I was SO excited when I made the decision that Halley and I would fly from Minneapolis to Charlotte, NC, to visit Halley’s godmommy Becky (my bestie since 1st grade). Also, I was really nervous. How would Halley do on the flight? How the heck do you get stuff like your car seat and stroller to your destination? What if Halley’s ears popped and she cried the whole time?
So many questions. So much anxiety. Really, though, it needn’t to have been so scary! We did just fine.
If another mom out there is Googling “how to fly with a 7-month-old,” I hope I can ease your fears a little bit! I’m going to go over both the logistics and some tips for flying with a baby.
Forewarning: I really got into it and this post got long! I hope it’s helpful!
Flying with a Baby: The Logistics
Babies come with stuff. When flying, there are two big things you’re probably worried about: the car seat and the stroller. If neither of those things will be provided by whomever you’re going to visit or whatever vacation destination you’re staying at, you’ll need to take them with you.
Luckily, many airlines allow both a stroller and a car seat to be checked for free when you’re flying with an infant! As long as your baby is under 2 and travelling in your lap, his or her ticket is free, as is checking those two big things. Of course, you’ll need to check with your specific airline, but mine allowed me to check either or both of those items, and I could choose to do so at the ticketing desk with my checked bag or at the gate.
So, here’s what I did.
My car seat clicks into my stroller, but at 7 months (nearly 8), my daughter didn’t really like being in her car seat anymore. She wanted to sit up and see the world and would get antsy in the seat. So, I decided to separate the car seat and stroller, put Halley in the stroller seat the way she liked it to zoom around the airport, and check the car seat at the ticket desk.
This way worked pretty well. Halley was mostly happy in her stroller as we ran around the airport, and I was glad I had it so that I could shove my carry-on and personal item on it and not have to carry so much stuff.
Here is exactly what my logistics looked like when I arrived at the airport:
- Ticket desk: Check car seat and checked bag
- Security: Everything has to come off the stroller, and it has to go through separately. Bonus: You get to walk through an old-fashioned metal detector with your baby! No pat-down, no naked scanner.
- Starbucks: This is where I was able to purchase a water bottle that wasn’t refrigerated from their back room to make Halley’s formula with. And coffee for me, of course!
- Food for mom: It was lunch time, so as we walked toward our gate, I stopped to grab something to eat.
- Feed Halley: She got hungry so I sat down and made her a bottle.
- Boarding: This is when I put Halley in a carrier. You don’t need a carrier per se, but it was nice to have both hands to get my carry-on and personal item stowed where they needed to be. The stroller was taken at the end of the jet bridge.
Important Logistical Notes
- My stroller had to be under 20 pounds to check on American Airlines. Make sure you check your airline’s rules!
- I was unable to add an in-lap infant to my ticket online. You’ll most likely need to call the airline to tell them you’ll have an infant with you. If you have questions about checking your gear, have them ready to ask when you call!
- REALLY IMPORTANT TO KNOW!! My stroller was ready for me when I got off the plane both ways, but my car seat was not on the carousel to pick up on my way home, which was scary! Luckily, my brother-in-law was picking me up and is a seasoned flyer, so he knew to check the oversize area. Yep, I had no clue that existed! It’s just a little room by all the carousels where they put items that are deemed too big to put down the chute onto the carousel. There was my car seat!
Flying with a Baby: My Experience & In-Flight Tips
I won’t sugarcoat the fact that flying alone with a baby was somewhat difficult. Depending on the age of your baby, there are different aspects of difficulty. Halley wasn’t fully mobile yet in terms of crawling or walking, but she definitely wasn’t a sitting still kind of baby. Also, I was terrified that she’d poop on the plan and either make the whole plane stink or have a blowout!
She didn’t end up pooping on the plane (thank goodness), but I did choose to change her on one of the flights. Changing your baby is actually something you can do if he or she starts getting squirrely – take a walk to the bathroom! Sure, it’s tiny and if you actually need to do the change, the tiny pull-down changing table (not on every plane, I guess, but I had one) isn’t ideal. But it did distract Halley when she was angry.
Great In-Flight Distractions
So, I mentioned that getting up for a change can be a distraction. There are a few other things I found to be useful:
- Snacks. If your baby is eating solids, bring whatever is a favorite!
- Let your baby smack at the headrest screen, or even (gasp) get distracted for a few minutes by an in-flight movie.
- Ask the attendant for an extra plastic cup. Halley LOVED playing with a cup.
- Have baby’s favorite (small) toy on hand.
- As far as other toys go, honestly, Halley was more interested in anything on the plane that wasn’t a toy. That includes the screen in front of us, the in-flight magazines, the seat belt, the window, the people behind us, etc.I had a bunch of toys with me that either she looked at for a hot second or I didn’t even take out. A couple favorites were great to have though.
How the Flights Went for Us
On the flight down, we had an open seat next to us, and on the flight back, we had a whole row! I’m SO thankful for this – Halley was incredibly squirrelly and I’m not sure what I would have done if I had to contain her on my lap the entire time. I probably would have gotten up and walked more!
She ended up not falling asleep until the very end (we’re talking final 15 minutes) of both flights. Talk about bad timing! It was like she was too excited, being somewhere different.
There were no problems at all with her ears – she stared out the window during takeoff both times and didn’t even make a peep.
By the time I got off the plane both times, I felt a little exhausted, even though I was sitting for so long. It was about 3 hours with boarding time and waiting to deplane, and that was a long time to contain an all-over-the-place baby by myself. That said, it wasn’t THAT bad, and the fun we had in Charlotte was totally worth it!
She cried a few times during both flights (mostly angry tears when I wouldn’t let her do something like push on the seat in front of us), but everyone has headphones in on flights these days and it didn’t really seem like we were annoying anyone. It really wasn’t a big deal.
Overall Feelings About Flying with a Baby
Would I do it again? Yep! The destination outweighs the few difficult hours.
What would I change next time? I would pack less toys. My diaper bag was bursting with them, and like I said above, all Halley wanted to do was play with anything and everything that wasn’t a toy! I also wouldn’t bring a carry-on. It mostly had essentials in case we were delayed, but with less toys in my diaper bag, I think I could be smart about packing it well and avoiding having a carry-on as well. Having two bags and a baby to manipulate onto and off of the plane was kind of ridiculous. I couldn’t fit down the aisle 😂
If I had extra money laying around…I’d buy a ticket for the baby. Having an extra seat both times that I could set her loose in for a few minutes was amazing.
Something wonderful I learned: There are a lot of people around that see a mom alone with a baby and offer to help. I had help getting through security, help carrying bags off of the plane, people went out of their way to get me bottles of water that weren’t cold…people were lovely.
What’s your experience with flying with your baby?