Moms—let me guess—you just booked your first plane ticket since giving birth and are now cruising the internet for support. How do I get through TSA with my formula and breast pump? What should I do to protect my little one’s ears? How do I cope with the glares of other travelers who are none too happy too happy to have a baby sitting next to them? Flying with a baby is easy, said… NO PARENT EVER!
I’m here to help boost your confidence. Guess what… Along with the challenges, there are some serious benefits to flying with a pint-sized partner!
I’ll be honest, I was terrified about our first flight with Hudson. He was 10 months old and we were headed to AUSTRALIA. Way to break him in gradually—right? The flight was 17 1/2 hours, the fifth longest in the world! However, we had to get there. My husband was teaching a study abroad program in Sydney and we would be living abroad all summer. In fact, we flew 12 times in our two-and-a-half months in Australia. So, trust me when I tell you, flying with a baby isn’t as difficult as it seems.
Get ready to feel like a first class traveler! Travel with a baby and you will be high priority for the airline. Exact policies vary by carrier, but most airlines offer some sort of early boarding for families with small children. Their goal is to get you seated and settled, so you don’t hold things up as the rest of the herd boards.
Listen closely to the boarding announcements. Preboarding moves FAST and you don’t want to miss your call!
We flew United, which allows families with children under 2 to board before elite or first class travelers. Worried you’ll feel a twinge of guilt walking past the long queue of other travelers? Don’t be! The flight will be better for everyone if you have plenty of time to get your baby gear organized and your family situated.
Flying with a cute little bundle? Those baby smiles work magic on flight attendants, so expect great service. There’s a good chance they will check in on you more more frequently than other travelers. Remember, they are seasoned flyers and have seen it all! Use them as a resource and don’t be embarrassed if you have questions.
Furthermore, if you’re flying on a long haul flight, you might be surprised at the wealth of experience your attendants have. We’re talking 25+ years with the airline! For example, the “newbie” on our Houston-Sydney flight boasted nine years with United. Long haul flights are quite desirable for flight attendants. Only those with the most seniority can secure a route like IAH-SYD.
We had a row to our selves on our trip to and from Sydney. Awesome right? Well, it gets even better. We also had an empty seat next to us on nine of the 12 flights we took with Hudson this summer. You see, if an airline knows you are flying with a baby and they have empty seats, they will do what they can to give you more room. Not only are they helping you, they are also eliminating the ire of your fellow travelers who might not be thrilled to sit next to a squirmy babe.
If you’re buying a ticket through a travel-booking sight like Expedia or Priceline, be sure to visit the airline’s website as well so you can read up on seating options and procedures for parents flying with a baby. Those who are traveling internationally may be able to call to request a bassinet. The bassinet is a lifesaver on a long haul flight!
In addition to allowing you—and your baby—to get some sleep, you’ll also get added leg room and a free upgrade. United moved us up to the next seating class for no fee because bassinets must connect to a bulk head.
Finally—before you even get on the plane—take advantage of the extra space family rooms or nursing pods can provide at the airport. These facilities are a true blessing for nursing moms looking for privacy. Not all airports offer them, but it’s worth a quick check on your cell phone to find out.
Parents, this is your magic window for affordable family travel! Children under the age of two can fly free as a lap child on most major airlines. You may pay a small fee—like 10 percent of your ticket—but it sure beats an additional $1,500 fare (if you’re traveling to Australia like we were).
The Federal Aviation Administration encourages parents to buy a seat for their infant, but does not require it. It says the safest way for children to fly is strapped into their own harness, which can be with an approved car seat or other type of approved restraint.
We opted to go the lap child route for several reasons. First, Hudson is most comfortable, well behaved and secure snuggled up to me in his Baby Bjorn. With him strapped to me and my lap belt on, I felt very confident he was safe and secure. Secondly, our car seat was way too big for the plane.
For those flying internationally, remember your child will need a passport. Domestically, no ID is needed. However, if your child is close to age 2, you might need documentation to prove his or her age. This can be a birth certificate (copies or photos are okay), immunization record or passport.
On a flight, I’m usually one to put the headphones on and stick my nose in a book. However, flying with a baby opened up my eyes to the engaging conversations you can have with your fellow travelers. There’s something about a smiling little dude that really sparks interesting communication.
We met great families, found unlikely connections and consequently kept ourselves entertained on what can be a draining excursion. In fact, one of the families we met (from the Sydney area) was flying to the U.S. to visit tiny Slinger, Wisconsin. That’s just a short drive from where my husband grew up! Imagine that?!
This post marks the beginning of my travel series covering our Australian adventure. I’ll be sharing packing guides, tips on getting through TSA with a baby, how to navigate Sydney with an infant and more. Have specific questions? Please let me know in the comments below.