Last year, while I was still nursing my son, Raleigh, I had a weekend work trip in Santa Barbara. I didn't want to pass up the opportunity, so I decided I would take him along. It was smooth sailing at times and totally stressful other times. Along the way, I jotted down all the tips and tricks I learned and am excited to share them in case you ever decide to travel alone with your baby!
Baby Travel Checklist – Tips for Traveling Alone with Baby
1. Can I bring formula on the plane?
You get a free pass on most TSA food and drink regulations when you have a baby in tow. But pack their food and snacks all in one place and make sure to keep them together. This will make it much easier when you go through security.
2. Pack a carry-on like your luggage will be lost.
Make sure you have plenty of diapers and necessities to get you through in case something happens to your checked luggage. I want to be comfortable, but I especially want my baby to be. So I pack things without waistbands that are breathable and soft. It’s always easy to layer to warm them up or cool them off. Also, in case of spills or accidents, pack an extra shirt or leggings for you and a couple of outfit options for the baby.
3. Can I bring a newborn?
There are no rules as to when a baby can fly, but keep in mind your baby will come into contact with a large amount of people, germs and all. I would recommend waiting until your baby has been vaccinated for diseases like whooping cough, which have made a resurgence in recent years.
4. Purchase an extra seat on the plane.
If you can swing it, you won't regret having an extra seat for the space. An additional seat allows you to bring your FAA-approved car seat along, which is great for naps! If you don't want to pay for the extra seat, wait until everyone boards and keep an eye out for an empty one. Or figure out if it's a full flight at the gate, and let the attendant know of your interest.
5. What are the best seat options?
If you're flying during sleeping hours, a window seat is easier for resting. If your baby will be awake and toddling around, an aisle seat is your friend. If you are traveling with someone, buy the aisle and window seat in a row. Middle seats don't usually get picked unless the flight is full, so you're likely to end up with the row to yourself. If someone does pick that seat, you can offer to switch to be next to your flight buddy.
6. Backpacks are the answer!
You'll be bending over and schlepping you and your baby’s items, and your purse or handbag shouldn’t get in the way!
7. Practice babywearing during travel by keeping the baby in a sling or other form of carrier.
I wouldn't have survived without a sling. If your little one is small enough, do the jersey fabric kind so it's extra comfortable and easier to make adjustments. Also, there’s no metal, so you’ll have no problems walking through security!
8. Bring a stroller (you can gate check it for free!)
But don't pack it until after you go through security. They will make you take it apart and put it on the conveyor belt, so don't pack it full of too many things until after you pass through. This was the most stressful part of my trip. Trying to hold my baby while dealing with collapsing the stroller and then getting it all back together again was a rookie mistake that I will not make twice! Also, don’t worry about baby seats and boosters – you can rent them from Alamo. Just book it with your rental car reservation and save yourself having to pack one more thing.
9. Have a Snack Ready!
Have something for your baby to drink or chew during take-off and landing to help alleviate ear pain – pacifier, snacks or nursing will work. Wait until you're done taxiing to the runway, and until the final 10,000-foot descent.
10. Consider Packing Multipurpose Items.
A jersey swaddle that you can wear like a scarf. A big board book for reading and holding snacks on for them to grab (lap baby + tray table don't mix.)
11. Drink Cart Lids
Some airlines have lids - Hallelujah! But when they don’t, I bring an empty water bottle and ask attendants if they mind filling that up instead of the wide mouthed cup that is sure to be spilled. Or buy a drink in the airport with a lid!
Need more tips? This article offers valuable information about flying with a toddler or infant!