Tips for Traveling with Baby – At the Airport

It’s time for the second installment of Tips for Traveling with Baby.  Now your bags are all packed.  It’s time to get to the airport.  Here are a few tips on making it through a sometimes stressful trip to the ticket gate:

  1. Plan on getting to the airport at least 1.5 hours before your flight departs.  If you have a rental car to return, are flying on a heavy traffic day, or are flying internationally, you’ll need even more time.  Traveling with a child takes more time than when you’re alone so why stress yourself out?
  2. Take a passport or your baby’s birth certificate.  We had flown five round trips without anyone ever asking for our baby’s ID so on the sixth round trip, we thought we didn’t need it.  Of course they asked for it.  Luckily we live 15 minutes from the airport and were flying from home so my husband was able to go get it.  Don’t get caught unprepared!
  3. If you are bringing your carseat with you, know whether you’re checking it in on taking it on the flight with you.  If you’re planning on checking in the carseat, you’ll need something to put it in.  We bought a bag that’s something like this to protect it…we’ve seen others using bags provided by the airline.  Call ahead if you’re going to do this to confirm the airline provides those bags.  And give yourself some time to wrap up the carseat at the airport.  We’ve always checked our carseat in because we didn’t want to lug it around at the airport.  If your child will have his own seat, you might want to take it onboard with you.  We’ve never done that though.
  4. You’ll need to hold on to your boarding pass and your baby’s boarding pass.  Even if you’re traveling with your baby as a lap child, you’ll still need to make sure there’s a boarding pass for each of you.  And the person whose ticket the baby is attached to will need to be the one holding the baby while boarding the plane.
  5. Know what to expect at the x-ray security area and plan out who’s doing what.  If you’re traveling alone, then you’re doing everything.  🙂  If you’re traveling with a companion, decide ahead of time who will be carrying the baby through the metal detector, who will be folding up the stroller, who will be taking the bottles out of the baby bag.  It just makes things less stressful when you’re actually having to do it.  If you checked your stroller at the counter and are using a carrier, things may be a little easier since you don’t have to fold up the stroller.  If you have your stroller, they’ll run it through the x-ray machine once you’ve folded it up.  If you have filled baby bottles and/or sippy cups, the security staff will take those liquids and test them.  In all our trips, we’ve come across two means to test them; either they’ll open the bottle and wave a test strip over the liquid or they’ll just lay closed bottle down sideways in a testing machine.  You’ll need to accompany the security staff to get the bottle tested.  And of course, you’ll still need to remove your shoes, empty your pockets, and take out any laptops.  Phew!  I find this to be the most stressful part of the airport experience, especially when there’s a long line of travelers ahead of you.
  6. If you didn’t check in your stroller, you’ll need to get a gate check tag from the gate counter before you board the plane.  The stroller definitely comes in handy at the airport and we gate check it, which means we can use it until right before we board the plane, where we fold it up and leave it for an attendant to load on to the plane.  When we de-plane, we pick it up right outside the gate of the plane.  I will say that our stroller is pretty banged up from all our travel (well that and it was once used in a baby shower obstacle course game).  I’ve been noticing each time we travel, it’s a little worse than it was the time before.  If your baby is strong enough to sit in an umbrella stroller, those are highly recommended for travel.
  7. Plan your feedings.  If you give yourself enough time, you’ll have the luxury of being able to feed your baby whenever she’s ready to be fed.  We’ve stopped in an out of the way area to breastfeed our baby before going through security.  It’s just less stressful that way.  Some airports, like San Jose International (SJC), have rooms where you can nurse, which is really nice.  Ideally timing works out to where you can feed the baby to coincide the ascent and descent of the plan.
  8. Change baby’s diaper before you get on the plane.  There’s still a chance that you’ll need to change a diaper on the plane, but if you do it beforehand, it’s a lot less stressful.  Pretty much all airports have changing tables in the ladies’ rooms.  We’ve had to change a dirty diaper on the plane before.  I just felt bad for those around us.

So now you know what to expect at the airport.  Good luck!

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