Flying with young babies and/or toddlers can present a challenge. In addition, there is always the added stress and anxiety when it comes to traveling with young ones. My first time flying with my twin boys, they were six months old. And then again when they were 15 months old. I did a lot of planning ahead and checking off the boxes to make sure we had smooth travels to Illinois, which is where most of my family and friends reside. Word of advice: there’s no reason to stress too much, because your travels will go the way babies want them to go, regardless of planning. It still never hurts to plan ahead as best as possible! Below is a list of my biggest advice for traveling with babies and/or toddlers.
1. Call the airline you are traveling with. You do not have to purchase a ticket for your little one if they are under the age of two. The airlines still require that you call to let them know the name of your “lap child” so that they can be added to your ticket since they are required to be in your lap. It’s also a good opportunity to ask the airline representative any additional questions you have about flying with young ones. Most airlines are great about clarifying everything on their website; however, I like to double check all information, and there are always random concerns that might not be clear on the airline website.
2. Make a checklist. This is always helpful when packing for yourself and your littles. Also, who doesn’t love a good checklist?! It helps keep track of everything I need, especially since I spend roughly three weeks in the Midwest each time I visit with my boys. I had to have random things like their sound machine and monitor, which is easy to forget when rummaging around early in the morning prior to leaving for the airport. I could not have left without those lifesaving items! A checklist also helps you really sort out the needs versus the wants. I ended up taking some things off of my checklist that weren’t necessary. I tend to over pack every time I travel, and my list helped me avoid going way overboard (even though I still always do).
3. Factor in/consider nap time and feeding time. I’ll be honest. Each flight I’ve taken with the boys during their nap time never went the best. In my head I assumed that they would sleep on the plane since it was nap time; however, it backfired on me. They were over-stimulated and extremely sleepy, which was a recipe for fussiness. I’ve had the best luck traveling early in the morning or late at night. Do what works best with your child. Some of my mom friends have had great luck during nap time flights. It is a trial and error method.
4. Give yourself plenty of time at the airport. We left two hours prior to take off, which worked out perfectly! It was less stressful to have plenty of time to unload, get through security, and get to the terminal without scrambling. The most stressful airport process for me was getting the boys’ car seats and all of the luggage out of the car. It took some time and it is difficult to get twelve bags (literally) all the way to baggage check-in without taking several trips. I recommend getting a cart to help ease this process.
5. Bring a stroller for the airport. For me, it worked best to push the boys around the airport with their double stroller (side-by-side). It was great because they were able to nap in their stroller once we reached the terminal and I could stuff my purse and other bags underneath in the storage compartment. It might be easier for you to wear your baby; I saw moms doing that as well. When I traveled with the boys at 15 months, they wanted to be on-the-go. The stroller did its job throughout the airport, but once we reached the terminal I let them walk around. The great part about the stroller is you leave it right by where you load the plane, and it will be there waiting for you as soon as you are off of the plane. Do what feels most comfortable and works best for you!
6. Bring your little ones’ birth certificate if they’re under two. I am glad I looked ahead on this one because they will ask for a birth certificate and/or immunization records (which has their birth date on it) when you are checking their car seats and baggage. I know what you’re thinking… I was thinking the same. Clearly my babies look younger than two…but it’s an airline rule. It doesn’t have to be their official birth certificate, but just be sure to bring a copy to be on the safe side.
7. Pack formula or breast milk within reason. The security gate was extremely understanding with bringing formula or breast milk through; however, it has to be a logical amount. For example, I brought five water bottles (may have added a few extra for me and my husband), four bottles, and a small can of formula powder through security with me. The security workers do have to take it aside to test, but did not have any issues with it. The same thing will go for breast milk. They will have to test the milk, but shouldn’t have any issue with it. If there is an issue be sure to clarify that you need it for your baby. They should always let you bring it through if it is a reasonable amount for your travel.
8. Have plenty of toys and entertainment on the plane. I was so thankful that I packed the boys’ swaddle blankets, a lot of different toys, and a few books. We ended up using all of it throughout the airplane ride to keep them entertained. If your baby takes pacifiers (mine would not) I recommend bringing those to have during take off and landing for their little ears. I attempted to feed my boys their bottles on takeoff and landing, but they weren’t ready for them. It turned out fine and I was lucky my boys didn’t have trouble with elevation and ears! The second time I traveled with the boys (15 months) was a little tougher. I would not have survived without television on their tablets and snacks.
9. Be prepared for airplane diaper changes. It is a tight space and not the most ideal situation – but you’ve got this! I kept the door open while changing their diapers because it was easier than feeling locked into such a tiny space. Be sure to have a diaper pad with you and plenty of wipes to wipe their hands. Those curious hands touch everything on the plane and it is difficult to avoid in such tight quarters.
10. Remember to relax. Regardless of the outcome on the plane, you are there to stay. If your baby ends up fussing all you can do is try your best to soothe them. One of my boys cried for an hour and half straight during our second time traveling. I was miserable, but I accepted that I couldn’t do anything besides try to soothe him. Remember that the majority of people on the plane will be understanding and sympathetic. Do not worry about what others around you are thinking and try not to let the situation get you flustered. In this specific situation I continually told myself that we would get through it. Luckily my little guy finally cried himself to sleep and we did make it through!
Any additional tips or flying experience with littles you’d like to share?! Comment below – I’d love to hear. If you are reading this and will soon be traveling with a little one for the first time, just remember that you can do it and you will do great! Each experience is different depending on the age of your child, but being prepared will make it feel more smooth. You got this!