Flying with your baby doesn't need to be the nightmare that many parents envision. Infants are very adaptable and can be great travelers. With these 5 tips and a little confidence, your child can quickly become a frequent flyer...
1. When can babies fly - When they grow wings of course!...Sorry, just joking, couldn't help myself. It's always best to check with your pediatrician for this answer. Generally the rule is at 2 weeks of age, but again, your doctor knows best. Healthy babies are usually protected my mom's antibodies when it comes to germy airports and recycled airplane breathing. This is particularly true with breast fed babes. Parents do need to take travel destinations into consideration. Very young infants have not yet had their immunizations and may be at risk for some serious illnesses. Again this is where you need to follow your Doc's advice.
2. Be Seated - Children UNDER the age of 2 are allowed to fly seated in the laps of their parents. They are not charged for airfare but they are charged taxes and fees so they are not entirely free. The airlines call them lap children. There are many debates about cost verses safety when it comes to lap children. For the comfort and safety of all passengers, we recommend parents purchase a seat for their infants and have them properly secured in an FAA approved car seat. I am not speaking here as a travel agent. Travel agencies no longer make commissions off the sale of airline tickets. I say this as a traveler who has been involved in very rough turbulence as well as an experienced mom. The price of an airline seat is certainly worth the cost of your sanity.
3. Schedule Savvy - You are the expert when it comes to your baby's schedule. If possible, try to arrange flight times around your baby's sleep times. When available, opt for a non stop flight. This convenience is worth the extra cost. DO schedule yourself PLENTY of airport time prior to departure. Two hours for domestic flights and three hours for international flights. You and your baby will need extra time passing through airport check in and security. Infants will need to be taken out of carriers or strollers and carried through the xray machines. This is safe as it is a very low dose of xray but it will take parents additional time. Remember, your babies can sense when their parents are stressed so give yourself plenty of breathing room.
Be smart about scheduling your entire itinerary. Whenever possible pay a bit more and book nonstop flights. Not only will this cut down on your overall travel time but it will also prevent such drama as missed connections and delays that could possibly leave you stranded.
4. Smart Packing - Do you remember the boy scout motto of being prepared...well, when it comes to packing, think like a boy scout. First, know the rules. CHECK WITH YOUR AIRLINE prior to departure. I say this because luggage rules are different with every airline and they change frequently. What you don't know may cost you in hefty fees for overweight and excess baggage. Check specifically about rules on baby gear like car seats, strollers etc.
lap children get no luggage allowance so parents are not allowed a separate diaper bag carry on.
Bring enough of everything you'll both need in your carry on bag. The rule is 1 diaper per hour you'll be in transit - that includes airport waiting time, air time and travel to final destination time. Baby food, formula and breast milk are not part of the 3-1-1 rules for carry on liquids. Pack a change of clothes for both baby AND you because accidents happen. Ziploc bags are your friends so pack plenty. Garbage bags can be spread out and used as waterproof and disposable changing mats.
5. Little Ears - The eustachian tubes are tubes that link the pharynx to our middle ears. Their job is to equalize air pressure for us. As babies, these tubes are curly like a pig's tail; they elongate and straighten as we grow. When our ears pop, this is our eustachian tubes at work. Due to simple anatomy, the younger we are and the more curly our eustachian tubes, the more difficult it is for our eustachian tubes to equalize air pressure for us. This is why young children often experience ear pain and discomfort with airplane take offs and landings. Swallowing helps to clear the eustachian tubes. This is why grown up chew gum on planes. With babies, it's important for parents to encourage them to swallow by nursing or offering them something to drink. If your child suffers from allergies, chronic ear infections or congestion, double check with your pediatrician about specific recommendations that might help.
These are just a few important points to remember when flying with a baby. Most important is to use a travel agent when making your vacation plans.