Traveling with an infant wasn't too tricky, though I'll admit that I was pretty anxious leading up to the flights. The first decision we had to make was whether we should fly from Michigan to Florida, or if driving would be better. Despite the rising cost of gas, it would have been cheaper to drive, but the cost wasn't the only thing to consider. Quincy is still exclusively breastfed, and typically eats every 3 hours (sometimes less, other times more). Can you imagine taking a twenty hour drive, and adding in all the times needed to stop and feed him? I couldn't. Therefore, we opted to fly instead of drive.
Here is what I learned on the trip:
Oh. My. Goodness. This was a bit stressful because I was worried I would forget my own underwear or leave behind Quincy's carseat, but we did okay! I found it helpful to compile a list of everything that needed to be packed, and then put it all together two days prior to the trip. Having a list to check-off ensured that nothing was still hanging out in the dryer or still dirty in the hamper.
|Top Left to Right: Carseat (Checked Curb-side), Brad's Carry-On, Family Checked Suitcase.|
Bottom Left to Right: Brad's Laptop Bag, Maggie's Diaper Bag, Maggie's Carry-On.
CHECK A BAG
I've always made sure to travel light and could get away with just having a carry-on bag, but going to Florida for nine days with an infant didn't allow us to pack super light. We ended up checking a large suitcase that we fit a travel crib inside, and also put most of our liquids, diapers, and baby clothes inside. With checking a bag, that's one less thing that you need to deal with while boarding the plane.
|Baby Björn Travel Crib Light|
If you are looking for travel cribs, we really liked ours for the trip, which is the Baby Björn Travel Crib Light. It isn't as large as the Pac-n-Plays you see a lot, but it was nice to be a bit smaller to fit in the suitcase.
If your child is under two years old, you do not need to purchase a ticket for them, unless you want them to sit in their own seat. For traveling with Quincy, we purchased two tickets (one for me, one for Brad), and then had one of the tickets labeled as "Infant in Arms". We did not need to provide any kind of identification for Quincy since we were on domestic flights. If you are traveling internationally, I think passports are involved, so do your research to see what is required!
Full Body Scanners vs. Metal Detectors: For ease of getting around the airports, I put Quincy in the front pack and also kept him strapped to me when going through security. I did not have to unstrap him at all, but simply walked through the metal detectors with him still attached. (You can also simply carry your infant through; no need to have them in a front pack). They then tested my hands to see if I had been handling any explosives (which I'm happy to report I had not and so I passed the screening), and then we were free to go on our merry way!
|Rockin' the Front Pack|
We flew out of Grand Rapids, MI on the way down, and flew back from Tallahassee, FL. Both airports had the Full Body Scanners, but we did not have to go through them. I saw another mom traveling with elementary aged children, and they also used the metal detectors instead of the full body scanner.
Keeping your party together: If you are traveling with your spouse, they also do not have to go through the full body scanners since that would separate them from you. So, whether the mother or father holds the infant while going through the metal detectors, the other parent is allowed to stay with them. At one of the airports, Brad had to point out to the TSA agent that he wanted to stay with Quincy and I (the agent must not have been aware of this guideline), but a second agent confirmed we could stay together.
Breast Milk: I had heard from a lot of people that it was good to have the baby drink something during take-off and landing to help prevent ear problems due to pressure changes. Not sure what to expect, I brought pumped breast milk (three bottles full, each 4 ounces) in a small pouch with an ice pack which was clipped to my diaper bag.
|Pumped Breast Milk: Does not fall under the|
"Three Ounce Rule" for airport security.
When sliding my diaper bag and other carry-on items on the x-ray conveyor belt, I let the TSA agent know that I was carrying breast milk. They let it run through the x-ray machine, and then brought the entire diaper bag over to a separate table. Not wanting to reveal the test they performed on the milk (I would assume to make sure terrorists couldn't use the test to sneak something through security), they placed each bottle of milk in a large box with a lid, fiddled around for a little bit, and then replaced the milk into the pouch and gave everything back to me. All in all, it was pretty seamless.
In the end while on the flights, I actually just used my nursing cover instead of pulling out a bottle. However, while getting some breakfast, a kind gentleman at a coffee shop stand filled a to-go cup for me with hot water (like you would use for tea) in case I needed to warm a bottle, free of charge. So whether you are traveling with a bottle of formula or breast milk, you shouldn't run into issues preventing you from feeding your child.
CAR SEATS, STROLLERS & FRONT PACKS - OH MY!
Whenever traveling in a car with an infant, it's obvious they should be strapped into a car seat which is firmly buckled into the car. So what do you do when you fly? In our situation, we were parking our car at the airport, taking two flights down to our destination, renting a car, and then taking three flights back home. The car seat wouldn't be needed for the flights, but we would need it while driving around Florida. Instead of checking the car seat with our other bag, we brought it to the plane and checked it curb-side. You should not be charged for carseats or strollers. These are necessary items for infants/children and do not need to be checked ahead of time. Think of how often luggage gets lost or sent to the wrong place - would you want that to happen to the only item that allows your child to ride in a car? I don't think so!
We didn't actually bring a stroller with us since the area in Florida we were going to didn't have a lot of sidewalks. We felt the front pack would do just fine if we went for walks. However, you can bring *both* a carseat and stroller with you to be checked curbside, though I have seen some people check their strollers since they aren't as vital as a carseat.
PLAN ON YOUR ROUTINE GETTING TOTALLY MESSED UP
If you have some kind of sleeping/eating pattern established with your baby or child, plan on it getting absolutely fried. Our initial flights to and from our destination were early in the morning (like 7:00am ish), which meant we had to be up getting ready around 3:00am or 4:00am. We woke Quincy up right before we needed to leave for the airport, he was fed and changed, carefully placed in his carseat (where he fell back asleep, luckily), and then we were off on our trip.
|Oh boy was it early...|
Once we arrived at the airport, I strapped Quincy into the front pack, we gathered up our stuff, and then headed to check-in and then security.
|Pack Mule Mama|
(Carseat, Baby Quincy, Diaper Bag, Backpack and a Bag of Donuts!)
I fed him whenever he wanted (despite having him well trained to go about every three hours), and tried to coax him into sleep as much as I could. He cried at the beginning of every single flight but one. So I fed him, he calmed down, and then fell asleep for the remainder of the flight. So yes, we were those parents with the screaming infant, but we did our best to calm him. During lay-overs, we tag-teamed getting food for ourselves, taking bathroom breaks, and changing Quincy's diaper. Don't plan on sleeping much on the flights; make up for your lack of sleep during the vacation by trading off who watches the baby/children while the other person rests.
Once we got back home, it took about four days to get back to a normal routine. What did those four days consist of? Horrible nights (waking anywhere from every two to three hours, feeding him all the time instead of his usual one-time nightly feeding, and doing whatever was necessary to appease him), difficult days (fussiness, not napping well, overly tired), and questioning why we went on vacation in the first place. BUT, once the four days were up, we were doing pretty good and I was glad to have gone on vacation.
I am writing this post in May of 2012. I'm not sure what changes will have been made to airport travel once you actually read this, so be sure to check what the most up to date guidelines are for traveling with children. A simple google search should lead you to the right place(s).
Happy & Safe Travels!