I would like to preface this flying with baby post by stating that: Don’t worry, I am not going to become a mommy blogger.! Ok, that’s done. However, I have received several emails from readers and friends asking me about flying with la piccola so I wanted to have a point of reference in sharing my experience. When people started to find out that I was pregnant I recall many folks saying “oh, you’re not going to be able to travel”. Must say, carrying a human is so exhausting that I didn’t even have the energy to challenge them. To those people I say.. “watch us”. So here we are nine months after our little one was born and she’s already been to 3 continents, eight countries, traveled over 22,000 miles by plane, and a few thousand more by car.
Booking a Ticket with Baby
The Dutchman and I have decided to try to get in as many miles as we can before la piccola turns 2. Infants on lap fly for free. The only thing you have to pay for is taxes. Note that can add up when doing an intercontinental flight. We paid around $150 for our flight to Holland. My hubby got a United Mileage Plus account for the baby, but sadly she doesn’t accumulate award miles yet! Staying at a hotel? Call or email hotel ahead of time in order to have the crib ready in your room upon arrival.
Booking a Seat
Flying with baby is not easy, but it’s not hard. Just takes a little planning and creativity. Our first flight was when she was a little over two months. We were headed to The Netherlands to see her grandparents and to Belgium to see our friends. I had a friend who advised me to request the bassinet in advance and book the bulkhead seats. She was so tiny then and it worked great as she slept most of the flight. The flight is quite long so it’s nice to have free hands and the baby has a comfortable place to sleep. Note that bassinets are not available on all flights. We had them on our United flights to Europe but not on our Avianca flights to Colombia.
What to Pack
I am a notorious light packer. Checking in luggage is the bane of my traveling existence. Some people are used to flying with baby strictly carry-on and God bless them! I just wanted to make sure that we had everything we needed for her so I took a full sized bag and packed half my stuff and half hers. Most of her half is filled with diapers so it’s nice to have that extra space to bring back souvenirs. In our case, wine and cheese from Europe and coffee from Colombia! Needless to say, her side was filled with lots of extra onesies and bibs. PSA: if you want to buy someone a baby gift and don’t know what… buy them bibs! There are never enough (clean) bibs in our household!
What’s in My Carry-On when Flying with Baby?
I try to keep my carry-on items light since I am hauling a child. During my first two trips I was breastfeeding which made it much easier since I didn’t have to worry about making formula. My last trip I had one bottle pre-made and some packages of baby food and it went very smoothly with TSA. Just make sure to have them out for inspection. Even if you have TSA Pre-Check. I also pack a few extra onesies, a blanket, and pajamas for the baby. For me, an extra shirt. Thankfully, I haven’t had to change but I still do it because I know my luck! Flying with baby is a logistical challenge!
Side note: Formula is sooooo cheap in Europe! Like a 1/3 cheap. We paid $10 for ORGANIC formula in The Netherlands! Crazy. Needless to say that free space from the diapers in the end was filled with wine, cheese, and formula! If anybody knows why formula is so ridiculously priced here, please fill me in.
Should I Pack a Car Seat?
One of the questions I’ve received the most is “should I pack a car seat”. In my experience, we took our car seat on all of our trips. In Europe we traveled a lot by car so we didn’t want to rent or have to borrow a car seat. We have the Britax Travel System which allows us to clip the car seat directly to the stroller. The stroller collapses very easily and it’s nice to clip the car seat on/off. We also bought a case for both the stroller and the car seat in order to protect the gear. During our first flight, we checked stroller and car seat at the gate and we waited FOREVER to get it once we landed. That’s when we decided just to check them with our luggage. I think if I had to take a flight with a short layover, then I will choose to check it plane side. Don’t want to risk to travel without a stroller!
Side note: I saw a woman on our flight from Brussels to Munich with the Baby Zen Yoyo+ stroller. That thing was epic. It folds into this tiny thing that you can stow in your overhead bin! It’s not cheap ($495) but if you can afford it, it looks like an awesome piece of gear. I asked the lady about it and she said she loves it.
I’m a big fan of babywearing. I always say that our Tula Baby Carrier was one of the best gifts we received at our baby shower. Our piccola loves it and she loves taking in her surroundings. Thankfully that makes it easy to carry her at the airport. It just makes it easier to go through security and board the plane. People tend to be helpful but I don’t want to be stuck in a situation where my hands are full and nobody is willing to help! Although people have been helpful, I am still traumatized from my traveling while pregnant experiences.
Baby & Nursing Rooms
Most airports have nursing and baby rooms. Some airports advertise it less than others. Head to the airport website to see what kind of services are provided. For example, in Dulles Airport there are several individual rooms set aside for nursing throughout the airport. You must ask the information desk for an access code. We flew from Terminal C and were shocked that there was only one room available for the whole terminal (check out my tour on the embedded video). In contrast, Amsterdam Schiphol has a large baby room with individual private rooms that even have small cribs for the baby. There’s even a large area with changing tables and a sink. We used it during our first trip and it was very clean and comfortable.
We have been thankful that our piccola is very cooperative and barely cries on flights. One piece of advice from a friend proved to be invaluable: to feed the baby during takeoff and landing. The swallowing helps with the ear pressure. We also try our best to soothe her and walk her around the plane. She loves people so she gets to go up and down the aisle waving.
At home, we’re ok with letting her “cry it out” for a fixed period of time but on the plane it’s a different story. It’s not only about us but about having consideration for our fellow travelers. Even now as a mom, I think it’s rude when people are traveling with kids who let their kids scream and kick and do nothing to soothe them. I know that babies have a mind of their own and I see that some parents are working hard at soothing to no avail but others just ignore their kids. Not cool in a cramped environment with 200 other people.
Have Baby, Will Travel
So traveling with mini Dining Traveler? It’s much easier than I thought it would be. It takes a bit of patience and creativity. Every trip we learn something new and continue to streamline our process. There’s plenty more to learn about flying with baby. We shall continue to figure it out as we try to show our little girl the world.