Flying With Babies + Toddlers

We love to travel and have amazing, ‘me’ time away from the kids while laying on the beach, drinking margaritas, and…

…ah, who am I kidding? We are too clingy and emotional to leave our babies!

Which brings me to: Flying With Babies & Toddlers!

When possible, we choose to fly Southwest Airlines! They have great customer service, they’re very friendly, and they seem to care about families. The almost always let us go in the Priority Lane when we have the kids with us, which saves TONS of time (and tantrums)! Flying out of Love Field isn’t always possible, though, so we do sometimes fly out of DFW.

My Preferences

So, here’s the way I like to do things when I fly. (See below for rules/recommendations when departing from both Love Field and DFW, what to do On The Plane, as well as TSA information!)

With One Child:

When we only had Hudson, if we flew on Southwest Airlines we always bought him a seat. Yes, it cost extra but it was well worth it. The Southwest Airlines fleet is organized with 3 seats on each side and an aisle down the middle – this meant that if we purchased Hudson a seat, we got the whole 3-seat-row to ourselves.

Taking the Carseat

When he was 3 months and under, I took his carseat on the plane. I had two reasons for this: (1) I wanted to have this seat on our trip, in my stroller, and in our rent car, and (2) I could put his carseat cover on and he would sleep in the peaceful darkness.

The plane motor is so loud and constant that it lulls my infants right to sleep. The carseat provided a place for him to safely sleep. The cover allowed it to stay nice and dark and even protect him from most of the outside noises. He would sleep the entire plane ride like this.

(I took Eveleigh’s infant carseat when she was very young, too. We took someone on the trip with us so we were still able to get the full rows – SCORE!)

plane car seat

With Two Children:

Now that we have 2 children, we buy Hudson a seat but we take Everleigh as a lap-child. This way, we still have a full 3-seat-row to ourselves (just with one more little person)!

I took their carseats 1 time and it was a huge mistake. We had to lug it around everywhere, and even if it fits in a stroller, it’s not easy to take 2.

The ideal situation with two children, in my opinion, is to schedule your flight at nap time. This way you can get to the airport early, eat lunch, plan, board the plan, settle in, and wait for the engines to lull them to sleep.

plane hudson sleep.jpg

Taking the Double Stroller:

I try not to go anywhere without my favorite double stroller. It may be bulkier and heavier than a tiny little double umbrella stroller, but it’s worth any trouble it may cause you trying to load/unload it. You push it directly up to the plane’s gate and simply unload your family and walk on to the plane. Once you land, they have it waiting for you right outside the plane’s door.

Always think about what stroller you’re going to want on your TRIP, too. Don’t skimp on the stroller just because you’re afraid of loading/unloading it!

plane double stroller

With 3+ Children:

I hope you’re taking some friends or family with you!

I’m big about having my own space – so I would try to do whatever I had to in order to have full-rows to ourselves.

Love Field: Southwest Airlines

They really seem to make things easy! Here are the basics, as far as the rules go, for traveling with your babies via Dallas Love Field and Southwest Airlines:

The Basics

  • Lap Children are FREE but must be >14 days and <2 years. You’re required to get a boarding verification document, which you’ll obtain from the ticket counter when you arrive at the airport. (Note: You CANNOT check-in at the Kiosk if you have a lap-child.)
  • Children under 2 CAN purchase a seat at full price, at which time you CAN check-in online or at the kiosk.
  • It’s best to take your child’s birth certificate or passport, but shot records usually suffice!
  • Children 2 and up are required to purchase a ticket (discounts available for ages 0-11, but the “wanna get away” fare is cheaper, if it’s available)!
  • You CAN take your child’s carseat, but it’s much easier NOT TO, unless they’re at the “I love to sleep in my carseat” age.

The Best Seats

We absoultely LOVE to get the FIRST ROW on Southwest. It’s not a HUGE deal to most people, but to parents? It’s a game changer. You have NO ONE in front of you and you have a huge amount of floor space (seriously, like 3 feet). We let Hudson sit there and play while the seatbelt sign was off! You are never cramped, you don’t have to ask people to let you by, you don’t worry about your child kicking the seat, and you’re RIGHT by the bathroom and the drinks.

Other than that, just sit as CLOSE to the front as you can because when you land, your sweet child will suddenly IMMEDIATELY want off the plane. Closer = Quicker.

Passing Time in the Airport

Love Field recently updated their airport and I love it! Things are easier, cleaner, and more fun. There are tons of restaurants and shops to walk around. And I recommend just that – letting the kids WALK (or crawl) around! They’re about to be cooped up for hours. LET THEM WALK!! TIRE THEM OUT!!

The best part…. The KIDS PLAY AREA! Yes, a PLAY area! At the airport! Right before you get to the gates you will come across the big, new, play area. Where better to let your kids run off some energy (so they can get that glorious sleep on the plane!) ?!

plane play

PS. There is an ice cream shop at gate 10!

DFW Airport: American Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Delta…

I really hate flying out of DFW Airport. It takes forever, the parking sucks, the agents are rude, the place is grimy, and you have to ride a tram to get to your gate. It takes forever. The whole process is long and stressful.

  • I would ABSOLUTELY arrive at least 2 hours early
  • The seat rules are the same: Children 2 and up need to purchase a seat
  • Infants under 2 are free as lap children (must be 7 days old +)
  • IMPORTANT: You must have your infant listed on your reservation, even as a lap child!
  • Your STROLLER must be less than 20 pounds if you plan on gate checking it – otherwise, it must be checked with your luggage (at the ticket counter). If you have to do this, get a nice bag for it or it will likely be ruined in the process!
  • Almost nothing is free on AA, but they do allow you to check 1 stroller and 1 carseat per passenger for free.

One good thing about DFW airport is that they DO have a Kids Area, but it’s only at Terminals A, B, and C. The problem? D is the only one we ever fly out of. They do have a McDonald’s play area, though.

TSA

TSA usually SUCKS. However, at Love Field, they’re not that bad. Try to stay in a positive mood because it seems like that directly affects they way they treat you and their “ability” to help you. First of all – if they start acting like you can’t take ALL your baby items, kindly remind them that YOU HAVE A BABY TRAVELING WITH YOU. Some agents don’t know the baby rules.

  • Notify them that your items are for a baby.
  • Formula, Breastmilk, Ice packs, & Juice are permitted in any quantity – no 3 ounce rule here.
  • If you separate these liquids they will not have to check your whole diaper bag – only your liquids bag.
  • You do NOT have to open your pre-made formula; if they tell you the you do, you need to kindly ask for a manager OR better yet, SHOW THEM on your phone (click here for the site) where it states the rules.
  • Use clear containers for your liquids, if possible. This makes things a little quicker.

If you choose not to test your liquids (which I always choose) then you may be subject to a full pat-down. DON’T WORRY – IT’S FOR YOUR SAFETY. It takes about 3 seconds…

On The Plane

It really depends on your child and their age, but here is what I find works best for my crew!

  • Birth Certificate or Passport
  • Sanitizing wipes for the seat-back in front of you and for your child’s tray. This is important. At some point, their hands or mouth WILL come into contact with these surfaces. You may think, “Well, my child needs to build his immune system!” but do you really want that tiny immune system to be compromised with hand/foot/mouth disease? or pertussis? or one of those other fun illnesses that can live on surfaces for hours upon hours?
  • Small trash bags (they sell this FOR this purpose at Babies’R’Us and they’re scented).  The flight attendants prefer that you bag up diapers after changing prior to putting them in their trash-bins.
  • Toys: try to bring toys that aren’t quickly “used”. For example, I always take a snack in a cup for infants, such as puffs or goldfish. The reason here is because they have fun putting taking them in an out of the cup – so it’s a game AND a snack. Also take something they can chew on. Mirrors are great options, too!
  • Electronics: for toddlers, even as early as 12 months, look into a portable DVD player! We were amazed the first time we did this with Hudson. He happily sat and watched a whole movie for the first time ever!
  • Books: we like to look at books on planes. It takes up a lot of our time. After reading it, you can go back through and “search & find” for certain items, colors, or words.
  • Medicine: I always travel with tylenol, motrin, benadryl, and oragel. I’ve NEVER needed them ON the plane, but better safe than sorry. Don’t forget a syringe!
  • Clothes: take a change of clothes for the kids, and also a shirt for yourself (you just never know when you might get barfed on…)
  • Snacks: no matter how quickly the stewardess is, it’s never quite quick enough for a hungry toddler. Also, have a sippy cup or bottle READY with liquid already IN IT prior to boarding, because you probably will NOT be able to get a drink before the plane takes off – and you’ll need this to help with ear pressure issues.
  • Food: I really like the baby food pouches for airplane travel. They’re cheap, easy, and disposable. Plus my kids love them. I like the HAPPY BABY brand because it has clear packaging so you don’t have to worry so much about mold. They also have cool little spoons that you can attach to the end of the pouch so you can feed VERY simply. PERFECT for traveling.
  • Diapers/Wipes: There is a changing station in the bathroom on the plane. It’s not big and it’s not easy, but it’s doable – but not without diapers and wipes. I also like to take a thin changing pad to lay on their table.
  • Breastmilk/Formula: Don’t forget your milk. You can take freezer packs and a small cooler to transport it on the plane with you. I always take a few extra bottles, and also a few pre-made formula bottles, when my babies are at that age.

Breastfeeding/Pumping and Ear Pressure

There are NO plugs in the bathroom, so don’t plan on pumping – take a manual pump if you need to. However, it is perfectly acceptable to breastfeed on the plane. It’s actually recommended to do so on take-off and landing so that your child doesn’t suffer from the changes in ear pressure.

Remember that their eustachian tubes are much tighter than ours so they often respond to the pressure change poorly. Sucking, chewing, or swallowing will their ears pop – releasing pressure. You can also pull on their ears lightly – sort of pull them straight out; slightly changing the positions of the tubes will likely allow them to pop and release the pressure! Their tubes will start to angle into the “normal” position during toddlerhood.

Age Considerations

Younger Babies

  • Diapers. Tons of diapers. & Wipes.
  • Bottles
  • Chewing toy (our favorite is Sophie Giraffe)
  • Snack (if she’s old enough… puffs and melts)
  • Music. This was a “secret weapon” for me. My son would quiet right down when I would play “Fade in to You” over my phone’s speakers directly into his carseat.

Older Babies

  • Snacks + Sippy Cup
  • Books
  • Diapers & Wipes
  • A hands-on toy like blocks

Toddlers

  • Don’t let them get to “melt down” point. Feed them and make sure they get rest. You might think, “if he’s REALLY tired, he’ll just go right to sleep on the plane!” but no, this isn’t the case. Over-tired toddlers are the worst and he will start to fight sleep. Flying at nap time is good, but don’t make him wait too long.
  • Take a DVD player & snacks
  • Toddler’s are easy travel partners

plane dvd

Packing List: What I Typically Take

Carry-on:

My carry-on luggage is not a cute little bag anymore. It’s a full-size carry-on. Literally the maximum size of a bag that they’ll allow you to carry on!

  • Passports
  • Diapers (1 per traveling hour!)
  • Wipes
  • Portable changing pad
  • Snacks
  • Sippy Cup or Bottle
  • 2 bottles of water
  • Formula or breastmilk (I like the pre-mades or the pre-packaged packets)
  • Medicines
  • Trash Bags
  • Changes of Clothes for all
  • Sanitizer Wipes
  • Pacifier (even if baby doesn’t typically use it)
  • Manual breast pump
  • Stroller
  • Toys
  • DVD Player
  • DVDs
  • Light blanket
  • Carseat cover (for infant carseat, if taking on plane)

Checked Bags:

  • Baby monitors
  • Sound machines
  • Enough diapers & wipes for at least the 1st day
  • Enough snacks & meals for at least the 1st day
  • Sunscreen
  • Baby wash
  • Nasal Aspirator & Other Medications
  • Thermometer
  • Extra bottles & sippies
  • Bottle wash (especially if staying in a unit without a kitchen)
  • Hat

I like to pack very organized, too. It helps me make sure I have everything. For example, I’ll roll up outfits with a diaper for each day – that way, mornings are quick and easy. I’ll do the same for bedtime. (We obviously still use other diapers during the day, and sometimes outfit changes, but this makes the START and END of the day EASY).

packing

Vacation Tip

Just one quick vacation tip – look in to a BABY RENTAL company at your vacation destination! You can get a crib, high chair, baby swing, diaper genie, baby monitor, sound machine, baby gate, a bucket of toys, and much more… all for a pretty great price. These companies are WELL WORTH THEIR COST, in my opinion. We’ve used them in Aspen, CO, San Diego, CA, Surprise, AZ, and Albuquerque, NM – we’ve had great experiences.

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