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At 12 months old, Knox is one well-traveled baby. He embarked on his first flight at only 9 weeks old to fly home (from NYC to Dallas) for Christmas. Since then, Knox has been on 6 trips (12 flights), mostly from NYC to Texas and one from NYC to Portland with a stop in Chicago. We have had some really smooth travel days and we have experienced what seemed like the worst thing that could happen. We had a 45 minute layover in Chicago turn into an 8 hour layover and, worst of all, we got rerouted to Baltimore for fuel on our way to NYC only to get grounded due to weather. This meant an unplanned overnight stay at the BWI Holiday Inn.

Through all the trips, trials and tribulations, I have learned a thing or two about traveling with an infant (2-12 months) and I thought it was definitely worth sharing with my fellow mommies out there. Please share any tips you have in the comments below for everyone to read. We are all in this together! Happy trails!

  • First and foremost, be prepared and not stress about things outside your control.  I can not stress these two enough.  A lot can go wrong when you travel and there are things outside your control (like the weather) so the best thing you can do for you and your baby is just to be prepared and stay calm.  Your baby can tell when you are upset or stressed and this will only cause him/her to get upset too.  We will talk about specific ways to be prepared below, but if you are prepared there really isn’t anything too terrible that can go wrong.  So just sit back and enjoy the ride.
  • Add your child to your ticket: To save time at the airport, you can call the airline before ahead of time to add your lap child to your ticket.  In my experience they just need the child’s legal name and birthday.  However, some airlines (South West is the strictest, in my experience) do ask for some proof of the child’s age at check in.  This can be in the form of a birth certificate or anything official with the child’s birthdate.  You don’t need the original copy, I just keep a picture of it on my phone.  If you don’t have time to call ahead, the agent at curbside check-in is usually very helpful and will walk you to the front of the check-in line to get the child added.
  • TSA Precheck: If you are a frequent flyer, is definitely worth to the time and effort to get TSA Precheck.  This means you don’t have to take off your shoes & sweater, remove your laptop from your bag, unload all your bottles to be tested, or even take your child out of the baby Bjorn should you choose.  This honestly makes traveling with a child so much easier, if you can swing it it’s so worth it.  If not, don’t worry, just keep reading. 😉
  • You may need to shift the child’s schedule around slightly to prevent a public meltdown.  For example, if you usually have lunch at noon, but you need to arrive at the airport at noon, feed the baby early before you leave the house so you don’t get stuck in a security line with a starving baby. The same thing goes for naps.  If you have an afternoon flight just after his usual nap time, try putting him down for his morning nap 30 minutes later to help him get through the airport and hopefully fall asleep on the plane.
  • Curbside Check-In is your best friend.  Especially if you are traveling alone.  And it is worth every penny to not have to lug your baby plus extra suitcases around the airport.  Make sure you have everything you need in your carry-on (see below) and check the rest (including your pack-and-play).
  • Let people help you.  Knox and I have traveled alone a fair amount of times and I am always amazed at how kind and helpful strangers and airport employees are.  If your hands are full and someone offers to help, let them.  They honestly want to help and you honestly need it.  Just say ‘yes, thank you.’  This is something that took me a few trips to accept, and I am not sure why.  Now I will gladly accept a helping hand and I have met some wonderful people along the way.
  • Car Seat or Carrier? This is a personal choice based on your child so go with what you know your child prefers and what you feel is safest, but here is my experience.  When Knox was younger (probably 2 – 6 months), he preferred to be in our baby carrier (we have the Bjorn, but there are several great brands out there).  Since he was so light, this was easier for me than messing with a stroller / car seat in the airport. I would check the stroller / car seat at curbside check-in and use the carrier in the airport and on the plane.  However, when Knox got older (probably 9 – 12 months) I preferred to have the stroller / car seat with me in the airport and check them at the gate.  I do still keep the carrier with me to use on the plane, it is the best way I have found to help him fall asleep… more on that below.
  • Gate Check:  If you prefer to keep your stroller / car seat with you at the airport, then you will need to check it at the gate.  This does not cost anything and gives you the option to bring the car seat on the plane if there are any empty seats on your flight.  When you arrive to the gate (before boarding begins), speak to the ticket agent.  Let them know you are traveling with an infant and ask if there are any empty seats on the flight.  If there are, most agents are kind enough to shift things around where you can put your child in their car seat in one of the empty seats (next to you, of course).  The car seat has to be the window seat to not block anyone from getting out in case of emergency and you are typically seated in one of the back rows of the plane.  Now that Knox is older, this is my preferred way to travel because I can put my carry-on in the cargo of the stroller and hook my handbag on, as well.  With Knox in the stroller (or attached car seat), this leaves me with free hands to tend to him, if needed.  The stroller gets checked at the gate and the car seat can board the plane if there is an extra seat or go with the stroller at gate check.  Anything you gate check will be waiting on your when you get off the plane in the jet bridge.
  • Pack Light: Know what is available at your destination.  Check to see if your destination provides a crib or Pack & Play before traveling with your own. This can save you the hassle of bringing one extra thing with you.  (Assuming your child isn’t too picky about a new bed.)  Same thing goes for a baby monitor, sound machine, toys, etc.  If you are going to a friend’s or family’s home, it doesn’t hurt to ask and they would be happy to save you some trouble.
  • Take off & Landing: Be sure to let your child drink during take off and landing.  The sucking helps with the ear popping.


What to Carry On:

  • Diapers!  And more than just enough for your flight.  I have been in two situations where our travel time was much longer than planned (a layover extended 8 hours due to bad weather & getting rerouted + grounded over night).  Both flights I had packed 5 diapers to carry on and I was rationing them down to the last-minute living in panic that we were going to run out before we made it to our destination.  I have yet to find an airline or airport that has diapers.  You are on your own!  Be prepared.
  • Clothes: Be sure to pack a change of clothes for your child and yourself.  It never fails that Knox has a blow out or spits up when we are traveling.  This one may seem obvious, but don’t forget to bring a clean change of clothes for yourself, as well.  I have witnessed this with other passengers and experienced it myself.  If the baby spits up all over you, you do not want to be stuck in those clothes the rest of the trip.  Planes and airports are usually cold so make sure you dress him in long sleeves and pants or bring a blanket (don’t forget socks).
  • Food: The same thing goes here as for the diapers.  It is better to be prepared.  If you think you are only going to need a morning bottle, better pack an afternoon bottle, too.  Even when I was nursing (0-10 months), I would pack a bottle for when I was somewhere I didn’t feel comfortable nursing in public.  Of course, I traveled with a blanket for privacy.  If you are doing formula, they sell pre made bottles that I think are easiest for travel.  All you have to do is attach a nipple, no mixing water and powder on a plane while holding a baby.  (Can you imagine if you spilled your only bottled!?)  If your child is old enough to eat solids, pack healthy snacks for the trip.  Sometimes airlines sell out of options so you don’t want to be stuck with something your child doesn’t like.  Confession: Even if it isn’t meal time, I usually pack snacks for entertainment / help the time go by.  Cheerios and puffs are small and easy to eat without making a mess.  Other foods that travel well are deli meat, bananas, sliced grapes, oranges, string cheese, crackers and/ or bread.
  • Toys: Don’t go overboard on the toys.  Pack two toys that are small and you know he likes.  I can usually entertain Knox with empty cups from the airplane, peek-a-boo, the itsy bitsy spider, patty cake, etc. (Games that don’t require packing anything.)  We are still too young for iPads, but I hear movies and games are a life savor for older kids.
  • Gear:  When Knox was younger (0-6 months), I liked traveling with my boppy.  He could sleep on it without my arms getting tired, sit up with it supporting his back, etc.  It also made it easier for me to nurse him.  I still (at 12 months) won’t travel without our Baby Bjorn.  It is the only way to get a curious baby to fall asleep in a crowded place.  I put Knox in it and walk up and down the aisle or stand up by our row and bounce him to sleep.  Sometimes I cover his head with a light blanket to help block out the distractions.  A car seat can be great carry-on if your child is use to sitting in one (see Gate Check section above).

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