The idea of traveling with an infant or toddler can be daunting. Tons of questions crossed our minds when we first traveled with Kyla, our now 2.5 year girl. How much do I need to pack? Should I bring a stroller? What about a car seat? What if my baby becomes that baby who cries on the airplane? How do I entertain my child? Do I need to purchase a ticket for my baby/toddler?
We’ve traveled to 15 U.S. states, 1 international trip (Canada) and a total of 19 one-way plane rides, 1 amtrak train ride, and a lot of road trips with our little girl. We’ve encountered tears, bloody ears, and life to our years during our trips.
Here I will summarize lessons I learned during our airplane travels with our babe.
- For most domestic airlines, a child under 2 years old can travel for free as a “lap child” while accompanied by an adult. You will still need to call the airline ahead of time to reserve a lap child ticket.
- Bring a copy of the child’s birth certificate.
- A lap child is not allowed in the emergency exit row (learned this the hard way…and in retrospect, this makes absolute sense.) Also, only one “lap child” is allowed per row as many airplanes only have 4 oxygen masks per row.
- You can bring your stroller and car seat up to the airplane gate for a gate-check and it won’t count towards the amount of baggage you bring. Make sure you get a gate-check tag if you are doing this.
- You can also check in your car seat at check-in for free.
- You can bring the child’s milk and formula through the security line. They might have to do additional testing, but in general, they are allowed.
- Take advantage of “family boarding”, if available, which allows you and your family to board before regular boarding.
- If you have the luxury of purchasing a seat for your infant, bring the car seat on the flight. We’ve done this and Kyla had the best naps in the car seat. Oh, and it’s safer too.
- During take-off and landings, have your child nurse, drink from a bottle or suck on a pacifier to avoid the “ear popping” pains.
- Change his/her diaper right before the flight.
- If bringing a closed container sippy cup or bottle, make sure to open the cup very carefully and slowly! The pressure build-up in the containers can accidently spray others while opening it! (Been there, done that, and have been embarrassed x 10.)
- The older and mobile the child gets, the harder it is to travel with them. For example, probably the easiest time we traveled on the plane was when Kyla was 3 months old. All she did was nurse and sleep. Her cries at that age were so little that it gets drowned out with airplane noise.
- Bring your child’s favorite book, a new toy and a lot of snacks. Surprising them with a new toy will keep them entertained a little while longer than an old toy.
- To entertain Kyla when she was older (18-24 months), we’ve brought an iPad with downloaded movies and age-appropriate games. Toddler headphones also help.
- Bring sanitizers to wipe the airline trays prior to use. We use hand sanitizer and a baby wipe to wipe ours.
- Last but not least…crying. It’s inevitable. It happens. We’ve been there. Take advantage of the walkway to stand up with your child and take a walk (as long as the seatbelt sign is not on). Bring a baby carrier if he/she likes to be worn. Booking flights around the child’s non-fussy or naptimes help. Bring entertainment and snacks or slip in some Benadryl (I kid, I kid about the Benadryl! BUT, true confession, we’ve done this, but to our credit, she had allergies.)
In the end, everyone on our flight have been so friendly and understanding while we travel with our child. Be prepared to have the essentials for your flight and hope that it all works out.
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