If you’ve been keeping up with the rest of my series on airplane travel with a baby, you probably already know that I believe differently than what most of society will tell you: traveling with a baby is not hard.
Traveling was our greatest passion before our little guy was born, and the number of people who made comments like “so I guess you guys are going to have to slow down now, huh?” and “well, I hope you got all the traveling out of your systems!” are innumerable.
Obviously, we were never going to let pessimistic comments like this get the better of us, as our plan was to bring our little guy along everywhere that we go, not stop our lifestyle at the drop of a hat.
This insistence on continuing our traveling flow resulted in our little man getting to 10 states in his first 4 months of life, with plans for many more on the way! Along the way, we have picked up many travel tips and hacks for flying with a baby, including both advice from other parents and tricks we’ve learned along the way.
This post, which is number 5 out of 6 in my series on traveling with a baby, contains our 5 biggest airport hacks for traveling with a baby. I should note that this post is markedly different from one of the other posts in this series, where I laid out 5 tips for taking a baby through airport security. Ready, Freddy?
1. Bring Your Stroller (and Carseat) Through Security
There are so many reasons that I recommend this, and it is hard to even begin. Let’s start here: just about every airline in the United States and abroad, including budget airlines like Frontier, Allegiant, and Spirit, allow you to check your car seat and stroller for free at either the ticketing counter or the gate.
This means that if you are not doing it, you are missing an opportunity! We highly recommend taking at least a stroller through security, as you will be able to push your baby around the mile-long terminal walk rather than carrying them in addition to your baggage.
Now, when I say stroller and car seat, I am referring to your travel system, if you have one. These are car seat and stroller combinations that click together, meaning you can keep your child in their car seat the entire time. I mentioned these in my post on the best baby travel gear.
These travel systems are really handy for airports, as they often offer a much larger stroller than a typical umbrella “travel stroller,” meaning that you can stow your own items below while pushing your baby around the terminal. We love this, as we put both of our backpacks and the diaper bag under the stroller and don’t have to carry a single thing through the airport unless we bring a carry-on.
The other reason that I recommend bringing a travel system instead of a compact stroller is because of its car seat compatibility. As I mentioned in my post on booking flights for a baby, not everyone buys a ticket for their child on the plane.
Until the age of 2, they can fly for free as long as you are willing to hold them in your lap. We will never buy a ticket for a kid under 2 if we don’t have to because we can easily save hundreds of dollars.
However, if you didn’t buy your baby a ticket and have your car seat handy, you can ask one of the people working at the gate if there is an empty seat next to you. If there is, it is not uncommon for the flight attendant to let you bring your car seat onto the plane just like a baby whose parents bought a ticket.
So, whether you bought your baby a ticket or not, bringing your car seat along is a good idea, and if there is no available seat, you can simply gate-check the car seat with the stroller and see it at your arrival gate.
2. Board the Plane with a Mildly Hungry Baby
This is one of the best tips we can offer you, simply because it is for the health and comfort of your baby. I’ve explained this in other posts, but the main reason a baby cries on an airplane is because of the change of pressure as the plane ascends and descends. Small babies’ inner ears are still developing, and they are not as good at regulating pressure changes as adult ears are.
Just like adults, though, once their ears pop, they are good to go. Any crying after that point is from traditional causes or lack of familiarity with their environment, but not really from pain or discomfort.
They tell us to chew gum to pop our ears, right? Well, another way to pop your ears on a plane is by sucking on a thick drink, like a smoothie.
Do you know what else works? Sucking on a bottle of milk or suckling on a breast! Babies’ ears regulate much more easily if they are eating during takeoff and landing, and the act of eating will also possibly distract them from the movements of the plane.
Feeding your baby during takeoff and landing eliminates a lot of tears, screams, and discomfort for your baby. While you never want your baby to go hungry, making sure they’re at least a little hungry guarantees that they’ll take the bottle or breast as the plane takes off, making them much happier and more comfortable for the duration of the flight.
3. Let Your Baby Stretch Out in the Terminal
Think about the travel day for a second. You’ve driven to the airport, pushed the stroller around the terminal, and are sitting, waiting to board the plane. If you bought your baby a seat on the plane and plan on bringing your car seat on board, there’s a good chance you never stopped to take your baby out of their car seat the entire day to stretch out!
Babies have so much energy that they want and need to expel, and carrying them in your arms or cooping them up in the stroller are not the ways to let them get that energy out.
Once you are at a comfortable point – you’re through security, your bags are checked, and you’re at your gate waiting to board – lay down a blanket or a sweater on the floor and just let your little one lay down and kick around for a while.
They will stretch out, burn off some energy, and get nice and worn out for the plane ride ahead of them. You wouldn’t want to be cooped up in a car seat all day, so why should they be?
4. Don’t Let Your Baby Fall Asleep in the Airport
This kind of goes along with the last one, but you want to do all that you can to keep your baby from falling asleep in the airport. If they’re going to nap at all, you want it to be in the airplane, where they have less room to crawl around, stretch out, and make noise.
In the airport, they can yell and scream and kick and crawl all they want and few people will even notice. On the plane is a bit of a different story.
While it might sound ideal to let your baby nap as you navigate through the airport and security, it is even more ideal for them to sleep on the plane, right after you feed them.
Sacrifice the peace and quiet as you make your way through the terminal in exchange for some peace and quiet on the plane. Play with your baby, lay them down to stretch, talk to them…do whatever it takes to keep them awake, and tire them out for the sky-high journey ahead.
5. Keep a Positive Attitude
I promise you, this is not meant to be cheesy or cliche. However, it is a simple fact that babies – especially once they are out of the newborn phase – feed off of the energy around them.
As a parent, you are the greatest source of influence that your baby has. If you appear stressed out, you raise your voice, you hyperventilate, and you frantically move around, your baby will pick up on that and get stressed out too. Preparation and positive thinking can make traveling with your baby a breeze.
Put it this way: you’re traveling to a fun destination with one of the people you love the most in the world! If you can shower your baby with love and patience, you are bound to have a day filled with giggles and smiles, as you can see on our Instagram. However, if you let yourself be stressed out before you even leave for the airport, your baby might not have the best day…and it is not his or her fault.
Thanks for reading my post with 5 airport hacks for parents with a baby. Hopefully, these tips help you to have a great and seamless day in the airport with your baby! If you liked this post, you’ll probably enjoy my post on the 5 things NOT to pack when flying somewhere with your baby.
Do you have any baby airplane hacks to share with us? Comment them below!