In 2017, Dave, Caroline and I went in our first official family of three vacation. Not only did we leave the state, we took a plane out of state! We took on the challenge of traveling with an infant. Now, we have a list of tips for traveling with an infant.
(This post was last updated 5/30/18)
The thought of doing that terrifies some parents so much they just avoid it all together. But, we decided that we needed to give it a try. After all, Dave worked so hard to make sure we stayed afloat during my bed rest time and maternity leave, that I felt like he truly deserved a nice extended weekend getaway.
*This post contains affiliate links that if you use, I may make a profit from at no extra cost to you.*
So, since we did the new parent unthinkable traveled with an infant! I figured I should share some of the tips and different things we did that helped make our vacation more enjoyable as a family of three.
First things first, if you can book a flight during nap time, that’s your best bet. We booked the second flight of the morning. Our take off time was 0715. We packed the bags in the car the night before because we planed to leave our house at 0430. Quietly, we got ready and got Caroline in the car seat at the last-minute. She slept the whole car ride. We made it to the park ‘n ride, parked and were shuttled to the airport by 0600.
Caroline was still sleeping in her car seat while we got our boarding passes and checked our bags. When traveling with a child, you will need to take their birth certificate to prove who they are and that they can travel with you. We had a minor wait in line to get through security.
She started to wake up then, but, it was a slow wake up. She is generally a happy baby, thank god! But she was happy to just see all the lights and people at the airport. When going through security, infants have to be taken out of the car seat, so it was a good thing she was starting to wake up anyway. The car seat goes through the X-ray machine. Make sure to lay it on the rollers upside down. Hopefully, you have nice, happy TSA agents to help you if you need it.
If you’re traveling with formula or breast milk, keep it in a separate insulated ice pack bag. You’ll put it through the X-ray machine as well. But, don’t be alarmed when they take the bag down to the little testing area to check it for any residues. We also took Caroline’s reflux medication as well. One TSA agent just looked at the label and asked us what it was and another one at a different airport tested it because it’s a liquid medication.
After making it through security, we made it to the gate. If you’re carrying your baby through the airport in the car seat and plan to use it until you walk down the jet-way to the plane, you have to stop by the gate check in counter and get a tag for it. The car seat has to be gate check tagged or it won’t be allowed. We just chose to have Caroline as a “lap baby”, as we didn’t see a point in paying another airfare for her to have her own seat and to be able to keep her in the car seat. I didn’t think that would work at her age anyway. We changed her diaper at the last-minute before boarding started so she would be fresh for the ride and could easily sleep.
If you’re traveling with Southwest, make sure to remember about Family Boarding. If you are traveling with a child age 6 or younger, you can board during family boarding and it doesn’t matter what boarding group and number you have on your ticket.
Family boarding happens after the group A boarding has finished. Since Southwest doesn’t have assigned seating, this helps keep families together for easier traveling. Depending on the flight and destination, this can really be of tremendous help, so try not to forget about it. They gate attendants usually make an announcement so that helps too.
Once we were on the plane, Dave found us an aisle and middle seat. He sat in the middle and I the aisle since I planned on keeping Caroline with me. I wanted the aisle seat in case I needed to get up and rock her a little. I know there isn’t much room on a flight and people don’t really like you to get out of the seat but if I could rock her and calm her down, I knew people would rather that than a screaming 4 month old.
Be prepared for some dirty looks from judging people. Before we had even taken off, I had received multiple dirty looks from other passengers, simply because we were bringing a young baby on board. She wasn’t even screaming, crying or misbehaving. She was smiling and being a happy baby actually. With a fully booked flight, we figured it would be the last poor soul to board, that would be stuck sitting with us. We were blessed and had a lady ask to sit with us. She talked to Caroline after she buckled and complimented her.
Before take off, Dave and I had a bottle prepared and we started feeding her as it was approaching nap time again. Especially since she was up earlier than normal, I was praying she would fall asleep during the flight. She finished her bottle as we were taxiing to take off.
We had Tylenol on hand in case of an emergency. We had a second bottle lined up if necessary. Sometimes just the sucking on the nipple calms her down. So I made sure to have a back up one set for in flight if we needed it.
Thankfully for us, Caroline fell asleep just as we were taking off. We made sure she had her pacifier, especially, during take off and landing. You know how, as adults, we make sure to bring gum or something to help keep our ears popping. My theory was if she can suck on her pacifier then maybe that will help her ears too. I feel like a lot of the time babies are crying on a plane because of problems with their ears. So, I was trying to think of any way to prevent that. Caroline slept from take off to landing. Pacifier in mouth when needed.
She never once woke up, screamed or bothered anyone. The lovely lady who sat with us just continued to compliment how good she was being and as we landed, so did everyone else. When she did wake up once we were on the ground, she was happy baby again. Happy to be awake, no idea what she just slept through. Our flight was only about two hours and fifteen minutes so that was a perfect first flight for her.
Once we got to Florida, we picked up the car seat while departing from the plane and started to head to baggage claim. We made sure to bring our “kangaroo pouch“, so I could wear her through the airport when it would make things easier. We have tried quite a few baby carriers with Caroline. We loved the Lillebaby carrier and we adored the Omni360 Ergobaby carrier. We’ve done a review on both carriers. They’re very dear to our hearts.
One day on the vacation, Dave and I planned on being out with her longer than the two small travel bottles we usually have. So, we brought an extra four once bottle as a back up. We wanted to make sure it didn’t leak in the insulated bag, so we used a binder clip to pinch the nipple closed. We were excited to find out that it didn’t leak, even with our busy times, running around.
We took Caroline with us on a lot of our vacation outings. She loved traveling in the stroller and baby carrier while she people watched. She even napped in both of them while we were out for longer adventures.
We vacationed to Florida where my grandmother lives. So, she kept her a few times while Dave and I had our first night out together since we had her over 4 months ago.
Since we flew with Southwest, we were able to check 4 bags for free but only brought 3. Caroline had her own bag.
We made sure to bring her favorite travel toys and her bumbo seat. That has been one of her favorite things recently and it really helped my Mommom while watching her. If you have extra baggage available to bring, bring items that will help keep baby feeling at home or in his or her normal routine to help ensure a pleasant vacation.
We love flying with Southwest and have found ways to travel for almost free as a family. Find out our secrets and tactics on how we fly our family for almost free all year long!
We were lucky enough that my parents left a pack n play and a jogging stroller in Florida at the vacation house (where Mommom lives full time). So, we didn’t have to bring ours or rent one. Having those there was a huge help with keeping Caroline feeling at home and in her routine.
On the way home, Caroline rode in the baby carrier through the airport and fell asleep just before the boarding process started. She slept through the whole flight again. We were truly blessed.
We have added a downloadable PDF for you to use as a cheat sheet when packing and planning your family vacation.
Just remember a Happy baby equals happy life.