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{Tips} Flying with Infants and Toddlers – Part I

2013 was like no other year for us. It was the year we learnt to travel with a young child in tow.

Purchasing a seat for your baby means more restful sleep for your baby in their rear-facing carseat.

Before having kids, we’ve heard it all – Horror stories and various advice from people that we should travel all we want before having kids because once we do, we will no longer travel! Arghhhhh what a scary thought — no more travel?!

That didn’t sit right with us.

If we don’t travel, how are we to instill a love for travel and curiosity for the world beyond in our child?

We were determined to continue traveling even after having a child and we are happy to report that after a year of travel with an infant/toddler, we have learnt a lot and can proudly say that travel with a young child is doable and even recommended!!

 

2013 – LIAM’S TRAVELS

  • 3 mo. old – road trip to Whistler from Seattle (total of about 12 hours round trip)
  • 6 mo. old – 9 flights (various lengths in Europe including long flight from Seattle to Stockholm and back), overnight long distance train ride (Budapest to Zagreb), road trip from Zagreb to Plitvice National Park, another from Zagreb to Slovenia (Lake Bled) and another to Ljubljana as well as a long distance bus ride from Vienna to Bratislava
  • 7 mo. old – Road trip to Lummi Island from Seattle (involves a short ferry ride)
  • 12 mo. old – Round trip flight between Seattle and Hawaii.

 

Travel with an infant – RECOMMENDED

The younger the better, in fact. While we can’t promise that your baby won’t have a melt down or will happily cooperate, we think there are reasons for you to at least try bringing them along on one trip and see how they do.

  • They are immobile at this point so they’re perfectly happy being held throughout the flight or sitting in their carseat.
  • Ear pressure can be dealt with by breastfeeding/bottle feeding/pacifier on takeoff and landing.
  • More easily entertained than older kids.
  • They’re not looking to walk everywhere on the plane.
  • You don’t need to purchase a seat (but we recommend you do so you can bring your carseat on board)
  • They fit in bassinets in the bulkhead row (also means more legroom for you!)
  • We feel that even if they will not remember these trips at a later age, the travels at an early age gets them used to traveling and the entire experience may become familiar as they grow older which may lead to less stress (We hope! So far so good with Liam!)

 

Tips for Getting to the Airport, Checking In & Boarding

Now onto tips (based on our personal learnings with Liam):

A) Getting to the Airport

Make sure that whatever amount of time you’re used to getting to the airport for flights, double it (or add at least an hour or two to it). The extra time is useful for:

(1) Time to deal with any baby needs (poop, feeding, diaper changing, unexpected issues)

(2) Time for your baby to get some exercise (let them walk around in the gate area so that by the time they get on board, they’re tired and ready for a nap!)

(3) Shuttle from parking to airport. If you’re parking off-airport, have you and baby dropped off first before your husband/driver goes and parks the car and catch the shuttle without the baby.

(4) Earliest to the checkout counter might land you a bassinet (bassinets are usually first come first serve).

 

B) Checking In

(1) You can usually push your stroller all the way to the gate. This way, you can have your stroller waiting for you outside the plane door when you deplane.

(2) We recommend carrying the baby in a baby carrier though (versus a stroller). Bonus: You can wear your baby on board the airplane (outside of landing and take off) to put your baby to sleep or just to calm the baby.

(3) If you purchased a seat for your baby,

– bring baby’s carseat with you (don’t check it in).

– I also inform the crew that with a rear-facing carseat, the person in front of baby’s seat won’t be able to recline and request that they move us to bulkhead row if possible. They usually do that for us (it’s in their best interest to do so!)

– Besides a carseat, for toddlers 22lb or more, you can consider using an FAA approved 5-point harness called CARES (Child Airplane Restraint System).

(5) If you didn’t purchase a seat for your baby or unable to (some European flights don’t allow a seat to be purchased for infants),

– make sure you ask at check-in time if there are free seats. Sometimes, the crew may move you to a row that has a free seat so your baby can have his/her own seat. You may be asked to wait/check at the gate, so bring your carseat to the gate (we love the Go-Go Babyz Travelmate strap for easy carry of convertible carseats).

– you can also request a bassinet at check-in time (free of charge). They might move you right away to a row that can accommodate a bassinet or they might ask that you check again at the gate. There are slightly different length and weight requirements on different flights for a bassinet, so check with your airline before you get to the airport to be sure (the average is that the bassinet fits a child 6 months or younger).

Bassinets if you’re traveling with an infant 6 months or younger

Baby sleeping comfortably while parents have a break from holding baby. Especially useful if you didn’t purchase a seat for your baby. Request for a bassinet (free of charge) at check-in. It is a first come first serve service, so this is another incentive to arrive at the airport early.

We love this Go-Go Babyz Travelmate luggage strap. We were able to strap our son’s convertible carseat to a very small carry on and drag it through the airport easily.

(6) When we needed to check-in your carseat, we put our carseat in a bag to keep it from getting scratched up. This is the one that we used – Jeep Car Seat Travel Bag.

– It’s very high quality and has kept our carseat free from scratches on the many flights we were on.

– Bonus: For the smaller flights where our luggages were overweight, we actually stuffed this carseat bag with some of the additional items removed from our luggages (e.g. clothes) along with the car seat when we checked in. Car seats are not weighed, so it actually saved us a couple hundred dollars in excess baggage weight!

 

C) Boarding 

(1) If you had extra time to spare at the gate area, definitely let your child crawl/walk around (if they’re mobile). That way when you get on board, they’re tired and ready for a nap!

(2) Don’t board first! This is a tip shared by my stewardess friend and we have done this on various flights! (Needless to say this only works if you have a travel companion. If you’re traveling alone with your child, then please do board first to get settled).

– Most flights allow families traveling with children to board first. However, being stuck in a small cramped space while waiting for hundreds of passengers to board after you leads to a cranky child.

– So for larger planes, my husband usually boards first with all the carry-ons and sets up the carseat when they allow family boarding. I wait at that boarding area with the baby until I’m one of the last few to board. I sashay onto the plane at the end with the baby who is now tired from all the running around and ready to nap. We strap him into his carseat and the plane is usually taking off pretty soon after (versus having to wait for hundreds of other passengers to board!)

I wait at that boarding area with the baby until I’m one of the last few to board. I sashay onto the plane at the end with the baby who is now tired from all the running around and ready to nap (versus having to wait for hundreds of other passengers to board while sitting in a cramped space!)

 

We will be sharing more flying/travel tips in the coming weeks so stay tuned!

Additional References:

  1. Safety hazard in your lap
  2. Child Safety Website – FAA
  3. Traveling with Children – TSA

We hope you found our tips for getting to the airport and checking in useful in the first of our multi-part flying with an infant/toddler series!

7 Comments

  1. Anne October 26, 2014 Reply

    My husband and I have travelled and backpacked to many countries and people told us do it all before we have children as well! We now have a 6 month old and I really want to travel, but at the same time am so scared. Today as I was researching for a trip to Jordan, my friend sends me your blog to motivate me. It must be a sign! Gotta start researching for our trip!

  2. Shereen February 5, 2014 Reply

    What a great article! I also hear from so many people to travel as much as you can before having kids but I think the key is being prepared and having the right products to make it easier.

  3. Diana January 9, 2014 Reply

    This is a great post and came at an opportune time as I’m trying to figure out how we’ll continue traveling with an infant…! I never knew about the bassinet (don’t think I’ve ever seen those). Do US airlines offer that? Also, I great tip on stuffing the car seat since they don’t weigh it. I’ll have to remember that one! 🙂
    Diana recently posted..The Difference Between A Good Tour Guide & A Great Tour GuideMy Profile

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