Traveling with Babies: How to Fly With A Pack and Play
Whether this is your first time flying with a baby or your tenth, preparing for air travel with your kids is a lot of work and can be stressful. The packing, prep, and travel time can be overwhelming for first-time and experienced parents!
From the first time a baby comes home, you need somewhere for them to sleep safely, and as they get older, a spot for them to play without getting into trouble. If you plan on traveling, you will still need these things, which can be particularly difficult when the place you visit isn't exactly baby-proof. A pack n play is a play space, a bassinet, and a diaper changing station, making it the perfect solution. Whether driving or flying, you can fold them up and tuck them away in an easy-to-carry case for travel.
CAN YOU GATE CHECK A PACK-N-PLAY?A question not asked enough is, how to fly with a pack and play? Pack n plays do not qualify for gate checking but are treated like a piece of checked luggage. Any airline will check pack n plays as part of their checked bag allowance before going through security. Typically this would be an extra charge on top of your luggage, unless the airline you are flying has a bag allowance, like Southwest. If you are flying Southwest, you could use the pack-n-play as one of your free bags. Be sure to have the pack-n-play in the original zippered bag or cover it with a black trash bag for extra protection from dirt and/or rain during travel. Each airline differs in luggage allowance and fees, so check before your travel date.
Most airlines have special rules for infants and toddlers, and their guidelines are typically straightforward. To ensure proper information, look at your airline's particular guidelines for infants and toddlers in advance so that you are prepared and not caught off guard.
BEST TIP FOR FLYING WITH KIDS
When traveling with my three young kids, I purchased small suitcases adorned with their favorite Disney characters, with wheels and a handle for my toddlers. You can also buy a solid color and use fabric markers to decorate and make it unique, so they’ll want to pull it. I bought mine from Amazon for $20, but you can sometimes find them used or even borrow from a friend. The toddler suitcases contained small toys, coloring books, storybooks, and a tablet to help keep the kids entertained during the flight. Each of the toddlers having their own suitcase that contained their belongings helped make traveling memorable, and theycould pull their bag through the airport themselves, just like Mommy and Daddy!
To make things even easier on everyone, all three kids’ clothes were in one checked bag equals less luggage to wait for after the flight.
I held my infant in a wrap-style baby carrier to allow for hands-free, ensure that the baby was always near, and help keep the baby calm through the noisy space. The long piece of stretchy fabric was easily adjustable to different body types, which made it great for traveling, especially when visiting family.
SHOULD I BRING MY OWN STROLLER?
When traveling by airplane, some parents rent baby equipment at their destination. Whether a stroller, crib, car seat, high chair, or pack-n-play, these rentals get pricey - upwards of $25 a day per item. If you plan a little, you can bring your own gear and minimize what you carry through the airport!
I always brought a stroller as it provided transportation for kids that get tired, a place to put the small suitcases, a bag of snacks we purchased before the ride, and the diaper bag. At your gate, check in at the desk to receive a tag for gate-checking a stroller. Your stroller will be waiting for you when you land at your destination.
Car and booster seats check for free. I strongly recommend placing each inside a large black trash bag to keep it from getting dirty and/or wet and to ensure parts don’t get lost or caught on aircraft loading equipment. Some parents have been known to pack extra diapers or anything else light and soft into the bag to help keep it cushioned a bit. This is also a good tip that will help free up space and save a little weight on your other pieces of luggage.
HOW DO I FLY WITH A CAR SEAT/BOOSTER SEAT?
Traveling with an infant can be challenging, but with the right tips and baby must-haves, you’ll be ready to take on this adventure with your car seat and a pack n play, and hopefully, a little less stress. As a mother of 3, who often traveled and flew with 2 toddlers and a nursing infant, you can do it! Just remember: a little bit of preparation can go a long way. Happy flying!