Have Baby, Will Travel: Flying Edition

Flying from BWI with a toddler

This is the time of year when everyone in Central Maryland is looking forward to vacation! We are all longing for sunshine, warmth and some quality family time. All that stands between your family and paradise is the flight. We know that traveling, particularly by plane, with a new little one can be daunting. Here are some tips from seasoned jet-setting parents to get you started! 

 

Be flexible.

When traveling with little ones, being flexible is crucial! You can try to plan your trip around your baby's happiest times, naps, or meals, but the excitement of the trip to and through the airport is sure to throw even the most detailed family for a loop. 

 

Buy baby a seat.

Even though 'lap children' may be permitted, that is not the safest way for a baby to fly. Consider that flight crews require you to properly stow luggage, bags and even pets during ascent, descent and during rough weather conditions. Why then is holding a small human permitted during these times? 

 Photo courtesy of  Baby Gear Lab

Photo courtesy of Baby Gear Lab

The best and safest place for baby during a flight is buckled properly into their car seat (approved for FAA travel). Infant bucket carriers (like the one pictured at left) are particularly great because lap belt install is quick and easy! Here's an install video, but be sure to check out your seat's manual. Some airlines, like Southwest, have reduced fares for young children so be sure to call and ask!

If you don't want to use your existing convertible car seat, a great travel option is the Cosco Scenera, which is about $40 and available at a variety of retailers. The seat is lightweight, compact and FAA approved for airline use. Be sure to read the manual and adjust the harness to your child's size prior to heading to the airport. 

 

Keep your car seat

Since you've purchased your baby their own seat for the flight, you will need to bring your car seat on the flight with you. Flight attendants are always happy to help you on and off the plane, especially if they see you are traveling with children and car seats. Many airlines have a special boarding time for families as well. Keep in mind that most airlines require car seats to be installed next to the window so as not to block passenger's exit. 

Infant carriers that click into a lightweight stroller can provide you with some options for getting your family to the gate. Bags and personal belongings can be stored in the basket of the stroller, or you can wear baby in a carrier and use the stroller for the diaper bag and luggage. Almost every infant carrier can be installed with just a seat belt, so you don't need to pack the base portion for your trip! 

There are several options for transporting convertible car seats through the airport as well. Carts like the Britax Travel Cart or the Go Go Babyz Travelmate Car Seat Carrier can transform your car seat into an airport stroller without compromising the integrity of your car seat. Go Go Babyz also makes a luggage strap designed to attach a car seat to your rolling carry on luggage. 

 

Know your airport.

Before you head out, make a plan for drop off or parking. Services like SpotHero and The Parking Spot make comparing and pricing parking options a breeze with reservations, coupons, and mobile apps. 

We are fortunate that BWI is relatively family friendly with it's smaller size, simple layout and convenience features such as Family Restrooms and Nursing Stations conveniently located throughout the airport. There is even a fun Children's Play Area before security to watch the planes and burn off some energy. 

 

During the flight

Once you're packed up, at the airport, through security, and successfully boarded, the fun begins! Keeping a tiny human contained and relatively happy for the duration of your flight is not always an easy task. 

  • Be sure to pack a pacifier or plan to feed baby during altitude changes to help relieve ear pressure. 
  • Airplanes tend to be cool during the flight, so pack a comfy, familiar blanket to snuggle around your baby in their seat. 
  • A white noise app or portable sound machine can help minimize distracting sounds.
  • If it is safe to do so, take your little one for a walk in the aisle if they're getting restless.

There are lots of great ideas floating around on parenting forums about airplane distractions for toddlers. Here are some of our favorite!

  • Reusable Stickers like Melissa and Doug, stick to airplane windows, seat backs and the included book without being sticky. 
  • Crayola Color Wonder markers and paper are a great, mess-free option. 
  • A metal lunch box or small baking sheet with magnets.
  • Super Dough- think Play Doh, but doesn't crumble! 
  • Wrapped small books or toys (think Five Below or the Dollar Store). Half of the fun is unwrapping the 'present'. 
  • Snacks, snacks and more snacks. Raisins, dry cereal, fruit snacks, Goldfish, crackers, whatever your little one likes. 
  • When all else fails, pull out a tablet. We like the Tiny Hands apps that work on matching and classification. 

Leave yourself plenty of time, try to relax, and enjoy your flight!