With international travel restrictions easing, people are returning to air travel in droves. According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report, 46% of people are planning to fly this holiday season.
The period between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s is the most popular time to travel. For those flying with a baby this winter, this may be your first time navigating airports and airplanes with their little one in tow. With some pre-planning, smart packing, and the right mindset, your travel day can be a positive part of your adventure.
Choose your flight carefully
There are better ways to start your vacation than arriving late at your destination with a tired and fussy baby. That’s why experts recommend booking a flight first thing.
“Always take morning flights when you can. Not only are most babies generally less cranky in the morning, but your flight is also far less likely to be delayed,” said Julia Carter, Frequent Flier, Mom of Two, and Founder of Craft Travel Group.
“I was traveling alone with my daughters on a flight from Fort Lauderdale to Las Vegas scheduled to depart at 7 pm. However, the inbound flight was delayed, causing our flight to depart at 11 pm. Chasing two delirious kids around the gate for hours while simultaneously trying to keep an eye on our belongings was one of the most daunting experiences of my life,” she continued.
“Consider traveling on the actual holiday. You can get better deals on flights, book more convenient flight times, and the airports are less crowded. Also, since your baby is so young, they won’t know if you postpone your family celebration to a different day,” said Ruth Hutchins, Founder of Be Family Travel.
Get them their own space
70% of parents surveyed in The American Express Global Travel Trends report said they plan to take their first international trip with their children since the pandemic. If you’re flying outside the country, look into reserving a wall-mounted baby bassinet. Airlines may require you to purchase specific seats, like the bulkhead, so paying attention to the details before booking a ticket, especially non-refundable ones is essential.
If you’re on a domestic flight or one that doesn’t offer bassinets, buy a seat for your baby if you can afford it.
“It’s much safer and easier to keep your baby in their car seat than carrying them on your lap. They touch fewer things on the plane, helping to keep them safe from germs,” said Sarah McWilliams Guerra, former Delta flight attendant, mom of two, and the creator of Airplanemode.io.
No matter the type of ticket you book for your infant, make sure to bring proof of age to the airport. Southwest Airlines, for example, is known to ask for documentation for every baby.
Toting your tot
Don’t be tempted to travel light. You’ll be glad to have the essentials to carry your baby safely.
“However, bring the right car seat,” said Thomas Smith, CEO of Gado Images and frequent traveler. “I once tried to carry my son’s 50-pound convertible car seat through the airport, and it was rough. Instead, get a light infant seat like the Keyfit 30 or, ideally, one that can click into your stroller for easy transport through the airport. Remember, if your car seat weighs so much that you can’t carry it one-handed, you’re doing it wrong.”
A baby carrier is another secret weapon. If you don’t currently use one, buy it in advance and practice at home, so you’re a pro in time for your flight.
“The carrier is particularly handy when you’re going through security, and you need to place and pick up all of your items on the conveyor belt,” said Jacqueline Gilchrist, Founder of Mom Money Map and frequent solo Mom traveler. “It was also helpful when flying by myself and needed to use the bathroom on the flight and be hands-free while still holding onto the baby.”
Preparing for The Worst
2022 has brought record-level flight cancellations, and weather disruptions are more likely to occur during winter. It’s a leading concern for those traveling this holiday season.
So prepare your diaper bag and carry-ons with the worst-case scenario in mind and hope they don’t happen. For example, when adding extra clothing for the baby, make sure to add a change of clothes for both adults.
“Have a baby first aid kit with a thermometer, fever reducer, and gas relief drops. There’s nothing worse than being at 30,000 feet with a sick baby and not having anything to help make them feel better,” said Candice Criscione, Founder of the Family Travel Blog, Mom in Italy.
“I would pack and prepare my diaper bag, thinking my flight would be canceled or delayed. Meaning that I pack double what I think I’m going to need. There is nothing worse than being in the airport and realizing that you are down to the last scoop of the special formula that your baby needs,” said Jess Darrington, Certified National Child Passenger Safety Technician.
Parents’ Mindset Matters
“It’s all about you. Your baby senses your emotions. If you go into the flight feeling anxious, your baby will feel that way too. If you can project a calm feeling, you will have a smoother experience,” said Michelle Schomp, Founder of Passport Explorers and a full-time traveling family.
“So have fun and let go of expectations. Too often, I see the whole family stressed if one thing doesn’t go the way they anticipated. Enjoy the journey of the travel day and not just the destination,” she continued.
“The more relaxed my husband and I have become, the easier the kids have become and the more we can actually enjoy the remarkable experience of traveling with your little ones. We now actually love being in airports and planes with them and watching their excitement,” said Carter.
Give It Time
“When traveling with a baby, everything takes a bit longer than usual. You may have to pause for a diaper change, a feeding, fix the car seat carrier, or manually inspect the formula bottles at security. To avoid adding more stress to holiday travel, give yourself extra time to get to the airport, screenings, and board the plane,” said Guerra.
While flying with a baby might seem daunting, arming yourself with these tips and advice will set you up for a successful travel day. You’ll feel more comfortable after your first flight and get used to traveling together, a rewarding experience you’ll have together for decades to come.