Fly Away, Little Bird

At the end of the month we are taking our first family flight. Gabe will be almost 4 months. I have a very vague idea of what it is to fly with an infant and I am looking for your assistance.


I need advice.

So, please, share this post with people you know with kids and who have traveled. If you are one of those people, please bestow upon me your tips and tricks, the things you wish you had known but didn’t, etc etc and so on and so forth. I am all ears and eyes. I am a pupil of parenting. Or something. This will be the first of many flights within the first year of Mr. Gabe’s life and I would like to avoid as many mishaps as possible. I would also like to keep what little hair I have left (you, the stuff that hasn’t already fallen out all over my apartment…. woo hoo hormones!).

And thank you in advance! I will be trolling the comments as much as possible today, asking follow up questions and bowing down to your awesome.

33 thoughts on “Fly Away, Little Bird”

  1. We first flew with Frances when she was 4 months old and it wasn’t bad at all – although I was a stress case! Things to know:
    You can check both car seats and strollers at the gate.
    If the airport has those full body scanners, whoever is holding the baby doesn’t have to go through them. Also, if Gabe is wearing shoes, you don’t have to take his off.
    If you bring pumped breastmilk or formula with you, just let the TSA folks know.They’ll make you open the bottles and wave some chemical detecting stuff over it, but there’s no limit on how much you can bring.
    This may seem silly – but take advantage of the changing table in the airport bathrooms before you get on your flight. No fun changing a baby in midair.
    You can’t wear your baby during take off and landing, you have to hold them. That said, only on our flight back did the flight attendant know this/say anything. (She was awesome, she trained other flight attendant on safety)
    Feed Gabe, or if he’ll take a pacifier, give it to him on takeoff and landing. The sucking will keep his ears from hurting (like chewing gum for adults).

    Frances actually really liked the airport – she loves people watching and she had never seen so many people in her life! We just walked around a lot while waiting to board, so that she could just look at everyone. With any luck, Gabe will fall asleep for at least part of the flight, otherwise a few rattle toys are good. We also sang to Frances a lot.

    Good luck! You can do it! We’re flying again at the end of the month too, and it will be interesting to see how it goes with a full-on toddler! I plan to have her run around the airport as much as possible before the flight to hopefully tire herself out.

    1. We are flying several times this summer and then a long flight for christmas when he will be 9 months… I’m hoping to get this thing down PAT before then. I’m mostly concerned with navigating security with the stroller, car seat, and baby. What goes through the conveyer belt? and what doesn’t?

      1. The car seat goes through the conveyor belt. I think the stroller does too, but this will be my first time travelling with one (I just wore Frances on our previous 2 trips), so I can’t swear that. I should note that you can’t wear Gabe through security. If you have him in a carrier of some kind, he has to come out, and it has to go through the conveyor belt. It is all a bit hectic, navigating security, but luckily there are 2 of you to maneuver stuff!

        1. Agree with everything cransell says except the carrier bit. I always walk through with the carrier on. After you go through, they have to do a swab of your hands because you are wearing the carrier, which takes about 1 extra minute. TSA agents are always extremely lovely to me when I have the baby.

      2. Whatever can fit through the security x-ray can go on the conveyer belt. Our umbrella stroller went through, but I saw a larger stroller just “get wanded” when it wouldn’t fit. So, I’d say just plan on putting it through the x-ray machine and let the security dudes and dudettes tell you if they need to wand it.

        Baby food you carry on (for your future trips, obvs) gets “declared” just like medical liquids — you just have to put it in plain sight in one of those bins.

        Security was remarkably easy for us. Let me write more down below.

      3. We had to check-in baby seat and stroller – but that might just be Australian airlines. Sometimes they have a little stroller available that you can then take from check-in to the gate and just leave there but not always.

  2. Marcela @The Celebration girl ( has traveled a lot with children, I think since they were small. She is very, very nice, and a good friend. I am sure if you email her she will answer you with tips, and actually her last post was on traveling with kids (though hers are a bit older now).
    Also there was this post by Peonies and Polaroids where people were gaveher advice on flying with babies.
    Oh, and first travel with baby, yaaay!

  3. If possible, book the flight to coincide with naptime. And bring something new – toy, etc – to engage him/keep him occupied. I think at 4 months you are still in a sweet spot of easy flying. Also, nurse or give him a bottle during take off and landing to help with ears.

    You can check your car seat and stroller – make sure you put them in a garbage bag or something, because if it is raining, they will get soaked while coming off the plane. Sometimes they let us check our travel pack-n-play for free, sometimes we get charged.

    Do not expect to do anything on the flight except tend to Gabe. Expectations are key. You’ll be great!

    1. Expectations ARE key… for all of this baby business. I think I will be so worried that he’ll scream and piss off all the passengers that I really won’t be doing anything at all but tending to him.

  4. I don’t have children, but I have heard that if you can try to to feed him during take off and landing it will help with the ear popping and make him a happy camper. This may be more of an issue with babies who have tubes in their ears, but there you go!

  5. If Gabe will take to it, try a front pack / wrap for boarding and disembarking – pop him in, leaves your hands free to help with the bags and also means you dont have to worry about dropping him.
    Take as little luggage as possible – both checked and carry-on. But make sure you have emergency supplies for all of you in your carry on (nappies, change of clothes etc).
    Good luck! LJ wont be on his first flight till October with current plans. But we’re doing lots of long9ish) drives between now and then…

  6. Hi! We took our little one on her first flight last month when she was six months old. One thing I would suggest is that if you’re bringing your car seat, spend a little extra upfront and invest in a car seat bag. We got one from target and it was great. Also, you don’t have to pay to check the car seat bag so we stuffed with a ton of baby-related and non-baby-related items.

    1. Do carseat bags fit, generally, all carseats? and do I just pop it in the bag to gate-check it? I feel like these are stupid questions but I literally know NOTHING.

      1. I bought a car seat bag specific to our car seat (though we then scratched that plan and rented a car seat at our destination!). You could always buy a cheaper car seat bag right now and test it out ASAP. If it doesn’t fit, you can hunt down a specific-to-your-seat bag.

    2. We got giant clear contractor bags off amazon (came in a pack of a bazillion) and use one of those instead of a car seat bag. We use it every time on the seat itself because it skeeves us (stopped doing it on the car seat caddy that we also gate check with the car seat), but I have NEVER seen any other stroller or car seat being gate checked on our flights use any type of bag so apparently most people get over this. Our bean is still tiny so 1 yr in she is still in her infant car seat, and we bring the base with us and click them together and put in the same bag.

  7. I think the most important thing is for you, the mom, to be comfortable on the plane. For me that was sitting in the window seat so that when I nursed my husband could shield me away from everyone. I read to wear really easy clothes for nursing, like sleep bras and shirts without buttons and snaps, and that proved to be super helpful. If it’s a short flight, you can definitely take turns walking up and down the aisle with the baby when he’s being fussy. Get water at the airport so that you don’t get dehydrated. Have lots of snacks with you so that you don’t feel like you’re starving. (Sometimes it’s hard to buy and eat food-food at the airport when tending to a baby and lugging around gear.) If you’re nursing, you’re in luck. That’s really the solution to everything at this point! Oh, and bringing a few new toys for the trip, like someone suggested, is a great idea too!

    1. Great advice! We are indeed trying to make it as comfortable as possible for us. We went so far as to get the Main Cabin Select seats for the flight on Virgin. We almost got First Class, but we felt it was a tad overkill. =) Hopefully the added perks of this upgrade will help us out a tad with baby.

      We’re also happy this is a quick flight, usually 90ish minutes.

  8. We flew when Penelope was 6 months and it was surprisingly easy!
    We brought my Breast Friend nursing pillow and I nursed her during take off and landing. Nursing just put her to sleep and the pillow was perfect so she just slept on it basically the whole way. If your flight isn’t full definitely ask for a row with an open seat.

  9. Okay. I just flew international (6hour flights) with my 8 month old, and domestic (1.5hour flights) when he was 3 months and 6 months.

    For the plane: diapers (more than you think in case you are delayed on either side). Put your change mat, pack of wipes, 1 diaper and a garbage bag in a ziplock or small pouch and keep it in the seat pocket so you don’t have to shlep the whole diaper bag to the toilet.

    Take swaddles up drape over sleeping baby or to create a bit of quiet/far area. Also take bulldog clips/blu tac to stick them into seats/walls.

    I actually took a few toys I knew my son loved, rather than new ones. I think new ones are better for when they’re a bit older and are more distracted by the new. Your kid won’t know the you isn’t new ;).

    If you use pacifiers, take 3x as many as you think. I think I took 6 on our first flight – airplanes are disgusting and he kept dropping them… Don’t get too stressed about feeding on way up/down. We were delayed ON THE PLANE for the first flight and so my perfectly timed feeds didn’t exactly work – I had to feed early. But it was okay.

    Again, flying at naptime for us was way more important at 8 months than the previous two trips. At 4 months, he’ll probably sleep in your arms pretty nicely!

    Take extra clothes for him and you.

    Ooh this is a good one: feed before you leave the airport, so you don’t have a screaming infant in a carseat the whole way to [wherever]. Learnt that the hard way!

    Don’t worry too much about feeding on a routine or whatever – it’s one day.
    Also make sure you go to the toilet before you get on the plane. It’s a loooooong day!!

    Oh! Nancy holtzman has a great storify about this.

    Ill let you know if I think of others.

  10. So, I think my biggest advice is just to not worry about it. Really. Someone once gave me the advice that while buying drink tickets or bringing sweets for your fellow passengers is nice, it’s completely not necessary. You’ll do your best to keep you, Gabe, and Kamel happy and not screaming, and that’s really all you need to do. He may be fussy, but you know what? Babies have to travel too! It’s not like he’ll be screaming his head off for an hour and you’ll be ignoring him — just know that you’re doing your best, and everyone else can just deal with whatever happens. Whether any of your flights are long, or if they’re all short, just remember that it’s only a few hours on a day or two, and then it’s done! 🙂 I tend to be an anxious person, so remembering all this reminded me that it’s really okay — it’s going to be okay! 🙂

    For more practical advice, I’d say bring lots to do. At 4 months, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Hopefully he’ll be sleepy enough to just nurse then pass out. If not, be sure to have a couple books or a toy to entertain him. Avi was 9 months on our recent trip, and we know for his ~11.5 month trip in late July we’ll need to bring lots to do — multiple books and toys, snacks to feed on the plane, and probably an iPad app or two. We’ll be flying 7 hours (broken in half) plus a 2-hour layover,

    Speaking of layovers, if any of your flights later on connect, be sure to have a long-ish layover! I think two hours minimum, especially if you need time to get yourselves a meal. Considering the chances of delayed flights and that you should be at the next gate 30 minutes ahead of time (and the HUGE airports out there), a good layover will be key. I don’t think we can spring through airports anymore with a little one in tow!

    I also recommend bringing as little as possible — check your bags, rent a car seat on the other side, bring a lightweight stroller, consider wearing Gabe through security (though we didn’t wear Avi, since we had two pairs of hands). We used to be “carry-ons only people,” but we are SO GLAD that we checked bags and rented a car seat. It made the entire experience so much more pleasant.

  11. Oh, I didn’t finish my sentence in the middle there. I mean to say… We’ll be flying 7 hours (broken in half) plus a 2-hour layover, so that will be an entirely different monster, but even just our short flights recently showed that we need to bring more distraction!

  12. P.S. I echo what at least one other person said — sitting by the window is great. You don’t have to worry about head head getting bonked by people walking down the aisle, you have more privacy, and I was surprised at how much our little guy loved looking out the window. I thought the aisle would be better so we could get up to walk around, but the window seat was better (we flew Southwest back, so we gave the window a try).

  13. We just took a 10 day trip to Wisconsin and North Carolina in late May—aka the Baby Road Show to show Ari off to the family—so I can help! I went online to make sure I packed what Arianna needed. Babycenter had a great list of things to bring. It’s best to pack most everything they list because you really don’t know what kind of traveller your baby will be. After the first go around you’ll get a feel for how Gabe travels.

    I skimmed some of the comments and only have a few things I’d add: Buy a Snap and Go stroller for travel instead of taking the one you have. It’s light which is always a plus when traveling. And you won’t be worried about wear and tear from airpot personnel handling it. Buy baby ear protectors (check amazon) in case baby doesn’t like noise in the airport/on the plane. I bought them but Arianna didn’t need them. (again, one of those things that’s good to have just in case). We did ready to use formula on the plane to keep life simple. Security whisks them away to some table…but they didn’t open them up so the formula didn’t spoil.

    Something controversial that we did…that some parents may not be comfortable doing is using colic tablets for baby. We did this with Arianna (after checking with her pediatrician) when she started getting anxious/fussy. My personal reason for doing this was having witnessed an inconsolable baby on a flight from LA to SF once. He cried non-stop the entire plane ride. The flight crew had to ask for medical assistance on the plane and thankfully there was a nurse that attempted to help with mixed success.

    For us, we imagined that as our worst case scenario. Having Ari cry for 1-2 hours, or more, until she fell asleep was an unbearable thought. So we brought it as back up and used it when we needed to.

    Ari was great through the trip. She did get a horrible diaper rash (she never gets those) and I suspect it’s because we changed diaper brands. I’d recommend sticking to all the brands baby is use to while traveling. I did find that Ari was pretty exhausted near the end of the trip and decided the next trip would have to be shorter with only one destination.

    1. This comment reminded of something travel, but not air travel specific – Be sure to pack your thermometer and the baby tylenol. Frances got her first cold on a road trip and we didn’t have either with us, so it was a frantic search for an all night drug store. Better to just have it with you! And program your pediatrician’s number into your phone!

  14. Hi there, mama of a 3 1/2 month here…we traveled with our daughter cross country when she was 7 weeks, from NYC to Dublin when she was 8 weeks, and from Dublin back home to SF (via Chicago) when she was ten 1/2 weeks. All in all, it was SO much easier than I was expecting. I nursed during takeoff and landing and some combination of the loud plane noises and motion basically knocked her out for most of the flight(s). I think the hardest part was diaper changes in the teeny tiny airplane bathrooms…oh and the fact that she outgrew literally everything we had packed for her in the 3 1/2 weeks we were traveling, including my lap, so nursing her on the final stretch (which was also the longest flight) wasn’t as easy since she pretty much outgrew my lap during our trip. But honestly, we found that people were *really* nice to us the whole time! I was expecting/anticipating dirty looks but we experienced the exact opposite – passengers and crew alike were super friendly and helpful. So in terms of advice, I would say 1) nurse, nurse, nurse; 2) husband gets changing duty (my husband is an engineer and I think he’s just better at navigating small/challenging spaces); 3) pack bigger (depending on how long you’re going for) and more clothes than you think you will need (and diapers! We ran out of diapers in a remote part of Ireland and they were not as easy to come by as we would have thought); and 4) make sure you’re eating and drinking enough – my supply took a hit with all the travel (or she hit a growth spurt, it’s hard to tell). Good luck and I’m happy to talk more if you want!

  15. Oh I just have to second what everyone else said too. I gave Panadol (like baby Tylenol) on the way up and down (but my kid had just gotten over an ear infection so I was pretty nervous). We flew home from Bali on an overnight flight that left at 10pm, so he was already up for hours past his bedtime. He was exhausted on the plane and so screamed during takeoff, so I nursed him and he passed out but then woke up every 40 mins when he tried to resettle himself. My husband and i managed to get him back to sleep but then was crying in between. I got dirty looks from lots of ppl but at the end of the flight, so many ppl told me how good he’d been ‘considering’. Basically – some ppl are assholes and the ones who are assholes are gonna hate a screaming baby no matter what.

    I hired a lot of stuff at our destination (a swing when he was really little, a bouncer, a carseat etc) for the shorter trips home and for the big vacation, we took our shithot stroller and the hotel provided a portacot and we just managed otherwise.

  16. I hope you have an infant flyer like our Dear Boy. He was one of those babies that fell asleep on takeoff and woke just before (or sometimes after) landing when we were doing short haul flights to see family. Part of this was good management on our behalf, timing the flights to coincide with naps, and part of it was just luck of the draw I think.

    My tips:
    * Get a good baby carrier/sling that you can get on and off quickly. In Australia they make me take off the baby and the entire carrier to go through security. I found our Baby Bjorn much easier for this than the Ergo, but a single sling type thing might be easier still. Some flights will also require you to take them off during the flight, but I still think it’s way easier than asking for a stroller to be taken to the gate, etc.
    * Have a dummy or a bottle or the boob handy as soon as you start taking off, but you really have to to time it right. Once I gave Dear Boy his bottle when we started taxiing but he finished it before we were in the air because we were delayed. I usually have spare dummies in a bag (plus the checked luggage) and one in my pocket.
    * Pack the stuff you’ll need in a small bags so you can just grab them quickly. I have a small one with two nappies and wipes and another with food/entertainment that I could pull out of my bag and shove into the seat pocket without holding anyone up. Then you also don’t have to lug the whole bag to the loo to change him.
    *Assume there will be leakage from both ends – bring two changes for Gabe and one for yourself.
    * A good baby wrap can keep the light off a sleeping baby, keep them from being over stimulated by all the people, keep you warm and doubles as a scarf to cover whatever you had spilled on your shirt during the flight.
    *A smart phone is a beautiful thing. Flicking through photos kept Dear Boy amused for about 15-20 minutes, even when he was much smaller.
    * Don’t give your baby ANYTHING (apart from toys) that he hasn’t tried before the flight. A friend of ours used a calmative liquid that made her baby hyper for a 14 hour flight. I would suggest the same for panadol or nurofen or anything else as well. This is not the time you want your baby to react badly to something. (I am all for using these things on flights – just make sure they work first!).
    *I also prefer having the window seat with Dear Boy – because there’s a bit more elbow room, and somewhere to lean if he falls asleep, but also for entertainment purposes and for control of the blind thingy.

  17. Seriously consider taking a change of clothes for you, not just Gabe. Totally takes up more room but having a pair of shorts and a tshirt available is infinitely better than sitting in clothes covered in something gross should that happen.

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