In the months leading up to Joe’s birth, people tried to tell me that we wouldn’t travel, or at least would have to significantly slow down, once he was born. Well, I’m here to tell you that was not the case for us, and it doesn’t have to be for you either!
I’ve been getting quite a few “travel with baby” questions recently. I plan to do an extensive “everything you need to know about traveling with a baby” post once we hit the one year mark, but in the meantime, here are some of the specific questions y’all had and my honest answers!
What is it like going through security with a baby?
It takes a little more effort, that’s for sure! However, it’s not that daunting once you know what to expect. So here are my tips and what you should prepare for:
+ Your first time flying with baby, plan to arrive 30 minutes earlier than usual to account for security. It shouldn’t take that long (it takes us less than 5 minutes now) but especially that first time you’re better safe than sorry and you can breathe easy on the other side.
+ You will need to carry the baby through the body scanner. You can either hold them or wear them in a baby carrier. *Unfortunately even if the baby is sleeping, you’ll have to wake him for this so if you already plan to wear your baby on the flight, you might consider putting them on before security.*
+ The car seat needs to go through the scanner and they’ll ask you to place it on the conveyor belt upside down. So go ahead and put the handle bar all the way back and flip it over!
+ The stroller will also need to go through the scanner. If it doesn’t fit (ours doesn’t unless we take off the wheels), you’ll give it to a TSA agent to walk through and be tested.
+ The 3.4 oz rule does not apply to water, pre-mixed formula, or breast milk, however they will need to test it. They’ll place a drop on a piece of special paper and put that through a machine and then they’ll give you the thumbs up.
+ Along those lines, more often than not one of your bags will get pulled for testing for one reason or another. Whether it be fluids above the normal limit like mentioned above, or a bag of formula that looks sketchy on the machine, or pouches of puréed food sitting next to each other that look like one large pouch over the liquid limit. This is standard business, don’t worry that they’re going to dump anything!
The only time I ever had to toss something was when I traveled with an 8 oz pre-mixed formula; they said I could take it as long as they opened it to test it, but once it’s open it must be used within an hour and I’d already just fed the baby so I told them to go ahead and dispose of it.
+ A diaper bag *does not* count as a carry-on or personal item. It is a free additional bag you are allowed. I didn’t know that before!
What to take on the plane?
You’ll want to take your stroller and car seat all the way down the jet bridge and gate check them. You want to keep them as long as you can because the stroller acts as a push-cart keeping everything organized! In addition, by gate checking them, they will be there when you de-board and you won’t have to wait for those items at baggage claim.
Make sure you go to the gate agent before you board your flight and tell her you’ll need to gate check your stroller and you “need a tag”.
Once you leave your stroller and car seat at the end of the jet bridge, take onto the plane with you the following: your carry-on luggage, baby’s diaper bag, any pumping or breastfeeding equipment you need, and the baby strapped onto you in a baby carrier.
*When you ask the gate agents for a gate check tag for your stroller and car seat before beginning the boarding process, ask them if the flight is full. If it is not, sometimes they will let you take your car seat on board! Having the baby in their own seat rather than on your lap is a game changer, and having a bit of extra space is always nice!
**If you are able to take the baby’s car seat on, the car seat must go in the window seat for emergency safety reasons.
Anything I should know about international travel?
+ Believe it or not the easiest time to do this is between 0 and 6 months. I know it sounds crazy, but this is when baby is less active, sleeps most of the day, still isn’t bothered by loud noise, and hasn’t gotten so big that it will be a pain for them to be on your lap the entire flight.
+ Things to keep in mind: your baby might be terrible the whole flight. It happens. Or they might be an angel! Don’t worry too much. Eventually you’ll get there. And these days most people have headphones in the entire flight anyways so don’t be too concerned about bothering other passengers.
+ When picking your seats, try to get the bulkhead seats (the ones right behind the wall separating coach from first class). Yes it means you will have to put your carry-on items in the overhead space for takeoff and landing, but the airlines usually have bassinets that can be used during flight – but only in these rows! Depending on the airline, some allow you to reserve them ahead of time while others give them out on a first come first served basis. Be sure to call your airline to find out!
+ A direct flight is ideal even if lengthy because at least you only have to make it through one flight, but there are advantages to breaking it up into two legs as well – neither option is perfect. Do whatever works best for your timeline, budget, and peace of mind.
+ Once you land, don’t stress too much about your baby’s normal schedule. It may take some getting used to the time change, but I’ve heard there is a “two day” rule and we found that to be the case when we went to France.
+ Most hotels have cribs or pack n plays. Call ahead to confirm if they have any available and request that it be placed in the room before you arrive.
The only time we ever were not able to get one was because we arrived so late at night and the hotel only had 1 and someone was already using it.
+ Pay the premium for a hotel with a good location. With a baby, you’ll definitely spend more time at your hotel, whether that be due to an earlier bed time or coming back for naps or to change outfits after a blowout. For this reason, it is worthwhile to pay a little extra for a hotel near where you’ll be spending most of your days. If you think about it, if you stay at a cheaper hotel outside the city, you’d end up paying the difference in Uber charges and also wasting your most precious commodity: time!
Has traveling with your specific stroller been pretty easy?
Yes, 100%! We love our Vista so much. It glides super easily, folds up nicely, the car seat detaches simply, and there is tons of storage room underneath. It is also very sturdy. We went all over the cobblestone streets in Europe for a week straight and it took it like a champ!
I do wish that it a mechanism for one-handed opening and closing of the stroller because it can be hard when I am traveling by myself, but I assume it is for safety reasons, and I never hesitate to ask the person behind me in line/a TSA agent/a flight attendant to assist me if I’m alone.
Vista stroller travel tips?
1. For as long as we can, we plan to travel with just the stroller chassis and the car seat. While Joe is technically old enough for the rumble seat now – it’s what we use for walks around the neighborhood – we prefer to not carry BOTH the rumble seat AND the car seat (for car rides once we get to our destination, etc). Will keep you updated when he grows out of the car seat as to what we do on this front! Likely, we will rent a car seat from a car rental agency.
2. If you care about your stroller not getting roughed up during plane flights in the cargo space, you will want to invest in a cover.
We used one our very first flight but then decided it was more work than it was worth *for us personally*. Because we fly standby, we are usually boarding the plane at the very end of the boarding process as they are trying to rush to push back from the gate and get off on time, so it stressed us out getting to the bottom of the jet bridge and frantically trying to get the stroller in the bag (it takes some finesse).
We accepted that it would get banged up and that’s the price we pay for reduced stress. And it has in fact gotten banged up – there are marks all over the frame and worst of all, the leather handles have quite a few scratches and torn spots (thankfully those can be purchased separately and replaced), but we don’t mind at all. We see them as little reminders of our travels!
Bringing this back to the question, if you are concerned about keeping the stroller in tip-top shape (as it is quite the investment!) I would look into getting a cover. If you have the extra time while boarding, as well as another set of hands to help you get the stroller into the bag, it is a worthwhile purchase and will help protect the stroller.
Exactly how do you do it?
+ I always say “keep your expectations low but your hopes high!”
+ Don’t stress yourself out beforehand over all the little things that *might* go wrong because those things may never happen and in that case, what a waste of your time and energy! However, do keep some realistic expectations. Your baby will probably have at least one screaming fit on the plane. That’s fine. Everyone on the flight has either been a baby or had a baby, so they will understand. If someone gives you side eye, whatever, the flight will be over eventually and you’ll never have to see them again! At the end of the day, just remember that you’re getting to see the world with your little family – nothing beats that!
+ Go with the flow. I touched on this above with the stroller naps, but be prepared to change a diaper on a sidewalk, or find a park bench to feed your baby, or go wine tasting with the baby in tow. It might not be “picture perfect” but you do what you gotta do!
+ If you have access to an airport lounge (ie through a credit card), utilize it! They are a great place to grab a quick coffee or drink, a little snack, change baby’s diaper in a bathroom that hasn’t already been used by 3,000 people that day, and lay out a blanket for baby to do some tummy time.
+ Some airlines require a birth certificate or passport for lap children under the age of 2 so be sure to know if yours does. American Airlines does not, but Southwest does. We flew Southwest when Joe was 3 weeks old and even though it was so obvious he was under 2, they still made us provide a birth certificate.
+ During takeoff and landing, have your baby take a pacifier or a bottle or a boob. The sucking motion helps keep their ears from popping! If they are asleep or just not sucking, tickle under their chin or cheek as that usually gets them sucking. And for what it’s worth, I’ve heard that take-off isn’t as much of an issue for their ears as landing. Also, some babies don’t have any issue with their ears popping, so if they refuse, cross your fingers and hope for the best!
+ Do not be afraid to ask for help! We have found that most everyone is more than willing to help us and is patient as we try to get into our seats. A heartfelt “thank you” goes a long way.
+ The bottom line is: if it’s really worth it to you, it will be worth whatever it takes. By that I mean that if you love traveling it will be worth any inconveniences or slight difficulties.
+ We have found that it’s not that hard to travel with a baby and it’s actually so much fun!
Do you travel with the car seat adapter too?
No, we do not.
The Mesa has the capability to ride in a car without being attached to the base (though obviously it is much safer to use the base and this is only for temporary instances like Ubers and traveling). If you look at the car seat, it has blue tabs on the sides that you hook the seatbelt behind. Then, you’ll pull the slack from the seatbelt quickly so that it “locks”. See this video for a visual.