The horror stories of flying with children scare many away from flying with a baby. BUT, as a mom of (almost) 3 kids, can I tell you a secret?
I love flying with kids.
It’s not as stressful as so many think it is, especially if you have the right baby gear when traveling. But you do have to know what you’ll need and have the confidence knowing that everything will be just fine.
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5 Ways to make airport layovers and navigating terminals easier with babies and toddlers in tow
In my years as a parent, we have done the majority of our travel with kids by flying instead of road tripping in the car. We have been to Maui and back with an 8-month-old, moved from OKC to Boston with a 3-month-old and a 2-year-old, and I have even done solo trips as a parent with one or both of my current kids.
After you manage to maneuver your way through TSA with kids in tow and get into the terminal, that’s when the real fun begins. Because now, game on.
Read more about how to manage getting through airport security with a baby easily.
A Compact Stroller that doesn’t require gate check
This could mean getting out and dusting off an old umbrella stroller for some, but if you’re going to be flying more than once as your children are babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, then it is absolutely worth investing in something that’s going to make a huge difference in how comfortable both you and your child are when in the airport terminal.
We personally opted for the GB Pockit stroller. Not only is it more comfortable for me because the handle bar extends so it’s tall enough I am not hurting my back when pushing it, but it also folds up into a teeny-tiny compact stroller “ball” that fits in the overhead bin of the airplane.
Why we recommend the Pockit Stroller:
- Sturdier than a regular umbrella stroller
- The handle(s) have a bar across the top if you don’t like the umbrella handles or it has the individual hand grips. Having both options not only means it’s easier to push when corralling kids, but it also means that you can hook bags on the handles to reduce your carry load.
- Because it’s a stroller that can literally fold up smaller than half the size of your carry-on suitcase, it means if you have a sleeping child or one that would otherwise run around, you can leave them in it while boarding the plane. Just explain to the ticket agent that it does, maybe even show them a picture so they don’t try to force you to take your child out.
Some Travel Bungees
These are really so handy and Amazon has a two pack that I highly recommend. We got this two pack of Travelon Bag Bungees to help keep our belongings in order and stay as hands-free as possible with kids around.
Basically, you can easily attach your jackets, pillows, blankets, teddy bears, and other things that you plan on accessing frequently to your bag with them. It makes it much easier than digging through carry-on luggage to find those things your child (or you) need.
Plus, if your child is a little bit older and they get tired of carrying their own things, you can easily attach suitcases and backpacks to each other, making it easier to maneuver and walk in the airport terminal.
A soft-structured baby carrier of your choice (They even make backpack carriers for toddlers and preschoolers too!)
We have a toddler Tula that fits our 4-year-old comfortably, an infant SSC Ergo, and a few other babywearing pieces that have made life easier in the airport.
In fact, easier than toddler leashes. Yep, we tried it a couple of time and it just was more of a struggle than anything else in the airport.
The kids can rest their feet and the ergonomic design of today’s baby carriers means you’re not killing your back. Plus going hands-free to not worry about kids roaming off or allowing a baby to sleep while still getting from gate A52 to D9 is possible this way!
What you need to know about wearing your baby in the airport
- Choose any carrier that has your baby facing in whether on your front or your back. This means your back is better protected and your baby is also more comfortable for longer periods of time (even hours).
- Our family has experience with and recommends the following carrier brands:
- Tula – has a pocket in the waist that fits most phones. I have put my airline tickets here and my phone for easy access. They have various sizes including infant, standard, and toddler.
- Kinderpack – They make versions for kindergarteners and preschoolers which is really handy!
- Beco – lots of options and has the pocket in front.
- Ergo – probably the most popular and I have traveled with it many times, but not actually my first choice.
- Boba (In fact, the boba air is compact and can be folded up into a small pouch for storage.)
- You can wear your baby through security, but they will check your hands.
- Choose something with buckles that can be taken on and off very quickly.
- Flight attendants will probably ask you to remove baby for take-off and that’s ok because babywearing isn’t currently supported by the FAA.
Stroller hooks for jackets, bags, and more
If you don’t opt for a compact stroller like the Pockit or an umbrella stroller and your baby’s current ride has a full bar across the top, get some hooks. We have several and a few different kinds including a giant carabiner, metal hooks, and plastic diaper rings.
Being able to quickly and easily hang purses and diaper bags within arms’ reach is so convenient and helps take the stress out of thinking you have misplaced something.
Our favorite cargo hooks for strollers
- BabyBubz multi-purpose stroller hooks
- Think Kind Buggy Hooks
- Dreambaby Stroller Carabiner (With the lock it means you can attach it to something or keep your kids from being able to access what’s on the hook… or thieves too).
A Diaper bag with stroller straps
We have a great JJ Cole diaper bag that is perfect for this. In fact, regardless of what bag you have, and inexpensive buy is bag stroller attachment hanging loops. Our loops came with our bag, but they’re sold separately too and it’s perfect for having a bag like ours that we got specifically for traveling on our stroller. This means that you can free up your hands easier and know that your bag will be there at all times. And if you don’t have split handles on your stroller, spend the $10 or less on hooks like mentioned previously. It’s life changing!
(Optional) If you want your child in a car seat on the plane, get a travel-specific seat & a wheelie!
Opt for a cheap seat instead of lugging your expensive seat around the airport. So if you feel most comfortable with your child strapped into a seat whether for safety or to keep them contained easier, this is the way to go. It also means that if you wind up having to check it, you’re not risking damaging or voiding the warranty of your car seat.
Read more about tricks for renting a car when you have a child in a car seat.
An inexpensive Cosco Scenara is what we have done in the past (3 seats in total for us). They’re lightweight and are up to the latest safety standards. Plus they’re compact enough they fit 3 across in a car and are not a huge deal to store for future trips.
Taking a seat also means that if you have older kids that can still sit in a car or booster seat that get tired walking, you can opt for a wheelie to roll them around inside their car seat in the terminal without frustration.
Find more important information about flying with babies and toddlers
- From tricks to getting an extra checked or carry-on bag to breastfeeding laws, browse through tips on taking care of your baby while flying and in the airport.
- Remember everything you need, by memorizing the SPICE plan for flying with a baby.
- Don’t forget to inform yourself of your rights and how to streamline the process of getting through airport security with a lap-infant.
- Learn about 15 tips for flying with kids from my friend Rachael. Great ideas from not using airplane water for rinsing off pacifiers and having food options with built-in silverware.
What else would you recommend to parents
flying with young kids for the first time?
Kara is the mother of 3 children living and working in Boston, MA. She hates to spend money and absolutely has to know that every penny is worth it before buying. Her educational focus both as a student and a teacher was research… she has put those skills to good use to make wise purchases.