We recently took our first flight with our sweet, 6 week old baby. She’s a very easy baby so we’ve been lucky. Here is what we learned from our first experience of flying with a baby.
Using Your Car Seat on a Plane, Rental Cars, and Uber
I was clueless that it was possible to use a car seat without the base until another family travel blogger mentioned it! We consulted our car seat manual (downloaded from the internet as we got given by carseat by a friend) to find out how to do the install, and practiced at home a few times.
At home, we have the car seat installed in the middle seat to minimize the risks of any side impact. However the general thinking is that when installing without the base, it’s easiest to do it on the side. Therefore we did it on the side. We made the mistake of installing it on the road side of the car. Next time, we’ll remember to install it on the pavement side of the car, to make it safer when getting the baby in and out.
We installed the car in our rental car and also used it on the flight. Neither of our flights were completely full so we were able to use the car seat on the plane, in the window seat. Even though our baby was technically a lap infant without her own ticket, we asked the gate agent if there would be room for us to take the car seat on board and use a seat. The window sear is safer than the aisle seat for a baby as falling luggage in bad turbulence would be dangerous to the baby. If the flights had been full, we would have gate-checked the car seat.
Obtain a boarding pass for your infant at the airport.
We needed to obtain and boarding pass for the baby at the airport by presenting her birth certificate and our i.d.
The birth certificate is needed to prove the baby is under 2 years old, even though she is clearly a tiny newborn. Southwest are apparently particularly sticklers for enforcing the requirement for the age documentation at the airport. You can also use the baby’s immunization record as proof of age according to Southwest.
Family Boarding Rocks
We flew Southwest and were able to do priority boarding between the A and B boarding groups, regardless of the boarding position shown on our boarding passes. There was seating close to the gate for family boarders too.
Holding your infant in your lap in a narrow seat is exhausting.
The baby sat in her car seat for most of the outbound flight and about half of the return flight. The flights were only 2.5 hours and there were two of us adults. However it’s much more tiring to hold your infant in an airplane seat than it is stretched out at home. I nursed her on the plane, and it’s very cramped even though we had the whole row and she is only a 6 week old. Even a transcon seems like it would be challenging holding the baby the entire way. I’m definitely not looking forward to and transpacific flights back to New Zealand.
Why is Pre-Check Always Closed?
When carrying a car seat, the baby needs to come out of the car seat and be held as you go through airport security. The car seat has to go face down on the xray belt.
I have TSA pre-check so the baby and I can theoretically go through security without removing laptops, shoes and <3oz liquids. Baby's do not need their own pre-check but they cannot use Global Entry without having their own (involving paying the fee and going to the interview.) Both times we went through security the pre-check lanes were closed. I have bad luck with pre-check. Since I've had it, I've only been able to use it less than 20% of the time since either the lane is closed or it's not available at the airport / gate area I am at. In most situations the pre-check lane has been closed because the flight was either early morning or evening. We were able to use a family boarding lane on the outbound flight to skip the longer line. Still, taking everything out of our bags when we weren't expecting to need to, as well as taking the baby out of the car seat was hard work and slow.
Rain sounds app to the Rescue.
The only time the baby cracked up was when we went through security. I guess we were stressed out by the process and she picked up on it. I used a rain sounds app on my phone to quiet her down.