We did it!! Baby D’s first plane ride!! While not a beach destination, we still had a blast in Philly. More to come on that soon, but first, let’s get to the travel nitty-gritty since this was a topic I agonized over for HOURS before we left. And because I like to be helpful, I’m going to write up a list of tips. These are all things that I wondered about or researched and have now experienced first hand.
1. Baby ID. As some folks commented on my last post and on Twitter, not every airline requires a boarding pass (and therefore ID) for your baby. BUT, some do. Southwest does, for example. And while they don’t specifically state this on their website, and they only say “birth certificate or passport?” when asking for ID, they will accept immunization records if that’s all you have. Also note, that you do not need originals. Copies of baby’s birth certificate or shot records will do just fine. Again, this varies by airline so check with your carrier.
2. Car seats and strollers can be checked or gate checked – your choice. Either way, expect plenty of rough handling, so consider buying a travel cover if you’re worried about it. Or ask for a large plastic bag from the ticket counter. We have a travel system (car seat and stroller combo) that we ended up taking through security and gate checking. We did not buy a travel case for either item, so our stroller ended up with lots of deep scratches on the handle. Apparently strollers/car seats have even been broken during transit and the airlines won’t take responsibility. So maybe don’t take your $500 BOB stroller without a protective carrier.
3. You need about 8 arms to get through security check points smoothly. Between the stroller, the car seat, my laptop, purse, backpack, shoes, belt, liquids bag, and the baby – it’s a PROCESS. Fortunately my husband was with me to help (I took the baby while he put the car seat and stroller on the belt). Some airports have special security lines for families. I always thought those were the slow lines, but as it turns out, we were able to bypass a huge security line by being in the family line.
4. Look for family changing areas. Most airports have them. They’re separate from the general ladies room, and tend to be cleaner. But almost every single public changing table I’ve used has always been out of the protective covers, so bring your own if you’re worried about germs. Most airplanes have a changing table in at least one of the lavatories, but I have a hard enough time using the bathroom on those things by myself, let alone trying to change my child on a tiny table.
5. Families typically get priority boarding. On Southwest, this means family boarding comes right after the A boarding group. So even though we were ticketed as B45 and B46, we were able to board before B1, which meant we were able to get seated together, and had room for all of our carry-on stuff. Nice!
6. For longer flights, put baby in overnight diapers. Even though our flight was only about 2 hours and 15 minutes, we ended up circling for an extra hour. And because of turbulence, it would’ve been more dangerous to try and change him in the airplane bathroom than to just wait it out. That’s a long time to go without a diaper change though, so be sure to use overnights so baby is as comfortable as possible.
7. Pack plenty of snacks in your carry on. Given the delays we had, our feeding schedule was totally messed up. Fortunately, we had plenty of puffs and mum-mums on hand to tide D over.
8. If possible, feed baby during takeoffs/landings. When I booked our plane tickets, I purposefully scheduled our flights so that feeding times occurred while we were in the air. This helped a lot with ear pain on the way up. On the way down, we made sure D had his paci, but he still tugged on his ears quite a bit. And since we’ve moved from breastmilk to formula, I bought those handy Enfamil travel packs and just purchased water for mixing once we were inside security.
9. Tablets are a lifesaver. Be prepared with a downloaded video or two. Though D slept most of the way to Philly, he was wide awake and raring to go on the flight home. We decided to splurge on the in-flight WiFi so we could play his Baby Einstein videos. (Nothing works on him like Baby Einstein. And Baby Einstein isn’t available for download – only streaming via YouTube.) That said, try not to depend on in-flight WiFi. It’s terribly slow and spotty and not worth the $8.
10. Some people are jerks, but most are really nice and friendly. I’ve heard plenty of horror stories about people being treated poorly because they were traveling with a baby. I didn’t experience this, thank goodness, but I was totally prepared for it. For the most part, we were either treated very nicely or just basically ignored. That said, your baby will still probably do something that someone will find annoying. Babies are too mobile and too curious to sit completely still, so the chances that they’re going to bang on the tray table, reach through the seat crack and touch someone, squeal loudly (either out of anger or delight), or kick someone’s seat is very likely. You just have to hope that people will try to ignore it or at least pretend that they find it as cute as you do (although we all know they’re lying).
11. Elevators are everywhere and they are your friend. Never try to navigate an escalator with a stroller. We had zero issues using the elevators, except for the fact that D hates them and cries every time we get in one.
12. Babies can ride on shuttles and it’s no big deal. I know this probably sounds stupid, but I was having major issues with the fact that we’d have to take a shuttle to our rental car. Since I’m not allowed to park in the airport’s short term parking lot (rates are too high and my company won’t reimburse unless it’s long-term parking), I made my husband drop me and baby D off at the airport while he went to park the car and ride the shuttle back. Once we got to Philly, we found out we would need to take a shuttle to the rental car facility. We just hoisted the stroller up and onto the shuttle and locked the wheels so it wouldn’t roll around. Is it a safety issue? Yes, definitely. But is that your only choice and is it legal? Yes. It also sucks for fellow shuttle riders. I’m sure I banged a few ankles and knees with our stroller, but they were polite enough to accept my apology and ignore it.
13. If you’re renting a car, upgrade to a full size or an SUV. I say this for two reasons: 1. Luggage/stroller space. We rented a full size, which was a Nissan Altima, and it was like playing Tetris to get our luggage and stroller to both fit in the trunk together. 2. Car seat size. Our infant seat bumps right up to the driver/passenger seats, so we always have to move them up to give the car seat plenty of room. This is not possible in smaller cars, unless you want to feel like you’re in a clown car.
14. There is no “traveling lightly” when it comes to traveling with a baby. There just isn’t. Accept it, embrace the fact that you have most of the contents of your home with you, and move on.
15. Stay positive. Babies feed off your energy. If you’re in a bad mood, chances are your baby will pick up on your anxiety and will be irritable too. Stay optimistic that everything will be great, and just enjoy the ride.