To be honest, I had tons of anxiety and stress before flying with Ryser for the first time. Our first flight was when Ryser was just 4 weeks old and I was flying alone across the whole country! David and I both traveled a lot before Ryser made us a family of three, but we had no idea how to go about traveling with an infant. With my family living in North Carolina, and David’s family in Alabama, I knew that we would need to get a system in place quickly on how to travel with Ryser so it would be streamlined and stress-free.
This past week, Ryser took his 12th flight! Thankfully, from his first flight to now, I have learned SO much about what to pack, how to get through security easily, and how to have a peaceful flight.
Here are the best tips and tricks I have learned over the past few months for traveling with an infant!
If you’re flying, leave the pack-n-play at home
I didn’t realize, but airports will charge you to check your pack-n-play as a separate item. Instead of paying the cost to check it, you could spend that same amount of money to buy a cheap one at your destination. Even better, if you’re staying with close friends or family, you may be able to leave it with them for future use. In the end, it’s just another large item to keep up with at the airport, and we found we were better off without it.
Purchase diapers at your destination
Of course, you need to bring enough diapers to get you through the hours of travel, and some extras in case of emergencies, but don’t waste the space in your bag on tons of diapers! If you are traveling internationally, or to a remote location, you will need to pack diapers, but otherwise, buy them when you get there.
Pack all the baby clothes in ziplock bags
First things first: start with your favorite suitcase! I love the Fortis Pro Traveler Hardside Spinner from eBags. I have both the carry-on and the checked luggage size, and they are so spacious and dependable! For Ryser’s clothes, we use one carry-on and put all of his items in labeled ziplock bags. Trust me: packing all of your baby’s clothes in separate, labeled bags is THE easiest way! Baby clothes and accessories are so small and no matter how neat your suitcase is when you pack it, it will be a mess within just a few days. It’s so nice to have everything packed separately and labeled because honestly, all the clothes look the same! And when you have a fussy, sleepy baby, you need to be able to grab new PJs quickly and easily.
At the airport, wear your baby so you can be hands-free
This is one of the biggest things I have learned!! If you bring your baby in a car seat, they won’t let you keep them in it through TSA. So, you will have to pull your baby out of their carrier to go through security while the car seat is sent through the scanner. But here is the best life hack! You can wear your baby as you go through security as long as there is no metal on the carrier/wrap. Game changer!! This way you don’t have to risk waking up a sleeping baby and by wearing your baby you are hands-free to deal with luggage. This Solly Baby Wrap is my favorite sling to wear while traveling because it’s cloth and easy to store when you’re not using it. Here are some other options!
Keep your stroller with you instead of checking it
Speaking of car seats and strollers, you should definitely keep your stroller with you in the airport instead of checking it with other checked luggage. This way you can load up your stroller with your carry on, backpack, diaper bag, snacks, etc. so you don’t have to carry them through the airport.
Then when you get to the gate, you can gate-check the stroller and car seat if necessary. If the flight isn’t full, they will let you bring your car seat onto the plane which is honestly so nice. We finally got to do this on our most recent flight back to LA and Ryser slept in his car seat the whole time! It was amazing to be hands-free instead of having him in my lap the whole time.
Side Note: I brought my nice stroller with me, but if I had a lower quality one I would have brought it instead! My stroller hasn’t been ruined from traveling but has definitely been scratched! If you plan to gate check your stroller, you can bring a trash bag to wrap your car seat and stroller to help keep it from being damaged, from getting dirty and from getting wet. But, the trash bag won’t protect it completely.
Update: I just recently invested in a Doona Infant Car Seat / Stroller and it is life-changing, especially for travel! It’s the only car seat on the market that has built-in wheels to transform it into a stroller with the push of one button. We will definitely be taking our Doona on all flights from here on out.
Make sure your boarding ticket says “traveling with an infant”
With American Airlines, the check-in kiosk asked me if I was traveling with an infant, but with Delta, the system didn’t ask me. When I got to Delta’s security area I had to go back to ticketing and get a new boarding pass that stated I had an infant in my lap. By making sure your ticket says “traveling with an infant” you save yourself time and aggravation. Think of the “traveling with infant” specification as your baby’s ticket to fly! They can’t fly without a ticket!
Feed on take-off and landing because of the pressure change
Takeoff and landing are sometimes hard for adults, so the pressure change is definitely uncomfortable for your baby. Thankfully, the sucking motion of feeding helps their ears to adjust. Also, if you are trying to put your baby to sleep at the beginning of a flight, nursing is the perfect way to put them down. I have fed Ryser on takeoff every flight and he has then slept the WHOLE time!
A backpack diaper bag is a must
The first time I flew with Ryser, I brought a carry on AND my diaper bag on the plane, and it was too much. So, to simplify things the next time, I used my diaper bag as a backpack. I love this one (Fawn Design) that can be carried on your arm or on your back. If your diaper bag is not a backpack, I suggest literally packing a backpack as your diaper bag specifically for the plane ride. It’s so worth it to just have one bag with you since your hands will be full with your baby and even their car seat, too.
Bring a paci clip!
I didn’t know if Ryser would really need a paci clip, but I can now say they are so so helpful. Not only are there so many germs in the airport (and everywhere) but it’s also so nice to not lose every paci! A paci clip keeps your baby’s paci on their body so it’s away from germs but also in easy reach at all times.
Bring antibacterial wipes to wipe down your plane seat
Planes carry thousands of people every day which means thousands of germs. To be extra safe while on the plane, bring antibacterial wipes to clean off your seat, armrest, tray table, etc. Be sure to clean all of the surfaces that you or your baby will touch.
Bring an extra outfit for the baby
As you know, accidents will happen and you can never be too safe! Add an extra outfit in your carry-on for your baby in case you need to change them.
Bring an extra shirt for you
Chances are if your baby has a small accident, you’ll need to change, too. Bring an extra shirt or outfit in your carry on just to be on the safe side.
Schedule your flight around your baby’s schedule (if you can)
I always try to pick the cheapest flight, so we have taken flights at all times of the day. But, our most successful flights have taken off in the mid-morning! They were the most successful because I was able to do Ryser’s morning routine at home. This worked perfectly because it was then nap time while we traveled to the airport, got checked in, went through security, and got food. Then, Ryser was awake as we loaded onto the plane, I fed him on takeoff, and he was asleep again for the whole flight.
I have to say, those mid-morning flights were a major SUCCESS! But honestly, even if you can’t time the flight to your baby’s exact schedule, you will be fine if you just plan ahead. My biggest scheduling tip: make sure you feed your baby before you get to the airport if it will be close to feeding time. You don’t want to go through the entire check-in process with a hungry baby!
What to actually pack when traveling with an infant:
The first time I traveled with Ryser, I overpacked way too much! I didn’t know what I needed, so I just brought everything! (not the best strategy haha). Now, after flying so many times I have a solid packing list of what Ryser and I actually need:
- Breast Pump
- Two bottles – you can rewash and reuse
- Pajamas for every night
- Mix n Match clothes – I didn’t bring an outfit for every day because I knew we would be staying in and he would just be wearing his pajamas. I brought a lot of footies because they could be PJs or an outfit. If I was going to be gone for 10 days, I brought 5-6 outfits
- Swaddles / Burp cloths
- Tons of pacifiers – Trust me, you will lose them. Pretty sure the last time we traveled I packed 10 and came home with 4!
- Accessories – Bibs, socks, nails clippers, hairbrush, medicine
- Portable sound machine. The Baby Shusher is a lifesaver while traveling!!
If you are preparing to travel with an infant, I know that it can be daunting! But, here is the good news: people will help you and babies love to sleep on flights. Worst case scenario your baby screams the whole flight. But if so, it’s not the end of the world. Those who are on the flight and have kids understand. Those who don’t have kids, you’ll never see them again!
Overall, don’t stress and don’t be scared: it’s not as intimidating as it seems. Remember that your baby can sense when you are stressed, but when you’re calm they will be calm. Don’t be afraid to ask the flight attendant or those around you for help, and you will be fine! Pray a lot and you got this!!