Would you believe that I almost didn’t attend my brother’s wedding because I thought flying by myself with my newborn was going to be too difficult? My husband wasn’t going to be able to go with me, so I was fretting whether or not I should even go.
Even though my brother didn’t expect me to go given that I just had my baby and that it was an impromptu wedding, how could I have missed it purely because I was scared of the logistics? Plus, I was still on my maternity leave – I had the time!
Late last year, my husband and I agreed that we would do our best to prioritize spending time with those important to us – our family and friends. Me not going would not only go against this, I also knew I would regret it. So, I stopped overthinking it (something I tend to do) and just booked my ticket when I found a good deal. That way, there was no backing out.
Don’t let the “scary logistics” of flying solo with your little one hold you back! I’m glad I didn’t, as I got to be there for my brother on his special day. If you are contemplating an upcoming flight, here are some things to keep in mind based on my recent experience – pick what you feel will best apply to you so you can fly solo with your little one with less stress and more ease.
1. It’s All About Your Mindset
This is by far one of the most important things to have – in addition to diapers and wipes – a positive mindset. More than half the time, we (and by we, I mean me) overthink our situation and stress ourselves out more than we need to (guilty!).
Flying with an infant will surely be different from flying by yourself, or with them but accompanied by another helper – in my case, my husband. But with a little planning and a lot of happy thoughts, it’s really very manageable.
We rile ourselves up in anticipation and in the end, we find it’s not really as bad as we were playing it out to be in our heads. So save your stress for when you really need it. J Look forward to your trip and for the time you’ll be spending with your little one. It really makes a difference.
2. Picking Your Flight
I decided to go with Southwest because my bag (or bags) and my car seat (if I decide to just check it) get to fly for free, they offer priority boarding for families and from my experience, Southwest has been easy to deal with. Also, I can reschedule my flight without additional fees – not that I was planning to back out, but just in case. Pick the airline that suits your preferences and needs.
If available, pick a flight with no layovers. Having to get off the plane and rush to board another plane will just be more hassle. My total flight was only about 5 hours, so for me, no layover was the goal. If you have a much longer flight, you may prefer a layover so you and baby can get off, stretch, use a regular-sized bathroom and simply have a change of scenery.
If you do end up having a layover, pick one that has at least a 1-hour layover so you have ample time to get off, take a bathroom break (for the both of you), find your boarding gate and have a feeding session. And if your layover is in a large airport, add at least another 15 minutes, in case you need to run from one end of the airport to the other.
Pack as light as you possibly can without skimping on what you truly need for your trip. You don’t even really need to pack everything you need. For instance, you can purchase things like diapers and wipes at your destination (or if you are an Amazon Prime member, ship them there for free!). So instead of packing 2 weeks worth of diapers and wipes, just buy and/or ship them there.
I myself have a tendency to over-pack and add baby to the trip – it is quite a challenge to stick to the essentials. I always think I might need this and that… and end up with a suitcase that’s bursting at the seams, only to find I don’t actually need a lot of what’s in it. So do yourself a favor and try to only pack what you will really use. You’ll thank yourself when you’re not struggling to lift and drag your heavy suitcase(s) with your little one in tow.
4. To Check-In OR To Carry-On
As much as possible, pack everything you can in the suitcase you will be checking in – anything that you DON’T NEED with you during the flight itself gets packed here. Everything else you actually NEED during your flight goes in your carry-on bag – for me, this was our diaper bag. I even included my personal belongings in it so I was only lugging around one bag. If you can fit everything, do this.
For your carry-on, only bring what you truly need during your flight, such as burp cloths, diapers, wipes and your wallet (more on these essentials later). It’ll be lighter to carry and you’ll have an easier time finding what you need when you need it.
You definitely need your stroller/car seat travel system to help you navigate through the airport. It will make getting around so much easier, than having to haul everything plus your baby by hand or carrier. And you will be able to check your stroller before you board your plane.
Don’t check your car seat. When I called Southwest to inquire about a ticket for my son, the cost was double mine! Obviously, I chose the lap child option as a result. If your flight is not full, you can ask to bring your car seat with you onto the plane (make sure to check the labels on your car seat to ensure it’s aircraft safe – our Britax B-Safe was). I was fortunate to be able to and realized how valuable having another seat was. I was able to put him in his car seat while he slept or when I needed to grab something from our bag.
5. Essentials to Bring on the Plane
I recommend packing the following items in your carry-on to take with you onto the plane. How many of each item you bring will depend on how long your flight is. Be prepared with some extras, like a couple more diapers just in case, but try not to go overboard.
- Extra change of clothes for baby: I packed 2 sets of clothes for my son, as our flights were no more than 5.5 hours long. I also picked clothes that were easy to put on.
- Plastic bag: Just in case your little traveler has a blowout – the last thing you need during your travel is figuring out how/where to stuff your child’s soiled clothes.
- Wash/burp cloths
- Nursing cover: A must for me, as I breastfeed my baby and personally don’t feel comfortable just whipping them out in public.
- Extra shirt for yourself and nursing pads: Another must for me, just in case my shirt got drenched from feeding or skipping one.
- Formula and bottle(s): If your baby is formula fed.
- Diapers: I don’t need to tell you this is a must 😉 Bring however many you need for the duration of your flight and then add a couple more just in case. I brought 6 diapers with me.
- Baby carrier: This can come in handy when going through security and using the bathroom on the plane. I chose our Baby K’tan over the ErgoBaby because it was a lot easier to pack.
- Entertainment for yourself: I recently found out about Netflix’s download capability! We can now download movies/shows onto our devices, so I downloaded some onto my tablet to have watch something even if there was no wifi. I also had an audiobook via my trial Audible account on my phone. Between napping, diaper changes and nursing – I actually ended up not using either during our flight. But I was glad I had them in case I got bored and my little one didn’t need me. They didn’t take up much room in my bag either.
- Snack for yourself: You might not have the time or feel like lining up and paying for overpriced snacks at the airport, so pack some snacks for yourself. You must stay nourished to be on your A-game when flying with your baby.
- I recommend not bringing any toys because your baby won’t need it for entertainment. You can entertain them yourself by talking or singing to them or even giving them some everyday things like a water bottle. My daughter could play with water bottles for hours when she was little.
- Other must-haves for you and your baby: If like me, you wear contact lenses, include your eyeglasses and contact lens paraphernalia in your carry-on, in case your eyes get irritated and need to switch to glasses – or worse, your luggage gets lost or delayed. So bring with you the items that you can’t function effectively without or would be difficult to purchase in the event your suitcase doesn’t land with you on time.
6. Make it Through Security in a Breeze
I gotta be honest, I was dreading the whole getting through security thing with my baby a lot. But after having gone through it, I realized it wasn’t really that bad, as long as you’re prepared and traveling light.
First, take advantage of the TSA Family Line, if it’s available at your airport. It would ideally be a shorter line and you’ll be amongst families, so you’ll have a much better chance that they’ll be more understanding in the event you hold up the line. 🙂
Because I only had one diaper bag that contained all that my baby and I needed for the flight, I felt comfortable having my baby stay in the stroller, as I went through the process. My sister recommended I carry him using a baby carrier. I didn’t do this and we managed just fine. If you have more than one bag, however, you might prefer using a baby carrier.
Here are steps to get you through security rather seamlessly that worked for me – tweak as you see fit:
- Show your ID and boarding pass to security, then make your way to the TSA Family line.
- While waiting in line, make sure you don’t have any belongings tucked in the compartments of your stroller. Check your pockets as well and remove any change you have. I purposely took off my coat and placed it in the topmost part of my suitcase before checking it. This way, I didn’t have another thing I needed to take off and put back on or carry. But it was still easily accessible for me when I landed. I easily get cold so I simply wore a warm enough sweater for the flight. Put your important stuff like your ID and boarding pass back in your bag – front pocket if possible. Pretty much prep what you can, such as removing your belt, pulling out your laptop, etc.) so you are ready to move through quickly on your turn.
- When it’s your turn, remove your shoes and place them into the trays they provide. Take off your coat if you have one and place in the tray as well.
- Place your diaper bag in a tray if it fits or directly on the conveyor belt. My Britax B-Ready stroller (I loved traveling with this because it’s so easy to maneuver in and out of places) was too big for the conveyor belt, so they asked me to simply empty it (which I already did) for hand-checking. With my baby still in the stroller, unclip the car seat from the stroller base and place it on the table before the conveyor belt. Take your baby out of his/her car seat and put your car seat through the x-ray machine thing. The TSA agent was kind enough to flip and put my car seat onto the conveyor belt for me. The other time, the gentleman before me helped move it along the belt as well, as I held my little guy. I parked my stroller on the side (they’ll tell you where) so it could be hand-checked. If you have an umbrella stroller, they may ask you to fold it up and put it on the conveyor belt as well – if so, strap baby onto you with your baby carrier. And when in doubt, just ask one of the TSA agents around you on what you need to do.
- With your little one in your arms, walk through the metal detector (you can wear your baby carrier, if you prefer). You won’t be asked to walk through those new x-ray machines with your baby.
- Voila! You’re through security. Now, simply reverse what you did to get through.
- Wait for your car seat, then place your baby back in there and secure them.
- The TSA agent handed me back my stroller base.
- Clip the car seat back onto the stroller.
- Place your diaper bag in the storage compartment of your stroller.
- Put your shoes back on.
7. Give Yourself Extra Time
Having this will help you have and maintain a positive mindset. Give yourself a little more time than you normally would give yourself when you fly on your own to account for the logistics of traveling with your baby – getting their age verified with the desk agent, getting through security without rushing yourself, stop by the bathroom and relax before boarding. I gave myself an extra 30 minutes so I had some buffer to take my time.
After my experience, I could have probably given myself 40-45 minutes instead of 30. I made it through everything in time, it was sufficient, but I didn’t have much downtime before boarding. I could have used a few extra minutes to feed him longer or simply feel a little less anxious, as I waited in line for the changing table.
8. Take Your Time
Actually use that extra buffer window you’ve allotted yourself and take your time. I super recommend this. Similar to having the right mindset, you should take your time. Don’t rush yourself. I’m guilty of rushing myself for fear of holding someone up. If I can wait patiently for someone, so can they. 🙂 So, take your time and don’t stress yourself out hurrying up. It’s not worth it. You’ll be more prone to forgetting something, dropping something or second-guessing whether or not you placed your boarding pass back into your bag. More often than not, the people behind you in line are fairly patient waiting their turn (at least, I’d like to think).
9. Before Boarding the Plane
This is where having extra time helps. Once you’ve passed security, find your way to your boarding gate. Go to the gate attendant to get your stroller tagged so you can check it before boarding the plane. Ask if it’s a full flight. If it’s not, woohoo! Then find out if you can bring your car seat in with you (ask for an extra window seat if your airline has assigned seating).
I was super lucky that while both my flights were close to being full, they weren’t and I was able to bring my car seat with me onto the plane.
Now that you have that all sorted out – make a trip to the bathroom. I picked a large bathroom stall so I could park the stroller in there with my baby and I can go potty hands-free! Give your baby a quick diaper change so he/she is fresh before boarding the plane. Fingers crossed, this diaper change holds him over for the duration of your flight and you don’t need to change them on the plane. My little guy decided to poop right as soon as we took off and then again right before landing. It’s a good thing I changed him shortly before the flight. I think it saved us from having a blowout situation. 🙂
My little one gets inconsolable when hungry. He’s definitely happier and less fussy when he has a full stomach. If you still have a little bit of time, I recommend quickly nursing (or bottle feeding) your little one while you wait to board. This will help your baby settle down and be more relaxed (hopefully) when you board.
And if you still have a few moments to spare, double-check your stuff. Arrange your bag so that you can easily get the things you will need frequently while in flight – for me it was my nursing cover and burp cloth. Also, take this time to stand and stretch before the flight. As I stood, I rocked my little guy in my arms to give him a chance to stretch as well and see what’s around him before he got cooped up in the plane for the next few hours.
10. Boarding the Plane
If your airline provides this, take advantage of family boarding! It will help you to get settled and situated before everyone else starts boarding the plane.
Remember our goal of having only one carry-on? Well, by having just this one compact bag, you can easily place it under the seat in front of you without having to place and remove something from the overhead bin – unless you decide to bring a huge carry-on. I’m short so I avoid having to place anything in the overhead bin if I could avoid it.
If you’re able to bring your car seat in with you, just know you must place it on a window seat. My Britax B-Safe Infant Seat fit snuggly in the window seat.
Since you will be seated before a lot of the people, take this time to relax, shuffle things in your diaper bag (if you didn’t get a chance to) so you have the things you need at hand.
11. On the Plane
Luckily, my little guy wasn’t fussy (for the most part) on the plane. A lot of people recommended nursing him during take-off and landing to help their ears with the pressure. I didn’t always do this and he was fine. He was napping and I didn’t want to wake him. I did nurse him on demand, as I do at home, and it definitely helped keep him happy.
While baby can eat, eat and eat… I recommend you limit your fluids. This way, you’d be less inclined to use the loo. If you had to – it’s not the end of the world – just a pain (your baby carrier can come in handy in this situation).
If like me, you have to change your baby’s diaper on the plane, wait for the washroom to be vacant before making your way up there. It’s just not ideal to be standing in a cramped aisle while carrying your diaper bag and baby. Try to time it.
Be prepared for tight quarters! And here you thought using a plane’s restroom on your own was cramped. I would say this is one of the few perks of being small… being able to maneuver within an airplane washroom more easily. Bring your diaper bag with and have your wipes, diaper and changing pad stowed in an exterior pocket. This will save you from having to dig for them. It also wouldn’t hurt to have your extra change of clothes and a plastic bag on top of your other belongings in your bag, in case you need them.
12. Accept Help from Strangers
From my experience, people are super helpful to those with babies in tow … well, mostly 😉 I am always pleasantly surprised when others have stopped to pick up something I’ve dropped, as they see me struggling to juggle my baby and diaper bag. So, when someone offers to help place your car seat on the conveyor belt – take it! It really does help take the load off.
When the flight attendant offered to hold my baby so I can use the bathroom during our flight… I figured she can’t run off with my baby 😉 So, I took her up on her offer.
13. Be Knowledgeable and Ask Questions
One of the best ways to have a less stressful experience is to be knowledgeable of our situation – know what’s available to you, what you can and can’t do, etc. Now you wouldn’t possibly know everything in advance, nor would you be able to account for everything. However, by at least doing some research in advance, you can have a better idea of what to expect and how to plan accordingly.
Before your flight, check your airline’s policies for carry-ons, strollers, etc. Find out what baby gear you can check and/or bring on the plane, as well as their policies on car seats.
At the airport, ask if there’s a TSA family line you can take.
At your boarding gate, ask if there’s room for you to bring your car seat.
On the plane, ask which washroom has the changing table in it.
The more you know, the better off you will be.
14. Take care of Yourself
I can’t stress this enough and I’m guilty of not always heeding my own advice here. Take care of yourself! Make sure you stay hydrated, but try not to drink too much either that you need to go to the loo a lot. Eat! I get a light-headed when I don’t eat. If you’re like me, you function best with a happy belly, just like your baby. As you wait to board, try not to sit and instead stand – let the blood circulate in your legs. You’ll be sitting a lot on the plane. You can sway your little one too to keep her entertained. Lastly, rest when your baby naps! Take this chance to recharge so you are more alert for later.
15. Enjoy Your One-on-One Time with Your Baby
Last, but not least, enjoy this one-on-one time you get to have with your baby. It really changes your experience during your travel. Whenever we were settled, I’d entertain and talk to my little guy. Not only did he like it, but I LOVED it. I felt like we were really bonding. If anything, I probably enjoyed it more than he did. That shot of dopamine definitely helps reduce your stress (if you happen to be stressed).
I am so glad I made it to my brother’s wedding and got to spend time with my family. I hope that what I shared above can help you prepare and feel more at ease – whether you’re still deciding to fly or not – or have already bought your ticket and are just freaking out. Remember, it’s all (well, a lot of it is) in the mindset – so think positive! Pick and choose the tips listed above that will best work for you.