This past weekend brought another first for the Kraft family, our first big trip with the baby!
While we were super excited to go on our first vacation since Parker was born, we were also very apprehensive of how full days of traveling were going to be with our 7.5 month old. We’ve all seen those poor parents on airplanes struggling with screaming children, or heard horror stories from our friends.
Fortunately, we had a pretty good experience.
Our trip consisted of 2 flights to get to Louisville, Kentucky and then a 1.5 hour drive to Lexington. We stayed overnight at an Airbnb in Lexington, where we met up with Jordan’s aunt who drove down from Indianapolis to watch Parker for the weekend. We planned to attend our friends’ wedding at Keeneland in the morning, stay another night for the post-wedding festivities, and then drive back to Louisville and fly directly home Sunday morning. Our first leg ended up not being a direct flight due to cost and flight times, so that was an additional hurdle. There were lots of places for baby meltdowns and potential problems.
Before the trip I did tons of research and planning to try to ensure that we were as prepared as we could be for our journey. We flew Southwest airlines so we checked ahead of time for their policies on lap-riding babies and carrying on formula. When we booked our flights online, I had to call Southwest and talk to an agent to get Parker added to my ticket as a lap child. We also had to check in with the ticketing agent before the first leg of our flight so that she could verify Parker’s age (I guess people try to sneak older children through?). We took his passport and birth certificate with us for this process.
TSA is pretty lenient with formula for babies, so we packed a small tub of formula in Parker’s baby bag, in addition to three 9oz baby bottles pre-filled with water. We also had a small formula dispenser to make mixing bottles on the plane easier. The TSA agents in Dallas swabbed all of Parker’s baby bag and formula, and also ran the three bottles through a machine to check them. In Louisville on the way back, the TSA agent just pulled the bottles out and looked at them and then sent us on our way. We also carried a tub of rice cereal through security in Louisville with no issues.
I wore the baby in his Ergo baby carrier through security which was super convenient because it left my hands free and they didn’t make me take him off. We have Global Entry so we were able to go through the TSA Precheck line which made things go even quicker. Wearing the baby in the airport also deterred people from messing with him, which eased some of our concerns about contagious diseases from being in such a high density situation.
Whether due to advanced planning or beginner’s luck, we were fortunate that everything went relatively smoothly on our trip. We did, however, discover some things that will make our trips easier in the future, and I thought I would share those nuggets of wisdom (or luck, we’ll see if they hold true for our big trip to Acadia National Park and Canada this fall).
First, our packing list for the trip:
In Parker’s diaper bag:
Travel size changing pad (ours came with the diaper bag)
3 9oz baby bottles pre-filled with water
Oxo Tot no-spill formula dispenser with 3 meals
Full tub of formula
2 burp rags
Toys (rattle, toy fish, soft mirror)
In my bag:
4 baby outfits + 2 pairs of pajamas
My clothes, shoes, and toiletries
In Jordan’s bag:
Hatch white noise machine
His clothes, shoes, and toiletries
Nuna Sena Aire Mini crib (inside a camping duffel for extra protection)
Britax carseat + protective bag
Ergo baby carrier
Things we should have brought:
Here is a PDF printable version of our packing list for your next weekend trip (click to download).
Even though we are generally opposed to checking bags, we did check the car seat and the crib. (Yet another reason to fly Southwest, two checked bags free!) We carried on our personal bags and Parker’s bag, so we had all of our clothes and toiletries with us.
A few final pro-tips and lessons learned:
1. Book direct flights even if they cost more.
We quickly discovered that we should have just put up with the extra cost and booked a direct flight. While Parker did amazingly well and slept for 90% of the first flight, for the second flight he was wide awake. While not screaming or crying, it took both of us constantly playing with him to keep him occupied enough to be happy.
2. Book early flights.
As we have mentioned in previous posts, we tend to get up and going super early for most trips. This worked in our favor on our first flight as I mentioned above, because Parker was out cold for the vast majority of the flight. He usually naps early to mid-morning, so our first flight hit right about that time. Totally worth the 3am wake-up!
3. Apply for Global Entry or TSA precheck.
We have Global Entry which automatically qualifies us for TSA precheck. This saved us lots of time going through security at the airport because not only was the line much shorter (your baby will thank you), we also didn’t have the hassle of having to take our shoes off and unpack all of our liquids and toiletries. Plus you only have to walk through a metal detector so I was able to wear Parker through security without having to potentially take him off to go through the body scanner.
4. Take plenty of toys.
We took Parker’s favorite toys with us for the plane, including his soft mirror from his play gym, his favorite fishy toy from his bouncer, a soft crinkly owl toy, and a new rattle that he seems to like. We also discovered that crinkly bags of pretzels make great toys when babies are otherwise not willing to be distracted 🙂
5. Have a bottle or pacifier ready for takeoff and landing.
I wish I was smart enough to have come up with this myself, but I read this pro-tip on a mom blog. Sucking on a bottle or pacifier really helps with equalizing pressure in babies ears when making an ascent or descent. We had zero issues with Parker crying or being uncomfortable during takeoff and landing, and I 100% thank the bottles that we fed him at those times.
6. Book an Airbnb.
While a hotel seems appealing since they tend to have travel cribs available for babies, we endured bringing our travel crib with us for our Airbnb. The trade off was that when Parker was fussy we could walk the length of the house with him to calm him down. We also were able to put him to bed at 7pm as usual and we had a living room where we could go watch tv and continue to enjoy our evening. For our situation where we also had Jordan’s aunt coming to stay with us, it also ended up being way cheaper than trying to book two rooms in a hotel for two nights (2 bedroom Airbnb house was $211 for the weekend, 2 rooms at a local hotel for 2 nights averaged $600-800).
We hope your first (and second and third 🙂 trips with your little ones are as successful as our first trip with Parker! Feel free to ask us questions or tell us your best tips for traveling with babies in the comments below!