All the things we wish we had known before setting out on our first air travel adventures with a child.
Traveling with tiny humans is a drastic difference from DINK (dual income, no kids) travel. For the first year, I felt I was on edge the entire journey in anticipation of something going wrong. The anxiety was usually for naught. I hope you can travel more at ease after reading these lessons learned. Here are our top tips for enjoyable air travel with infants & toddlers.
- You can’t always add a lap infant when booking online. If it wasn’t an option at the time of booking, call the airline to add details for your lap infant (up to two years old).
- If you have the option to choose seats in advance, reserve seats with one space between. For example, if there is a group of 3 seats, select the aisle and the window seat. If the flight isn’t full, there is a good chance your lap infant can have that middle seat to themselves. This works best with a family of three.
What we Found Out About Luggage & Carry-Ons
- Check your airline’s baggage policies for the lap infant’s baggage allotment. Usually lap infants do not get a checked bag, just an additional ‘personal item.’ On Aer Lingus though, infants receive a free checked bag on Transatlantic flights. Aer Lingus might be the most kid-friendly airline we’ve ever flown.
- Strollers and Car Seats Travel Free
The first time we traveled we expected to be gouged with luggage fees for all our baby gear! Every airline we’ve used has been fantastic about checking or gate checking our car seats and strollers.
Keep them clean with one of these car seat or stroller bags.
- We save a bit of space in our suitcase by strapping a pair of bulky shoes or a pack of diapers right into the car seat.
Since the car seat bag is tied shut, we’ve never had an issue with losing an item or an airline agent giving us grief.
Breeze through Security with Kids in Tow
- Baby carriers can usually be worn through security for quicker screening.
Over half of the time, airport security did not ask me to remove my infant from his carrier.
- Breastmilk / Formula and a reasonable amount of baby food/pouches can be brought through security without meeting the 3oz rule.
- If breastmilk is frozen they won’t ‘test’ it.
If I can avoid it, I do not travel with liquid breastmilk as I’ve had TSA agents stick a test strip into my bottle! Yuck.
In the Airport
- Put a sticker on the front of each passport to help you tell them apart without having to open each.
- Give your slightly mobile infant a clean place to scoot by packing a large garbage bag.
Cut along the folds so it opens up extra wide.
- Traveling with breastmilk? Airport restaurants will be happy to provide a fresh bag of ice.
I travel with unused gallon size ziplocs to ask them to fill.
- You can use the stroller all the way to the gate and then gate check.
Keep your arms free through the airport and push your little ones in strollers all the way to the gate. Attach a “mom hook” to the stroller and latch your personal item(s) on the stroller as well.
Airplane Hacks for Traveling with Infants & Toddlers
- Bulk Head Bassinets Did you know these were a thing?! I had no idea and somehow never noticed them in all the years we traveled pre-kids.
Many airlines reserve the bulk head seats for families with infants. They are available first come first serve so check in early for a chance to snag one!
Bassinets are game changing for long haul flights. We tucked our little one in and he slept for 5 hours of our overnight cross-Atlantic flight which gave us the chance for some shut eye as well.
- Sucking and swallowing is critical to avoid any ear pain caused by altitude changes.
Make sure your infant can nurse during takeoff and landing or keep a bottle handy. Pacifiers work as a backup. A sippy cup, snack, or sucker will do the trick for toddlers. We like to pack an assortment of snacks in Liam’s Bento box.
- Keep your child entertained with one of these Favorite Kid’s Travel Activities Under $15 or check out some of our favorite travel products in this post, Gift Ideas for Families Who Love Travel.
- Ask a flight attendant if they have any flight logs or have the crew sign one of your own.
American Airlines gave us a small flight log and it has turned into a treasured keepsake for our son’s travels.
- Your child will touch the areas of the plane you didn’t think to wipe down.
Keep kid friendly sanitizer handy. We use Babyganics for our kids’ hands as it is alcohol free and they undoubtedly will have their little fingers in their mouths.
Note: Alcohol free sanitizer is not effective against Covid 19, so when we wipe down the area we use something more potent.
More Tips for your Destination
- Many hotel chains now offer “childproofing kits.” Ask at the front desk.
- A removed hotel dresser drawer serves as a bassinet if they do not have a pack and play available.
Be careful not to over pad it, as this could pose a suffocation risk.
- Always travel with extra clothes in your carry on and day bag.
You never know when you’ll be spilled on or covered in [choose your favorite bodily fluid].
- Pack a Nursing Cover.
Forgot one? Tie the cross-diagonal corners of a muslin swaddle. Otherwise, simply make eye contact with passersby and you can bet they will avoid the discomfort of a returned gaze.
- Not all streets are stroller friendly so keep a wearable baby carrier handy.
- Turn your vehicle into base camp.
Stock it well with beverages, snacks, a diaper changing station, extra clothes for all, and easy to access everything. Here’s how I pack our vehicle to be ready for anything.
- Pack a pacifier in every spare pocket for that moment you’re scrambling to locate one.
- Use a pacifier strap and a hair tie to avoid tossed or dropped bottles, snack cups, teethers, etc.
- Rental Car Companies say that their car seats are available first come first serve. You aren’t guaranteed one when you make your reservation. We travel with a car seat to avoid being stranded without one at the rental office. Sometimes we even buy a cheap used one before we go and leave it behind so we only have to haul it one way.
I do hope these were helpful! Let me know in the comments.