Help for first long distance flight & trip with baby
February 28, 2012 9:13 PM   Subscribe

We are traveling in less than a week with our five-month old son to Austin, TX by plane from Philly. We are hoping to get general tips on traveling with a young baby, as well as some Austin-specific tips.

  • What are the logistics of carrying all of the various baby supplies through airport security? We might have bottles, definitely will have a stroller, along with a diaper bag, etc.
  • What are some tips for "traveling light" with a baby? He spits up on his clothes pretty frequently so we were planning on bringing a lot of extra outfits.
  • Our plan is to get to our hotel by riding the 100 bus from the airport. Will this work with an infant?
  • What are the most baby-friendly places to eat in the downtown Austin area?
  • What are some good tips for getting around in Austin with a kid
  • Are there any things that we shouldn't bother taking with us? Any items that are often overlooked but we'll be sorry we forgot?
  • Weather forecasts say it will be very warm there (lows in 60s). Can we forgo winter clothing?
  • Any non-horror stories of traveling on planes with babies?
Here's what we're planning on bringing with us (for a trip of 5 days):
  • 10 onesies, 5 pjs, 5 pairs of pants, 10 socks
  • a few disposable diapers wipes (we'll buy more when we get to Austin...cloth diapers seem like a bad idea)
  • burp cloths
  • lotion & baby soap
  • raincoat
  • bunny suit (serves as "winter coat")
  • teething gel, tylenol, teething stick
  • toys
  • ergo
  • stroller
  • chair
  • bottles
  • night lite
posted by dancingfruitbat to Travel & Transportation around Austin, TX (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you going to be in town during SxSW? Because that changes a lot of things around here.

The weather is unpredictable as hell. You probably don't need to pack a snowsuit (probably) but there's a good chance you will be very sad if you don't have one outfit suitable for 40-degree weather. And another appropriate for the high 80s.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:23 PM on February 28, 2012

notify the airline well ahead of time. Ask for a bassinet. Essential for your sanity b/c it gives a place to put the baby.
posted by zia at 10:09 PM on February 28, 2012

I live in Austin, I've flown with a baby, and I also cloth diaper my little guy, so here's my perspective.

I find that if I'm going to have regular access to laundry facilities, then cloth diapering is not a big deal. I'm constantly having to do baby laundry anyway, so for me, throwing in a load of cloth diapers is easier than having to calculate how many more packs of disposables I have to buy, where I'm going to buy them, where I'll pack the extras on my way home, etc. (If you won't have access to laundry, then obviously go with disposables instead. But if you do want to try cloth diapering during your trip and need more specifics, feel free to MeFi Mail me, and I'd be happy to discuss it with you.)

As for the logistics of flying, I mostly used this Alphamom post as a guide. We first flew with my baby at 7 months, so he was able to sit up on his own. He hated the Ergo, so we brought a Maclaren umbrella stroller (super light and portable, but durable enough not to get destroyed in baggage handling). One of the best tips I ever read was to pack everything -- especially clean clothing (yours and the baby's) -- in zip lock bags. That way, if any one thing gets dirty, everything else is still clean, because it's in a zip lock bag. If you need to put a dirty item away until you have a chance to clean it . . . stick it in a zip lock bag.

The first time I flew with my baby, he was still breastfeeding, so I nursed him during take-off and landing to ease his ear pressure. The second time we flew, he was drinking formula from a bottle, so I pre-measured powdered formula in one of those portable dispensers and mixed it up with bottled water when I needed to feed him.

I find that the louder a restaurant, the less self-conscious I am about dining with a baby. If you'll be on South Congress (my old neighborhood!), I recommend eating at South Congress Cafe, Enoteca/Vespaio, The Woodland, Home Slice, and Doc's. My baby did great at all of those places.

As for getting around town, unfortunately, I really don't know that much about public transit. If I were visiting, I'd probably rent a car to get around Austin, but I think it also depends on what you're planning on doing. I used to live in Boston and Chicago, and while those are both cities in which I'd be comfortable using public transit to play tourist, I think a lot of central Texas's appeal lies in the day trips outside of Austin, for which you'd definitely need a car. Also, a car would be useful for any emergency trips that you might have to make to Babies R Us or Buy Buy Baby. (Again, if you want to MeFi Mail me some more details, I can offer more relevant advice.)

Good luck with the trip! Traveling with a baby is definitely a different experience, but it's really not as intimidating as it sounds. Enjoy your vacation, and welcome to Austin!
posted by snafu at 10:22 PM on February 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Speaking as a one-time Austin tourist, the transit system is passable but far from ideal. It really helps to have a smartphone with access to Google Maps, so that you can look up when the next bus is coming - but don't expect that bus to be on time. After a certain time busses come less frequently but cabs are easy to find and not that expensive for short distances.
posted by Gortuk at 5:01 AM on February 29, 2012

As for flying, I highly recommend checking the stroller and carrying him in the ergo. That's what we have done every time we have flown with our 9 month old (we actually leave the stroller at home, but if you are stroller people, the airline will check it for free). The ergo in the airport is awesome. First, the baby is up high and thus protected from oblivious people dragging wheelie bags who could run into him; it is really easy to run for a plane with an ergo-ed baby; best of all, the TSA lets you go through security wearing him. You get to skip any X-ray machines, etc, when you are wearing the baby, and all they do is bomb residue swab your hands. This makes security relatively easy, much easier than it looks with a stroller, which has to be folded up. Not all of the agents know this rule-I had one try to get me to take my daughter out-but I just pleasantly told them I was allowed to wear her through, and some one at security always knew the rule.

Also, make sure he nurses or drinks a bottle or sucks his pacifier at take off and landing for the pressure changes--once you guys get through take off the rest of the flight should be pretty good. Plus, another side benefit of the ergo is he might fall asleep during boarding and sleep through take off!
posted by girl scientist at 5:16 AM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

the TSA lets you go through security wearing him. You get to skip any X-ray machines, etc, when you are wearing the baby, and all they do is bomb residue swab your hands.

Please note that this is not true at all TSA checkpoints. In fact, every single time I have flown with an infant, I was made to remove him from the ergo, place the ergo on the belt, and carry the baby through the metal detector. They did this despite the fact that I was travelling alone with my baby, and despite the fact that (as I politely pointed out to them) there is no metal on the ergo.

That said, I agree that an ergo is easier than a stroller in many ways... especially if you have a second person to share in the babywearing (the ergo is super comfortable, but after hours and hours my back was starting to really feel it).

I was allowed to carry extra bottles of formula, diaper cream, etc., and I was allowed to leave them in the diaper bag, which was hand checked by a TSA screener after it went through the metal detector.

Honestly, 5 months old will be a relatively easy trip compared to a slightly older baby. At that age, my little guy was content to nurse/feed, nap, and stare at all the new stuff on the plane. Once they're a little older, ambulatory, and opinionated, the odds of a difficult flight increase.

Also, if you have an adult travelling companion, you are golden. It's totally doable with two hands and one lap, but four hands and two laps is EVEN BETTER.

Best of luck.
posted by somanyamys at 5:43 AM on February 29, 2012

I live in Austin but don't have a baby. I have seen several times that when you take the bus people will either give up their seat for you or if young enough the bus driver will actually require someone to give up a seat for everyone's safety. The bus system is far from perfect but if you're staying downtown and don't have any huge any time requirements the bus will probably be more than fine for you.
posted by raccoon409 at 5:48 AM on February 29, 2012

Hi everyone, daddy here. We will be staying in S. Congress the first day, and then staying at the Sheraton Austin for the rest of the week (I'm attending a conference, mommy will be on her own, so activities that are fun for one parent and baby would be welcomed). Fortunately we are leaving the Friday before SXSW so I'm hoping it won't be too bad, but I guess we should probably allow extra time at the airport heading back because it's bound to be crowded?
posted by Deathalicious at 6:15 AM on February 29, 2012

I know with TSA they can always change the rules at the gate, but according to their website you are allowed to wear the carrier through security. I have had lone officers try to get me to take the baby off, but someone at the gate has always known the rule and let me wear the baby through the detector. Even if you end up with a TSA jerk, like somanyamys, I think the ergo is still the way to go with a baby in the airport!
posted by girl scientist at 6:23 AM on February 29, 2012

You're leaving Friday the 9th? That's the first day of SXSW interactive, so yes, leave lots of extra time, avoid downtown that afternoon. Things will definitely be busy that Friday, but not nearly as busy as when music week proper starts, but there will be a ton of people in town already, don't be mistaken. The airport might be a little worse, not terrible. Outbound security lines will be primarily native Austinites fleeing town if they hate SXSW, and college kids leaving for spring break.
You will be able to walk to many things from the Sheraton, and public transportation will get you a few more places (10 min bus ride to the capitol building, or a long walk with a stroller). Consider a rental car for anything beyond 2 miles from the Sheraton, the bus infrastructure just isn't that great outside UT and downtown.
posted by slow graffiti at 7:32 AM on February 29, 2012

Seconding wear the baby and check the stroller, unless you bought a seat for the baby, in which case bring the car seat and a car seat wheeled base instead of a stroller.

Also, along with changes of clothes for baby, make sure you have at least 1 easily-accessible change of shirt for you. I have been thrown up upon from inside the Ergo twice now, and there really is nothing grosser even with a change handy.

Make a mini-bag inside your bag holding wipes, 2 diapers, and changing pad (if you use one). We just used a gallon ziploc for this. That way you can just take a small package to the tiny airplane bathroom instead of lugging the whole diaper bag.

This book was awesome for the plane when my son was that age. Basically overload on books and little games, and be ready to walk the plane aisle whenever possible to keep boredom crying from setting in. Washable triangular crayons don't slide on the tray or make a mess. Even if you hate electronic toys, something with buttons to press that makes noise can really take up time. We like to get something new for a plane trip (or that's only for planes) so that the novelty of it also makes it last longer. If your child likes to tear paper, wrapping each book and toy in newspaper is another great trick.

TSA will let you bring through liquids in baby bottles through security - even water and juice - but they may test it or ask you to drink some. I have found they are way more forgiving of stuff in baby bags than with other travelers, but YMMV.

I flew with my son a lot from 6 weeks on, often solo, and looking back it was way easier before he started walking - a lot of hard work being a full-on entertainer for the entire flight, but at least sitting still wasn't an issue.
posted by Mchelly at 8:00 AM on February 29, 2012

Just got back from flying with our 3 month old (DC to Florida) and I'm from Austin.

Seconding use the car seat + snap-n-go frame for your stroller needs. Check any bags you don't need on the plane. For us, that meant checking suitcases and bringing on a diaper bag, breastpump (we packed the pump bag with bottles and a cooler pack of breastmilk, which can be brought through security with no problems, just declare it before you run it through, same for formula or bottled water for formula), and a tote into which we stuffed the Boppy, an extra blanket, and a swaddle, just in case. Diaper bag had several diapers, changing pad, two changes of clothes for baby, various toys/books, and the Baby K'Tan carrier. As it turned out, we didn't need the change of clothes or the Baby K'Tan, but I felt better having them with us.

In the airport, look for family restrooms. I can't remember where they are in Austin Bergstrom, but they are great because you can all go into the restroom together and tag team on diaper changes, etc. I didn't need to change a diaper on the plane (thank goodness) but most planes have a drop-down changing table in the lavatory above the toilet.

For the flight, I put the Boppy on my lap and sat/laid the baby on it. We weren't sure Southwest would let us do that, but they had no problem with it. Outbound, she napped with the pacifier for take off and landing; inbound, I nursed her for both. She did just fine with pressurization/depressurization, even with the minor cold she came home with. (Sigh.)

Don't bother bringing a snowsuit. Maybe bring a lightweight jacket and just plan to layer (so, onesie under footie pajamas, for instance) if it gets cold. It could be in the 40s in Austin, but I think the chances of that are slim. And along those lines, bring more onesies. Our first hotel in Florida didn't have the best air conditioning and it was really hot in our room so the baby slept in a onesie (swaddled) instead of footie pajamas. I was really glad I brought extra onesies.

A few more things to consider: if you're staying in the same hotel room and your baby requires relative quiet to sleep, think about bringing quiet entertainment for yourself. Mr. D and I watched movies on the iPad, using a headphone splitter, for instance. If you're staying in a suite or something similar, consider bringing a baby monitor so you can keep tabs on the baby. Most hotels have cribs, btw, but there are also services that will rent you a pack-n-play if you need a spot for the baby to sleep. We ended up cosleeping quite a bit just because the hotel crib was unfamiliar, but that's specific to our baby's temperament.
posted by devinemissk at 1:41 PM on February 29, 2012

OH yeah -- rent a car. Public transit around Austin is not great. It's doable for getting to and from work for some people (I did it one summer), but it won't be as convenient for tourist stuff.

As for stuff to do, most of the kid-friendly stuff I know about is for older kids, but you might try the Austin Children's Museum (downtown), which many of my friends love; the Texas State Museum (or whatever it's called, the Bob Bullock thing there by UT's campus); the Capitol building. The Drag (Guadalupe as it runs past UT's campus between MLK and Dean Keeton) could be a fun walk for you with the baby, and there are lots of shops you can stop into. (If it's still there, The Cadeau is cute and tends to have delightful, if expensive, baby items.)
posted by devinemissk at 1:55 PM on February 29, 2012

A few more thoughts. (Sorry, I keep getting interrupted by baby.)

If you bring breastmilk or formula through security, you will not be required to taste it or test it yourself. However, TSA may test the (closed) bottles for explosives. This happened to us on the way home, but not on the way out. If you bring breastmilk or formula (and you may bring as much as you want if you're traveling with a baby), I recommend printing out the TSA page that specifies the regulations just in case you need to challenge anyone. (Politely! Always challenge politely!)

The hike and bike path along Town Lake (which is, I guess, now Lady Bird Lake) would be a lovely place to stroll with the baby in either the stroller or in a carrier, though I'd do that earlier in the day as it could be quite hot in the afternoon on the path.

If you'll be there on a Sunday, Ruta Maya has Sunday kids shows that are very popular among my friends with kids. Again, yours is a little younger than the intended audience, but probably old enough to be entertained by whoever is playing.

Austin is pretty laid-back, and I can't think of many restaurants where you wouldn't be welcome with a baby, particularly one as young as yours. On South Congress, though, try Guero's -- very good Mexican food, and generally loud enough that people won't be bothered by a baby crying. You could have a drink in the evening at the Hotel San Jose -- sit at a secluded table so you won't be bothered by others/others won't be bothered by potential baby noise. And as long as you eat earlier in the evening, any restaurants on 6th street or in the Warehouse District (4th street west of Congress) would be fine, if perhaps a little pricier than elsewhere in the city.
posted by devinemissk at 3:05 PM on February 29, 2012

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