Traveling with children can be stressful – even more so if you are traveling with a baby. Babies have a lot of needs, and they can become distracted or fussy easily.
You can quickly become frazzled trying to get through a security line having to take off your shoes, sort all your personal items and put them through the x-ray machine, and juggle your baby who is likely crying because of the strange surroundings all while dealing with the glaring stares of passengers behind you who are made to wait a few moments longer.
However, with a little planning, getting through the airport with a baby can be made easier – even the dreaded security checkpoint. Here are a few tips:
Your baby is probably on a pretty regular schedule that makes it easy to predict when he will need things like a nap or a meal. You can try to work around this schedule by planning your flight at nap time (or not, depending on what works better).
You can also time your check-in and takeoff around these needs. For example, you can feed your baby before you leave home so that he will be happy and contented when you are trying to get through the security line, then ready to eat when you are ready to take off (keeping him distracted and helping to relieve pressure in the ears).
If possible, save yourself some time at the airport by checking in online. You may even be able to print boarding passes from home with this option. Whatever you can do from home will help you reduce your time in line at the airport. With any luck, you can just show up and drop your checked bags (if any) at the counter.
Bring only what’s necessary
Everything you pack will have to be checked or screened in the security line. You can streamline the check-in process by leaving behind whatever isn’t absolutely necessary. Sure, you can use your laptop to watch the latest episode of “Mad Men” while you’re waiting for departure, but you’ll also have to unpack it in the security line, repack it, charge it and so on – all while handling a baby.
Leave behind loose items to minimize what you have to bring through security, and pack light so you don’t have to lug around heavy suitcases.
The best way to make sure you get through the security line faster is to have all your belonging organized. You know you will have to remove all liquids from your bag, so keep bottles and stored milk near the top of the bag or in the pockets. Keep all of your travel documents together in a wallet or other carrier that the person who isn’t carrying baby keeps on hand.
Know what to expect at the security checkpoint
Understand the rules (e.g. in the USA visit http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/children/index.shtm) for what you will be required to do at the security checkpoint. For example, you will need to collapse any stroller that you are carrying and send it through the x-ray machine. If you are wearing your baby in a sling, you may be subjected to a pat down. Try to keep baby in the stroller or sling until the last minute so you can handle other items first more easily.
Liquids are allowed in “reasonable” quantities above the standard limit for liquids. However, they may be subject to testing. Bring only what you need for the plane and check the rest.
Finally, if there is a family lane at the security checkpoint, use it.
Prepare for diaper changes
Changing a diaper in a cramped airplane bathroom can be seemingly impossible. Take advantage of the space before you get on the plane and change your baby’s diaper. Depending on how long your flight is, you may even be able to avoid a diaper change entirely on the plane.
Bring lots of entertainment
Babies can get bored easily, and new surrounding can cause them to become nervous or scared. Bring plenty of small toys or other items to keep the baby distracted and to feel more comfortable. A lovey is a great way to do both, as it gives baby a small toy and offers him a small part of home to keep him comforted.
While traveling with a baby is never going to be easy, following some of these steps to get you better organized and prepared will make the process go more smoothly. Be sure to arrive early so that you have plenty of time to get through security and to deal with any meltdowns or other surprises and still make your plane on time.
Have you traveled with an infant? What are your tips for getting through the airport? Share your ideas in the comments!
Heather Green is a mom, freelance writer, pet lover and the resident blogger for OnlineNursingDegrees.org, a free informational website offering tips and advice about getting your associates in nursing and online guides.