If there is anything to remember it’s nurse/bottle feed baby during take off (not taxiing) and landing …this helps baby’s ears pop and helps alleviate screaming…for us as the kids got older this transitioned to lollipops. Travel brings out the warrior mama in me. I can do this challenge and we will win.
What to Pack
The absolute bare minimum is diapers, wipes, 1-2 change of clothes for baby and a change of shirt for you. The rest is honestly what you feel you need. I try to keep it to a backpack so I can throw on my backpack, scoop up baby and make it to my next flight. With older kiddos they each have their own backpack. Our babies generally liked their car seats. So if you can purchase a seat I’ve found it invaluable. We have done a mix of both. If you do fly with a child in a carseat, make sure the sticker on your carseat states it is airplane safe or certified. The airlines have checked that pretty darn close to 100%. Our babes like the baby carrier so we have used that a lot particularly for infants. Keep in mind the flight attendant will tell you to unbuckle the top of your carrier during take off and landing. I’ve usually said oh here see it’s not buckled. Then buckled it when they sit down. Sorry not sorry. Kids under two and some under 1 really enjoy bubble pop apps. Our crew do not get tablets unless it’s for airplanes, long train or car rides. For the little littles I’ve had to get them addicted to the tablet for the bubble app to work. Download it in advance and make sure it works in airplane mode. I like to use a nursing cover which doubles to clean up messes. I nominally nurse with the baby in the carrier with the cover over baby. Definitely bring a top for yourself. Somehow you will get thrown up on, peed or something on. It just happens. Bring a thermometer & liquid kids Tylenol with dosing directions as needed (I have never had a problem flying with this in the labeled bottle). I only pack diapers and wipes etc for the flight as there are places to purchase there…or not. If you travel with your carseat in the airplane or if you are flying solo, I highly recommend a carseat/luggage connector system something like: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XTT17QC/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_09D0Z4JYNYNCZAC89DTN otherwise I bring rope to tie everything down because it’s usually party of me with a million kids.
Checking your Carseat
If you are not going to have an additional seat, I highly recommend bringing your own carseat (for older kiddos…really recommend washing it prior to flying…that can be embarrassing). After requesting a carseat through multiple rental companies (two times), I found the rental company does not get the difference between a toddler and an infant carseat. From what I found, to them a car seat is a car seat. I stopped renting after this happened twice. I don’t like to mess around with carseats. If a person on the other end can bring a carseat for you to use great. For us, we’ve chosen to fly with the carseat. The airlines do not charge for carseats. If you choose to fly with it, buy a car seat cover. Just do this. It protects from rain and general nastiness. US based airlines 90% of the time did not have bags available. Something like this: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07RZ2TM51/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_P9AGM33BX458N5346Y1X. Check your carseat fits into said bag prior to going to the airport. Worse case bring a clear trash bag. I usually buckle the car seat itself and put the baggage tag in a secure location (if using um say a clear trash bag put the baggage tag on the straps in your car seat).
How to get Through Security
It’s not going to be fast. Plan for extra time. Even with TSA pre-check I plan for 30-45+ minutes. Breaking down the stroller to fit through the metal detector or having the car seat tested or the check of child’s water bottle (yes you can bring water they will open the cap and wave a strip of paper and then test said paper). I usually wear the baby, collapse the stroller, and let them take the car seat. It’s controlled chaos just be patient. You are mama. No one messes with mama. Sure there may be side eye glances but look person I challenge you not to lose your sh*t dude. I got this. What.
What to Gate Check.
I travel with an umbrella stroller. You can bring this through security and check this at the gate. They will give you a gate check tag. This does add time to getting from one flight to another. The airlines last I checked does not cover or replace your damaged BOB or expensive stroller. (I didn’t want one of these situations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo). I’ve traveled with the toddler in the umbrella stroller and baby in my carrier and a backpack. I check our big bag or if it’s a short flight, I bring a carry on luggage.
How to Thrive
Take care of your own mental health. Some kids fly well others just don’t. It is what it is and you will both survive. Bring your favorite snacks (I get hangry…just a fact) and also bring noise canceling headphones…watch your favorite show or watch a new movie. Just keep going. People can deal. I am trying my dardest over here people and we have to go places too.
Bring snacks you know your kid will eat. Also bring new snacks and treats you think your kiddo(s) will eat. I found mess free markers to be super helpful for toddlers (eg https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07N72DVHW/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_QZ2P69NF27QBZ24KQQVM) … that way if they draw on the airplane it doesn’t show up. A tablet is really nice…download shows new and old, download apps (we’ve done a lot of the lumikids brain teasers for kids). Under 1 sometimes the bubble pop apps work as mentioned. Under one…I try to time flights with naps (sometimes this works…sometimes it does not). For long flights involving significant time changes, I try to land during daytime on the other end. It helps or has helped us with jet lag. If you have a layover we found we love the lounges. If that’s not an option, I used to choose layovers based off the airports play space for kids(eventually COVID will go away right?). For toddlers a two+ hour layover was golden. Run them around!!
If you have the opportunity to fly non US based airlines…do it. Sorry US but the customer service we’ve received on international flights has been phenomenal. Asian based airlines let moms board first (so do some US based airlines), they go out of their way to help moms of kids under 4 ish, and provide specific snacks and toys just for your little person. Some airlines have bassinets for babies (they’re amazing). Ask in advance if they have children food … sometimes this needs to be coordinated in advance. As mentioned some airlines provide small toys for the children. International travel definitely stock up on new things but I found the excitement wears after 10-20 minutes. Not that you have to drink but drinks are nice. If able…get a seat for baby. If not, sometimes the airlines works to give you an extra seat. Without regard to international or not, I like to sit by the window (not over the wing) because it helps just walking kids stand and balance and it gives them something to do. Bottom line. The flight is relatively short. Keep it positive and your kids will too. You’ve got this.