Check-list for purchasing ticket and before you leave for the airport:
Print boarding passes - Yes, you can have boarding passés on phone as well but this helps for when you're going through security with baby.
Make sure you entered your baby’s info. Even lap infants need to be registered. And will need their own boarding pass.
Do not buy first class (unless you are rich).
Bring a couple twenty dollar bills ($20 can help you out of most airport related jams).
Refer to overnight baby packing checklist.
Check flight status (also prior to leaving house).
Make sure all non-milk related fluids and lotions are under 3oz.
Bring photocopies of your baby’s birth certificate (we have never been called upon to produce this, but I find it a best practice to always travel with a copy).
Once ticket is booked, call the airline and ask for a bulkhead or bassinet seat. Oftentimes you will not be charged for these premium seats. If they do try to charge you, push back a bit. United will not charge you for this.
Which Seat to Select:
Our first plane trip with Karina was to Austin, TX. I happen to be a member of United’s 1K club for frequent flyers, and this made the process a bit easier, and I was able to upgrade my wife and mother-in-law. I highly recommend joining a frequent flyer club. You will save on bag fees, be able to select seats farther in advance, and generally you are just treated better. Status still reigns supreme in the aviation industry (and it just feels good to be treated special… even if it’s only early boarding).
During the first few flights I used my stored up miles to bump us up to first class. While it’s a better experience for the parents to be in first class, the baby could care less. From 2-6 months baby will sleep as soundly in a tight economy seat as she would in a slightly larger first class seat. And it’s probably better not to be tempted with the free alcohol that first class gives you.
While I don’t think it’s necessary to book an additional ticket for your infant’s car seat, it does make the trip a whole lot easier, and a much better investment than a first class seat. What I do is try to find flight times that are typically not crowded. On the day of your flight some airlines (my experience is with United and JetBlue) will go out of their way to block off a seat next to you at no additional cost. For flights over 5 hours you may want to consider purchasing an extra seat for the carseat just to be safe. Waiting until day of is an inherently risky move.
If you do not purchase an extra seat, make sure to get a bulkhead aisle seat as you will need to change a lot of wet diapers, and you may need to get up to rock the baby.
How early to arrive:
You should arrive at the airport at least two hours before your flight, which typically translates to 1.5 hours before your boarding time. We have flown a total of ten times with baby at the time of this blog post. My wife and I are very punctual people (when it comes to getting to airport), but we have never left the house at the planned upon time. Our new strategy is to shoot to leave 20 minutes before that time. This sort of works. We are still late, but we are early enough to avoid the anxiety that you may miss a flight.
Security is the trickiest, riskiest and most stressful part of the entire trip. Do yourself a favor and sign up for TSA-pre (click here for TSA website). The lines are shorter and you don’t have to take off your shoes. Trust me, taking off and putting on your shoes while juggling a stroller, baby and carry-ons is a feat where something will always go wrong. Also, DO NOT GET IN LINE AT SECURITY WITHOUT YOUR BOARDING PASS AND BABY BOARDING PASS. Yes, babies need their very own boarding pass too, so don't get to the front of the line and realize you don't have one. Trust us...we made this mistake once and it will never happen again.
You are allowed to bring breast milk through security. Tell them before you go through so they know they can check it if they need to. You are also allowed to bring water if it's for the baby. If you mention that the water is for you, you will have to toss it. So remember, all liquids are for the baby (safe to say this strategy won’t work with soda). However, gels and lotions need to be under 3 oz. So purchase some travel containers prior to the trip. Otherwise you will be leaving some precious baby aids behind.
If you are traveling with your partner, simply task one person with the job of holding the baby, and the other to do everything else. Plan this before you get there. This division of labor minimizes the chance you will forget something as you put items on the belt and gather them on the other side. Stick to this routine every time and you won't even flinch.
If you're traveling solo, ask for help. It is simply too much to fold your stroller, lift your carry-on and hold your baby all at the same time. The TSA is there to help. If they seem to ignore your requests, hold up the line and insist that they do. It is in their job description to help you.
Make sure to put your infant’s blanket in the diaper bag during this time so that it doesn’t fall out of the stroller or touch that nasty belt as you put it through the xray machine. In our case, we use wife's Zara pashmina as blanket so it can double as a cover-up as well to nurse.
Put wallet, phone and all pocket items in one place - a purse or a stroller zip compartment. With so many balls in the air, it’s easy to forget something if you do not consolidate.
Do not rush on the other side of security. Gather all your things and take a mental inventory of everything that you brought with you.
-Michael and AnaLiza