We recently got back from our first “big” trip with Baby H: a flight from Chicago to San Francisco and then a 2+ hour drive north of San Francisco. I thought the flight would be challenging but would mostly be a lot of good snuggle time for Baby H and me. Oh wow, was I wrong! Flying with an 8 month old was emotionally and physically exhausting. Because she’s old enough to be hyper aware of her surroundings but not old enough to be distracted by movies or games, there wasn’t a lot we could do to keep our sweet little girl happy on the 4+ hour flight.

But… we survived. We made it. No one on either of our flights told us they hated us. Despite a cancelled flight on our way out, we were all able to travel together and sit by each other. All of our luggage made it. I probably only flashed a few people on our flights as we navigated a lot of mid-air nursing struggles. We are now, officially, joined the club of those who have flown with a baby.

I know that there have been some other great posts about traveling with a baby (including Mrs. Bee’s awesome guides here, here and here) but I thought I’d share how we approached airport travel with an 8 month old.

Packing

For the baby in the diaper bag:

  • Wipes
  • Disposable diapers (12) [note: we use cloth at home but used disposables on the trip to save on space]
  • Hyland’s Teething Tabs
  • Diaper cream
  • Pacifier with clip (clip doubles as a teether)
  • Two bibs
  • Extra outfit
  • Swaddle blanket
  • Changing pad
  • Wet bag (for any soiled outfits/items)
  • Nursing cover
  • NoseFrida Snot Sucker
  • Toys (teething toys, “lovey,” “taggy blanket”)
  • Fleece jacket (for traveling to/from airport)
  • Hat (for traveling to/from airport)
  • Finger food (Puffs)
  • Two pouches of vegetable/fruit purees

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Additional carry on items:

  • Ergo carrier (for walking around the airport)
  • Copy of birth certificate (in case TSA requested it. They didn’t.)

For me on the plane:

I traveled as lightly as possible – a cross body purse containing my wallet and phone. There was additional room in my purse to put her snacks, toys, or anything else that I needed to quickly stow away. I packed my coat in my suitcase so I wouldn’t have to carry it around.

For the baby in the checked suitcase

  • Enough outfits for the 6 days of the trip (onesies, socks, pants, sweaters)
  • 4 pairs of footed pajamas
  • 1 sleep sack
  • 1 extra swaddle blanket
  • 60 disposable diapers
  • 1 full package of wipes
  • 1  hooded bath towel
  • Travel containers of baby shampoo and baby lotion
  • Extra puffs and puree pouches
  • Inglesina Fast Table Chair
  • Video monitor
  • White noise machine
  • Nail clippers
  • Brush and comb
  • Extra toys
  • Pack N Play sheet (the house we were staying at provided a Pack N Play)

Additional checked items:

  • Infant car seat and base in a gate check bag

Note: we did not bring a stroller because we were bringing the Ergo carrier which was much easier to travel with than a big stroller!

Travel Outfits

Baby’s Outfit:

  • Footed pajamas – provided easy access for diaper changes, kept her warm, and ensured we didn’t lose any little socks along the way.

My Outfit:

  • Leggings
  • Boots
  • Nursing tank
  • Long, cozy open sweater

I made sure I dressed so that it would be easy to nurse her in the airport and on the flight, but also with a warm sweater that I could wrap around her as needed. The boots weren’t ideal for travel but I wanted them for the trip and didn’t have room to pack them. However, they were very easy to get off and on and were fine to travel in. Would I have preferred wearing flats? Yes.

Mr. H’s Outfit:

  • Whatever he wanted! Since he doesn’t have to worry about nursing it didn’t really matter what he traveled in.

Travel Tips:

I won’t sit here and pretend to be a travel-with-baby expert, but I did pick up a few helpful hints along the way.

  • San Francisco’s airport has nurseries available near the gates. Simply call on one of the nearby courtesy phones for the access code. This was a life saver for us! The room was clean with a nice rocker and diaper changing station. We could turn the lights off and they piped in quiet music. Before our flight home I nursed Baby H in the nursery and she took a 30 minute nap in my arms. The only downside was that you still hear noise from outside the room (you are in a busy airport) and there was no way to show that the room was occupied, so a couple of people did try and get in while we were there. But overall this room restored some of my sanity that day! I will definitely be looking to see if other airports have similar rooms on future trips.

{Baby H sleeping in my arms in the airport nursery. So sweet!}

  • Food saved us! We just started giving Baby H Puffs, so they’re a big treat to her. When she was at her fussiest I busted out the Puffs. I think the serving size is 75 Puffs and I’m pretty sure she might have had that many on our trip home! The puree pouches are awesome as well when you’re on the go – they’re easy to eat with no mess. A “reasonable” quantity of baby food can be carried on but you do have to show them to security. In Chicago TSA did not care about the pouches but leaving San Francisco they did get inspected.
  • Nursing (or giving a bottle) at take off and landing are ideal. They help with the baby’s ears and change in pressure and might just help getting the baby to nap. But pay attention to timing! We failed at this on both of our flights – I would nurse her a little too early. By the time we were actually taking off, she wanted nothing to do with nursing! Ugh. After a lot of struggle she would finally re-latch but it wasn’t a nice, serene experience. Fortunately she didn’t seem to have issues with her ears and flying. She also really hates pacifiers so having her suck on a pacifier wasn’t an option for us, but it did the trick for another baby on our flight.
  • Don’t count on your baby napping. Expect and prepare for an awake baby the entire time, just in case. I think this is, really, the best advice I have to give. Everyone likes to say, “Oh, babies just nap on planes! She’ll be fine!” I expected a snoozy baby who would nurse and then nap sweetly in my arms. Well, on our outbound flight she nursed by the gate before we boarded and fell asleep in my arms. I walked board the plane with a completely asleep baby. She finally woke up after I had settled into my seat and fastened my seat belt! So of course she didn’t want to nap again. Of the 4 hours 45 minute flight she did finally take about a 1 hour nap in my arms. The rest we spent entertaining her. On our flight home she got that little nap in the airport nursery, so my hope was that by the time we boarded and took off she would be sleepy again. Nope. Of the 4 hour flight, she napped for about 30 minutes. She didn’t want to nurse and just screamed. And screamed. And screamed. Not an “in pain” scream but more of an “I’m extremely exhausted and want off this plane” scream. We were lucky that the airline had given us the entire row to ourselves so we didn’t have to worry about another passenger right next to us and absolutely hating our guts!

 {Baby H fast asleep when we boarded our flight! All of the excitement at the airport exhausted her.}

  • If you don’t normally use a nursing cover, practice with one before your trip. This is something I wish I had done. I never really need to use one so Baby H isn’t used to it. She hated it on the trip and was constantly trying to pull it off. Part of that comes with her age (she likes to fling her limbs around and grab things while she nurses) and part of that is that she is just not used to it. If we were in the habit of using one I think that would have felt more comforting to her on our trip. Instead, as soon as the cover went over her head she started crying. I finally started just holding it up to try and cover myself a little bit, but I think it’s fair to say that I flashed many, many people on their flight. However I assumed that was preferred over a screaming baby.

Overall I have no regrets about the trip. We were able to spend some precious time with family as well as tackle our first trip traveling as a family of three. It took a lot of packed baby gear, some creativity and a whole lot of patience, but we did it! And…we’re all happy to be home!

If you’ve flown with your LO, how did it go? Did you pick up any valuable tips and tricks along the way?