I'm An Experienced Traveler But A New Parent — Here Are 17 Things I've Learned After Flying With A Baby

·11 min read

I've traveled to over 50 countries — but once I had a baby, I realized I still had a lot to learn.

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I'm a travel writer, so traveling is an essential part of my life. Over the years, I've traveled to well over 50 countries and have lived in five. I like to think of myself as a pro. But once I had a baby (my first), travel started looking a lot different.

Evie Carrick

I'm all about jumping in and going for it, so when my daughter was five months old, we spent three weeks in Jamaica. We flew to LA when she was eight months and we'll be flying to France when she's just over nine months old.

Woman and baby on the beach

As soon as we started feeling settled as a family of three, I started feeling antsy. I couldn't wait to travel with her and start the (long) process of figuring out how to travel with a baby.

Evie Carrick

So while I still have a lot to learn, I've picked up a few tips and tricks that have made traveling with a baby, not only doable, but fun. Here are some!

1.Get to the airport 30 minutes earlier than you normally would.

Man with baby in an airport near the windows

Everything takes longer when you have a kid. On our flight home from Jamaica, we waited in the check-in line for over an hour and then had to deal with a diaper blowout when we finally got to the desk.

My advice is to take the airline's advice and get to the airport two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight — then add on an extra 30 minutes to baby-proof your travel day.

Evie Carrick

2.Check in for your flight in advance and if you're checking bags, use curbside check-in.

Exterior of an airport

I'm all about saving a buck, but when you have a small human, avoiding lines is worth an extra $10. On some airlines, like Delta, curbside check-in is free (although cash tips are appreciated). Others, like American Airlines, charge $3 a bag.

Paying a few extra dollars is worth it if you can avoid the check-in line and get to your gate early. Just keep in mind you'll need a credit card to cover the curbside fee (if relevant) and cash for the tip.

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3.Always bring a few different snacks, including ones that take time to consume.

Child eating a sandwich

The first time I flew with my daughter, she was five months old and food wasn't an issue (she was still exclusively nursing). But every time we've flown with her since, snacks have been the secret to a happy flight. Food has the power to distract, entertain, and most importantly, fill screaming mouths.

I usually bring a few crackers and sliced fruit, but my plan for our upcoming flight to France is to bring Cheerios. It takes dexterity, concentration, and time to get each tiny Cheerio into their mouth. Apparently, it can be a wildly entertaining time waster that can provide parents with a short break.

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4.Feed or give them a pacifier during takeoff and landing.

Woman holding a baby on an airplane

This may be a no-brainer, but I didn't know this was a thing until a kind mom gave me a heads up moments before we boarded our first flight. Like adults, babies' ears have a hard time adapting to quick changes in pressure, leading to stuffy-feeling ears, popping, or pain. And as you might imagine, all that causes screaming and crying.

The secret is to nurse or bottle feed your baby during take-off and landing — or, if they're not hungry, pop a pacifier in their mouth. The act of sucking and swallowing will help their ears from being negatively affected during takeoff and landing.

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5.Attach a teething necklace or toy to the baby carrier.

Baby in baby carrier

If you're wearing your baby around the airport, it's a good idea to have something they can play with while you deal with checking in and getting through security. My secret is to attach a teething necklace or a toy to the carrier so that you won't be constantly picking it up from the floor every three minutes.

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6.Put their diaper bag — stocked with extra clothes, toys, snacks, and plenty of diapers and wipes under the seat in front of you.

Legroom in an airplane

The secret to traveling with a baby is to anticipate what you'll need before you need it. Put everything you might need during the flight in a diaper bag and put it under the seat in front of you. I also like to pack things based on the order, frequency, or urgency that I'll need them.

I put a few diapers and a small pack of wipes near the top of the bag and toys and snacks in a side pocket. Things I might need, I put at the bottom of the bag (a change of clothes, a cozy sweater, extra diapers, and wipes).

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7.And since reaching for the diaper bag every few minutes with a baby on your lap isn't feasible, put the little things you'll need on demand in your purse or fanny pack.

Bag with small baby items

I'm a big fan of wearing a fanny pack across my chest when I travel. It's small, but it has room for my phone, passport, and wallet — and a few essential baby items: a Ziplock bag of baby wipes for messes, a pack of disinfectant wipes to clean the tray table and armrests, a couple crackers, a pacifier, and a small toy.

Evie Carrick

8.And after a mid-flight diaper blowout on the way home from Jamaica, I bring a change of clothes for myself, too.

Baby on the floor of an airport with bags

It's easy to get wrapped up in what the baby needs, but you also need to watch out for yourself. After a diaper explosion that left my husband's pants covered in poop, we now always make sure we have a pair of clean clothes accessible mid-flight.

For me, that means a pair of yoga pants and a tank top that are rolled up and stowed in my backpack.

Evie Carrick

9.Pull out one toy or snack at a time, so you have something to distract them with when a meltdown is about to happen.

Man with baby who is playing with a toy

If you dump all their toys in front of them the moment you sit down, they'll a.) be overwhelmed and b.) get bored of everything quickly. But, if you introduce one toy or snack at a time, there's always something new when they tire of what they have and start getting bored or frustrated.

Evie Carrick

10.When your baby is young, put them in a carrier rather than lug around a stroller.

Baby in a carrier with a tag attached to them

I'm all about packing less, not more. So even though checking a stroller is free, I have yet to try it. I prefer to wear my daughter in a Tula Free-to-Grow carrier. It gives me full use of both hands so I can throw my suitcase on the security belt, grab my passport quickly, and go to the bathroom.

I put my daughter facing out when she's awake, and then turn her to face me — chest to chest — when it's nap time. My Tula carrier also has a little flap that you can pull up over their head so it's dark for nap time.

Evie Carrick

11.That said, checking a stroller and car seat is free — just make sure both are travel-friendly.

Man lifting a baby at the airport

I know that at some point, a stroller will be a must, and I've already been scoping out travel strollers for when that day arrives. (Pro tip, you can use it at the airport and check it at the gate right before you board.)

That said, I've traveled with a car seat several times. In fact, I bought the Nuna Pipa Lite RX purely because it weighs under seven pounds and can strap into any car or airplane seat without a car seat base. I used it to Uber all over LA and can attest to the fact that takes just moments (and just a regular seat belt) to install.

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12.Just make sure and take a photo of your gear before you check it. It will get damaged at some point, and a photo will help you get reimbursed.

Woman and child at the airport

It's no secret that checked luggage — including car seats and strollers — aren't necessarily handled with care. Checking your baby gear at the gate can help, but damage is still likely and you'll have to carry it through the airport first.

One pro tip is to take a picture of your car seat or stroller pre-travel so you have proof of what it looked like before the flight.

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13.To keep the checked car seat from getting dirty, I bring a giant garbage bag and twist tie to the airport.

Man looking at baby in a car seat

I always bring a giant garbage bag and twist tie to the airport so I can at least keep the checked car seat from getting dirty and stained. One time, United actually gave me a bag, but every other time, I had to use my own.

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14.Scope out where the baby oxygen masks and life vests are.

Oxygen mask in an airplane

This is one of those things I didn't think of until I was midway through my first flight with baby. That said, it's a crucial thing to know.

Oxygen: Every row of seats has an extra oxygen mask in case one is inoperable or there is a lap infant in the row (that's you!). So, if you're in a row of three seats, four oxygen masks will drop down in the event of an emergency.

Life vests: According to a 2007 memo from the Federal Aviation Administration, "all cabin occupants, including in-lap children, must have an individual flotation means available for use." But, since in-lap children can be spread throughout the aircraft, the question is where are these extra flotation devices?

In every flight I've been on, there was an overhead bin near the back of the plane that was marked to include infant life vests. My suggestion is to read the safety card in your seat pocket or ask a flight attendant so you are well aware where they're stowed in your aircraft.

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15.Make use of the nursing rooms at the airport.

Sign for a nursery room in an airport

On my way back from LA, I got off the plane with a hungry baby with a dirty diaper. And right in my moment of need, I stumbled on a nursing room. Inside was a changing table, a sink, and a couple of couches for nursing. The door locked from the inside and must have been soundproof because behind the closed door it was quiet and serene.

It turns out, there's a law that requires small to large airports to have private spaces for breastfeeding and breast pumping. (Thank you Senator Tammy Duckworth for spearheading the Friendly Airports for Mothers Act.)

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16.Bring a blanket for the airport floor — and potentially the airplane floor.

Baby on a blanket at the airport

Time to kick, crawl, and explore is a key part of any baby's day. And after sitting in your lap for hours, all they (and you) will want is a little freedom to move and play.

I always bring a blanket to lay on the airport floor so my daughter can kick, crawl, and roll before or between flights. For long-haul flights, where she needs to sleep, you can use the blanket as a soft buffer for the airplane floor, or to prop up your arm while they sleep in your lap.

Evie Carrick

17.If you're traveling with another adult, board the plane separately so you can get everything stowed, but don't have to spend any extra time on the plane.

Woman holding baby in the airport

One of the great things about traveling with kids is that you get to board early and have time to get everything stowed and settle in. This is a great perk if your baby is young or sleeping, but if you're about to board a six-hour flight with a busy nine-month-old, you might want to spend as little time on the plane as possible.

One trick is to have one person board early so they can stow the carry-ons and diaper bag, gate check the stroller or car seat, and get the tray table and arm rests disinfected. The second adult can hang with the baby at the gate until the very last minute, allowing them a little on-the-ground freedom.

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I'm still new to this, so I'd love any tips you have! Please share below!