These days, airline travel is difficult under the best circumstances. Add an infant into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for chaos — unless you plan well, and plan well ahead.
Check out these tips to make traveling with your infant easier:
Avoid Busy Day Rush-Hours. During non-holiday periods, the busiest travel days are Friday, Sunday, and Monday. If possible, schedule your flight on the other days of the week. You’re more likely to get a better price on tickets and have more space once on board. As for time of day, this is trickier. Most experts recommend flying as early in the day as possible since you’re less apt to have to deal with the snowball effect of delays. But the early morning and late-day flights are generally full of business travelers. If you fly mid-day, your flight will probably cover some napping hours so your baby might snooze for at least part of the trip.
Get Seat Assignments Early. If you wait until the day you’re traveling, odds are that you’ll be stuck with the worst seats on the plane. If you’re traveling with your infant on your lap, request an aisle or window (or one each if you’re with your spouse) and tell the reservation agent you’ll be traveling with an infant. They will sometimes try to leave an open seat on either side of yours. While you should never count on this option, if the flight isn’t full, some boarding agents or flight attendants will allow you to carry on your car seat and buckle baby into the empty seat next to you.
Bring a Front-Pack or a Sling. If baby is traveling on your lap, it may be easier for you to keep him contained in a front pack or sling for at least part of the trip.
Utilize the “Gate Check” Option. Check your luggage, but bring your stroller and/or backpack to the gate with you. Ask the boarding agent to gate check your bulky items so they are waiting for you at the end of the jetway when you arrive at your destination. If your trip includes a plane change, this will make getting from one part of the airport to the next much easier.
Ask For an Escort If You’re Alone. Since only ticketed passengers are allowed past security, you may find it difficult to transport baby and baggage to the gate if you’re traveling solo. If you arrive well ahead of your scheduled flight, you may be able to get a pass for your spouse or a friend to help you to the gate. Check with your airport’s security office for details since this policy varies.
Bring Plenty of Snacks. If your infant is nursing or takes a bottle, you may not need to worry about this, but for children older than six months, never underestimate the power of Cheerios, goldfish crackers, or other infant-friendly snacks. FAA regulations limit most liquids and gels, but infant foods, breast milk and formula are exceptions. Be sure that you follow guidelines to make your trip through airport security as easy as possible.
Carry-On Smart. Now that FAA regulations limit carry-on luggage to one suitcase and one “personal item” — such as a purse, laptop computer bag or briefcase — per passenger, you’ll have to pack your diaper bag judiciously. Don’t use up valuable space by stuffing a week’s worth of diapers and wipes into the bag. Pack only the number of diapers you think you’ll need for the travel day, plus two more (just in case), and a small travel-pack of wipes. Bring a change of clothes, a blanket, a sweater or coat if necessary, and a couple of favorite books or toys, plus enough snacks or bottles to see your baby through.
Prevent Ear Pain. The air-pressure changes that occur during ascents and, especially, descents, can cause significant ear pain. The best way to prevent it, or at least reduce it, is to encourage your baby to suck and swallow during take off, and for the few minutes prior to landing. Encourage him to nurse, take a bottle, or use a pacifier to stem the pain.
Ask Your Pediatrician About “Sedation.” Okay, this isn’t politically correct, but if your child is a fussy traveler, ask your pediatrician if you can give him a dose of Tylenol or Benadryl before you go. This may help him sleep for a good part of the trip.
Buy Your Baby a Ticket. Many airlines offer tickets for infants under two years old at a reduced rate — up to half the price of the lowest ticketed adult fare. And don’t forget to get your baby his own frequent flier account. Any passenger who pays for a seat is eligible for miles.
Nevada-based freelance writer Dana Sullivan is a frequent contributor to Your Baby Today and also writes for Fit Pregnancy and Parenting. She’s mom to Liam, 4, and Julia, 2.
The content on these pages is provided as general information only and should not be substituted for the advice of your physician.