your little one to sit in their car seat, you will be holding them during the duration of the flight. In my experience, it has been too tight of a squeeze to plan to have the tray table down at any point, so unless if you are traveling with someone, finish any open drinks or snacks before you board. Upon sitting down, I immediately remove a full bottle of milk and covered drink for myself from my diaper bag and place them in the seat back pocket in front of us, thus giving me easy access to them at all times. Next, I buckle my seatbelt, which proves to be very tricky with a baby in hand! Lastly, take out a small blanket and something that will keep your baby's attention! All my son needed was a pacifier and he was good to go. However, if your child is a little older, he or she will likely want something to keep them entertained during the flight. I recommend their favorite lovey, book, or even an activity kit like this one here!
Well, that’s all I can think of for now! Remember, if you are relaxed, you little one will be able to feel your peace and will be relaxed, too! Life is too short to stress. And, if the very worst case scenario happens (which it VERY likely will not) and you have a very fussy baby during the entirety of the flight, just keep in mind that you will likely never see any of your fellow passengers again! Babies will be babies. If you have any questions that I didn’t answer in this post, please don’t hesitate to drop me a comment or an email! Happy travels!