The kid logistics seem overwhelming
May 5, 2016 5:32 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I are expecting our first child in early fall, and she has the chance to travel for work 3 months after the kid is due. But since we have never traveled with a child we are completely overwhelmed by the logistics of getting to the airport, transporting the kid on the plane, getting the kid to the hotel, and back. Can you help us figure out everything we need to consider, and how we'll accomplish this so she feels comfortable with this trip?

My wife has been invited to give a presentation at a work conference in December, 3 months after our child's due date. She has done presentations like this before, so this one presentation is not critical to her career, but she would like to present these new developments. Her mother is interested in coming on the trip to watch the kid, and I am happy to go on the trip if they want me there or to stay home so they can spend time together and with the kid. So my wife would either have 1 or 2 people in town to watch the kid depending on what she wants. Given all that, we initially thought this trip would be no problem. We also like that it would let my wife's mother to spend more time with the new grandkid as we live in a different state.

But now that we're starting to actually plan the trip it seems a little overwhelming. First, she and the kid (and possibly me) would have to fly to the conference. Do we just hold the kid on the plane? Do we bring a car seat? Then, we would have to get to the hotel. Do we bring the car seat and its base (that's a lot of weght and volume - does that mean I have to come just to lug the car sear through the airport)? Do we check the car seat + base? Do we get a cab (which is what she usually does), and if so how do we deal with the car seat issue? Or do we have to rent a car so we can put a car seat in it, which is a whole other hassle? Once we get to the hotel, where does the kid sleep? Are there other things about caring for a kid in a hotel that are different from caring for a kid at home? Do we have to bring a stroller or should we just plan on carrying / wearing the kid if we want to take them out of the hotel room? I realize there are other AskMe answers about this, but none of them felt comprehensive, and feeling like we understand the process from start to finish is key here.

I think these issues are surmountable and she should go to the conference if she feels comfortable, and as I said I'm happy to go or to stay home (my work is flexible enough that I can do either). But this is her deal so it doesn't really matter if I feel comfortable with it, it matters if she does. And right now she's feeling overwhelmed by the logistics and torn - she wants to go but feels uncomfortable with all the traveling-with-a-kid issues that we've never dealt with before. If I or her mother just say "I will be completely in charge of taking care of the kid" but we don't know the answers to the questions above, that doesn't really make her feel comfortable with the trip - she wants to know the answers first, and that's what we're looking for here. Her mother lives in another state and so can't be on the same flight as my wife. And she never flew with her kids and only traveled when they were older, so this is all new territory for her as well.

So what I'm asking for is - can you help us think of all the logistical issues we need to sort out, and how to fix them? Basically, please help us feel comfortable - like we know the issues from leaving the house to returning and how we're going to handle them each step of the way.

Also relevant: I offered, but my wife has said she is not okay going on her own and leaving the kid with me for a few days (which would be problematic anyway as my wife is planning to breastfeed). So that option is off the table. Either we get comfortable with the logistics or she won't feel okay going at all.
posted by Tehhund to Travel & Transportation around Las Vegas, NV (26 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Three months is a good time to plan a trip with an infant. If she is being breastfed there's a good chance she will nurse/sleep the whole flight, and the plane is a big rocking white noise machine. I would just plan to hold her (use a sling or other carrier) and not bring a car seat onboard. At under two baby travels free as a lap infant, but you do have to make a specific reservation for her. sometimes you can do this online when you book your tickets or sometimes you call the airlines after you book your seats. If there is space available you can request an extra seat - do this at checkin time. If that's the case then you can carry on the car seat as well, but I wouldn't pay extra to book a seat for it.

Car seat - you can carry it through the airport and gate check it. Some people don't like to do this as it puts the seat out of your care and it could be dropped or damaged, but it's up to you. Gate checking to me seems pretty safe. Do NOT bring the car base part; any seat can be strapped in using a regular seatbelt; videos on youtube show you how to do this, it's very easy. Get a car seat with a wheeled base/lightweight stroller part and use that in the airport and at your destination.

Hotels usually have "rollaway cribs" aka pack and plays; just call before arrival and request it for your reservation. Bring a white noise machine or other sleep aids. Kid will not sleep as well as at home and being in one room will make it harder for all. Consider renting two hotel rooms if possible or a suite - so your wife can get a good night's sleep prior to her big talk.

And enjoy! Congrats on the kid and your wife's career success. You guys can do it!
posted by handful of rain at 5:46 AM on May 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

PS - you can also rent car seats along with a rental car. From my own experience and that of friends this was a really crappy experience. They don't have the seats you asked for, or don't understand the difference between infant seats, toddler seats and booster seats. You have to do all installation and adjusting, of course. I've also seen seats that are pretty dirt, and you have no idea on damage they might have ensued through past renters. Of all the options my preferred is to gate check your seat or buy a new, cheap seat when you arrive (at Target or something). This requires leaving someone and the baby at the airport while the other person drives to get the seat.

In general, the biggest issues traveling with a kid is sleep is likely to be even more disrupted than usual. I would just plan a way for your wife to be able to sleep as much as possible before her big day. It's hard at three months with breastfeeding, but you'll have some options to work with.
posted by handful of rain at 5:51 AM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

You guys sound really stressed out. And I can't help but feel that a lot of it is stuff you don't actually have to map out right now. A lot of the finer points will depend on how you all feel once baby Tehhund has arrived and you can't know that until then. What do you actually have to commit to at this point?

Attending the conference? What happens if she agreed to go but had to pull out for non baby reasons nearer the time. Could somebody else take her place? What is the worst case here? Her spot goes unfilled.

Even if you have to commit to the conference do you have to commit to all the travel arrangements at this point? Surely not.

If you have to commit to some bits of travel say reserve a hotel room surely it can be a cancellable reservation, no? There are rooms with fridges, microwaves and what have you. Hotels have cribs/travel cots you can borrow.

And a cancellable rental car perhaps? That allows you to reassess if any of the plans need to change nearer the time.

The other things like strollers are all just noise at this point. You can cross that bridge a month before she's due to travel or even a week.
posted by koahiatamadl at 6:00 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

This is easier than you think. That age is a very good one, the baby will be small, will likely be nursing, and will likely sleep.

Not only will you have the car seat, you will likely have a stroller base that fits the car seat. So basically, the baby goes through the airport in their stroller. You load first on the plane, and gate check the stroller base and seat. You hold the baby on your lap, and nurse or bottle during takeoff and landing. If you are lucky the baby sleeps.

Before your flight, you go to CVS and buy a bag of Hershey's Kisses and a big package of foam earplugs. As other people sit around you, you jokingly offer them both.

When your baby cries, you remember that everyone was a baby, most people have had experience with babies, nothing on God's green earth can hurt you, only the people in the rows immediately around you can even hear the baby, and you still have Kisses and earplugs to offer.

The car seat will strap in (without base) to whatever car you rent, or to a cab.

It'll all be fine and easy. Seriously.
posted by OmieWise at 6:02 AM on May 5, 2016 [11 favorites]

I've done this. What you want to take is up to you, really, and I can't tell you what that is because it's only after you get the baby you'll be able to tell. Here's how it goes:

- You book a flight for wife and infant. Baby can travel on Mom's lap (they give you a safety belt that hooks on to hers) or on a child seat. If you definitely want the seat, you need to get a ticket for the child, as you need a full plane seat for it.

- Alternatively, you can take the car seat (forget the base) if you have wheels for it. That way, you roll up to the plane, and either use the seat, or let it go in the cargo hold, along with the wheels. If the plane isn't full, they'll allow the car seat to be used without purchasing the extra ticket, but that's a big if. The wheels (or just a stroller, if that's what you take) will most likely be waiting for you at the other side, when you land.

- If you decide on no car seat, you can take a sling. That's my personal preference, but neither of my kids liked the car seat at that age, and would just sleep when in the sling. You'll need the kid to be born in order to know this, of course. I'd take a sling anyway, actually. It packs easily, and if you need it, you got it.

- Ask the hotel for a travel crib. Take sleep sack. This one is easy, at least. If course, if you don't have a suite or something, when baby sleeps you're not going to be able to do much. But then again, you might be needing some sleep yourself...

- If she's breastfeeding, no one will ever be able to be completely in charge of the baby. That's just how it goes. Make sure the baby is close by and able to get to her when a feed is needed. Text, meet up, feed, take baby on nice relaxing walk. Make sure you can meet up somewhere the Mom feels comfortable feeding the baby (again, this is totally personal).

- Go for it. This age is really easy for traveling, and besides basics (which are cumbersome but not in high numbers) you don't need that much. Traveling with a toddler, that's much harder, actually.
posted by neblina_matinal at 6:07 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I just traveled for the first time by myself with my 20 month old in January. It was OK, wouldn't have been stressful if I wasn't alone I bet. One thing to keep in mind: you will spend, somehow, 2-3x more money than you thought. Just be prepared that while babies aren't super expensive when you're at home, when you travel you will pay for convenience often and things are priced to maximize that.

Do we just hold the kid on the plane?
You can do this yes. If your kid is ok with being held for long periods of time, it will be great.

Do we bring a car seat?

You can do this instead, though it is a lot more work in the airport and will cost you the price of a seat. With a bunch of helpers along this may not be so difficult.

Then, we would have to get to the hotel. Do we bring the car seat and its base (that's a lot of weght and volume - does that mean I have to come just to lug the car sear through the airport)? Do we check the car seat + base? Do we get a cab (which is what she usually does), and if so how do we deal with the car seat issue? Or do we have to rent a car so we can put a car seat in it, which is a whole other hassle?

All of these are options. The cab is a very very expensive option. And depending on the private car company (DONT use Uber Family they are super unreliable, even in NYC), you will have to install the seat yourself. Essentially like renting a limo. Getting a car seat from a rental car company is pretty cheap and the seats are decent, especially for tiny infants. You will have to install it yourselves as well but with 2 other helpers you'll probably be OK. Infant seats in newer cars are pretty easy to install actually, you just clip 2 clips into the metal thingies under the seats and tighten. Older kids car seats and older cars are way more complicated.

Once we get to the hotel, where does the kid sleep?

The hotel will provide you with a pack and play for free. Request it ahead of time (call the day before), then yell at them when you show up to the room and it's not there. I'd bring your own sheets if you are nervous about that but I've found them very clean and safe even in a wide range of accommodations.

Are there other things about caring for a kid in a hotel that are different from caring for a kid at home?
Get a suite if it's feasible unless your kids is the type to sleep all the way through people chatting and watching TV in the room when they're crashed out.

Do we have to bring a stroller or should we just plan on carrying / wearing the kid if we want to take them out of the hotel room?

Depends on the kid--if they like being carried, that is fine. Actually all the answers depend on the kid. You could have a chill kid, or you could have a hyper kid. That's just the way it goes! At 3 months both of my kids were (and are) pretty easy. Feed em a lot and they will be down for whatever. So hopefully you'll be good to go.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:14 AM on May 5, 2016

OmieWise is, well, eponysterical. Babies that age travel so, so well.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:24 AM on May 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

There's really no way you can figure out what all the logistical issues are going to be before your baby is even born. So much depends on things like how often your baby needs to nurse, how well your baby sleeps, whether or not you cosleep, how the baby likes being in a sling or a stroller, etc. And you won't know any of that until after the baby is born. You may decide using a stroller sounds good logistically and then it may turn out that your baby doesn't really like riding in a stroller. You may end up cosleeping when you didn't plan to or not doing it if you did plan to. And even after the baby is born, things will always be changing. Around 3 months was the age where my first baby went fairly suddenly from sleeping most of the night in her bassinet to not sleeping for more than about 20 minutes unless she was right next to me and in desperation I started cosleeping with her all night.

So don't try to plan it all out now. You can't. I think the best you can do is read the various responses and take comfort in the idea that this is probably doable and that there are a variety of ways to handle the logistics.

With my babies, I think it would have gone like this: I would wear the baby in a sling and not even bring a stroller. I would hold the baby on the plane and not get an extra seat. The baby would sleep in bed with me at the hotel. There is no way to deal with the carseat issue that's both maximally safe and convenient. I won't even offer a suggestion on that one. One logistical issue you may have to deal with (but can't plan out ahead of time) is feeding the baby while your wife is presenting/socializing. etc. at the conference. Will your baby be able to go several hours without nursing at that point? Will you have some pumped milk in a bottle to use? Will you need to bring a breast pump and bottles? Will you occasionally use formula in situations like that? You can't know the answers to those questions yet, but you'll need to consider them before your trip.
posted by Redstart at 6:35 AM on May 5, 2016 [4 favorites]

Something I do think is universal is this: the kid will not enjoy it. Kids this young (and ime up to 2 years old) do not like traveling. They get nothing out of it. They either tolerate it, or hate it. It can be a needed escape for the adults, or it can be a nightmare, and usually it will be a mixture of both at different times.

I do agree that kids travel easily sometimes at this age. But make sure that when you're making a list of activities and reasons for going on the trip that you keep in mind a 3 month old isn't super into monuments or museums or anything.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:36 AM on May 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

First, get a car seat stroller combo. You can wheel the baby through the airport in the stroller, and use the car seat on the plane. This way you can Uber, cab or rent a car without worrying about the whole car seat issue. I know that rental car agencies offer car seats...but I wouldn't bet on them frankly.

I recommend putting the baby in the car seat on the plane, for turbulence and total safety. But millions of babies are carried onto planes in arms, so whatever works for you.

I recommend getting TSA Pre-Check. It's $100 and good for 5 years. This way you do not have to fool with taking shoes off or unpacking computers or toiletries. It's enough hassle dealing with the stroller and the baby. Bonus, everyone traveling on the same itinerary generally gets the benefit of the pre-check.

I would also suggest getting a pack and play. They're neat little items and small enough to carry on, or ship with luggage. Baby can sleep in it, or just hang out in it while Mom and Dad shower. Honestly, this should be on your registry.

Three months is a great age for traveling. They nurse, sleep and are alert enough to enjoy the parade of people. If you're on one of my flights, can I hold Baby? I like playing with babies on planes.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:09 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Another thought. You want this to be as easy and stress-less as possible. So get a car service to and from your home airport. This way you're not screwing around with parking, schlepping and all of that. Curb to curb service is the way to go.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:21 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

Even if you bottle feed you can time it for take off.... You'll know your baby very well by then as well and this will be less scary. And our little guy is 10 months and travelled with us at that age and didn't cry, he had a pacifier- a new toy for halfway through, and his cuddle toy... so I wouldn't bring ear plugs or feel apologetic for something that might not happen. You also check the car seat and pram at check in- or pram at boarding gate. Bring a trash bag for it if there is a chance it will be rainy when unloaded... Also, a pashmina you can use to drape over the seats over the baby if it's bright or they are too excited...
posted by catspajammies at 7:22 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think you are overthinking this. I was the Grandma that went along to NYC when my DIL had a business trip at exactly three months. We gate checked the stroller, the child nursed during take offs and landings to relieve any pressure issues, and to be honest, the people seated around us didn't even know we had a baby since he was so quiet. Mind you, this was a six hour flight.

I assume mom is nursing, so make sure you bring along your breast pump so you can have milk for the baby when Grandma is in charge. Also you'll want a room with a fridge so you can store milk. We had a small insulated carry bag for bottles and breast milk and actually came home with milk that was expressed during the week.

In one week I took my grandson to Ground Zero, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, the Met, etc. When I needed to heat up some breast milk, I stopped at the Starbucks and asked for a large cup of hot water. You can do this. Grandma will love this opportunity to spend some one on one time with your child. :) I know I did!
posted by OkTwigs at 7:24 AM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is a great idea and you'll be fine. If you haven't yet tackled the wide world of baby stuff, here's an example of the bucket-carseat-as-stroller that people are talking about. (I think this is a great bucket carseat, we used a different stroller frame that's been discontinued so can't speak to that one specifically. But there are many like it.)

When we flew with tiny baby, the setup would be: baby in the front carrier, carseat on stroller frame, with the diaper bag, and other small hand luggage piled in it. (This is easier for getting through security) You gate check the carseat and stroller. This sort of bag can help keep your carseat clean. Before you put the carseat in it, buckle the buckles and pull the straps taut.

Wear the baby onto the plane, nurse at takeoff and landing.

Arrange a crib with the hotel in advance. Some have cribs, some have pack-and-plays, but they'll have something workable.

By the time your baby is 3 months old, you'll know what kind of carrier you and s/he like, your wife will have some experience pumping (it's a good idea for her to make a point of this) and this whole baby business will seem far less foreign and intimidating.

Baby in bucket car seat is the absolute easiest to travel with, because the bucket can also be the stroller, you can carry the baby around in it, and the seatbelt installation couldn't be easier. (the one I linked above, you literally just buckle the seatbelt over the top of it and slide it under two hooks. I'm pretty sure other brands are about the same.) You will have practiced this in advance and be totally confident with using it in cabs, rental cars, wherever.
posted by telepanda at 7:43 AM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

This is totally do-able. We flew our youngest to California when he was 6-weeks old and have since taken all three kids on numerous trips when they were infants.

First, you should know that infants can fly without their own ticket, but the ticket for the grown-up does usually have to list the fact that there is a lap baby. Make sure that's made clear when booking online or on the phone. We always flew the kids as lap babies to save on the cost of a ticket and because we figured we'd end up holding them most of the time anyways. If she is nursing, then mom nursing the baby during takeoff and landing is a good idea because it helps the baby's ears and can sometimes lull the baby into sleep, which makes the flight much less stressful. If baby isn't being nursed, then bottle feeding at takeoff and landing would also be a good idea for the same reason. You may even want to manipulate the feeding and sleep schedule a bit on the day of the flight just to set things up so baby is ready to feed and nap at the right time. Bring lots of wipes, a change of clothes, extra diapers, plastic bags to hold dirty diapers, and one of the those fold-out surfaces on which to change diapers. (You'll have all of this down pat by the that time.) I apologize to the people next to me if the baby is fussy, but I don't hand out treats or anything. I try my best to keep my baby happy, for everyone's sake, and figure anyone giving me a nasty look was once a baby who annoyed someone else by crying.

Second, don't bring your car seat base. Remember, the car seats can work just fine hooking into the car's seat belts without its base. They are designed that way. So, bring one of those stroller/car seat combos. The airlines allow you to gate check this, which is great. You'll have to fold it up and everything, but you can leave your stroller and car seat at the end of the jetway and get it back upon landing. It'll much easier to move through the airport and around at the destination if you have the stroller as an option.

Third, at your destination you can use the car seat with either a rental car or a cab, just learn how to safely use the car seat with seat belts. We took a car seat class for expectant parents at a local hospital years ago and it has paid off big time in that we are much more self-assured about car seat issues, but just reading the instructions that come with the car seat will give you the information you need.

Fourth, hotels typically have a loaner crib you can use, but call ahead and be sure. Often, it is a pack and play, which I think is fine. If they don't, then bring your pack and play with you as checked baggage.

Fifth, it would be best if you had a fridge at the hotel to keep formula and/or pumped breast milk cool. So, see if that's a possibility. Maybe they can empty out the mini-bar fridge for you. This might be a trip when it is best to spring for a slightly larger room, like a little suite or something, as sometimes you need to walk back and forth holding the baby in the middle of the night and that's hard in a tiny hotel room. Or one of you may be doing a late-night feeding and its nice if you can do that in a separate room so as to allow the other person to keep sleeping. Also, depending on baby's sleep habits, you may want to place the crib somewhere a bit away from where mom and dad sleep (or maybe you'll want her right with you, this is a very heated issue and I don't intend to take a public position as we handled things a bit differently with each kid).
posted by Alluring Mouthbreather at 7:49 AM on May 5, 2016

I miss travelling with my son when he was 3 months. It was a million times easier than travelling with a 2 year old.

Everyone has covered flying and hotels well, but I'd add one thing.

Is it possible to book a hotel with an airport shuttle or that lies on a decent public transportation route? If the conference is in a walkable city, it's so much easier to completely skip the car seat hassle all together.
posted by galvanized unicorn at 8:21 AM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

The carseat - get on FB and start asking who.knows someone in the town you're traveling to. Ask them to hook you up with a friend or service who can give you a ride to and from the airport, with an infant seat. Someone knows someone who has a kid and would appreciate a little extra cash. I'm in LA and getting to and from the airport is common question in my FB groups and there are always a bunch of volunteers. There's a reason why people always say "ask for help" when you become a new parent. People love to help new parents.

As for sleeping arrangements, do you have to stay in a hotel? Try to get a suite so you have somewhere to hang out when baby is sleeping. Otherwise consider airbnb or vrbo to get a house or apartment.
posted by vignettist at 8:37 AM on May 5, 2016

So, I was all "This is totally easy! You will have so many people to take care of the baby and you just have a lap infant and gate check the car seat without the base and blah blah blah!" but then I remembered our first trip with our child and how we had to figure out how to change the baby in the tiny bathroom and how we brought along eight outfits for a 2-day trip but forgot to bring any socks for him and how much he hated sitting in the airplane seat and needed to be walked the whole time. And also the part where we had to sit in the darkened hotel room very quietly starting at 7PM because baby sleeping. (Only places with separate bedrooms for us from now on! The rise of AirBNB was a godsend.)

But it was fine, and we eventually got to be pretty good and efficient travelers. So, my position is that this will be daunting but that you guys will probably come through it just fine. You just need to be prepared and accepting of the fact that the first time you travel with the baby everything will take twice as long and be 100% less streamlined than you're used to, but also that you will figure it out and be okay and then it will be better the next time. (And I agree that once you know your baby and his/her personality and habits you will have a much better idea of how this is all going to go.)
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 9:11 AM on May 5, 2016

Baby logistics and baby gear is confusing and overwhelming when you don't have the baby in hand yet. The little babies are very easy to travel with. I've traveled with my kids and here is what I would do:
Bring my own car seat, check it as luggage on the flight. This is a free piece, by the way. Don't bring the base, but bring the instruction manual so you know how to correctly install using a lap belt. I have had bad experiences with car rental agencies and the availability of car seats - it ends up being quite costly for less convenience. It's up to you on cab vs. rental. When you have your own seat ready to go it makes it easy.

Tell the hotel ahead of time that you need a travel crib - they will have it set up for you when you arrive. Even crummy motels have this service.

Bring an extra mat/towel to be your changing station at the hotel, and some extra heavy duty garbage bags for the dirty stuff. Don't even bother with cloth diapers, seriously, not worth the hassle even if you do it at home.

Bring your preferred stroller or baby - wearing device. This is easy. 3 months is still so little.

Good luck! It will be fine.
posted by stowaway at 9:37 AM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can totally do this! Three months is a good time to travel with an infant (although be forewarned that you may still be very sleep deprived and waking up frequently.)

A lot of the logistics are unknowable until you have the actual baby. Pretty much the only fixed thing is that you will need a carseat for getting around the city and on the plane. You don't need the base - you can install it with just the seatbelt. You can do the installation either in a rental car or a taxi. This is the one thing I would recommend practicing ahead of time!

For the other factors:

- stroller vs carrier: you won't know until you see which one your particular kid tolerates
- where to sleep: you won't know until you see what your particular kid tolerates. baby may end up being a cosleeper, or may not be. I do recommend bringing your own pack n play (or light weight travel crib) instead of relying on the hotel.
- taking care of the kid in the hotel: pretty much the same as taking care of your kid anywhere else. you'll need to bring bottles to feed formula, and a refrigerator if doing breast milk.
- rental car vs taxi: rental car probably more convenient.
posted by yarly at 10:29 AM on May 5, 2016

If you don't want to go with a suite, some hotels offer adjoining/ connecting rooms.
posted by oceano at 11:42 AM on May 5, 2016

Also, just so you know, in an all out crib emergency you can layer a few towels, wrap a sheet over them, and have baby sleep on a pallet on the floor. Obviously put this setup where baby won't get stepped on but 3 month olds aren't mobile and as long as they're clear of suffocation hazards they don't need walls and bars.
posted by telepanda at 1:39 PM on May 5, 2016

Hi! Frequent traveler-with-baby here. Her first trip was at 8 weeks (interstate move) and she's logged tens of thousands of miles since (she's now 18 months). Good news is, the more you travel with her, the more useful she becomes more quickly - mine has started pointing out our luggage on the belt at baggage claim before I even notice it.

I totally get how overwhelming it is at this stage. Here's my not-so-brief end-to-end guide.

Infants under the age of 2 can either fly in your lap or in their own booked seat. Domestically, in your lap, they're free. Overseas you pay a small percentage of the adult fare and some taxes/fees. Booked seat costs vary by airline but it (IME) it is usually reduced compared to the adult ticket price. To date, we have not yet booked my daughter her own seat, but that's changing for our next trip in a month. I'd say about 50% of the time, both domestically and internationally, we have an empty seat available next to us that I can put her in when I need my hands free. Up to about 6 months of age, that worked just fine for us (now I panic if there's no free seat because oh my god active kid). When you book your ticket, even though technically your kid will not have its own ticket, it does have to be booked as a lap infant with one adult. If you for any reason need to book these flights before your kid is born, that's okay! You can't book the lap infant until you have a name and DOB to put on the reservation, but you can book yourself the ticket, then call up after the baby is born and add them to the ticket. We had to do this and it was no problem.

As far as carseat on the plane in a booked seat versus being held - the only reason I would deal with the hassle of a carseat on the plane is because now that my daughter is older and strong and active she's a nightmare being held in my lap and the carseat sends happy "let's sit quietly and fall asleep" signals to her. From a safety standpoint, it's a bit overkill (IMO) to say they need a carseat for turbulence. I've been through decent turbulence with my daughter and I had no issues holding her tightly enough, and if the turbulence is that bad I certainly won't sleep through it and not notice her bouncing around. If you're going to book a spare seat, do it for convenience/sanity, not for "better safe than sorry!" pressure.

In the carryon: 1.5x the number of diapers you think you will need from the moment you leave the house to 4 hours after your scheduled landing time (god forbid you get delayed). Wipes. A change mat. Two changes of clothes for the kid, and one change of clothes for the adult. A light muslin or blanket that will have myriad uses. A burp cloth. If Mom is breastfeeding, an empty waterbottle you can fill at the airport after security (there is no thirst like the thirst of a breastfeeding mother and waiting for the beverage cart can feel like an eternity). Something shiny or rattly to distract the kid if needed. If Mom is not breastfeeding, then a couple of bottles with the formula powder in and a thermos of cooled boiled water - on the airplane you can request they add a bit of hot water to your bottles to mix up the formula powder, then add the cooled boiled water to get the right volume and shake it all up. (If you're formula feeding, you'll figure out the right water temp ratios and you can plan accordingly)
In your checked luggage: more baby clothes and pajamas (including sleepsacks) than you think you need, because you will not have a washer/dryer. One 24 hour supply of diapers (buy the rest when you get there). At 3 months, that's about all you'll need for the baby. If pumping or formula feeding, all the required paraphernalia. It gets more complicated once they start solids, and once they can actually start to get bored. Enjoy packing light while you can!

Generally, most airlines will let you check a stroller, carseat, and pack'n'play (portable crib) free of charge, regardless of what your checked baggage allowance is. [Really confused by the above person saying a pack'n'play can be carryon - there is no way mine meets the weight or dimension requirements of a carryon and it'd be a PITA to carry through the airport anyway. Just check it if you take it.) US airlines let you go gate to gate with your stroller. (I currently live in Australia where they don't let you do this and I'm grumpy about it because it's an awesome thing to have a stroller gate to gate) YMMV if you fly on any super budget airlines, but generally they're pretty good about this stuff. If you have anything other than a tiny umbrella stroller, you will inevitably hear someone complain about how heavy your stroller is (I got one airline staff member bringing mine to the gate after a flight muttering to her colleague that strollers like mine "should be illegal" and mine isn't even particularly big or fancy), or how it breaks down into SO MANY PIECES, or whatever. Too effing bad. Ignore them. A good stroller is a beautiful thing and you do what you need to do. As far as carryon, this will again vary by airline especially if they're a budget airlines, but you're USUALLY allowed to bring a diaper bag with the basic necessities with you in addition to your own carryon item(s). Double check with the airline's website to be sure - usually just googling "[airline name] travel infant" brings up all their infant travel policies.

Fun fact: you can't check in and print a boarding pass from home when you have a lap infant. You have to go to the desk to complete the process. It is worth your time to "try" to check in online, though, just so you can select seats if you have any strong preferences. I find, if I'm flying alone with my daughter, it's critical to have an aisle seat so I can easily get up if she needs a diaper change, or she's vomited on me, or she's just cranky and needs to be walked around. As far as when my checked stuff goes away, my carseat is separate from my stroller and I'm pretty happy to check it at check-in and be done with it. I don't have a fancy bag for it, but I do like to get a big plastic bag from the airlines to keep all the belts and buckles contained and safe from being snagged. I take my stroller through to the gate (and on US airlines domestically, it'll be waiting for you at the gate when you deplane on the other side).

Ask at check-in whether the flight is full and if they can set you with an empty seat next to you. It's super handy to have this seat to put the baby or a diaper bag down, or to use the extra tray table, or whatever.

The worst possible thing that can happen is that your kid falls asleep before security, because you have to have them in your arms to go through security, which means you have to take them out of the stroller or carrier/sling (to send it through the x-ray machine or metal detector) and that usually wakes them up. Keep them awake until after security if you can! If you've packed water, pre-packaged formula, or frozen breast milk in your carryon, remove all of it with your other liquids and laptops and let the TSA know you have it; you are allowed to take it but not all TSA agents know that/are good at dealing with it. Wear slip-on shoes if you can to avoid having to put the baby down somewhere to re-tie or zip your shoes after going through. Pack all your carryons to make removal of necessary items straightforward one-handed. The TSA will stress you out as always, but just get yourself through. Stay polite and if they're trying to hurry you through just politely tell them it's your first time flying with a baby and you could use some help. TSA Pre-check is pretty great if you can get it, and I occasionally get them taking me through a crew line or something since I have the stroller which can't go through the scanners, but it depends on the airport and the people on duty to determine how difficult your security experience will be.

If I have the option, I try to plan my boarding time based on my kid's proximity to falling asleep. If he or she is there and cranky, board ASAP and get the nap going. If he or she is still pretty alert and energetic, board as close to the end as possible. Say hi to the flight attendants as you come on board. Make friends with them. They can be really helpful. I generally don't find that US airlines give you the infant seatbelt (a belt that loops onto yours) and flying with it in Australia and without it in the US I really find I prefer not having it - all it does is make my kid annoyed and upset to have something cold and metal fastened around her, and from a safety standpoint I think it's more designed to keep her from becoming a projectile dangerous to other people than it is to keep her safe (versus being in your arms held tightly).

Definitely feed on takeoff and landing if the baby is awake. If the baby is asleep, for god's sake don't change that. Some babies really have difficulty with the ear pressure thing, but many (including mine) never do, so be prepared for it to be a problem but don't make life difficult trying to solve a problem that's not there. I was breastfeeding at this point and I found the boob to be an excellent pacifier for all sorts of in-flight crankiness, and she usually went to sleep pretty easily that way too. (YMMV. Babies are not consistent.) A muslin or blanket is great for swaddling if that's useful (it isn't always), just for extra warmth if they've cranked up the A/C, for modesty if Mom is breastfeeding and feels weird about doing it on the plane, for mopping up bodily fluids, etc. Have the blanket out and within reach. I also recommend having a "diaper wallet" inside your bag with one diaper, some wipes, and the change mat, since lugging a floppy infant and a large diaper bag through narrow airplane aisles and manuevering in tiny airplane lavatories is really difficult. Also regarding lavatories: there is no where to put the baby down in the lavatory if you have to use it as an adult, since the change table folds down right over the toilet. If the other parent or Grandma is available, Mom needs to hand the baby off to them so she can use the lavatory; alternatively, find the most sympathetic looking flight attendant and ask him or her to hold the baby while you use the bathroom. They are usually very happy to do so. Many flight attendants will also give you a pillow if you ask, which you can put on your lap under the kid to make the angles a little easier for holding a sleeping baby, feeding it, etc.

The in-flight experience will be far more stressful than any other flight you've taken without kids. And not necessarily because things are going wrong or are difficult, but because you will be worried they might. You'll be worried about your kid annoying other people, and thus hyper-vigilant to any noise (which means no headphones or in-flight entertainment for the parent doing the holding, usually). You'll be up and down from your seat for diaper changes and soothing. Depending on how big the baby is and how well it's napping on the flight, you may or may not ever get to put your tray table down, which means you may or may not be able to have a drink and/or snack. If you're used to sleeping through long flights (I was!), that's going to be harder now with a kid, especially a kid in your arms. Chances are it's going to go just fine. Just be prepared for your usual in-flight coping mechanisms to have to change.

I am a fan of the sling for the baby during the flight. My daughter liked her sling, we liked wearing it, and it was convenient to have my hands free sometimes. It also makes getting through the airport easier if you have a sling with the kid in front and a backpack as your carryon in back. Hands are free and weight distribution is better for long treks to and from gates. You cannot wear the sling for takeoff and landing because FAA safety blah blah blah, but for boarding, and for the flight itself, if your kid tolerates and likes being worn, do it.

Taxi requirements for child seats vary by state. Google for it in the state you'll be visiting. I'd say the best case scenario is that you just hold your kid on your lap for the short taxi ride, rather than trying to find a taxi with a carseat (they are very few and far between) or taking the time to install your own. Just buckle yourself in, if you don't normally in a taxi. Agreed that car rental company carseat rental is a crappy experience. It's good in a pinch but really actually more expensive for a >3 day trip than just buying a seat when you get there, or compared to checking your own through (domestically, I take mine and just install it in the rental cars). If you decide to take your own carseat, practice installing/uninstalling it a bunch before the baby is born - it'll give you something to do and it's a good skill to have. Again I'm assuming you're traveling domestically, but if you travel overseas, not all countries allow the LATCH system for easy carseat installation (it's called ISOFIX where I live and it was only legalized here last year) so not all cars in those countries, depending on age of the car and country of manufacturing, have the anchor points, which means you have to know how to install your seat using the seatbelt as well. A good thing to practice. (And a note to everyone saying your infant carseat doesn't require the base for installation: that was totally not the case for my Australian one! If anyone reading this is non-US, take that advice with a grain of salt and have a google for the specifics for your country and carseat model. It's also not the case that US carseats are legal everywhere in the world - Australia, for example, has stricter safety requirements for seats than the US does, and it is technically illegal to use a US-manufactured seat here. International travellers, do your research!)

When you book the hotel, put in the "special requests" that you need a crib, and follow up with a phone call the day before check-in. We've never had an issue with name-brand hotels having cribs available (even if, yes, we have to call down from the room to remind them that there was supposed to be one there), and they do usually provide linens as well. But! Sometimes "linens" means "a normal bed sheet that they fold up a bunch and wrap around the crib mattress." This made me a little uneasy early on with all the loose bedding/SIDS warnings, so I sometimes pulled those off and just had her sleep right on the mattress in her sleep sack. If you have a thin pack'n'play sheet (we did, because my daughter slept in her pack'n'play for the first 8 weeks of her life) it might be worth bringing it just in case. Otherwise, most hotels are pretty cool about kids. We stayed at a Marriott Residence Inn for a week once and they gave us a little bag with baby lotion and a couple of toys - a rubber ducky and sheep - that was super sweet. I find the convenience of a chain hotel that makes it easy for me to have a kid there often outweighs the slightly lower prices of boutique hotels.

The experience of sharing the room with your kid will vary depending on what you've been doing. If you've been co-sleeping, keep on keeping on. If you've been room sharing, it probably won't be that different. If you have had the baby in its own room, well... The first night our daughter slept through the night was at 8 weeks during our move when we stayed in a serviced apartment where the crib couldn't fit in our room, and for the first time we had to put her just outside our room in the living room area, and it turns out we'd been keeping each other awake and once we were separated she and we slept 100% better. Since then, when we share a room at a hotel or visiting someone, she's up more frequently at night when we make noise, and we're up more often hearing her snoring and kicking and rustling and all those other things. This is sometimes unavoidable in hotels and you just have to agree to use whatever Bad Parent crutches are necessary (bottles in bed, pacifiers, co-sleeping, whatever) to encourage maximum sleep. But if there is any way to be in a serviced apartment complex or a suite where there's a separate area for the crib, that might be worth it. (But this is something you really won't know until the kid arrives and you know how sleeping/feeding/etc is going)

This is giant YMMV territory and there's not really a right answer. Some considerations:
- Strollers are great for carrying other stuff in the underseat storage, over the handlebars, and in a cupholder if you have it. When I travel alone with my daughter, I absolutely bring the stroller because it's so much easier walking around if I don't have to have everything in my hands and over my shoulders.
- Strollers are also great for longer baby naps if you have a long layover or a long delay before a flight. Put the shade down, cover with a blanket, nice little warm dark baby nap space.
- A stroller may be easier on Grandma than a carrier, depending on Grandma's physical condition. (My mom has back problems and can't use a carrier, but actually finds leaning on the stroller handlebars to make walking easier for her, so she vastly prefers that we have the stroller with us if we're visiting)
- Carriers take up a lot less space when you're not using them
- Carriers also keep your hands free and can keep your overall through-airport and in-flight travel footprint lower
- Strollers take up a lot of space in some hotel rooms
- Some babies sleep better in strollers
- Some babies sleep better in carriers
- In hot weather, both you and the baby can end up gross and sweaty with a carrier
- In cold weather, it's a lot harder to wear a coat and other cold-weather-appropriate stuff with a carrier
- We just usually stuffed our carrier into our stroller's underseat storage and took both with us on our trips, using each solution when it was most appropriate.

A good quality four wheeled roller suitcase that maneuvers easily will make hauling baby gear through airports a lot, lot, lot easier on you.
posted by olinerd at 4:55 PM on May 5, 2016 [3 favorites]

Here is the sum of my travel knowledge as downloaded for a friend last year. Enjoy.

Take a red eye if you can. I hate red eye flights but it means they fall asleep and you don't need to entertain them. If K likes to be in a front baby carrier, then wear one - it's the easiest way to go through the airport (if he's awake) and you can keep him in it during the flight instead of holding him on your lap. That's much easier on your arms and back. Car seat: consider bringing one with you even if you don't have an extra seat purchased. If there is an empty seat on the plane, they will put you next to it so you can buckle the car seat into it and put Kepler in it which is, of course, safer and easier. If there is no open seat in the plane you can gate check it. They might give it to you at disembark but they might send it to baggage claim in which case you might have to go to a different excess baggage window to get it. Also, it does happen that they forget to put it on the plane. In that case they will give you a loaner car seat at destination and deliver the car seat to you when it arrives. We did some research on which seats are narrowest - the best one is pretty cheap (I think it's Cosco) and now all of ours are that brand and make. Don't bother renting a car seat because it's cheaper to buy a new one. Make sure you specify when you rent a car that you are getting one with 4 doors so you can install the car seat. They will fuck you over with this. Priceline has a picture of a 4-door car on the 'full' category but the fine print says it can be a 2-door too. When you are carrying the car seat through the airport, if K has outgrown a bucket, you can extend the straps completely and then wear it like a backpack. DO bring a stroller or car seat wheels through the airport so you can put him down somewhere not gross, and bring a blanket to spread out on the ground on the airport carpet so he can sit on it and play.

It's a three ring circus when you are carrying all this stuff but it's worth it and all the staff I've dealt with have been very helpful. I've done both boys, a double stroller, and a car seat on my own. It's doable. You'll also have a diaper bag and you are allowed your one carry on each on addition to that.
Don't try to carry on a suitcase. Just the things you will need for the airplane.

Do pack a complete change of clothes for each of you and 2 for the baby. Bring extra everything - food, drink, diapers, wipes, burp clothes. Be prepared to be trapped on a plane for a 6 hour delay. Package everything in separate labeled ziplock bags. This keeps everything clean on case of spills, AND you have a ton of baggies if you end up with soiled items to segregate.

Bring a couple of pacifier clips. Even if K doesn't use a pacifier you can use them to attach a toy or rattle to his clothes so you don't have to keep picking things up off the floor of the airplane.

Avoid layovers if possible. They suck. Allow at least an extra hour to go through security because they will want to check your liquids for the baby. Also this is a good time for you to bring your own liquids to drink through security because the guard doesn't know that a 7 month old isn't drinking that apple juice. DO NOT separate bag from baby if you split up for parking. Security guard will be like, 'where's your baby?'

Bring a copy of his birth certificate just in case they need proof that he is under 2.

Really allow lots of extra time because some baby skin products contain glycerin which can set off the chemical sensors and then you'll get extra special screening. I've done this a lot because I don't want to go through the X-ray machine. It's not that bad.

For plane entertainment I was often stumped. I'd bring new toys and they would be rejected. The best bet is always new apps or games for the electronic toys or iPhone. Even thought K is only 7 months old there are a ton of free apps that are aimed at babies. Let me know if you want some names.

It was actually pretty nice to be sitting back near the bathrooms because there were always people standing in the aisle willing to make faves at him. Better was having a bulkhead seat with lots of legroom (ask for it when checking in). No exit row with a baby, they will kick you off. Make sure you let the airline know ahead of time that you are traveling with a lap infant bc there is a special note on the boarding pass that security will want to see.

If you're breast feeding you might prefer a window seat for privacy and you might want to practice with a nursing cover ahead of time to see if K will tolerate it, some babies won't.

Bring the stroller through the airport even if you think you won't need it. You can put your stuff in it and put the baby in a chest carrier.

If K is eating purees remember to pack some baby spoons bc those plastic spoons will not work. And buy some of those sterilized disposable wipes to bring with, they are awesome.

Most airplanes don't preboard infants anymore. Check your airline so you know what to expect.

As long as you realize that everything will take 4 hours longer than usual and you maintain a zen attitude, it will be fine!!
posted by bq at 8:21 PM on May 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have traveled quite a bit with my children starting a about 8 weeks, and have done several trips by myself with "2 under 2". I found air travel to be easiest before the kids were mobile. It seems overwhelming now, but the logistics for your specific situation will all be clearer to you 6 weeks after you've had the baby and you know your and their preferences. Here are a few of mine that other folks maybe haven't touched on:

The best advice I read about air travel (on metafilter) was to just keep reminding yourself it's only for a little while and then it's over. Just take your time, breathe, keep a sense of humor and pretend there's no one behind you. 2nd best piece of advice was to pack a spare outfit in the carryon for everyone. Funny things happen with bodily fluids on airplane trips with kids. For security I always wore my children, and never had to take off the carrier, but I was probably just lucky and didn't have a carrier with metal parts.

One thing I haven't seen mentioned is that they make car seat bags like this that are backpacks. This makes it a lot easier to carry or check the car seat if you don't have a stroller that is compatible with a car seat. Thinking back on it, we didn't use it a ton with just 1 child but have use it a lot with 2. Most recently when a child threw up in a the carseat on the way to the airport. Stuffed it into the bag to be dealt with when we got to our destination, ugh.

Speaking of strollers, I liked having a well designed, aka not cheap-o lightweight umbrella travel stroller for flights, until we had to succumb to the double stroller.Plus if your day to day stroller is really, really nice or a jogging stroller that doesn't fold well, etc. you can leave it at home and not worry about the airlines ruining it. Something like this By 3 months your child won't be able to sit up, so look for one that reclines fully/nearly fully or has a carseat adapter. A travel stroller will weigh a lot less/fold up smaller than the typical stroller that folks buy with a carseat combo. One downside is that it may not have as much of a basket below.

When I flew internationally with my 6 month son and my mom, my husband insisted I trade my over the shoulder nice looking diaper bag for a backpack. It was the right call. I also now pack my purse with the nonvaluable stuff in my luggage and carry my wallet & personal essentials in the diaper bag backpack. It's one less thing to worry about leaving behind somewhere. The backpack has a computer sleeve and is big enough has served as both computer and diaper bag at the same time on occasion.

I think I flew once with my electric breast pump and then said I'd never do that again. If your wife ends up bf-ing and needs to pump during the conference, she might try a manual pumps, I found this one worked surprisingly well for me.

Congratulations & have fun!
posted by snowymorninblues at 10:20 PM on May 5, 2016

Security: Although YMMV, I have never had to remove an infant from a wearable carrier to go through security in the US. They have sent me through the metal detector wearing baby (they don't send babies and little kids through the millimeter wave full body imaging things) and then swabbed my hands for explosive residue.
posted by telepanda at 12:01 PM on May 6, 2016

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