Airport Survival: Flying with your Infant for the First Time

LuggageWhat should I bring?  How do I book a ticket for my infant?  Should we bring a car seat?  What if he cries all flight?  Will we be able to have fun?  Maybe we shouldn’t go…

The anticipatory anxiety of flying with an infant for the first time is a natural phase for first time parents to go through.  With two recent round trip flights under our belts and two more upcoming trips this year, Helen and I are by no means experts on this topic, but we thought we might share a few tips and experiences from our most recent trip to L.A. with Tyler, our 10 month old

Early Preparations: Education, Booking, TSA-Precheck, Packing

Check the airline’s policies for flying with infants: Most domestic carriers allow children under the age of 2 to sit in you lap as a “lap infant” and do not require a separate ticket purchased.  You can purchase a ticket if you want them to sit in a seat of their own with an FAA approved car seat.

Car Seats & Strollers: Most domestic carriers allow car seats to be checked in for free as well as having strollers easily gate checked right before boarding.  Other options instead of bringing your own car seat include: renting a car seat from the car rental company, supposedly Uber has started Uber Family in select cities for car service with car seats (I have to check this out on a future trip, I would love to be able to not lug around a car seat).

TSA Pre-Check: We knew that we wanted to cut down on being stuck in a security line at the airport as much as possible, so Helen and I signed up for TSA pre-check weeks ahead of time and were assigned a KTN (known traveler number) to use when booking tickets.

Booking Tickets: I recommend getting an aisle seat for easy access to taking them to the bathroom or for walking up and down the aisles if your little one might need that for soothing.  Just make sure their head isn’t sticking out when the beverage cart comes by!  You won’t be able to be in emergency exit aisles due to age restrictions, just FYI.  But, if you could swing a little extra $$$ for extra leg-room aisles, that could make a world of difference so your little one has room to stand a play for short stretches.

Checked Bags: Helen did an awesome job of using luggage organizers to pack our stuff along with Tyler’s clothes, a tub of his formula, some extra bottles, pacifiers, and some pouches of baby food.  But, we figured that we would buy more diapers and baby food while we were in L.A. which we ended up doing.  So we actually didn’t pack much, which was nice.

Carry-on Luggage & Medicine:  What was probably more important was planning our carry-on items.  We packed medical essentials: some motrin for his teething, Benadryl and his epi-pens for any surprise food allergy reactions.  We did bring the epi-pens with the prescription info in case we were asked about those at the security check point. Bottles with powdered formula pre-filled, snacks, pacifiers, bibs, an extra set of clothes, a few diapers, and a few of his favorite toys.  Plastic bags were also key!  For storing dirty diapers or clothes.

Leverage Credit Cards:  Let’s face it, traveling with more family members can add more cost, so take advantage of credit card perks or bonus points.  I happen to travel regularly for business, so I have an American Airlines credit card that I use regularly that helped us get free checked bags and we used bonus points to pay for part of our airfare.


At the Airport: Security, Entertainment, Boarding.

Security:  Luckily we zipped through the security line due to having TSA Pre-check.  Keep in mind that strollers still need to go through the X-ray machine, so be prepared to fold them up.  We either carry or put Tyler in our baby carrier when we walk through security.  We haven’t been asked to take him out of the carrier thus far on our trips.  Our epi-pens never caused a problem either.  We’ve had bag checks mainly due to baby food pouches and examinations of the formula powder more than anything else.

Entertainment:  This could be as simple as finding an empty gate area to play on the ground with your little one with their favorite toys, taking them on a stroller tour to take in all the sights and sounds, etc.  Check to see if your airport has a play area for kids.  When we were returning from LAX, we got to the airport super early, so we decided to splurge and check out the American Airlines Admirals Club.  To our surprise they had a kids lounge with toys, TV’s, games, stuffed animals, etc. Tyler had the whole room to himself for about 2 hours and had a blast.

Boarding:  Remember to let the agent at the gate know you want a tag to gate check your stroller.  Also, some airlines allow travelers with young children to board early.  This is a personal preference: the debate of whether you want to board when it’s not a bumper to bumper line getting on the plane vs. minimizing the time you are stuck on the plane with your little one and boarding later.  See if you can squeeze in a diaper change before boarding and hopefully you won’t have to deal with the next change until landing.

On The Plane:

Occupy, Occupy, Occupy: Whatever you can do to entertain and occupy your little ones is the name of the game.  Pacing out toys one at a time to keep them entertained.  Mixing in some snacks to keep them still.  Having friendly neighbors who like playing peek-a-boo, making faces, and smiling can make a world of difference in keeping your child entertained.

Walk the Aisles: if your little one is getting antsy, don’t be afraid to walk up and down the aisles when the beverage cart isn’t making its rounds. Taking a stretch could be good for you and them.

Support Each Other: a flight with a fussy infant can feel like an eternity.  Make sure you take turns watching the little one and communicate with your significant other if you need a break or are getting frustrated.

Changing Tables:  I worried about needing to change diapers on a plane.  But, now I actually think the small size of the bathroom works to your advantage.  Once you flip the changing table down, you’re kind of wedged up against the changing table so I actually felt like Tyler really couldn’t escape anywhere and it felt safe.  So, don’t fret too much about the changing table in the airplane bathroom.

Thank the Lord, the plane landed and you made it! On to the next trip!

Feel free to share any tips, hacks, experiences, or stories you’ve had with flying with your infant.





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