First Flight


I have a lengthy post about our first flight experience coming up on Real Health, but I wanted to get a short list of tips on BERF from our travels across the country. Bullet form for easy reading!

CHECKED GEAR – We brought our Chicco KeyFit 30 car seat in this Jeep bag. The bag was fabulous, easy to carry, spacious and big enough to fit the seat, but it was slightly ripped upon our arrival home. Boo airlines. Just a surface rip so it’s still easy to use. The car seat inside was fine. Checking the car seat was free – halleluiah! So glad we took our own car seat because we ended up getting stuck overnight in Chicago and needed to take a cab to a hotel. We could not have done this had we not had our car seat with us. We didn’t take the base – just the seat and knew how to strap it into the middle with a seat belt. It was quick and easy.

GATE GEAR – We took our Uppababy G-lite stroller, the Boba wrap, our Skiphop diaper bag full of baby stuff and a backpack with our adult things. Mazen stayed in the stroller at the airport (he’s heavy!) and got in the Boba for naps and the flights. We were really worried he wouldn’t nap without a crib, but he eventually got tired enough to fall asleep on his dad. We checked the stroller at the gate each flight and it was fine – no damage.


EXTRA HANDS – So glad I had Matt and Karen with me. Traveling alone would be realllly hard!

FOOD – I had no trouble bringing frozen breast milk or a 3.5 ounce squeeze pouch through security. I nursed him on the flights and in the airport with my cover. I also wore a nursing tank with a flowy top so that I could just stick his head in there and use the top as a cover if I needed it. Like this:


ENTERTAINMENT – We brought about 8 toys – a book, a few rattles, a few things to chew on, some rings, a monkey. They were more than enough. Pack fewer toys than you think you need. Remember everyday objects make great toys too : )

DIAPERS – We used disposables for the trip and left our cloth diapers at home. This was a great choice to reduce what we had to carry in the airport and luggage. We usually tried to change his diaper 20 minutes before the flight took off. Most of the bathrooms had nice changing stations (although sometimes there was a line of other moms!) Luckily there was no poop during the flights and we changed him as soon as we deplaned.

TIMING – I would not recommend flying at night. We thought it would be better than early morning, but he just wanted to sleep and got uncomfortable in the carrier so then we just had to hold him and that got uncomfortable for the parents’ arms. Daytime flights are probably ideal at this age (7 months). Our return flight was daytime and it went so much better than our flight out, which left at 5pm and landed well into the night.

In general, people were very nice and accommodating. At the Chicago airport (after our overnight stay) we were able to get in a really short security line. Matt wore Mazen through and I was in charge of putting the stroller and gear through the X-ray machine. It all went very smoothly.

I think that’s about all the highlights!! Anything I missed?

55 thoughts on “First Flight”

  1. Baby is much safer IN his car seat IN a seat strapped in… Next time consider purchasing a seat for him.

        1. No one has ever mentioned or brought this up to me. I’m quite surprised, but it makes sense. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

      1. I just flew with my 12 month old and bought her a seat and brought her seat on board after learning how much safer it was. Just because you see more lap babies doesn’t mean it’s safe!

        1. Most times you can purchase the seat for the baby, and if the flight is not full, they will refund you the price of the babies ticket and still allow him to have his seat. You can also call the airline and see if the flight is full, so you don’t even have to get a ticket. I have flown at least 10 times with my 2 year old and he has always been in his Britax Marathon (I’ve even gone by myself with him, it’s hard, but I know he’s safe!) If it ends up being a full flight and you didn’t purchase a seat, you just gate check the carseat, and get it at the next gate (in my opinion, there is less bumping and throwing of the car seat that way)

      2. I flew with my son when he was 6 months old and had the infant carrier car seat. We flew Southwest and on both flights there were empty seats and they said I could just bring the car seat on as long as I put it in a window seat (I didn’t actually purchase a ticket for him). It worked out well. Although on the first flight he wanted out of the car seat the second we started moving, so not sure how “safe” it was. On the return flight he fell asleep in the car seat in the airport and then slept almost the entire time there.

        1. We always got Lucy a seat too, partly for safety and partly because she would more easily nap in her carseat than in our arms, which made the trip more pleasant for everyone. It’s especially worth the extra money when they get older and more wiggly!

  2. Hate to say it, but if you check a carseat while flying most CPSTs will consider it unusable. I’d get a new if I was you.

  3. Don’t forget to bring your baby’s birth certificate! Airlines are supposed to look at it at check-in. Also, extra clothes for baby and you may come in handy. When my girl was 9 months, she pooped while I was holding her in the security line, and it leaked all over my white shirt!! I has to buy a cheesy souvenir shirt to wear on the plane. Glad your trip went well!

    1. Good point about the birth certificate. I’ve taken it on every flight (7 round trips in 2 years, I think, often crossing the Canada/US border) and have actually never been asked for it. Then again, we’re usually showing her passport so they are checking her ID (just not ID that specifically says she belongs to us).

      Also, a tip for anyone crossing international borders who may not already have heard, if you’re traveling with your child without their other parent, you need a notarized letter from the non-traveling parent giving you permission to take the child out of the country. The customs agents (not airline or security) usually check this.

  4. Re: the discussion of buying a seat vs. not buying a seat, of course buying a seat and strapping baby in is safer than not, but overall flying is very safe, and in a non-worst case scenario, it’s sometimes easier to get through the flight with baby in your arms or carrier rather than in their own seat, so I can understand both choices and flew with my daughter as a lap baby a number of times. We all weigh risks and choose a level of risk that we’re comfortable with for our own families.

    Checking car seats is also not ideal, but I’m skeptical that it’s as big a risk as the car seat advocacy people make it out to be. Sure, some baggage handlers probably toss them around more than they should, but car seats are built to take a lot of damage, and in general I think that most airline employees have brains and realize what a car seat is and probably don’t just fling them around wildly.

    Our solution was to try to have a car seat available at our destination when possible – both sets of grandparents now own a cheap convertible car seat, which makes trips to see them easier. In cases when we’re not visiting family, we’ve gate-checked (so, less handling time and less risk of loss or damage) the infant bucket seat on one trip and more recently bought a Cosco Scenera (only $40 in the US, much more in Canada but still less than renting a car seat a few times) to use as our travel seat. So we’re not un-installing and risking damage to her everyday car seat, but we did run the small risk of it being invisibly damaged when we checked it on our last trip. She’s over 2 now, so we’ll take it on the plane next time and see how that goes. If we can’t get it installed properly, we’ll gate-check it.

    1. Carseats are built to take a lot of damage ONE TIME. They should not be re-used after an accident, and they are not built to be tossed around by a baggage handler. The baggage handlers are not required to take any more care with your carseat than they are with your luggage. It is not safe to assume that the handler took care with your seat.

  5. Why are you guys just now bringing up this car seat on airline thing? No one mentioned it before she went on her first flight and asked for advice in the stroller post. It seems a bit extreme, and I have never seen a car seat on a plane. Although I can see why it would be the extremely cautious thing to do. But I guess the safest thing to do would be to just not ever travel, right?

    1. I totally agree with this! The safest thing we could all do is just stay home, never get in a car, never go out in a city and breathe polluted air, etc. Oh wait… that’d be a pretty dull unhealthy life in other ways. 🙂

    2. I think I’ve seen at least one child in a car seat on each of the flights I’ve taken in the recent years. How are you gals not aware of this? Whenever a parenting magazine runs an article on flying with baby, they always mention that restrained in a car seat is the safest way to travel for young children/babies. Remember years back when the plane landed on a river in NYC? One mom was flying with her baby on her lap and thankfully a gentleman offered to hold he child on impact- I always remember her saying there would have been no way she could have held onto him – think of the intense speed & force in the event of a crash- not likely that you’d be able to hang on to your child.

      All that said, crashes are very rare and I totally understand why people opt not to buy a seat (I did buy one for my daughter,though). I’m just so surprised so many readers have never heard of the doing so or seen a baby flying that way.

      1. Exactly Melissa! Yes I was unaware our first flight with baby at 5 months when I flew with her as a lap child. But I did know never to check a car seat (although I now know gate checking isn’t that much better). But when you know better you do better. Most air plane incidents happen during taxi, take off and landing so yes I’m going to travel the safest way possible. No one said anything about not traveling at all. Plus traveling with a toddler is so much easier when u have their seat to put them in during the flight!

  6. We flew with Kellen at 4.5 months and we did not buy a seat for him. Next time we fly he will be just over a year and I plan on buying a seat for that trip. I am jealous they let you keep him in to Boba! When we flew out from Chicago I had to take the Ergo off, let it be scanned and hold him (however getting to skip to the short line was awesome!). Happy to hear your trip went well!

    1. Yes, I’ve had to take my daughter out of her carrier no matter which type of carrier. It’s a pain, but for security it had to go through the scanner. I also had to take her out of her carrier in my seat for takeoff and landing. I know it’s a rule, but it’s so annoying if you already have them sleeping on you and are ready to go!

      1. Depending on the type of carrier, sometimes the flight attendants tell you just to unbuckle it (e.g., for something like an Ergo/Beco/Boba style carrier, you can leave them leaning against you and undo the top buckles so that they’re just resting on you with the carrier laying there, too.

  7. I have traveled a lot with my baby/toddler and just thought of a couple more tips to share.

    Airports often have a family line (often combined with disabilities, so look for those signs) at security. Sometimes this actually results in a shorter line, but either way, it means you’ll be in a line with other passengers with kids, strollers, etc., instead of potentially impatient business travelers who would just like to hurry through. We’ve also had pretty good luck with the screening staff being helpful and understanding in the family line.

    Whether or not you can wear a baby in a carrier through security seems to vary from airport to airport or day to day, but either way, I’ve always found that having both a stroller and a carrier is useful at different stages of the trip. Especially when traveling without another adult, a stroller gives me somewhere for the baby to sit while I go to the bathroom (although actually, on my first trip with her she was 4 months and we were borrowing a stroller at our destination – it’s totally possible to pee with a baby in a sling 🙂 ) and if I’m wearing the baby, then I can put my backpack in the stroller. I usually used the stroller in the terminal as long as she’d tolerate it, and then wore her when she got tired or right before getting on the plane, which freed up my hands to fold the stroller at the gate, stow carry-ons, etc.

    Traveling on your own with a baby is more work but totally doable. Careful planning when packing helps a lot. I usually took a lightweight totebag (reusable shopping bag) in the diaper bag with the absolute essentials so that I could grab that on the plane and not necessarily wrestle with the whole diaper bag.

    I agree about not overpacking toys for a baby, but once you hit the toddler years, a couple of well-chosen favorites and some new surprises go a long way. Stickers got us through a large part of our last two flights. Judicious use of the in-flight TV helped in a pinch, too. We’ve done almost no TV so far (she just turned 2) but I bought some kid-sized headphones before a trip last year, and 15 minutes or so of cartoons really helped on flights when she was too excited to sleep and needed to be occupied for hours.

  8. When I went to Turks and Caicos with the family I nannied for they didn’t take a carseat. We stayed at Sandals and they had car seats for him. You also had a really short trip less than 2 minutes to the resort, so most people just held there babies in there laps, and used there seat belt to hold them in. Not that I would ever recommend that. They do throw luggage around during loading and unloading, but I am not sure it is anything to worry about unless you can see damage. The car seat was protected in a bag. But I am sure someone will tell me I am wrong. When we flew with Knox he rode in mom and dad’s lap and they seat belted him in. No one on our flight with kids brought there car seats on, they just sat them in there laps. I think it is just your personal preference. You have to pay extra money because you would have to buy and extra ticket. But I guess in the event something did happen it might be beneficial to have the car seat.

  9. Another good thing to mention is to avoid ear pain in the little ones by either feeding during ascend and descend or giving a pacifier which is what we did. The sucking helps with the ear pressure. Thanks!

  10. When I flew recently with my six month old, there was a seat on the plane available on three of the four legs so we used the open seat and put our car seat in it. It was so nice that it worked out that way. As a family of six, we could not afford another ticket for baby but it was definitely appreciated to make use of that extra seat when it was available.

  11. When I saw this post, I was sure you were going to get the “OMG you checked a carseat!?!!?” comments. I stressed over this decision and eventually decided that I was just going to check the thing. There are a lot of “rules” for various things and I decided that sometimes you have to break a rule or two. FTR – I’ve not ever seen a baby in a carseat on a plane either. All of the other babies I travelled with were lap children.

  12. Anderson tolerates his car seat on the best of days, I held him in my lap the two times we’ve flown (always alone). I will say this, a mobile baby is a whole different ball game! On our last flight (at seven months) MORE toys was the answer. I’m fact, toys he knew and was used to? Useless. All he wanted to do was stand up on me and rip the inflight magazines to shreds. Everything I’ve read says bring new toys your kids have never seen, and I agree! Toys being anything that keeps them busy and happy.

  13. I traveled with my one year old last fall, from Europe to Orlando via Chicago. We eventually decided to bring the car seat and were really happy with that decission.
    I do have another tip though – I found it very convenient to gate check our stroller when flying domestic (Chicago – Orlando and vice versa). European airports however, are not as accomodating in this aspect. Leaving Stockholm I wasn’t allowed to gate check, but was however allowed to bring the stoller on board since it fit in the over head compartment. Going back I gate checked the stroller in Chicago, but upon arrival in Stockholm the stoller had to be reclaimed at the normal baggage claim area – which is quite some ways from the gates. Carrying our little sleepy bundle of joy was not fun. I can’t see how we could have avoided it, there seemed to be no flexibility on this point, but it’s good to be prepared for it.

  14. Clara had her first few flights at 5 weeks old! This was super easy and super horrendous at the same time. Haha! We traveled a lot her first 6-7 months of life (think 10 flights) and I have learned a lot along the way. 🙂

  15. I’ve never seen an infant in a car seat on a plane, but maybe I don’t fly as frequently as others or I’m in the economy section :-). I’ve flown several times alone with baby (age 4 months to 16 months), always wear her through security without a problem. I’ve never carried the birth certificate, either. I think it would be useful to have a car seat and be able to put her in her own seat…but then I probably couldn’t afford the trip!

    My pediatrician didn’t have an issue with me flying with her in my lap, either!

  16. I’m not sure why all the push back here against the idea of babies traveling in car seats being the safer way to go when you’re on a flight. It’s not just speculation — the FAA recommends it as the safest way for air travel with babies and toddlers. Any Google search for “travel tips with babies” brings up a dozen lists that echo that recommendation. The argument that you usually never see babies in car seats on a plane doesn’t really hold water — 50 years ago you usually never saw kids wearing seat belts in the car, and 30 years ago you never saw 5 year olds in booster seats. But those are standard safety procedures today because the stats show they help keep kids safe in a moving vehicle. If it’s about not wanting to spend the money on an extra seat then that’s understandable because plane tickets are pricey, but really, there’s no argument here about which air travel option is the safer one.

  17. I was one that said I never see babies in car seats on planes, but I wasn’t using that as an argument that it is somehow as safe as traveling in a car seat.

    I was just responding to the commenters that seem to think it’s ridiculous to travel with babies in laps. I think it’s obviously safer to travel in the car seat, but maybe not affordable for many people (as evidence by the number of babies in laps).

  18. Not to be rude at all but you should really edit this blog piece so that other parents do not get the idea that it is at all okay to fly with a lap child. Not only is the baby in danger but so are the other patrons. Runway accidents happen all the time along with turbulence. All safety groups recommend a baby be strapped securely in their own seat including the FAA and airlines purely refuse to require it for monetary gain. Another thing would be that wearing in a baby carrier turns the baby into an air bag for yourself in case of turbulence/runway accident. I think it’s fantastic your flight went off without a hitch but as you are giving advice to other parents you should not be advocating for something considered dangerous. Some food for thought they require that the coffee pot on the airplane to be strapped down so that in the event of turbulence it does not become a projectile. They should require the same for babies and you have a great platform with which to advocate for it.

  19. and not to harass you but I am a CPST that is my job if you choose to continue to use the car seat that you checked on an airplane (you should see this video on how car seats are treated when being loaded on a plane that is parental choice. But please do not loan out the seat or give the seat away to other parents. There is a list of questions one should ask when accepting a used seat and the three major questions are “checked on an airplane, in a car accident or has the harness been washed” which means your seat is not suitable for anyone else to use including Mazen but it is your own choice.

    Please feel free to check out this FB group it is ran by car seat techs who can help you with any question and explain the danger your seat now poses in full detail.

    please note that car accidents are the #1 cause of accidental death in the US for children ages 0-19 and it’s in your hands to help prevent this from happening.

    1. I’m curious about the reasoning behind the washing of the harness / straps rendering a carseat unsafe? My mother was a trained carseat technician for a carseat rental scheme and one of my first jobs as a child was washing the seats (harness included) between rentals.

      Are you able to provide some background info for this recommendation? Thanks!

      1. It weakens in the fibers of the harness. No carseat manufacturer allows submerging the straps in water. Most recommend using a damp cloth and spot cleaning. Usually if they are submerged it voids the warranty.

      2. of course I can. Read your car seat manual. It clearly states to never submerge the harness. It weakens the fibers and stretches them out so they can no longer do their jobs.

        The rental companies washing the harnesses is why moms are told to never, ever, ever use a rental car seat, ever.

        If you need further clarification and proof feel free to call every single car seat manufacturer that is out there as they all have the same warning to never do it. It’s listed in your manual more than once usually. 🙂

  20. I would recommend tossing the car seat (cut the straps first so it can’t be reused) and buying a convertible car seat that is easy to travel with and buying a nice one to stay in the car. After a car seat has been checked it has been through enough man-handling that it really isn’t safe for baby to ride in anymore. I don’t think anyone can overstate this – that seat just isn’t safe, especially if the bag was torn, it is an indication that the seat wasn’t handled with care. Car seats have to be disposed of after car accidents in which the air bags didn’t deploy – just tiny fender benders – they are not meant to be re-used after experiencing even POTENTIAL damage. One of the only car seat makers that bends this rule is Britax. I know that Chicco requires getting a new car seat even after a very minor accident…but ultimately this is your parenting choice. I personally would never check a car seat. I’d buy one at my destination before I checked one.

    1. “Car seats are designed to withstand most motor vehicle crash forces. In general, the MACPS does not consider a gate-checked car seat or a car seat that is checked as luggage to be one that has experienced forces equivalent to a motor vehicle crash. Once the destination is reached, it is recommended to inspect the car seat to make sure no visual damage has occurred and all aspects of the car seat function properly.”

  21. OK! Wow. I was looking forward to an upcoming vacation, and now have the worry that my baby will become a dangerous projectile during take-off and/or that I’ll crush him with the weight of my body. Er, yay? And thanks? But seriously, Kath, thank you so much for sharing your tips. I have one specific question for you – did you take along any kind of portable high chair for Mazen, like something that straps to a chair or something that clips to a table?

    1. We didn’t because most of the restaurants had high chairs that we ate in. And when we didn’t have one, he just sat in his stroller. That would be harder for a bigger baby who feeds himself, but for M it was fine for this trip.

  22. I just flew Southwest with my 5mo old. On both flights I asked at the gate if there were extra seats so I could carry on my carseat. There were maybe 2 empty seats on each flight and the staff were very friendly and had no problem with me bringing the seat on. It worked out really well to have a place for baby to sit on take-off/landing and for naps. I had a carseat bag in caseof gate check but I noticed Southwest had clear bags – I wonder if a clear bag would be better so it was obvious it contained a carseat. Otherwise the handlers have no idea and it looks like a duffle bag.

    I’m curious what, if any, extra security measures you had to endure with the frozen milk. I brought a mini cooler with ice pack and thawed bottles. I did not want the milk to be x-rayed so it was tested separately but I didn’t realize I would also then have to have my bags searched, hands tested, and a pat down. The RDU staff did this quickly and with baby in carrier – no problem. The PHX staff had to call for mgmt, made me take baby out of carrier and overall it was an unpleasant experience. I won’t be bringing bottles in the future b/c my baby nursed fine on the plane and it wasn’t worth the hassle.

    Next time I’ll pack lighter – I was with my parents but hey had their own luggage and it was really tough to wrangle baby in carrier, carry-ons, checked bag, and carseat!

    1. The frozen milk did not have to be checked at all (it did go through the x-ray) and I didn’t have any fluid milk so that wasn’t a problem.

  23. Flight timing definitely depends on the child, age and length of flight. We lived overseas in China for 3 years and our now 16 month old has taken 6+ flights over the past year ranging from 5-14 hours. We always prefer evening flights because he typically sleeps well even as a lap child. Once they are mobile flying becomes much more of a challenge keeping them entertained, but they are able to get up and run down the aisles more on long haul flights. meg from the Lucies List blog has a great little online book with traveling tips with children domestically. While it is safer and more convienient to have your child in a car seat, this is not always affordable for everyone. If you are really worried about having a lap child on a plane, you probably would never put your child in a car. Statistically flying is a pretty safe option.

  24. This post brings back so many memories!! We go to Italy every summer so we have NO option but to take long (non-direct) flights AND night flights! We went my son was 4 months, (returned at 7 months), then again at 15 months (and returned at 18 months)…and this year we’re going with my son, who is now 2 years old and my 6 month old daughter! The last time we went we had FOUR connecting flights!!! Needless to say, it actually went pretty well…only this time we’re worried because there are two of them, which means absolutely NO breaks for either my husband or I!!

  25. Some of you guys are ridiculous.

    I fly all the time and have never seen a baby in a carseat. Let’s be real…if the plane is going down, a carseat isn’t going to do much.

  26. i read this post and comments just days before my baby’s first flight and it freaked me out! until then my biggest concern had been that my baby might cry and fuss on the flight. i had never seen a baby in a carseat on a plane, nor did i know that it was a no-no to check a carseat on the plane! i did read on the airline’s website that baby is safest strapped into his/her own seat, but to be honest, i didnt give this a second thought because like so many others, i had never ever seen this! i really stressed over what to do! here’s what we ultimately decided to do, how it went, and what i learned:

    -we decided to go ahead and hold the baby on lap for the flight knowing that air travel is considered very safe. it was not an easy choice and i didnt feel great about just hoping for the best, but it’s what we did.

    -we purchased a carseat online and had it shipped to our destination in order to not risk damage to our carseat by checking it (thank goodness we were going to visit family so they could hook it up in the car for us and have it ready to go when they picked us up at airport).

    -like others, i thought i couldnt afford to purchase my baby his own seat. after i spent $240 on a convertible carseat (if i was going to buy a 3rd carseat i wanted it to be able to use it for as long as possible), i found out that they offer affordable seats for infants if you call but not online (SW Airlines). so, taking the carseat we already had and buying the seat on plane would have been way cheaper. ugh.

    -the real kicker was, the carseat we bought online was shipped in a box with no packaging materials to keep it safe. just the seat in a box. how is that any better than checking one on the plane?? i cant imagine it was thrown around much less during shipping than one would have been by the airline. well, at least we have our carseat now for when the baby outgrows his infant seat.

    i consider myself to be very mindful and careful when it comes to my baby’s safety, but it’s hard to be on top every single recommendation by every agency, manufacturer, etc… We cant be perfect.

    Anyway, i hope this helps somebody. Also, the advice i got to just make sure baby was sucking/swallowing during take-off and landing (we nursed) worked wonders. my baby just nursed and slept and during the short time he was awake, he was just fascinated by all the new stuff and new faces around. i probably gave myself 30 new gray hairs stressing over the flight for months before we went, but thankfully it went just fine.

  27. I’m really shocked at the discussion that goes on regarding travelling with your baby. I thought it was a good general post on travelling through the system, but boy are people ever over sensitive. It is recommended that children don’t eat off floors, always wear a bike helmet (especially when learning to walk), and for gods sake, never be left to cry or unattended to, even if you need to go to the bathroom. This is a very paranoid decade. If I was the airline industry, I’d recommend children travel in a carseat too…hey, no worries about there being a lawsuit if something does happen right? It’s like the warning labels on cribs, or on infant bathtubs, or hey, carseats even. I guess some of us can’t be trusted to use our own judgements anymore, we will just spill hot coffee on ourselves too…oh wait, someone already did, and successfully sued for that. It’s nice to be told what to do, and believe everything we are told on a TV or clip. To the person that questioned why a “stranger” would hold someone else’s baby… 😉 I also loved the quote from the clip “they told me I could hold my baby.” Disclaimer? No…..

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