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Flying with a Baby {Tips & Tricks for 0-12 Months}


The holiday season is fast approaching and many of us might be traveling to see family. Personally, all of my immediate family lives back in Texas, so I have spent the last eight years visiting often. 

Since Liam was born two-and-a-half years ago, he’s become my travel buddy. I started flying with him when he was just eight weeks old and I’ve flown with him every two to three months since then. I’ve taken nonstop flights, flights with one stop (just pay the extra money for the nonstop – just do it.), and a long, drawn-out connecting flight. And I’ve flown solo with him on almost each of these flights (because hello, free under two!). Since the beginning of his little life, he has taken 22 flights. (Insert wide-eyed emoticon.) And flights 23-26 are in the books before 2015 comes to a close.
I’ve learned many lessons along the way and I can say I have become a bit more efficient each time. Liam, however, has become a little harder to handle each time as he gets bigger and becomes more active.
Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way. These will focus on traveling with a baby under the age of one. Come back next month and I’ll tackle flying with a toddler – a whole different ballgame.
1. Get all checked in.
Since you’re traveling with a baby, you will need to check in to your flight in person. Even if you printed off your boarding pass online, they will need to verify your baby’s birth certificate. They have asked for his birth certificate every single time, so even if you have an infant, bring it. They don’t just check for age; they also check for name because it will print on their very own boarding pass. A photocopy should do the trick! I usually keep a few on me in an envelope when traveling.
{Liam at 2 months}
If you’re lucky, the seat next to you will stay open and you can bring the baby along in the car seat. This has only happened to me once, of course.


2. Have a plan for the security line. 
The one plus about flying with a baby is that you get to skip to the front of the line. That’s about the only plus about flying with a baby. (Except that they are free to fly. Free is good.)
Certain airports let you have an escort through security. When I flew from Phoenix to Houston for the first time, my husband was able to help me get through security. On the way back, because I was flying the same airline, I assumed my mom would be able to help me. As it turns out, it’s by airport and not airline. Call ahead and don’t assume unless you want to talk yourself out of a minor meltdown in the middle of the airport.
(You would think that security would see a struggling mom traveling solo with an infant and offer to help. But they don’t. And they didn’t.)
Everything has to go through security: your car seat, your stroller, all bottles (assuming they are pre-filled with liquid), your iPad or laptop, your shoes, and even the baby’s bib and pacifier. No one trusts a baby these days.
So, plan accordingly. I take the bottles out ahead of time and place them in the stroller cup holders. I also grab my iPad and have it out. When I get to the security line, the iPad, bottles and my shoes go into the bin. Then, I take Liam out and undo the car seat with my free hand. The car seat goes onto the belt – make sure it’s upside down or else – and my stroller has to get manually checked because it doesn’t fit through the conveyor belt. I go through the security machine with Liam and meet all of my items on the other side. It’s not the easiest, but if you’re lucky, kind strangers will help. (Thank you, sweet, sweet strangers.)
{Liam at 5 months}
Windows are a great distraction, until they learn how to open and shut them over a hundred times.
3. Check your car seat and stroller at the gate. 
Flying solo with a baby has made me realize that I need my hands free as much as possible: the security line, bathroom trips, coffee breaks, wandering around to kill an hour or two. By checking the stroller and car seat at the gate right as I am boarding the plane, it means that I can easily cart him and my carry-on bag around without looking like a complete hot mess. 
However, make sure you check in with the gate attendant prior to boarding so they can tag your stroller and car seat. (I know from experience that should you forget this little tidbit, they will not be happy. And you will feel their wrath.)
This is also helpful so that you don’t have to use your checked bag allotment towards a stroller and car seat – not to mention how expensive car seat carriers can be. (Most airlines will check your carseat for free if you don’t need it for the plane ride.) The cheapest one I have found that is guaranteed to hold up for more than one flight costs about $40 – almost as much as two checked bags. (Thank you, Southwest, for relieving this cost.)
{Liam at 5 months}
My traveling motto: Keep them contained in their car seat and stroller as long as possible.


4. Bring a bag that’s easy to carry. 
In my babyless days, I would pick out my cutest tote and fill it with magazines, books, my laptop, my iPad, snacks and a light jacket, and then I would sit back and enjoy my peaceful flight to whatever destination I chose, enjoying a glass of wine or a cup of coffee along the way.
Enter: baby.
Now I carry a bag purely for survival. The only thing in the bag that had anything to do with me is my iPad – because it encompasses my books, magazines and laptop all in one – and a wristlet with my ID, cards and phone. Everything else revolved around Liam: diapers, wipes, prepared bottles, a blanket, burp cloths, changes of clothes, toys, pacifiers, and snacks. 
Fortunately, my diaper bag had straps that can easily turn it into a backpack. This has been so helpful when traveling solo. You want to bring a bag that’s easy to carry, easy to shove under the seat, and easy to access during the flight at least 6,000 times (5,000 if you’re lucky.)
Make sure to pack it by priority. Have the bottles easy to grab, and place the diapers and burp cloths near the top. It’s real awkward trying to balance a baby in your arms while reaching down under your seat to grab whatever-you-need while feeling around the bag trying to find said item while remaining buckled in because that seatbelt light won’t go off while attempting to keep some personal space between you and your neighbor. Trust me.  
{Liam at 7 months}
When they are a lap baby (aka free ticket), let them have some wiggle room before being confined to your lap once the plane takes off.
5. Whatever you think you need, bring more. 
If they usually take three bottles in the amount of time you’ll be traveling (from the moment you get to the airport until the moment you get to your final destination of a hotel our house), bring four to five. If you think they’ll go through three diapers, bring six. If you think they won’t ruin an outfit in the span of a two-hour flight, think again and bring two changes of clothes. 
Flights get delayed, babies get antsy, and spit-up happens at the worst time, like as you’re boarding the plane. In fact, I would even recommend bringing an extra shirt for yourself unless you want to spend a two-hour flight covered in spit-up. (Been there, done that.)
{Liam at 9 months}
The hardest part is waiting.
6. Be prepared for a diaper change. 
No matter if you change the baby right as you are getting ready to board, plan on doing a diaper change mid-flight, especially if they are really young.
One time when flying, Liam’s diaper was soaked (even though he had just been changed less than an hour prior). I made my way back to the tiny airplane bathroom to change him. I sat on the closed toilet, put him on his back in my lap, and somehow managed to change his wriggly body. When I got back to my seat, I realized I left his shorts in the bathroom. 
I rang for the flight attendant and asked if she could get them for me. She came back with the shorts and said, “Just for future reference, we do have a bathroom with a changing station. It’s on the other side.”

So there’s that. Ask where the changing station is before heading in for a diaper change.
{Liam at 15 months}
Hopefully you are blessed with wonderful, loving seatmates like the one above who OFFERED to let Liam play with his iPad. 
7. Take care of yourself, too. 
Make a bathroom trip before you board the plane, because it’s next to impossible to go to the bathroom in an airplane while holding a baby. I’ve done it. Several times. And I don’t wish that on anyone. 
Grab a water bottle for your bag. Don’t you love those unlidded, complimentary drinks they pass out mid-flight? So does your baby. Unless you’re willing to chug it, you can give it up now. Grab a bottled drink of choice so you can have a safe, mess-free drink on-hand during the flight. (Although they will give you a cup with a lid and straw if you ask. Like with wine even.)
Remind yourself that you will most likely never see any of the people on the flight again (except at baggage claim, of course). The baby will cry and it will sound so much louder and more dramatic to you than anyone else on the plane – I promise. 
13mos{Liam at 13 months}
If they fall asleep on the plane, you’re golden. And don’t be afraid to ask for an adult sippy cup of wine, as seen above.
You’re doing the best you can. And the destination is surely worth it! But then you have to fly back, of course…
Any questions or additional tips? Let me know in the comments!

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