baby's first flightNo matter how much you’ve flown, it’s totally different when you arrive at the airport with a baby, child, or infant. Traveling with little chidlren is stressful. Here are 10 baby tricks to prepare for travel with a child.

Baby’s first flight

On our maiden voyage with an eight-month-old, the tension was high. Our car packed to the brim with luggage. The nerves overwhelming as we prepared for our first airplane ride with our eight-month-old daughter. We’ve traveled all over, but this trip was different. We were responsible for a child that has a mind of her own and likes her freedom. How would she do cooped up in a small space for 2.5 hours?

As we approached the airport, with a car full of luggage, my mind raced with thoughts like how will we get through security with an infant and her food, what about the documentation we need to get her on the plane, what will she try to eat or grab on the plane, will she bother the person sitting next to us? All these thoughts crossed my mind as we pulled into the airport parking lot.

10 tips for a smooth flight with a baby

1. Cash for tips

We don’t travel light. Good thing Southwest offers two checked bags a person. We hit the limit. Altogether, our family had three bags, a cooler, a car seat, stroller, and two carry-on bags. We looked like we were hitting the road for a month. Everything barely fit in our car, so we worried about parking in the economy lot. It’s kind of far and it’s a headache to get all that luggage on and off the bus.

We paid a few extra bucks to park in a nearby lot that helps you with your luggage. So worth it to tip the bus driver a few dollars to help you out. It’s all about easing the pain of traveling with an infant.

On the way back, the Hertz workers went out of their way to help. They saw our loaded rental car, and offered to drive us to the airport rather than forcing us to take the rental car bus. Can you say tip? A small gesture goes a long way when you are traveling with a child for the first time.

2. Clorox wipes to clean plane

My daughter puts everything in her mouth. I’m a germ-a-phobe so we boarded the plan with Clorox wipes in hand. We cleaned our seats including the brochures in the seat back pocket. Those ended up being her favorite toys. We cleaned the arm rests, tray tables, seats, etc. The woman next to us even asked for a wipe for her seat. We had the cleanest row on the airplane probably ever!

3. Warming up a bottle

Our plan to keep our daughter calm included feeding her during take off and landing. However, we weren’t sure about getting hot water through security. After all, you are limited to just 3 oz. Our bottle thermos is like 10 ounces.

Since we wanted minimal issues, we decided against trying to get hot water through security. We knew we would be okay with breast milk, but water? We didn’t want to have any problems, so we skipped it and figured we’d get it at a restaurant near our boarding gate. That was easier said than done. We couldn’t find anyone that had hot water.

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We boarded the plane with no hot water. Out of desperation, I asked the flight attendant as we boarded. I’m sure the last thing he wanted to do was grab me hot water while they’re trying to board the plane, but I asked anyway. He probably preferred that over a screaming baby. That flight attendant couldn’t have been nicer. Thanks for saving the day and keeping the plane quiet on takeoff.

On the trip back, we attempted to bring hot water through TSA. For all you new moms out there, it’s not an issue even if you have over 3 oz. They test it along with the breast milk, and let it through.

Staying in a hotel with a child

Track your checked bag with Delta

4. Checking breast milk

We needed to get a stash of breast milk to my in-laws. That’s liquid gold. We called the airline ahead of time to check. We measured our cooler to make sure it wasn’t oversized luggage. They advised us to use gel ice packs rather than dry ice. There is a five-pound limit with dry ice, and it must be in a breathable container which is typically styrofoam. However, there’s a catch. They advise against styrofoam. I am all about avoiding issues at the airport so I just packed gel ice packs and a hard cooler. We had no problems.

Just make sure you weight your cooler before you get to the airport. You don’t want it to be heavy, and have to throw away milk or gel packs. Both have vital purposes.

baby flight lap child or seat5. Lap child

Our daughter flew free because she sat on our lap. Anyone under two has this option. Some airlines ask you about lap children when you book the ticket. Southwest did not. We had to call ahead to get her added to the passenger list, and then got a special boarding pass at the ticket counter. Plan ahead on this one so there are no problems as each airline has different policies.

Also, just because you don’t buy a ticket for your child doesn’t mean they have to ride on your lap. Ask the gate agent if there are empty seats on the flight. If there are, ask if you can use one of those empty seats for the car seat. You will find the airlines are accommodating if there are empty seats. You may not have to check that car seat at the gate, and you have an extra place for the baby to hang out during the flight.

6. Don’t panic

My husband warned me to expect the worse, and not panic if our daughter screams at the top of her lungs. We’ve been in that situation a few times — only stuck in the situation for a few moments rather than a few hours. We were taking a tram around a flamingo park one afternoon, and our daughter was acting great. Wouldn’t you know it — as soon as we got on that tram and got deep into the park she starts screaming. Meanwhile, the tram operator is trying to give the riders background on the gardens and tranquility of the place. I was ready to jump off that tram about ten times. Luckily, we only had about ten more minutes to go so we survived that.

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Another time we took a tram around Key West on the way to a wedding reception. I’m sensing a theme — trams. Maybe the airplane won’t be so bad. Anyway, it was very hot. We thought the tram was just taking us to the reception. We get going, and the guide says this shouldn’t be a long tour of Key West. We’ll have you to your destination in 45 minutes. What?! 45 minutes! I knew we were not going to survive that. We had a baby that was hot and wanted to eat in probably ten minutes.

Sure enough, twenty minutes into the ride, sleeping beauty woke up and wanted to eat. She didn’t want to eat five minutes from then, but right then. I almost jumped off then too. I love my husband, and wish I had his patience. Both times he sat there very calmly as if nothing was happening. Meanwhile, I’m bouncing and clapping and making a raucous on the tram trying to soothe our child.

We feared the worst with a 2.5-hour flight. I am happy to say, there was no screaming and only minimal crying. The woman sitting next to us, who I know cringed when we sat down, even told us after our flight that our daughter was so well-behaved. Success!

baby flight special toy7. Bring a special toy or re-purpose an old toy

Flying with a baby or child requires preparation. Look for a new toy or re-purpose an old one. Bring it onto the plane. This will help grab your child’s attention because they haven’t seen the product before or haven’t seen it in awhile. You don’t have to buy something every time you travel. Just look around your house for useful products that you can re-purpose. A tissue box can entertain a child for hours. Fill it with tissues, paper, or toys you already have. It’s something new and will grab their attention.

You can also take a favorite toy, and make it different. Wrap it in colored tissue paper so it’s an adventure to find what lies beneath.

Everything is fair game on an airplane including the coveted iPad. We don’t let our daughter use the iPad. Granted she’s still young, but I want to keep it that way. The iPad is reserved for special events like travel. Ask me how I’m doing with this again in a few years. 🙂

If you’re going to use the iPad, make sure you bring earphones. They make special earphones for young children. I’m sure the whole plane doesn’t want to hear five little monkeys jumping on the bed. You know the rest.

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Early on in a child’s life, you don’t even need headphones. My daughter simply likes the movement on the screen. We watched a video without audio. All five minutes of it before we were on to the next baby travel trick.

Instead, I downloaded a Sesame Street video on my iPhone just in case. She watched it for less than five minutes and I just put it on low. Our daughter likes the video more than the music at this point.

8. Find new toys on the plane

A plane is an exciting experience for a child. They are stuck in a small area for hours, and are eager to explore their new space. As long as you’ve cleaned your space, let them explore. It makes for a happier child.

We look for toys you wouldn’t expect to be toys like the brochures in the seat back pocket. My daughter loves to learn about airplane safety. Also, the cracker wrapper entertains her longer than an iPad video. Those free snacks also come in handy. The cracker wrapper is always a hit. Oh, that sound as she squishes the wrapper in her hands. It’s worth a million bucks.

Let your child find new objects, and play with them. It’s yet another key to flying with a baby or child.

9. Use string to attach everything

On a Facebook mom’s group, another mom mentioned tying all the toys together on a string. This didn’t happen in time, but I’m going to try it next time. Toys very quickly end up on the floor.

Flying with a baby or child also means the pacifier will end up on the ground. Buy a pacifier clip. It helps keep that mouth plug clean.

10. Birth certificate copy or original?

My husband insisted we take her original birth certificate. That’s the last thing I wanted to take on an airplane. I knew that nice, crisp document would come back folded and bent from traveling. At the last minute, I grabbed the original reluctantly.
On the way back, we used the photocopy I took along as well and it worked just fine.

Next time, only the photocopy is coming. What are they going to tell me — I have to leave my daughter at the airport?

Thanks to everyone who went out of their way to make our daughter’s first flight a memorable one. You helped ease our stress on the way there, and helped us keep the vacation memories fresh on our return trip. What a treasure to see cousins for the first time.

Bonus tips

Fly Southwest Airlines. It really is the family airline. Free checked bags save a family lots of money.