A Step-by-Step Guide to Flying With a Baby

Does the thought of flying with a baby make you nervous? Don’t let it! While taking your little one with you on vacation does require a little more planning, it’s totally doable. Here is a step by step guide of how to comfortably fly with your baby.

The Morning of the Flight

When we have morning flights, we get ourselves ready first before waking the baby. It’s easier to get everything done for ourselves (showering, eating breakfast, doing any last minute chores, loading suitcases into the car) without the added variable of a possibly crying baby. Once we’ve done that, we wake up the baby, change his diaper, and get him into a fresh outfit. Then my husband takes out the trash so we don’t have a stinky diaper sitting in our house for the whole vacation. While he’s doing that, I bring the baby down and either buckle him into his car seat or feed him (depending on the flight time). Once that’s done and the bottles are washed (if we did a feeding), we all head to the car and we’re off!

At the Airport, Before Security

We’re doing all our travel on Southwest this year because of our companion pass. With our lap child, this means we have to actually check in at the ticket counter and show his birth certificate in order to get his boarding document. So, here are the steps we go through at the airport:

  1. My husband drops me off at the departures terminal and then goes to park the car. With me, I’ll have the following: the baby (in his car seat), the stroller (with the baby carrier, our two folded¬†gate check bags, and the diaper bag in the storage pouch), and our suitcase to check-in. I can usually maneuver myself to the check-in counter to take care of our bag and boarding passes. After my husband parks the car, he detaches the car seat base from our back seat and attaches it to his backpack, grabs the travel crib from the trunk, and heads over to find us.¬†
  2. Time to visit TSA. Here’s our usual routine:
    1. We gather enough TSA bins for me and my husband, plus two more for the baby things.
    2. We get ourselves ready to go through security (coats off, bags in bins, etc.).
    3. I take the formula out of the diaper bag and give it to the TSA agent (otherwise, your bag will get pulled aside and you’ll have to wait for them to find it themselves).
    4. We put everything from the stroller storage pouch into the gray bins.
    5. I take the baby out of the car seat (he needs to be carried through the metal detector).
    6. My husband puts the car seat on the conveyor belt, folds up the stroller, and does the same.
    7. We go through the metal detector and my husband goes through the air puff screening.
    8. We gather our things from the other end (I wait until my husband comes through and puts together the stroller and car seat, then I buckle our little guy in, and then get myself ready). If, for some reason, I wasn’t able to hand off the formula to an agent ahead of time, the diaper bag will have been pulled for further screening and we’ll have to wait until the agents get to it and do their tests.

At the Airport, After Security

  1. Security is cleared! Now we head to the gate. We find somewhere to sit and then the baby and I find a family bathroom to do our last diaper change before the flight.
  2. If the baby hasn’t been fed, yet, we feed him at the gate (if it’s not time, yet, we wait until we’ve boarded the plane so that he can eat and go to sleep before take-off).
  3. We all go the gate agent to ask if there are any extra seats on the flight for us to bring the car seat on the plane. We also tell the agent we are gate checking our stroller (and car seat, if there aren’t any extra seats). She will print out the luggage tags and attach them to our red gate check bags.
  4. I strap on the baby carrier, put the baby in, and hold the diaper bag. My husband puts the car seat (including the car seat base which he has detached from his backpack) and stroller in their gate check bags and carries those to our seat.
  5. When it’s time to board, we either line up with the A group (if we’ve checked in early) or with family boarding (which happens right after the A group on Southwest).
  6. We carry everything down the jet bridge. It’s a lot of stuff. On our last flight, my husband had an A boarding pass but mine was in the C group, so he tried to board with his group without us (to get good seats). The gate agent needed proof that he was traveling with a baby because he was carrying so many things– stroller bag, car seat bag, backpack, travel crib, and diaper bag.
  7. The two gate check bags with the stroller and car seat are left right outside the plane door. The travel crib gets put in an overhead compartment on the plane. The backpack and diaper bag get put under our seats.

And that’s all there is to it! It does get easier with time, and it helps to have a routine set of who does what so there won’t be any confusion with all of the moving parts. Good luck!

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