Recently, I went to Chicago with Kai and I have to say, flying with a baby is ROUGH. Especially alone. Ok, so maybe not with all babies, but Kai was absolutely not having it. The biggest issue was that he is now at an age where he is insanely curious and wants to be roaming around 24/7. With that said though, I did figure out a few things that made my life a bit easier and I thought I would share in case anyone else gets the pleasure of flying with a little babe.
1. TSA PreCheck. Holy moly, I am kicking myself for not having it before this last trip. It seriously made going through security so so sooooo much easier. We actually signed up for Global Entry for upcoming international travel and it just so happens to come with TSA PreCheck which is amazing. Here’s why you should have it if you’re traveling with kiddos.
- It’s much faster. The line is shorter AND it takes less time to go through. It took me a total of 10 minutes from beginning to end and I had a bunch of stuff with me that had to be checked (water, wipes, stroller, etc).
- You don’t have to take your shoes, jackets, belts off. This is pretty awesome when it’s just you and a baby and you have to try and take everything off while holding the baby. Even when Jeremy and I flew together with the kids, it was rough trying to take everything off and still juggling children and luggage.
- Electronics and liquids under 3oz can remain in your luggage or bag. I didn’t even bring a clear baggie for my liquids, I just threw everything in the baby bag and it went right through the scanner without any issues.
PreCheck does cost $85 per adult (kids don’t need to have it) but it lasts 5 years so it’s well worth the investment. Global Entry is only $15 more and includes PreCheck, however, each person in your party has to have Global Entry in order to be able to utilize it when going through customs, even infants.
2. Check everything you possibly can. I actually didn’t plan on checking anything since I was just going on a quick 2.5 day trip. I carried a weekender plus my baby bag backpack on the flight to Chicago on top of the stroller system with car seat, baby carrier, and stroller travel bag. IT WAS TOO MUCH. I ended up buying a suitcase in Chicago and stuffing everything I could in there that I didn’t absolutely need and it made a world of a difference.
3. Bring drinks and snacks with you. Instead of stopping and buying overpriced water and food at the airport, you can just bring it with you. Yes, even bottles of water. Anything for babies is allowed to go through security, so as long as you tell them the water is for the baby, you’re good to go. I always buy a liter bottle for myself (hello… nursing mama here) and just let them know I have water for the baby. They test it and let me go on my merry way. Same goes for pumped breast milk, liquid or premixed formula, juice, etc.
4. Bring a stroller. This one may not alway be necessary, but it’s so helpful; especially if you are traveling alone with an infant. I kept my bags, stroller seat, stroller travel bag, and baby carrier at the bottom and had Kai in his car seat attached to the stroller. If you are only bringing baby and a backpack, you can probably do with just a baby carrier, but if you have anything more than that, bring a stroller. And no, I didn’t bring a special travel stroller. I brought our Uppababy system and the travel bag.
5. Bring a baby carrier. Again, this is one of those things that may not be necessary in all situations, but when traveling alone it can be a life saver. Once I stuck the stroller in the travel bag, I had to put the little guy in the carrier so that I could bring everything on the plane, I don’t think I would have been able to without it. For tiny babies I like the Solly wrap, for Kai’s age we use the Tula carrier.
6. Look for a “nursing mother’s rooms” at the airport. Whether you are nursing or not, the mother’s rooms are more spacious and comfortable than using a regular restroom. I usually don’t care where I nurse, but Kai is pretty distracted lately so having the quiet space was really nice. I was also able to let him roam around for a few minutes in there without worrying about watching my stuff and having him run off.
7. Buy a seat for the baby. Ok, so I know that flights are expensive and that sometimes buying a seat for an infant may not be in everyone’s budget, BUT if you can, please do so. Not only is it much safer in case of severe turbulence, it is also much more comfortable for everyone. Not going to lie, I didn’t have much luck with Kai staying in his car seat on the way to Chicago, but I still used it to set him down a few times. It also gave us extra space so when I had to hold him, I kept snacks and water in the car seat so that I didn’t have to bend down and search my bag whenever I wanted something. On the way back to Denver, he did amazing! He fell asleep towards the beginning of the flight and stayed in his car seat through the entire flight and drive home. It was a much needed break for me too. With that said, if you are flying with a car seat, make sure that you have a window seat. By law, the car seat has to go in the window seat, especially if it is rear facing. Shockingly, many airline attendants had no idea that this is the law so I had to show them on my phone.
8. Distractions, distractions, distractions. I can’t even say this enough but YOU NEED TO DISTRACT THAT CHILD. Unfortunately at 10 months it’s pretty hard for anything to keep him distracted for longer than a few minutes but it’s good to be prepared. Young infants are usually fine with a bottle, nursing, or a pacifier, but once they get a bit older where that doesn’t hold their attention, you have to get creative. I definitely recommend you bring both favorite, and new toys. Sometimes if it’s something they are used to, it won’t hold their attention more than a minute or two so having something new and exciting might do the trick for a little longer. Snacks are always great for kiddos who are eating solids and a super easy way to keep them occupied. I made sure to have at least 4-5 different types of snacks since my child is insanely particular. Another great thing, especially for babies 9 months and up, is having a few fun song videos downloaded on your phone or a tablet. If you have Netflix or prime tv, you can download programs for free and watch them in airplane mode on the flight.
9. Bottle, Paci or Tata during takeoff and landing. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before since it’s a commonly known fact, but making sure your child is sucking on something or swallowing during take off and landing will help with ear pressure. Babies in particular can be extremely sensitive to the pressurization on flights and this can cause a lot of unnecessary pain and crying. Just like swallowing helps adults during a pressure change, it also helps babies. Obviously if your child is old enough for a sippy, straw, or cup, these can help as well.
10. Ask for help (or at least accept it). This has to be the most important tip and I can’t stress it enough. If you are flying alone with a baby, just ask for help whenever you need it. It’s so hard sometimes but absolutely necessary. You’d be shocked at how many people just blatantly offered their assistance when they saw me juggling a baby, stroller, car seat, bags, etc. At first I felt kind of strange having strangers help, but eventually I didn’t even hesitate accepting assistance and it made a world of difference.
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