Tips to Make Traveling With a Little One Easier

Updated on April 14, 2019
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Rachel is a Family Nurse Practitioner who enjoys travel and medical missions. Her toddler always tags along and is a world traveler already!

Is traveling with a child just too much trouble?

Traveling with a child is completely doable! Even though I had traveled quite a bit before having a baby, I was intimidated the first time we started planning a trip after she was born! But we quickly learned some tricks and tips to make it easy, and we enjoy traveling with our little one now! In this article, I will share those tips with you, and your child will soon be a world traveler!

Baby’s first flight!
Baby’s first flight!

What You Need to Know About Plane Tickets

• You don’t need to purchase a ticket for your child on Domestic flights (in the continental US) if he/she is under 2 years old. If international, there is a small fee.

• Your child doesn’t need a photo ID or passport if traveling domestically, however, any age child needs a passport for international travel.

• Call the airline after booking your ticket to have your child added as a “lap child”. This means you will hold him/her during the flight and can’t take your car seat on board.

What items are necessary and what can you leave at home?

When simply leaving the house with an infant, it feels like you are packing for a cross-country move! Diaper bag, extra clothes, wipes, bottles, breast pump, change of clothes for mom (for those guaranteed diaper explosions or projectile vomiting episodes), pacifiers, bibs, and the list goes on! So let's break down what you actually need to carry on the plane with you. Remember, if your child is a "lap child" and doesn't have a paid seat of their own, then they also have no luggage allowance. That being said, car seats and strollers can be checked for free on any airline, no matter the ticket status. When our child was an infant, here's a list of what I carried on the plane with us:

  • Bottles (will explain in further detail below)
  • Diapers (enough for your time in the airport, the flight time, and a couple of hours in case of delays).
  • One pack of wipes
  • Pacifier (this is a great way to prevent tiny ears from being bothered on take-off and landing)
  • Change of clothes for baby and mom
  • Socks (airplanes are cold sometimes!)
  • Burp cloths
  • Receiving blanket or baby's favorite
  • Manual breast pump (although you can bring your electric on board)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Pacifier sanitizer wipes
  • Travel changing pad (I like Obecome Portable Waterproof Baby Diaper Changing Pad Kit)
  • Infant carrier if you prefer to baby wear. (I used the Infantino Flip 4-in-1 Convertible Carrier, however, my baby was a tiny 5lbs, and was too little for it to start with - check the weight restrictions).
  • Toys (as a newborn, she didn't need anything except to eat and sleep, but as she got older, small toys were a lifesaver on flights!)
  • Birth certificate
  • My purse/backpack (don't forget your own ID!)
  • A small travel pillow for when baby's head just gets too uncomfortable on your arm!

Based on yours and your baby's preference, your list may be slightly different than above, but it's a good starting point. If you are traveling alone with your child, then you'll want to limit your baggage, as your hands will already be full with a baby.

The pillow came in handy!
The pillow came in handy!

Prepare for Delays

Always be prepared for a flight delay! You never know when a 2-hour flight will turn into a several-hour ordeal, so prepare accordingly. While you don't need to take an Amazon order worth of diapers with you, you also don't want to dish out the money for an overpriced diaper at the airport! It's a good rule when traveling with or without an infant to carry one day's worth of clothes in your carry-on, so you'll have something to wear in the event of lost luggage.

What about liquids?

Most people are familiar with the 3-1-1 TSA rule for liquids. However, the rules are slightly different for infants and toddlers. You are allowed to bring formula, breast milk, and juice in quantities larger than 3 oz and they do not have to fit into a quart-size bag. However, you do need to remove them for separate screening, and many times, they will be tested by a TSA agent. You can also bring jarred or canned baby food in your carry-on luggage.

Checked Luggage or Gate Check?

Item
Gate Check Allowed?
Gate Check Fee?
Checked at ticket counter
Checked luggage fee?
Stroller
Yes
No
Optional
No
Carseat
Yes
No
Optional
No
Playpen/travel bed
No
NA
Yes
Yes (on most airlines)
Booster seat
Yes
No
Optional
No

Should I take my stroller and carseat to the gate, or check it at the counter?

It is free to gate check your car seat and stroller. If you have a car seat that snaps onto your stroller, this is the simplest way. You'll need to remove the child to go through security. You carry the child through the metal detector with you and put the stroller and car seat through the scanner. Then just put him/her back into the seat. This frees up your hands and saves your arms while waiting at the airport! I recommend a travel bag for both your stroller and car seat.

Other Helpful Tips . . .

  • No matter your baby's source of nutrition (bottle or breastfed), feeding at take-off and landing is helpful to prevent pressure changes in ears. If absolutely not hungry, then try for a pacifier.
  • Bring wipes to wipe down the seat, tray table, armrests, etc.
  • Don't stress over your baby making noise. Try to keep him/her from screaming constantly, but babies make noise and people are more forgiving than you would think.
  • Airplanes are cold and dry. A small tube of moisturizing lotion and a blanket will make your tiny travel companion more comfortable.
  • Bathrooms on airplanes are small. Don't try to take a huge diaper bag with you. Get a travel changing pad and it will have pockets for diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream, etc.
  • Take pictures and document the first flight (hey, we still take pictures and our little girl has over 20 flights under her belt and multiple stamps in her passport!)

Have fun!

Leave the worrying at home . . . and have fun! Having a baby doesn’t confine you to home! Travel, introduce your little one to the world at an early age, be flexible, and enjoy every minute!

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Rachel James

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      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        8 days ago from UK

        This is a really useful guide for any parents of young children planning a trip. One of our grandsons flew at a young age. Not so easy now he's a toddler as he's very active.

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