Our First Flight and First Trip with a Baby – Here’s what we learned!
When it comes to thinking about traveling with your baby for the first time, and flying with a baby, things can feel pretty overwhelming! Travel can be stressful enough as it is – and now you’re throwing a baby into the mix?! Not only that, it seems like all you’ve heard are horror stories of how chaotic travel with kids and babies is, so you’re a little anxious around it all, to say the least. Well, I’m here to tell you that traveling with a baby – especially when they’re under a year, can actually be pretty simple, and we found it to be really FUN!
I’m not kidding when I say that our first flight with our baby boy was one of my favorite days of my life. Seeing him experiencing the sensations of an airplane, airport, and FLYING for the first time was pretty dang special. We took SO many photos and we had so much fun all day. It also helped that my expectations were SO low from all of the doomsday baby travel horror stories I had heard.
But, like ANY travel day (with or without a baby!), you can run into some obstacles, things can get chaotic or stressful, orrrrr they can just go right and be pretty seamless (!!). We got lucky that our first flights with Harrison have been pretty seamless! Sure, there have been near-missed connections, fussy moments, and lots of sore backs from carrying ALL the baby gear, but all in all, we have had a ton of fun traveling with our little guy on his first few adventures, and we are feeling so much more confident now traveling with a baby – we’re ready to take on the world!! So I wanted to share all about what we learned along the way!
Here are all my best baby travel tips from our first trip with a baby! Including what we packed, what we needed and didn’t need, and all of my learnings along the way.
WHAT TO PACK FOR YOUR FIRST FLIGHT WITH A BABY
Here’s what was in our in-flight diaper bag (which was jam-PACKED, I promised my husband we’d bring less next time, LOL).
These are SO handy and keep babies super entertained. They have suction cups so you can stick them on the airplane window, or on the back of a book! He loves them.
His favorite book
If you don’t already have these books, you NEED them. They are literally all he wants and will take him from crying fit to happy camper within SECONDS. They’re sensory and great for brain development. They’re just the best, and they have multiple themed to different types of animals! We love the Sea Tails one.
We brought these for baby’s first flight but I actually didn’t find this ULTRA necessary, unless you’re on a plane that’s extra noisy. The normal airplane white noise is so relaxing to babies, that I don’t think you necessarily need headphones. However, too loud of noises can be bad for ears over time so it doesn’t hurt to have them on hand for any ultra-noisy situations. We did use them when I felt like we were more toward the back of the plane where it was louder! But I didn’t use them toward the front of the plane.
Sanitizing wipes for the seat & all of our hands
A LOT of diapers
I kept about 10 of these in our carry on and then packed a bunch of diapers in our checked bag. Yes, you can buy diapers at your destination but I highly, highly recommend investing in Coterie diapers on travel days especially. They are SO much better than other brands at avoiding blowouts, and keeping baby comfy by absorbing so much better than other diapers, which is a godsend on travel days! Give them a try, and thank me later. Also you can get $10 off to try Coterie if you go through this code (not sponsored at all, they just have a referral program!)
These definitely came in handy for airport bathrooms, etc. I also thought we would have to use the airplane bathroom for changes (yikes!) but we didn’t need to! I changed him each flight right before the flight and he would make it all the way through (thanks to the diapers above!) I did have to change him once on one of our flights but I did it right on the tray table (well covered up with the disposable changing pads!) which was 10000x easier than doing it in a cramped airplane bathroom – highly recommend.
Portable diaper bag dispenser
We use this one from Munchkin – these come in handy for any diaper changes where you may not be immediately near a trash can (i.e. on the plane!)
You really, really, REALLY can never have enough. Especially on a travel day when they are inevitably going to end up on the (gross, germ-filled) floor of the airplane, airport, etc. Stock up! I like to keep mine in a separate pouch readily available in the diaper bag. Harrison loves these pacifiers.
You have to be prepared for a blowout! But hopefully you won’t need them. Also, if you’re traveling to a warm destination you’ll definitely want to pack a lightweight outfit to change baby into once you arrive! (We kept him warm enough in long sleeve onesies with footies on the plane, since planes can get cold! but then changed him in the airport bathroom when we arrived so he didn’t get too hot.)
I organized all of the above in these clear tote pouches which helped keep everything easy to find when you need them! The last thing you want is the baby getting fussy and you can’t easily find what you need right away from your bag!
Extra clothes for you
Once again, if there’s a blowout, or spit up, you’ll be glad you had an extra outfit.
This thing is AMAZING, it’s aerated but keeps you covered when you want to breastfeed in public – i.e. on a flight! One of the best baby travel tips to keep in mind is to always feed the baby at takeoff and landing (it’s good for the pressure on their ears, and helps calm them!) and I found myself whipping out the cocoon anytime he got fussy – worked like a charm! I also used it throughout the trip, anytime I was at dinner or anything like that and needed to feed the baby! It’s seriously the best – can’t recommend it enough. The best part? It actually looks fashionable! This is the one that I have.
Extra blanket – didn’t end up needing!
We packed an extra swaddle blanket, but I really didn’t need it. Next time, I’ll bring one (because they’re great to have!) but I wouldn’t take up the precious space in the carry on diaper bag.
That’s what was in my diaper bag carry on that I kept handy in the seat in front of me, but here was what other essentials we made sure to have on hand for the big trip out West.
Our baby carrier – definitely used this a ton!
I have two carriers, and I highly recommend either! The Artipoppe or the Ergobaby! I had heard a LOT of hype about Artipoppe – which, if you use this discount link, ends up being about $100 more than Ergobaby, and I had my doubts that it would be worth the price tag, but I will say it’s sooo beautiful and feels great on. He’s ultra-comfy in both, and he loves to sleep and walk in the carriers, so I feel like a nice carrier is a really great investment for a new mom or dad.
This is the exact Ergobaby we have – but it comes in many colors! You can get 10% off using this link and the code JETSET.
The diaper bag we’ve been using
This one! Super nice quality, lightweight, lots of room, and I love the print.
What else did we pack for our first trip traveling with a baby?
A travel stroller + car seat combo
We used the Minu V2 by Uppababy travel stroller with our MESA Uppababy car seat attached to it. (Note that you need to use adapters to attach it). As far as how it works flying with your travel stroller, when you get to your gate, you ask for a gate check ticket for the stroller, and then when you get to the airplane you leave the stroller there. If you have your own seat for the baby, you pop off the car seat part of the travel stroller and you can use it in the airplane – so easy!! And if not you gate check the stroller and the car seat.
Since we were traveling to Napa where I planned on drinking wine, I wanted to make sure I packed my portable pump to pump Harrison some bottles ahead of time on any big tasting days where I was drinking more than a glass. This pump is seriously THE BEST, and worth every cent. I have both a stationary pump (the Spectra) and the Elvie (a portable pump) which means you don’t have to be hooked up anywhere, you just stick it in your bra and can pump anywhere, anytime (!!!!!). I haven’t even touched the Spectra – the Elvie has been a game-changer for me. It’s so easy to use and comfortable – especially for travel!! It’s soooo handy! I can’t imagine going back to a traditional pump (seriously, those things are like torture devices).
This is where the baby would sleep when we were staying with family in California. We researched a bunch of different brands but ended up picking the Baby Bjorn pack and play because it seemed to be the easiest to set up and take down while being really sturdy and lightweight for travel! It has its own bag, so we check it as a bag when traveling with it. But keep in mind if you’re staying at a hotel that has a crib or bassinet available, you may not need to travel with one of these! We only do when staying in VRBO’s or with family!
This portable sound machine has come in SUCH handy. But you don’t need it on the plane! There’s more than enough white noise for the baby from the buzzing airplane. For sleeping once you’ve arrived to your destination, though, it is so great! We use it to soothe the baby on strolls through the neighborhood, in the car, and for any nap! It’s great because you can switch from nature sounds, to womb-like sounds, to white noise, to nursery lullabies.
If you’re traveling somewhere warm, don’t forget swimsuits in your baby’s size! Of course, our baby boy has a closet full of summer swimsuits from Kenny Flowers (and we have the matching family swimsuits to match him!). There’s adorable options for baby girls as well. And for my post-partum mamas, the halter one piece style is the absolute BEST because 1) it’s so, so flattering and 2) the open front makes it super easy for breast-feeding.
Key learnings from our first big trip with the baby
Do you need to buy an extra seat for the baby?
One of the best things about traveling with a baby under two years old is they travel for free! Well, that is IF they travel on your lap. If you want an extra seat guaranteed for your baby, you’ll have to purchase a separate ticket. We did this for two of our flights, and we didn’t for one (which was an hour hopper within California). Here was my reasoning. The two big flights (all the way across the country and back) that we did, we bought him his own seat. We were flying on crowded planes (they ended up being full!) on busy days, and it was our first time doing this! It was worth a few extra hundred bucks to us to guarantee him his own seat, which meant we could bring his car seat (we use the Uppababy MESA car seat, which attaches onto our MINU V2 travel stroller. When you get to your gate, you ask for a gate check ticket for the stroller, and then when you get to the airplane you leave the stroller there. If you have your own seat for the baby, you pop off the car seat part of the travel stroller and you can use it in the airplane – so easy!! And helps so that he’s not on my lap the whole time for a 5 hour flight.
How do you go through airport security with a baby?
If the baby is in the car seat, you’ll need to get them out of the car seat and carry them through the metal detector, however, if the baby is in a carrier (we use this one!) you just walk through with the baby! I recommend using a carrier through an airport anyway since it’s better for less germ exposure and will keep your baby close to you and feeling comfortable! This is the exact one we have – but it comes in many colors! You can get 10% off using this link and the code JETSET.
How do you change a baby’s diaper on the plane?
There are two ways to change a baby’s diaper on the plane – in the airplane bathroom, but the changing table is TINY and you will be extremely cramped, or the much easier expert way I recommend – right there on the tray table or even on the floor of the plane! Of course make sure it’s hygienic – use a disposable changing pad and make sure nothing is exposed, but then just do it! No one will mind!
Do babies get jet-lagged?
YES. When we got home, Harrison was crankier than normal and not sleeping as well for the first two days, and then completely back to his normal self by day three. I could tell he was jet lagged! If you’re feeling tired, remember that your baby is feeling all of those same things, they just can’t deal with it as well as we do, so they’ll get more fussy, irritated, and might not sleep as well. But they’ll bounce back! Just be sure to give them all the love and TLC while they adjust back to their normal schedule.
Can you bring breast milk on a plane? Is it considered a liquid?
Whether you’re breast-feeding, formula-feeding or bottle-feeding, rest assured that you are allowed to bring baby formula or breast milk on the plane! Formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and baby/toddler food (to include puree pouches) in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters are allowed in carry-on baggage on US flights. (Allow for some extra time at the airport to get through security, as you may be subject to additional screening.)
Here’s what the CDC recommends about storing milk and to keep in mind if you are pumping on your trip:
You can carry freshly expressed milk in an insulated cooler bag with frozen ice packs for up to 24 hours. After arriving at your destination, use the milk right away, store it in the refrigerator, or freeze it. If you carry frozen milk in a cooler with frozen gel packs or ice, check your milk when you get to your destination. Upon arrival, if the milk has ice crystals, you can refreeze it. Keep in mind that previously frozen milk should be kept cold and used within 24 hours from the time it thaws completely. This will depend on the time spent traveling and the temperature of the cooler. If possible, check the milk after a few hours in the cooler to see if it has thawed.
When you’re moving from place to place, the best way to store breast milk is in sealed containers kept in a small, insulated cooler with frozen ice packs.
Cute breastmilk coolers!
and don’t forget ice packs like these specially-made-for-breast milk ice packs on Amazon