Perhaps the most stressful part of travelling with your babies is the actual getting there part. Hauling babies and all of their gear TO the airport, let alone through it, is a daunting task. This post will help you know the rules of airline travel with kids under two, as well as top tips for making it an easy breezy pass through security, into the air, and (finally) to your destination.
Travelling with Babies: The Rules
For domestic travel, babies under two travel for free as lap children. To prove they are two you need one of the following:
- their original birth certificate
- the child’s passport
- the child’s immunization record
Recently, I took my four month old on her first cross country flight WITHOUT my husband. Ikes! The day before our flight, I realized that I had squandered the last 16 weeks and absolutely forgotten to get a birth certificate! A short trip to the doctor for an immunization record and I was spared what would surely have been a horrendous wait with two tots at the County Office of Vital Statistics.
You have to check in with your babe at the airline (curbside or at the desk). They will check your documentation and mark your ticket with “Infant in Arms” or give you an additional ticket (Southwest issues a second ticket). You are permitted to send child/baby items for free through checked luggage or to carry them onboard and not have them count against your two carry-on limit. Strollers or carseats are typical examples, though pack and plays, bumbos, or pretty much anything big and bulky that you might need for baby can be checked/carried. With airlines charging an arm and a leg for checked luggage, I try to travel light and carry my load. There will be tips and tricks on making it work below.
Those travelling with children can cut through the wait at security and head to the Family and Medical Liquids line. The choice is yours. You are likely to get a couple evil eyes but if it means no one has to stand next to a screaming toddler in the tedious security wait (especially given sequestration cuts), they might secretly be grateful.
Everyone in security will tell you that you don’t have to take your children’s shoes off for any child under 12. I think this is a hysterical comment for a 4 month old who doesn’t own “shoes”, but it is worth mentioning.
You are allowed to bring excess liquid along with you including breast milk, formula, medicine or the like. Having these liquids will mean a little extra screening but it has always been a breeze for us. (I have taken my two year old son through the airport for 8 different trips.) Usually, TSA will open a bottle, use some specialized paper to test it and send you on your way. The paper doesn’t come in contact with the milk and you should never be required to ingest it. For an in-depth look at rules and recommendations, check the TSA webpage concerning breastmilk. It is important to note that you can bring breast milk even if your child isn’t travelling with you (for example, if you have pumped while away and have the milk to bring back with you).
If you are babywearing at the airport (highly recommended – see below), you are not required to unwrap your baby to make it through security, including the metal detector. However, children cannot ride in their stroller or carseat through the metal detector. Both of these items are supposed to go through the X-ray machine.
There is always family boarding but it won’t necessarily get you on board first. Many airlines do let you board with first class. With Southwest (where seats are not assigned but are first-come first-served), family boarding will happen after the A group.
For those of you babywearing, you will be required to unwrap your baby for takeoff and landing. I have had some success with simply unbuckling or untying my wrap but have had other stewardesses who made me remove the baby entirely. Nursing or bottle-feeding during take off and landing will help combat the pressure changes as your baby sucks an swallows. Other than that, know that even if your baby screams, the pressure will soon adjust or you might be just about to land – phew!
Tips and Tricks
So, how did I make it through the airport with a baby, a carry-on, a bumbo (foam baby seat), blankets, a coat and a diaper bag? By planning! If you are going to pay to check your bag, it won’t be such an issue. If you are like me and want to save that $30 for something FUN, read on.
First, having a rolling duffle bag is a huge help. You can pull it behind you, but in a pinch, you can lift it up and throw it over your shoulder. To save space in a duffle packed for two, skimp on diapers! Bring what you need for the trip there and the first few hours and then pick up a weekend’s worth at a drug store.
I highly recommend a diaper bag that converts to a backpack. The one I use is a Petunia Pickle Bottom equipped with everything you need to take baby to a playdate or the airport. A good quality bag can be pricey, but there is a twice-a-year PPB Outlet sale that makes these bags more accessible.
In hindsight, even though I was going to Minnesota, I should have skipped the coat. It was too much to lug and a heavy sweater or cardigan that ties around the waist would have been much easier to travel with.
I saw multiple moms in the airport pushing strollers while pulling suitcases behind them. It looked rough! Babywearing is the easiest way to make it through security, onto the plane, and make sure baby gets their nap at naptime! I could write an enormous post just on this topic but will instead point you to The Babywearer and let you know that in the photo I am wearing a wrap from Lil Peepers Keepers. Babywearing means you have both hands free at all times and that baby feels safe and secure during your sprint through the airport.[pinterest count=”horizontal”]
I wanted to end with a quick tip about the Bumbo you can see in my photo. Most moms know what this nifty little infant seat is, but many may not know that they were recalled in August 2012. By installing the recommended safety belt, I was able to travel with it relatively easily (not to mention, it ensures my baby is safe when in it). I clipped the safety belt around my luggage handle and off we went.
Now, you know HOW you are getting to your vacation with your tot in tow. The question remains, WHERE are you going?
Let Tahira, a true family travel expert, help you plan your next vacation: Visit her Website here or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org!