Tips on Traveling with Infants
On March 17th, I boarded an airplane for the first time with my 4-month-old. I knew nothing about traveling with infants. Either way, I hopped on the plane with one extra-full backpack on my back, one arm occupied by a 13 lb. infant, and the other carrying a Boppy pillow, a blanket, and a tiny baby backpack, with a pacifier, hooked around my index finger. I shuffled down the aisle in a single file line along with the other parents traveling with infants and children. The passengers already sitting watched with awe and annoyance as the parade of babies and children that they would be traveling with for the next two hours passed by.
Thanks to the boarding policy Southwest Airlines has, travelers with children six and under get to board the plane after group A. Seats are also chosen on a “first come, first serve” basis, so passengers with children get to pick their seats before the plane fills up. I chose a window seat, as I knew I needed a little elbow room to hold Jax. We got settled in, and then we were on our way to Chicago, Illinois! At four months, my sweet Jaxon took his first flight.
Thanks to a little planning and A LOT of luck, Jaxon slept the entire flight there and back. That wasn’t the hard part, however, so allow me to explain what it’s like traveling with infants.
Traveling with infants and children is no easy task. You have to coordinate their feeding times, change them, comfort them, and entertain them, all while trying to juggle bags, tickets, TSA, etc. If you’re anything like me, I have done most of my traveling with Jaxon via car and plane alone. Since Marquis goes to school five hours away, we take turns visiting each other. That means driving five hours with Jaxon. I normally stop halfway and tend to him, and my car has great gas mileage which means I don’t have to pull over to fill up. In this situation, Marquis went home to Chicago. We decided that it would be the perfect time to take Jaxon. Jaxon and I live five hours from Marquis, but 13 hours from his family in Chicago, so this would be their first time seeing him in person.
I did not research tips on traveling with infants on long drives. I simply went with my instincts and knew that I needed to stop every so often to change Jaxon and feed him. Since flying is much different, I knew I needed to look around to find out what I needed to do to be prepared to fly.
This is what I learned:
- Before you fly, check with your airline to see what their “lap child” policy is. For Southwest Airlines, lap children are children under the age of two that can sit in their parent’s lap for the duration of the flight. If you choose this option, you do not need to buy a separate ticket for your child. However, if you want them to sit in the seat next to you whether it is in a car seat or on their own, then you will need to buy a ticket. These are discount tickets, though. Otherwise, you can wait until you arrive at the terminal to see if there are any free seats on the flight. If there are no open seats, then you will need to have your car seat checked.
- Bring a copy of your child’s birth certificate. You have to prove that your child is under the age of two for them to fly for free. When you receive your boarding pass, you will also receive a boarding pass for your child.
- Because I was going to be traveling through the airport alone, I needed to take Jaxon’s car seat/stroller with me. Both are allowed to go with you through TSA, and up until you actually board the airplane. Before you board, you leave them off to the side with your tags attached. As soon as you get off the airplane, they will be waiting for you. It’s the same for those flying with wheelchairs. Getting through TSA with a baby, while dissembling a car seat/stroller combo by myself was a nightmare, but I made it work. On the outside, I looked like supermom, but on the inside, I was like, “OH God!” The good thing to know is that at Southwest Airlines, the car seat and stroller does not count as baggage, and is brought through free of charge.
- If you are flying somewhere and you do not need your stroller, invest in a baby carrier. That will not only free up your hands but also cut down on the hassle of breaking down a stroller or carrying around a car seat.
- Schedule your child’s feeding time so that they are nursing or drinking their bottle when the flight takes off. Not only does this help with the annoying “ear popping” situation, but it also relaxes them. I think this is what helped Jaxon fall asleep, and stay asleep, during the flight.
- Take a backpack, not a purse. If you absolutely need your purse, then put it in a backpack, and carry that instead. It frees up your hands so you can carry your child and everything else you need onto the plane. I had everything I needed in a backpack, and I even stuffed Jaxon’s tiny backpack in there. When you’re getting in and out of your seat with an infant, you only want to grab one bag. I also took Jaxon’s Boppy pillow so he could be more comfortable in my lap.
- Get to the airport early. Everyone that has flown knows to arrive at the airport 2 hours prior to their trip. For parents traveling with their children, you need to arrive early. This way, you give yourself time to get through TSA and settle in at the terminal. If you need to change diapers or grab something to eat for yourself, then you have time before you board the plane.
- Chose an aisle seat. I did not, but I wish I had. I chose a window seat because I didn’t want to have to get up to let other people in. However, if I needed to get out of my seat during the flight to take Jax to the bathroom, then it would have been difficult to scoot past two people to get out.
- Do not stress. I tried to act like I had everything under control when Jaxon & I were dropped off at the airport, but on the inside, I was freaking out! I didn’t know how I would manage to get through TSA and onto the airplane with Jaxon by myself. In the end, everything went better than I had expected. I was flying on a good day, so I got through TSA quickly. It also helped that I had a car seat/stroller system that was easy to disassemble. It’s a Britax travel system that I break down with the push of a button, and it is very lightweight.
Next time I fly with Jaxon, I will remind myself of what I learned from our first experience. If you have any questions about flying with an infant, comment or send me an email! 🙂