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Airplane travel with baby (Part 3): At the airport

In Parts 1 and 2 of our Airplane Travel with Baby series, parenting expert Elizabeth Pantley shared her tips and travel advice for families with babies and young children to help you plan your family vacation and figure out what to pack in your carry-on bags. In Part 3 we’ve arrived at the airport, baby and an unprecedented number of bags in tow, toddler running wildly up and down the long hallways, and Mum & Dad arguing over who has to taste the baby food at Security. We hope Elizabeth Pantley’s tips will help you make your journey through the airport stress-free!

Watching airplanes

At the airport

  • Get to the airport early.
  • Check as many pieces of luggage as possible. Avoid overloading yourself with things to carry.
  • Keep in mind that most airport rental carts have to be unloaded to go through security, and that your child may have to be taken out of the stroller or backpack when you go through the metal detector.
  • When you check in, tell the desk attendant that you are traveling with a baby. Let her know if you have a stroller or carseat with you.
  • Change your baby’s nappy immediately before boarding the airplane.
  • Avoid breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your baby just before boarding as he may fall asleep and wake up crying as you struggle to carry him and your belongings to the gate. Wait until you are seated and unloaded, then feed him and maybe you’ll be lucky and he’ll take a nap!
  • Avoid feeding your little one just prior to boarding. Save food and drink for when you’re on the airplane, as these carry great entertainment value.
  • Consider bringing your stroller and checking it at the gate. This way you can carry baby, the carseat, and all your belongings right up to the airplane gangway. Smaller strollers can be brought on as carry-ons, and an attendant will take bigger strollers as gate-checked items. (Find out where to retrieve these.)
  • If traveling with two adults and multiple children, ask at the desk if one adult can do the early-boarding and set up your carry-on bags and carseat(s). Usually the pre-boarding time is extremely short, and you’ll have to rush to get the carseat secured and carry-on items organized before all the other passengers begin to board. This will also allow your little ones some last-minute exercise before boarding with the second adult.
  • If you have a connecting flight, go straight to the gate upon landing. Sometimes it takes longer to get gate-to-gate than you expect. Any waiting time is best done closer to your next gate.

Editor’s note:

Being an international family, we’d like to add a couple of airport tips of our own!

  • Meet & Greet parking services like Purple Parking may seem like a luxury, but actually cost much less than you’d think. You don’t have to worry about parking your car miles away, waiting for the collector bus, or stressing about how to safely travel on the bus with your children and bags. If you’re travelling with a baby and a toddler / preschooler, consider this an essential, not a luxury!
  • With more rigorous security checks, expect to have to open and taste all of your liquids, including baby milk and sealed jars of baby food. Obviously this means your baby food and milk will start going off.

    • Milk: If you aren’t breastfeeding we would strongly recommend bringing measures of powdered milk (these powdered milk dispensers are excellent!) with bottles of boiled water. Plan for at least 2 extra feeds (more if you’re flying very long-haul) to allow for spillage or fussy baby unpredictability. If you’re worried about contaminating the water when you taste it, you can always pour it out on the plane and the steward will give you freshly boiled water.
    • Baby food: No doubt about it, tasting cold pureed salt-free chicken casserole is not really very nice. The likelihood is that you will need to taste it, however, so be prepared. Your best bet is to feign illness so that your other half feels obliged to do the taste test. Once opened and tasted, your baby food will start going off. If you aren’t expecting to use it within the hour, remember to ask the flight attendant to store it in the fridge when you get on the plane. When it’s time to warm it through, be aware that their microwaves are industrial strength and warming it may only require 5 – 10 seconds. Always bring more jars than you need – chances are your baby will be feeling fussy or distracted and will not eat as predictably as at home.
    • Finger food: For older babies, we would recommend pre-ordering a special meal for the flight rather than the standard kids meal. Pasta usually goes down well and keeps them busy longer.
  • If you are taking a night flight, consider trying a revised bedtime routine on the plane, with nappy change, pyjamas, brushing teeth, and a quiet storytime. Put the baby to bed in the bassinet or carseat, with a muslin shade, and let your preschooler rest on your lap with a blanket and eye shade. If you have a solid routine at home, chances are they will go off to sleep.

Elizabeth Pantley Greatvine consultant, author of No Cry seriesAbout Greatvine Consultant Elizabeth Pantley:

Elizabeth is USA-based parenting educator and president of Better Beginnings Inc, an American family resource and education company. Her No-Cry parenting book series achived worldwide recognition and won Amazon’s Best of Parenting Award in 2005 and 2007. Elizabeth lives with her husband and four children in Washington, and can offer expert advice through Greatvine.

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Image of baby at airport courtesy of ryaninc on Flickr.

Written by Janis P.

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