As an international couple, my husband and I are avid travelers, partly because we have to be but mostly because we love it. And we’ve passed that affinity on to our son. We have explored numerous places, domestic and international.

Like most things involving babies and children, traveling can be stressful. But for anyone who’s ready to take a much-needed break from reality, I’ve got some tips for you.

Preparing for Departure

Does my baby need a ticket?

Infants and toddlers, two and younger, qualify as lap children and don’t need a separate seat. They do need to be assigned to an adult ticket, registered with the airline and have their age verified at check-in. If you are used to checking in via an app, you’ll need to visit the counter whenever you travel with a lap child.

  • Carry a copy of the birth certificate for ease.
  • You have the option to buy a ticket for your child under two and use their car seat on the plane. This provides more space and baggage allowance at an additional cost.

Certain flights, especially international, have a few bassinets available for use for younger babies (generally less than 20 pounds and under age two) that can be requested at the time of booking. They are not guaranteed. Rules: 

  • Child must be strapped in.
  • Child must be picked up and held for takeoff, landing and any turbulence.

In my experience, these are not as helpful as one might think. A turbulent flight makes for many disturbances, to parents and babies. Constant in and out from the bassinet is disruptive for a sleeping child (and a weary parent).

Mask up

Two and older need masks. If your kid isn’t used to this, prepare them in advance. Have them wear it in a store, car ride, etc. to get acclimated and explain why.

I also remind my kiddo it’s the pilot’s rule. The plane can’t fly if we’re not ready. 

There are exceptions for developmentally and differently-abled individuals. Such policies vary with each airline. 

Breast/bottle feeding + Snacks 

  • Milk/Formula doesn’t need to be less than 3 oz at the time of this printing.  Check current regulations at
    www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures/traveling-children
  • Freeze milk for an extended flight. It will thaw in flight, or you can ask for hot water when needed.
  • Have formula premeasured in bottles and ready to add water when required.
  • Pack snacks in one Ziplock bag or lunchbox for ease going through security. These are often flagged by the TSA.
  • During takeoff and landing, allow your child to suck on a lollipop to help with the air pressure and popping of ears.
  • For babies, a bottle, pacifier or nursing will help soothe their discomfort.

Water bottle 

Keep half full and dump or chug before going through TSA. Once on the plane, the water pressure could cause the contents to explode like rainfall. So, leave open and watch or drink contents while taking off. And beware. 

Strollers & Car Seats: What to check?

Umbrella strollers are the most accepted stroller to gate check. Generally, however, strollers that weigh up to 20lbs. are allowed through TSA if the size is permitted by the airline. 

  • One stroller and one car seat are checkable, free of charge, even with a lap child.
  • Diaper bags are allotted to the child, not the parent. You can have a carry-on + personal item + diaper bag. 
  • Lap babies (unpaid) do not receive a checked bag allotment (only diaper bag).
  • Pack and plays count as a bag of checked baggage.

Entertainment

Many airlines have apps that stream content directly to your device, while others utilize mounted TVs. Within an airline’s fleet, they may utilize aircraft with both capabilities. You can look up the type of plane prior to departure to know what will be available and so that you can prepare activities. A bag of activities is also useful in hotels or rainy days. Never underestimate the power of a racecar or a coloring book, nor discount how entertaining a tray table and window shade can be.

Plane Favorites

  • Hardwired, kid-friendly headphones that can be plugged into the airplane’s mounted port. 
  • Melissa and Doug water pen coloring books. 
  • Crayola Magic Marker pages. 

These options are awesome because writing on plane walls is impossible. 

  • I have a special airplane bag that is used only for trips. I rotate toys/books as needed. It always contains:
  • Two books that haven’t been read recently
  • Colored pencils + stamps + notebooks for writing and art
  • Racecars
  • Doll 
  • Random figurines like bugs or animals

International notes

Passports 

Your baby needs a passport to travel to foreign countries.

  • Passports for 16 and under are good for five years.
  • Passports for 16 and under (when issued to child under 16 years of age) must be renewed in person.
    -Passports issued to 16+ can be renewed by mail and every 10 years.
    -Renew your passport 6-9 months before it expires. This will ensure you are compliant. 

Visas & Miscellaneous

Citizens of the United States have great flexibility when traveling. Yet, some countries may require a visa or a reciprocity fee to enter (nonimmigrant payment to enter the country). Check the State Department website to verify what you need.

Every country has different standards and protocols surrounding COVID-19, which are changing daily. Research before you buy and be sure to double-check requirements two to three days before departure to ensure you and your family are compliant.

If you aren’t used to traveling or are traveling with kids for the first time, be sure to reach out to the airline with any questions and research what’s needed for international excursions. Policies—baggage, traveling with children, etc.—are all listed on websites. Wherever you go, don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially if you’re on the move solo. It’s been my experience people are eager to assist, and strangers can be your greatest allies when you’re in the thick of travel.

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