Babies don’t need vacations. But parents do.
There are as many reasons why babies belong on airplanes as there are families. It isn’t easy, but with thoughtful planning, you’ll get through it with your kid, your dignity, your seatmates and your sense of humor intact.
Here are some tips to try before you even set foot on the plane:
1. Call the airline.
You may still be able to book online and save money, but don’t buy first and ask questions later. You need to know all the rules up front so there are no surprises at the check-in counter. You don’t want to find out at the last minute that your 18-inch-wide car seat is two inches too wide for an airplane seat. Get your questions answered before you shell out for tickets.
- When is a good time to fly to raise the odds of finding an extra empty seat?
- Will I need to buy a ticket for my baby? Is there a discount?
- Does the airline provide any kind of child seat? Will my child’s car seat be safe and fit on the plane?
2. Choose the right time to fly.
I could tell you to book overseas flights for overnight and schedule short hops for post-lunch naps. That’s often a great plan for an infant. But consider this: If you’re holding your baby in your lap — and I recommend buying a ticket and using a safety seat — you are not going to sleep. Nope. Not a wink. Which means you’ll arrive at your destination with a perky baby and a run-down you. If you know your baby isn’t the sort to conk out on the airplane, book your flight for a time when you will be fresh and cheerful. You’re gonna need your A game.
3. Hit the stores.
Pick up a new book, a new coloring book and crayons and a quiet but interesting toy, and have them tucked away to pull out when your baby gets bored. If you don’t want to buy a new toy, set a current favorite aside so it will be a pleasant surprise on the plane. Remember, anything electronic must be switched off at takeoff and landing. Do you have a baby carrier? They’re easier to travel with than strollers.
You need ‘em. The kid needs ‘em. If your baby isn’t up for solid foods yet, pack juice, breast milk or formula in small containers. You don’t have to stay under the 3.4 ounce limit, but don’t push your luck. Water is conspicuously absent from the TSA’s list of liquids parents may bring for their young children, so pack cash in case the airline charges you for extra bottled water.
5. Be prepared for altitude changes.
Have a bottle or pacifier ready for takeoff and landing. Sucking on something will help your baby deal with ear pain from pressure changes.
6. Stock up.
The TSA is funny about liquids, so go easy on those. Everything else? Pack more than you think you’ll need. Too many animal crackers? Eat them on the flight home. Too many toys? Are you kidding me? You’ll need them on your trip. Too many diapers and wipes? There is no such thing. Trust.
7. Be ready for security.
Don’t forget the TSA 3-1-1 guideline. Keep your shampoo, conditioner, lotion, contact lens solution, etc., in containers less than 3.4 ounces, and separate them in a clear, zip-top quart-size plastic bag. Things like breast milk can be brought through security in larger quantities. You still need to separate them out and let the TSA screener know ahead of time. Don’t wait for them to freak out about bottles of liquid in your bag.
8. Be cool.
Another word about the security check: It’s stressful. Flying is the safest way to travel! Everybody does it! You’ll be fine! But still, you’re a little nervous aren’t you? Guess what: Both your baby and the TSA agent will pick up on that. Breathe deeply. Picture everybody with giant pink bows on their heads. Think about how great it’s going to feel to lie down on the beach/hand baby over to Grandma/buy Italian leather shoes in Milan. Just stay cool, smile, be friendly. If your child is big enough to walk, go through the metal detector separately. If you’re wearing your baby in a carrier, you will need to take the kid out just for a moment.
Look at you! You’re through security. You’ve got a bag full of toys and snacks. You’re all set to board early. Don’t be shy asking the flight attendants for help finding a good seat, stowing your bags and keeping your baby happy.
Have a safe flight! And have loads of fun at your destination.
Travel tip shared by Gift Girl