We’re by no means experts on the topic of traveling with a baby, but at 3 months old, Owen had already been on two flights! The first was at 6 weeks and the second was at 3 months. I won’t lie, that first trip was definitely the easier of the two . When babies are that small, they fall and stay asleep just about anywhere—at least that was true of Owen.
At 3 months, Owen was a lot more curious about what was going on and dozed off for about an hour before waking up hungry again. I’m glad we’ve done this twice now because I have more experience and tips to share with you guys!
Tips for Flying with a Baby
What to do Before your Flight
First off, most doctors will recommend you wait until your baby gets their first round of immunizations before flying. Ours didn’t tell us this until a week before we were leaving for Christmas, so we went anyway. Owen was perfectly fine, but we did make sure to keep him strapped on my chest the whole time and had a blanket over him to avoid getting any germs on him from coughing or sneezing passengers.
You also have to get a ticket for your baby, even though they’re a lap child. Some airlines allow you to add them to your reservation online and others, you’ll have to call. You also should bring a copy of their birth certificate as proof of age as lap children can only fly free until they are two years old. When they’re this little, it’s pretty obvious that they’re under two, but some airlines still require you to bring proof of age.
Lastly, make a packing list a few days before you actually pack. I’m always in awe of how much stuff babies require. It’s always smart to pack the little extra things like a thermometer, nail clippers, nose syringe and tear-free soap. If you forget one and need them, you can of course just go to a pharmacy and grab them, but it’s nice to not have to buy a new one if you already have it at home and it’s small enough to toss in your bag.
Making the list in advance saved me from forgetting essential things—like my breast pump and Owen’s baby sunglasses (which are super handy for the beach!).
Traveling with Baby on Plane
Get to the Airport Early
We made this mistake on our last trip and didn’t get to the airport early enough. Thankfully, a very kind United employee helped us quickly check bags and find the shortest security line so we made our flight by 45 seconds.
The images of us running through the airport with all of our stuff and a baby strapped to my chest is enough to make me panic again. Needless to say, we’ve learned our lesson and will be leaving much earlier than we think we need to now!
Check Your Bags
One huge reason I really love Southwest now is that they have free checked bags! Usually I have no issue carrying on my bag, but with a baby and a diaper bag, it’s nice to have free hands. Even when we don’t fly Southwest, we fork over the cash to check our bags and it’s so worth it. Most airlines will allow you to check your stroller and car seat for free as well, but check their site before for details.
Bring Your Stroller
You can either bring your stroller with you and gate check it, or check it before you go through security. We’ve done both and I prefer gate checking it. Why? It’s a little bit of a hassle through security, but makes navigating the airport with all your baby’s stuff a lot easier. When you get off the plane, it’s right there! On the flip side, if your baby is really small, it’s pretty easy to just do the carrier because they’ll likely sleep the whole time!
Wear Your Baby
Whether you check your stroller before or after security, have a baby carrier like the BabyBjorn or a Solly Wrap once you’re boarding and on the flight. Owen sleeps really well when he’s on my chest and it makes the whole flight pretty smooth! If you do carry them in this through security, you don’t have to take them out which is really nice!
Bring Extras of Everything
Another tip I got from a mom friend—bring extras of everything. Of course you’ll have diapers and wipes, but don’t forget an extra outfit, burb clothes, milk or formula, pacifiers and an extra swaddle blanket.
Diaper explosions and spit-up (or a full on vomit) are common occurrences and pacifiers tend to fall on the floor. We actually had to deal with a diaper explosion on our first flight and I was so thankful we had another outfit in our bag to change into. Hopefully you don’t have to use any of them, but it’s better to be prepared!
Don’t Worry About the Schedule
News flash! Traveling is unpredictable, so don’t get too caught up in the fact that your baby’s schedule (if they’re on one) can fall apart while you’re on vacation. We still woke Owen up at 7am everyday, or rather, he woke us up at 7am! And then we did our best to stick to the 3-hour feed, wake, sleep schedule. It was by no means perfect, but we always kept extra milk on hand and only had one major meltdown in an Uber one night.
Typically, I pump and bottle feed Owen, but I didn’t want to bring a bunch of extra bottles and a hand-pump so I decided I’d just nurse him on the flight. This was my first-time to breastfeed in public and of course, Rob and I weren’t sitting next to each other and I was sitting between two men.
Thankfully they were both super kind and understanding—one of them had 5 kids, and offered to hold Owen while I was getting stuff out of my bag, so sweet! I was nervous about it, but it was totally fine. Just make sure you have a cover if you’re shy like me! It was the first time I used it, but this MilkSnob cover that doubles as a carseat cover too.
Breastmilk on the Plane
We also bring one extra bottle of breastmilk for Owen, just in case! If you’re thinking about doing this, know that it’s totally legal! Just make sure you tell the TSA agent and pull it out of your bag. They have to test it (just the container, they don’t touch your actual milk), which takes a few minutes and you’re on your way! Another reason to get to the airport early!
We were really worried about the pressure change making Owen’s little ears hurt and were waiting for him to start screaming as we took off and climbed, but he didn’t even wake up. We later found out that until baby’s skulls have fused, they don’t get the pain in their ears!
So, if you’re worried about this with your little one, it’s not an issue! As they get older it could be and I’ve heard that breastfeeding, bottle-feeding or a pacifier while taking off and landing can help alleviate any pain!
Hotel Stay with a Baby
Request a Crib
Instead of bringing a portable crib, just request one before you get to the hotel, or when you check in. Babies already require so much extra stuff, so anything you can leave behind—especially big items like a packable crib—makes your trip easier.
Pack Your Sound Machine
If your little one sleeps with a sound machine on, bring it! Hotels can be loud and just being in a different place can through off their rhythm. We stuck his right by his crib and he slept great! If you’re baby still sleeps swaddled, definitely bring that as well. We brought the Magic Merlin to keep Owen’s environment as close to home as possible!
Use Ice Bucket to Keep Milk Cold
Most hotel rooms have refrigerators, but when we got into our room, the fridge wasn’t working. They did send someone to fix it, but until then we used an ice bucket to keep milk cold. Some hotels also offer a service to let you check milk (or other medications that need to be cold) at the front desk. Then you can come down and get them whenever you need.
Make a Makeshift Changing Table
Instead of bringing a portable one, just use a table or desk as a your changing table. We put an extra towel over a small table in our room and set up shop. Bring or request small trash bags or old plastic grocery bags so you can line the trash can that you toss dirty diapers in.
Get a Suite
Okay, so this one is really a bonus tip because getting a suite isn’t in the budget for everyone and surely isn’t for us! But, if it is in your budget, I would highly recommend it! We went home earlier than we normally would and having to talk quietly and tip-toeing around was a little annoying.
It would have been great if we could have closed a door and left Owen to nap peacefully while we enjoyed our night. If you’re somewhere warm and you have a balcony, that would also be helpful so you could have a place to go!
Phew, that was a long one, but I know how daunting traveling with a baby can seem, so I wanted to pack everything I could think of in here to make your first trip with baby as smooth as possible! My last little tip, just relax, you’ll probably get some crying and hit a few other bumps along the way, but it’s all about figuring it out! Just because you have a baby doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to travel anymore!
We love to travel, so we wanted Owen to get well-acquainted with it at an early age. We have a few more trips planned, so I’ll share more tips for older babies when we’ve experienced that!
Have you traveled with your newborn? What tips do you have for traveling with a baby? I’d love to hear any more that I didn’t list above!
photos by Hannah Schweiss