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Do airports stress you out?
Does having a baby with you make it even crazier?
I get it.
There are so many reasons why air travel stresses people out (myself included): the crowds; the time crunch; lugging around your possessions; and so much more. That stress seemed to triple when I started traveling with my infant son.
All of those standard stresses, combined with caring for another person who cannot be set down, who may cry at any moment for any reason, and who has a gift of pooping at just the right—wrong—time.
Yes, I was even more stressed traveling with my young child.
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Fears while traveling with a baby:
- Taking too much time at security
- My kid throwing a fit and I’m unable to calm him quickly
- Pooping everywhere— him not me.
- Forgetting something important—formula, diapers, wipes…
- Not being able to handle all of our belongings
- Flight delays or cancellations that strand us
After many flights and many adventures with him I’ve learned a lot. I’ve come up with ways to lessen the stress and actually have a great experience.
12 Ways To Have a Stress-Free Airport Experience with a Baby
1. Bring a stroller you can easily collapse
I can’t tell you how stressful it is to be on the jet bridge, my 3 month old in my arms, trying to desperately collapse my stroller with- basically- half an arm. I’m trying not to hold up everyone else getting on the plane. Luckily, the more I use my stroller, the more easily and efficiently I can collapse and open it even while holding my son. I like the Summer 3D Flip for its weight and ease of use. Check out my full review of this stroller.
2. Make sure the airline knows you have a lap child before arriving at the airport.
While some airlines take infant reservations online, most don’t (Southwest). By calling ahead, the agent at the check-in desk will already have a boarding pass for you and baby. Baby and will only need to see proof of age to get you on your way much more quickly. Every desk employee thanked me for already having him on my ticket so it must be saving them some hassle. I always feel better too, knowing that the airline already knows he is coming with me.
3. Put everything that needs to come out for security in the same exact place.
When moving through the security line you will already have your hands full: baby, stroller, bag, possibly more. You don’t want to have to search through 2 bags and 8 different pockets to get everything that needs to come out. I always carry an extra bag going through security with just my laptop, my son’s food, and any toiletries or other liquids I need to take out (or just take solid toiletries). Security doesn’t care how many bags you have (only the gate agents do) so if you have technically 3 bags no one will notice. I like my Longchamp bag for its collapsibility and great quality. But this Longchamp alternative is honestly as good and a quarter of the price.
4. Wear sandals.
This isn’t for everyone. I hate standing in the security line in just my bare feat but hey, I can always wash my feet. I have so much else to juggle I don’t want to have to take off and put on real shoes between all of that. If you can slip them on without bending over, they’re a go for me. My favorite are my Birkenstocks.
5. Bring extra clothes for both of you.
I always remember to bring Andrew extra clothes but I never remember them for myself. Most of the time I travel I have mystery stains on my shoulder or just strange smells. It’s not the most pleasant for anyone so I always bring an extra shirt incase I get puked on.
6. Look for a children’s play area.
If you have time try to find a children’s play area like this one at Ft. Lauderdale Airport. Even though a baby will be too small to actually play on this, it’s a great secluded location to just take a breather. When I had a few hours in FTL I walked Andrew around until he fell asleep and then I sat and did some work in this quiet place. It was completely empty and I felt like I was not in an airport. Does anyone else get anxiety just listening to the boarding announcements?
7. Find the family bathrooms.
Before having a child I never really thought about these. Sometimes they’re called companion bathrooms and they are the best invention ever. They are a private bathroom with a changing table, sometimes nice chairs (for nursing) and so much more privacy. I always feel weird having to push Andrew in his stroller into a handicap stall just so we can fit. This way, I can take care of my business without Andrew being right on top of me, and I can change him and not feel like people are looking over my shoulder. Also, if you have older kids too, this is a good way to keep them contained while you’re handling the baby.
8. Don’t overpack.
You need to be well prepared but you don’t need your entire house. Bring the essentials and leave the rest. It’s a pain trying to lug everything around.
9. Give yourself extra time.
Babies tend to take a lot of times to do things. Don’t feel rushed and stress yourself out more by being late. Get there a tiny bit early so you all can have a little relax before getting on the plane and in case things take longer than expected.
This sounds stupid but if you smile, thank people, and have a pleasant demeanor people are so much more likely to help you or be forgiving if your baby is restless. Every TSA worker I’ve dealt with has been extremely nice, often helping me fold up my stroller or making sure the testing of my baby bottles went as quickly as possible. I think they would have helped anyway, but because I was polite, thanked them, and tried to be as helpful and easy-going as possible, they were willing to give me a little more attention. Obviously this goes for anything. A gate agent is going to want to help you more if you aren’t an ass to them.
11. Have enough Food.
Bring what you need for baby and yourself. Babies usually need to eat often. It’s obvious you need enough food for him but bring what you need too. I find that when I’m hungry things are much more difficult and stressful. So… one + one, I need to eat food to help keep from having a meltdown. Just like my kid…
Try a few smaller domestic trips when your baby is still young. Try to get both you and baby used to what is necessary for air travel. Young babies are so adaptable and should do well while traveling as long as you’re prepared and confident. A smaller trip will be less stressful and you can practice for longer adventures.
If you’re traveling within the U.S. you can take a look at the TSA’s website for advice on traveling with children. You can get advice on what you can take through security as far as food for your child and what you can expect going through security for your child at any given age.
Travel is stressful. Airport travel is even more so. Add a baby to that and you might start to wonder why you do this at all. Hopefully, some of these tips will help you save some time and energy and help you actually look forward to getting out the door.
What have you learned while traveling with your baby? Let us know in the comments below.
Or if you want advice from other parents and travelers, head over to our Facebook group to get in on all the travel conversations over there.
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