Iris and I have flown solo seven times now, starting at just over one month old, so although I still don't consider myself a pro at flying with children (I don't feel like I can qualify for that until I have flown with more than one child solo), I do have lots of tips I really want to share with any mamas reading along!
Our flights have been stress free and simple, although I did get really nervous before the first time and then again the first time flying once she could walk), but I had no reason to be nervous! And if you prepare right, I don't think you have reason to be nervous about flying with your baby or toddler either. That's what I'm here for!
This post is a long one and normally I would apologize for that, but I didn't want to leave anything out as far as travel tips go! I hope I cover everything you all wanted to know below, but if there are any questions left after reading, please don't hesitate to ask. I'll be going live on instagram tomorrow (time TBA! What works best for you?) to go over this post and answer any questions live you might have, so please tune in for that if you're interested in anything I might have left out...I'll make sure to update this post the best I can if needed.
Before our most recent trip, now that she's old enough to really understand, I spent several weeks pointing out any airplane we saw and telling her we were going on one soon to see Grandma and Grandpa (and listing everyone else we'd see). This got her so pumped up and EXCITED to fly, she still gets so thrilled to hear and point out airplanes in the sky!
When I travel solo with Iris I put her in a carrier and then carry my purse/diaper bag and put my carry-on on top of my roller suitcase until I drop it off at check-in. My purse/diaper bag is always either my LilyJade in backpack carry style (I also have my eye on this pretty backpack that is smaller) or my Ivy and Fig purse ( as seen above: use code MALLORIE10OFF for a discount) carried cross body and then I only have to lug my carry on.
Yes, I am sore the next day now that Iris is 27 pounds, but it's so much easier having her securely strapped to me. Especially when going through security, you don't have to take them out of the carrier and I don't have to finagle a stroller and try to get it on the scanner belt while trying to hold my independent toddlers hand as she tries to wiggle free. Trust me, carrying everything like a pack mule is SO much easier than that mess.
Once on the flight, you have to take them out of the carrier before takeoff, which can be frustrating if you're traveling with a small baby that falls asleep in the carrier and then you have to try and take them out gently. I remember being a bit flustered the first time, but it actually worked in my favor because she woke just enough to nurse during takeoff and avoid ear popping and then went back to sleep. YAYA!
No matter their age, make sure to nurse or give them a bottle/sippy during takeoff and landing so their ears don't get painful from the pressure. I put my nursing cover on as soon as we sit down. I pull the cover, books we'll read, water wow toys (see below), and the phone for shows out of my bag before shoving it under the seat, put the cover on and the rest in the pouch in the seat ahead of me for when/if we'll need it. Then I leave it on the entire flight to nurse at takeoff and again at landing. I've tried to plan our trips around Iris' nap schedule and so far she has slept most of our flights (nothing like warm milk and a loud plane to do the trick), and she is a girl who hates to sleep and fights it hard.
Once we land, I either put her back in the carrier or let her hold my hand and walk out with me to stretch her legs. This depends on their age and the day. Only you know your child and how they're feeling that day. I've put Iris back in the carrier since she could walk a few times on days I knew she would scream if I tried to hold her hand or would try to run away. But most of the time now I let her walk so she can get her wiggles out.
On layovers we potty/change diaper, eat if we have time, refill sippy cup, and stretch/play as much as we can. Then do it all again for the next flight!
I did a quick vlog showing a few clips of what a day of travel looks like for us. I felt a bit silly recording myself since I'm not a famous youtuber or anything, but if you would like a better picture of what a day flying solo or even with both parents looks like, please let me know and I'll take more footage next trip!
Here are the specifics of everything I pack in my suitcase, carry-on, and purse/diaper bag...
What to Pack (Suitcase):
- Lollipop Baby Camera- this is what we use at home and on the road. It's so easy to wrap around anything and has a great quality video that you watch on an app on your phone or iPad.
- Special lovie or anything specific your little one needs to sleep. I don't bring this in the carry-on because if it's dropped in the airport it's gone forever!
- Diapers so you don't have to race to the store as soon as you get there.
- Baby sunscreen, special lotions, etc. (UNLESS you're traveling to Grandma and Grandpa's or somewhere you'll be going often. I don't like to buy these when we vacation because most of the time it ends up being more expensive and heavier in your suitcase if you're carrying a full one. But, if you'll be back to this location, buy a second of each of your shampoo, lotion, sunscreen, etc to have there. Makes packing the next time so much easier!)
What to Pack (Carry On and Purse):
- Snacks (So many snacks! Our favorites are homemade energy bars and Annie's bunny snacks)
- Empty sippy cup to fill with water once you're through security or bottles with milk if needed (these can go through security you just have to let them know).
- iPad, phone, or laptop with shows, download them ahead of time (see below).
- Nursing Cover, if you plan to breastfeed. I will continue to bring mine for shopping carts and dirty airport situations. This would be a fun nursing cover if you're headed to Disney World!
- Diapers, wipes, the usual stuff you carry on a daily basis.
- Bib for eating on your layover or as soon as you get to your destination.
- Now that Iris is potty trained, I always carry a big ziplock bag with extra clothes and underwear.
- If traveling with a baby, extra clothes for yourself and baby, because of spitup/blowouts, in large ziplock.
- Favorite books- I always set aside her top 3 favorites about a week ahead of time so they are fresh and exciting when we get on the plane and read them as many times as she wants. Pick the books that they ask you to read back to back to back at home and do just that on the plane!
- Teether if needed (I clip one on our carrier along with her crinkly purse to play with).
- Water Wow Reusable Coloring Books- Iris LOVES these things!
- Essential oil rollers- I bring our pre-made rollers for sleep, boo boos, teething, etc. If you want to know what I put in Iris' oils (she loves them and asks for them!), let me know because that's a post of it's own. I carry mine in a special roller bottle case all the time, but take them out and put them in my ziplock of liquids for security and put them back in after since the rollers are glass.
What to Put on your Phone/ipad/laptop:
- White noise app (if needed for nap time)
- Downloaded shows/movies
- I found a few fun Sesame Street free downloads on this forum. The commenters have explained how to save it and everything. We watched a few on our last trip and Iris loved them!
- Most DVD's you own should have a digital version you can save on your computer.
- Any iTunes movie/tv show purchases can be saved to your iphone/macbook to watch offline.
Use the large ziplocks you bring for baby or toddler clothes when they have an accident or blowout to contain the dirty clothes until you get to your location. I've also brought a plastic grocery bag when Iris was a baby and was anticipating lots of changes for her and possibly myself.
There have been a few times Dave has driven to meet us when we vistited my parents, when he comes he brings the Dock-A-Tot for nap times and it soooo nice to have! If you don't need to check a suitcase, or are flying Southwest and have two free bags to check, you can check your Dock-A-Tot. I think if you have the smallest one you can bring it as your carry-on to use on the plane as well, but we have the big one so that's not an option for us.
As I said above, please let me know if there's something I didn't cover or anything you have more questions on, I'd love to help if I can!