I traveled solo with my 9-month-old for his first ever trip away from home. Here’s what I learned.
Pack light. Bring just enough diapers to get to your destination, buy more when you arrive, and then pack more in your bags before you leave. Diapers take up a ton of unnecessary space. I would also highly recommend packing a (Munchkin Toss Portable Disposable Diaper Pail, 3 Pack, Holds 90 Diapers) because it seals in the stench of dirty diapers and actually holds quite a few in it. Once it’s full, just toss it in the trash! No extra trips to the dumpster or living with the smell of baby poop necessary. Don’t bother bringing a bunch of toys… baby will be so entertained and overwhelmed by all the new sights, sounds, smells, people, and things, that they won’t really be interested in their toys from home. I brought 3 simple toys with us and they did the job just fine.
Getting to the airport
Having a travel system was hands down the best way to go when traveling with a baby (I have the Graco Modes Travel System). His Modes car seat was able to be strapped into cars using the seatbelts, which means I didn’t have to pay extra money to check a car seat or a car seat base to our destination (and our very expensive & nice car seats didn’t have to get dirty, thrown around, and abused on our way there). It was one less thing to worry about. It was also so convenient because I was able to take the stroller with me all the way to our gate, where they would check it and return it to us at each layover. Being able to load our bags into the bottom carrier of the stroller while pushing baby made it a hundred times easier to get through the bustling airport.
Going through security
Before putting baby in the car seat/stroller, wear them in a carrier through security (we have the ErgoBaby carrier) so you don’t have to put baby down anywhere. They will simply wipe test your hands for any substances once you go through the x-ray machine.
You are also allowed to bring any amount of breast milk, formula, juice/water, snacks, toys, etc. for baby, so pack all of baby’s necessities in one bag to make it easier for security to check them. Liquid quantity is not an issue for any of baby’s items (i.e. none of baby’s drinks have to be under 3 oz). If milk is frozen solid, they do not do anything other than verify it is indeed frozen. If milk is liquid, they will test it.
On the plane
Ask for an aisle seat when you get to your gate if one’s available. If baby gets fussy, it’s so much easier to be able to walk up and down the aisle with them a couple times when you are in an aisle seat. It’s also more entertaining for baby because they have access to way more people, which is surprisingly really nice because everyone loves making faces at baby, they smile at them, and basically provide free entertainment for them. If you just so happen to get lucky enough to also have an open seat next to you, use it to your full advantage. I let my babe sleep in the empty seat next to me and it was the absolute best. It was one of the only times when I got a break during our trip.
Bring a pacifier or have a bottle of water/juice/milk ready for take off. The sucking and swallowing will help baby’s ears adjust to the altitude/pressure change.
At your destination
Don’t worry if baby misses a nap or two, and don’t worry about planning things around your usual nap schedule. Because everything is so new and exciting, they will soldier through the tired and are just happy to be exploring!
You do not have to pay for infants or toddlers under the age of 2, but you do still need a boarding pass for baby. Just go to the ticketing counter when you arrive at the airport, they will ask for the name and birthday of baby, and that’s it!
If you are a traveling, breastfeeding mother, I would highly recommend downloading the Mamava app. It lets you know where the nearest breastfeeding pod is in instances where breastfeeding rooms aren’t available. I found a Mamava pod at the Laguardia Airport in NYC and it saved me from having to feed my baby in a public space (which I personally don’t enjoy doing for our the sake of our own comfort).
If possible, book a flight early in the morning or later in the evening. If baby is able to sleep on the plane, it will make your life all the merrier.
Bring a light blanket to use to insulate any frozen milk, put on the floor for baby to play on, or use as a light blanket while baby sleeps. I had a simple, small travel blanket that I put on top of the milk to keep it cold and it stayed frozen from the time we left home at 7:30 AM until the time we got to our destination at 6:00 PM. It also ended up being great to have to cover baby with while he napped on the plane. The airport was so warm and we were both sweating from me carrying him, but planes tend to be on the colder side in the cabins so having something for him to bundle up in was great. And we all know how incredibly disgusting some places can be but baby might not understand why you don’t want to set them down, so having a little something for them to sit and play on will ease everyone’s minds.