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Airplane Travel with a Baby

By Elizabeth Pantley, author of Gentle Baby Care and The No-Cry Sleep Solution

  • Ask what special features your airline offers for families. Some companies offer children's meals, bassinets, gate check for strollers, or early boarding privileges.

  • If you can afford to do so, buy a seat for your child and bring along his carseat. Your baby is used to being buckled into his carseat, and the familiarity may make it easier for him to sit still and even sleep. This only works though when your child is able to fit comfortably in the tight seat compartments. A toddler with long legs will be scrunched between his seat and the seat in front of him. The added benefit of bringing a car seat when you can, is the safety feature of having your child in a protective seat on the airplane. Make sure your carseat bears a sticker that says it's FAA approved for air travel, so that it's not turned away at the gate. You'll need that seat anyway to get to and from the airport at home and at your destination. (Carseat rentals are typically expensive, and availability is often limited.)

  • Visit your baby's pediatrician a week or two before your trip to be sure your little one isn't harboring an ear infection or other illness. If possible, avoid exposing your child to other children the week before the flight so he's less likely to catch one of those many kid-carried bugs.

  • If you will be visiting relatives at your destination, make a family photo album and "introduce" your baby to these new people via their pictures prior to the actual meeting.

  • If your baby will be taking any medication on the day of the trip (such as a decongestant or pain reliever), be sure to test it out before the day of travel to gauge any side effects.

  • Decide if you'll need a stroller at your destination. If you don't think you'll need a conventional one, at least consider bringing a lightweight portable type for use in airports; this will give you a free hand as you tend to tasks such as luggage check-in and pickup, while keeping your child safe and close by. If you opt to take your regular stroller, you can usually check it at the gate or right at the door of the airplane.

  • Alternatively, a sling or soft-pack carrier can be very helpful if your child still likes to be carried and is light enough for you to carry this way for long walks through the airport.

  • Dress yourself and your child in comfortable layers of clothing. Airplanes are often cramped and hot, but sometimes too cold.

  • Use these checklists (and make lists of your own) to ensure that you don't forget anything.

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