Pro Tips for Flying With Baby

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    Pro Tips for Flying With Baby

    It may require so much organization and effort just to go to the store with a baby that the thought of traveling across the country sounds crazy.  However, once you get a system figured out, infants can be surprisingly portable.  At the ripe old age of 7 months old, Paxton has now been across the country 4 times.  It’s never going to be quite as easy to fly with a baby as it is without one, but we’ve come up with our system that makes it completely manageable and relatively low stress.  Below are my tips if you are taking to the sky with your baby.

    Make a List (or Lots of Lists)

    The sheer amount of stuff that our tiny human requires is mind-boggling. I always thought I packed a lot of stuff, but Paxton routinely has the largest suitcase of us all.  To make sure that we don’t forget anything, a list is a must-have.  Now when I say list, I don’t mean something on an old piece of paper that gets tossed as soon as you finish packing everything.  I mean a OneNote notebook dedicated to packing lists.  I have a list for Paxton, a list for me, and a list of things that need to go in a carry-on.  The reason I love using OneNote is that I can create the list on my laptop, and then open it on my cell phone and add things as I think of them and check things off as I pack them.  I make a list for each trip that I take and title it with the reason for the trip or place I’m going.  This allows me to copy a list from a similar previous trip as a starting point the next time.

    Plan Your Carry-on System

    The last thing you want is to be stuck in an airport or airplane without enough diapers, wipes, baby food, etc. However, you can only carry so much stuff on with you.  Airlines allow all passengers to have a large carry-on for the overhead bin and a small one to put under your seat.  However, parents traveling with children are also allowed to gate check a car seat and stroller.  If you purchase a seat for your child, then they also are allowed the two carry-ons.  If you have a lap child then they do not get the carry-on allowance, but a diaper bag does not count towards your carry-on limit.  When we travel we take a jogging stroller travel system with the car seat, a carry-on size roller bag, a tote bag, and a diaper bag through security.  The is very manageable for the two of us.  The jogging stroller seems like it would be big and clunky at first, but it actually works really well.  It’s sturdy and has a storage basket which means that I can hang my diaper bag from the handles and put a tote bag in the basket.  It also serves as a method of transporting the car seat and baby.  When packing our carry-ons, we utilize the following system:

    1. Diaper bag: Everything we want to have handy for Paxton throughout the trip (food, diapers, wipes, rags, extra clothes, a couple toys, etc.) To see what I recommend having in your diaper bag, check out this post.
    2. Tote bag: Everything we want to have handy for ourselves throughout the trip (food, headphones, computer, cells phones, chargers, etc.)
    3. Roller bag: Items that we don’t want to check or may decide we want, but that we don’t have to have available at a moment’s notice (baby carrier, pump and related accessories, travel fan, extra toys, stroller, and car seat gate check bags, etc.).

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    Accumulate Your Key Items

    These are some items that you want to have while flying with a baby that you may never have considered before. Below are my must-have items (aside from the obvious items a baby needs like diapers, bottles, etc.).

    1. Battery-powered or rechargeable hand-held fan (this one is what I recommend): This may not seem like it’s needed, and I don’t use it on every trip, but after being stuck on a 5 hour flight, in the summer, when the air wasn’t working great, I will always make sure to bring a fan. The heat makes me a little cranky, but it will make a baby into a monster.  This is especially true if you are holding the baby and transferring body heat between you.
      baby and mom on airplane holding portable fan
    2. Gate-check bags: Strollers and car seats are not welcome in overhead bins. However, the airlines are happy to check these for you at the gate, and you can pick them back up as soon as you get off the plane.  You could check these items when you check other baggage, but gate check is free, and it allows you to use them throughout the airport.  Bags aren’t required when you gate-check these items, but if you don’t wear your baby sits is getting all of the dirt and grease from the cargo area.  Gate-check bags are designed to fit car seats and strollers, often have a place for your name and contact info, and fold into attached pouches for easy transport when not in use.  We found a generic car seat bag at Babies R’ Us, but the stroller bag they had wasn’t big enough to fit our jogging stroller easily.  We ended up ordering a stroller bag from Amazon designed for large strollers.  An added bonus is that it has backpack straps which are great for carrying it down the jetway. This is the awesome stroller bag we have.
    3. Toy and pacifier straps: When juggling all of your baggage and a baby that may be figuring out it’s fun to drop things, the last thing you want to worry about is if you are losing toys or pacifiers.
    4. Baby carrier: Some people feel that you either need a stroller travel system or a baby carrier. However, I like to have both.  If I’m gate-checking the car seat, instead of taking it on for Paxton to sit in, then I love having a carrier so I can strap him to me and have both hands free while boarding.  You do have to remove the baby from the carrier during takeoff and landing, but it can be helpful to give your arms a break during the flight.  I wouldn’t want to use the carrier the entire time I’m traveling through.
    5. Travel-sized noise machine: Baby is likely used to a quiet sleeping environment, but there is no guarantee that a hotel will provide that, especially if you and baby aren’t used to sharing a room. A travel noise machine is inexpensive and can be placed next to the pack and play to help drown out any other noises.  I find that the white noise also helps me sleep better. This is the travel noise machine that we have.  It works great and is small enough to make packing easy.
      Pro Tips for Flying With BabyPro Tips for Flying With Baby
    6. Luggage with 4 swivel wheels: With all the stuff you are going to be lugging around, you need luggage with swivel wheels. I can easily push the stroller and wheel two large suitcases through an airport this way.  I wouldn’t be able to do this if any of the suitcases had the older style wheels.

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    Baby Identification

    You don’t need to provide an ID for your baby for TSA; however, you do often need proof of age for the airline when checking in with a lap child. Generally, airlines ask for a birth certificate.  However, I highly recommend getting a passport book and card for your child.  Although a passport is not needed for a child traveling within the US, hear me out.  A passport card is easy to tuck into your wallet and always have on you (much more so than a birth certificate or a traditional passport).  However, a passport book is required for air travel to any country.  The card is only good for traveling by car into Canada or Mexico.  By getting a passport card for Paxton, I can keep it in my wallet, so I never have to worry about remembering and keeping track of his birth certificate or passport book when traveling within the US.

    Sleeping Setup

    When traveling with a baby, you don’t want to forget about figuring out how/where Baby will sleep. Pack and Plays are great for this, but they add yet another piece of luggage.  Most hotels have a pack and play or crib that they will let you use.  However, it’s always wise to call a few days before your trip to verify that they do have one and have it added to your reservation.  Bring your own pack and play sheet though.

    Don’t forget that it’s important for you to get some sleep while traveling too. Make sure to grab these tips for making sleep happen before your next trip!

    Overwhelmed Yet? Get your FREE packing list for traveling with baby HERE.


    Pro Tips for Flying With Baby

    Decide Whether to Buy Baby a Seat

    Children under 2 can travel for free on your lap within the US. However, there is something to be said for having the extra space of giving Baby his own seat.  If Baby has a seat, you can bring the car seat onboard for baby to sit/sleep in.  It just has to go in a seat by the window.  If you decide you want to buy an extra seat, some airlines have infant fares that may be less expensive than traditional fares.  However, if you go with the lap child option, it’s worth asking when getting your gate check tags if the flight is completely full.  On Southwest, with their open seating policy, if the flight has an empty seat, they will let you take the car seat on board so your baby can have a seat.  I’ve heard other airlines will work with you to see if they can get you next to an empty seat, but I don’t have any first-hand experience with this.  It’s always worth asking since you are up there anyway.  About 50% of the time we get lucky and there is an empty seat.

    Pro Tips for Flying With Baby
    Paxton is comfy in his car seat since he was able to get his own seat on a Southwest flight that was 100% full.

    Be Prepared for TSA

    Going through security is no small task with a baby and all of the stuff you have. However, once you know what is expected, it gets much easier. Here are my comments regarding security.  You can use the TSA app to see how long security lines typically are at the time you will be traveling.  Make sure to check out the TSA app and my other favorite apps here and here.

    1. You are allowed to bring a reasonable amount of milk, formula, baby food, juice, and/or water for baby. Make sure to have this all in a clear ziplock bag (I use a gallon sized one), so that you can quickly remove it because it needs to go through the scanner out of your carry-on.  If the bottle is clear and/or can be opened, there isn’t a problem.  They may put the items in a machine that analyzes them but this is quick and doesn’t affect the product.  The only time there might be a problem is if the liquid is in a container that can’t be opened and is not clear.  These Similac 8oz formula bottles are convenient to travel with because you can just screw on a nipple.  However, the bottles are not see through at all, and once opened, they are only good for 2 hours if not refrigerated.  Most TSA agents haven’t had a problem with these.  If they question it, they just wipe my hands to test for bomb residue and then we’re good to go.  However, one time the agents decided to have a problem with them, and I was told that either they had to open the bottles or give me a full body pat-down.  I had never been questioned anywhere, let alone that airport I had been through multiple times, but for some reason that day they decided to have a problem with it.
    2. Allow plenty of time to get through security in case they decide to have a problem with something (see point a)
    3. Some places let you wear your baby through security in a baby carrier and others make you take them out.
    4. Get TSA Precheck. If you have precheck your baby can go through with you for free.  With precheck you don’t have to worry about removing your shoes, taking out electronics and taking out normal liquid allowances which allows you to focus on everything else you are juggling.  It’s also great because the last place you want to be is stuck in a long security line with a screaming child.
    5. Have your baby’s boarding pass ready. If it’s a lap child, the airline will give you a special pass. Baby doesn’t need an ID though.
    Pro Tips for Flying With Baby
    Pro Tips for Flying With Baby
    Paxton and I are ready to go through security for an early morning flight.

    Plan How You Are Getting to the Terminal

    When we travel we have 3 checked bags in addition to the carry-on items I mentioned above. There is no way I want to juggle all of our stuff on the shuttle from long-term parking.  Therefore, we have a system where my husband drops me, Paxton and all but two bags off at the door.  We check the bags I have and get Paxton’s lap child boarding pass.  John then parks the car and takes the shuttle in and meets me at security.

    Plan How You Are Leaving the Airport

    Public transportation has suddenly become much more difficult with the amount of stuff you are now traveling with. Rental cars can work, but you will likely need an SUV for all of the luggage and the stroller.  Make sure to book a car that provides enough storage space.

    Pro Tips for Flying With Baby

    Master the Double Diaper

    The last thing you want is an overflowing diaper on an airplane. You also don’t really want to be changing a diaper on an airplane.  If your flight is more than about 2 hours, I strongly suggest double diapering.  We do this right before boarding.  When Paxton is close to sizing up in diapers, we make the outer diaper a size larger.  When he still has room to grow in his current size, we use two diapers that are the same size.  Two diapers have been sufficient to get across the country without leaks and without needing to change a diaper.  However, when we skip the second diaper we have had blowouts at 30,000 feet.  If your baby is peacefully sleeping before boarding, you may be tempted to skip the diaper change and additional diaper –DON’T.  The sleeping child will eventually wake up and unless your flight is super short, you will likely be regretting your choice at some point.

    Get the Mamava App

    If you are breastfeeding, you are going to want to know where the nursing rooms are in each airport, and these rooms tend to be well-hidden. Mamava makes portable nursing rooms that are commonly located in airports.  The free app tells you exactly where these are located near you.  However, the app also tells you about other nursing rooms that are available nearby complete with reviews from other moms.

    Carefully Select Flights

    1. Flights with layovers but no plane change may not be the best option. There is something to be said about being able to get off the plane and change a diaper in a real restroom and get yourself something to eat.  If you don’t have a layover that allows this, it can make for a long trip.
    2. Choosing flights that are while baby normally sleeps may be a good idea in theory, but I haven’t found it to be worth the effort. I generally find that choosing times that I like based on the amount of sleep I will get, where the layover is, and travel duration is much more worth my time.
    3. Avoid layovers in airports where you have to leave security. The majority of airports keep you in the same terminal or at least don’t make you leave security to go to another terminal.  However, there are a few where you may need to go out of security and back through.  Security is rough with a baby, and you don’t want to do it any more than necessary. Airports that I’ve had to do this are San Diego and Newark.  I’m sure there are others that I haven’t experienced yet.
    4. Check your airline to determine what policies they have in place for traveling with children.  The links to the major airline policies are below.

    The Bribe-Bag Debate

    I read blogs that suggest parents can bring little bags with candy, earplugs and a cute note to handout to nearby passengers to buy a little understanding if the baby screams. The idea is kind of cute if you are a type of person that likes doing things like this.  However, I don’t think it’s necessary.  There are plenty of ways that people on airplanes annoy each other when they don’t have children.  Do you bring a goody bag for the person on the aisle that you are going to ask to get up 3 times so you can go to the bathroom?

    Pro Tips for Flying With Baby
    John is ready to carry the stroller down the jetway for gate check.

    If you will have a layover, make sure to check out this post for my tips!

    For more great travel tips, make sure to check out these posts!

    What travel hacks have made your trips easier?  Tell me in the comments.

    FREE Packing List for Flying with a Baby

    Get my ultimate packing list delivered straight to your inbox. I’ve refined it over many trips, so you can benefit from what I’ve learned.

      We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

      Pro Tips for Flying With Baby

      Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

      32 thoughts on “Pro Tips for Flying With Baby

      • September 22, 2018 at 7:40 am
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        What a terrific, thorough list of how to prepare to travel with your baby! I stayed home with my kids for 11 years. It was the best “job” I ever had — I just didn’t get paid for it. I am always grateful for that time with them. We traveled a lot together and it was always stressful getting ready. A list like this would have been so helpful. Thanks for sharing.

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        • January 27, 2019 at 3:15 am
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          I was so stressed the first time we traveled with my son, but being prepared has really helped with that. I searched the internet trying to find a comprehensive guide on how to fly with a baby before our first trip. However, I ended up piecing together info from a bunch of different places and still didn’t feel prepared. I wanted to put together a post that would provide all the info in one place.

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      • September 22, 2018 at 12:18 pm
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        I don’t have a kid, so I never tried flying with with a baby, but certainly there are lots of things to pay attention to. You are really brave and seem to be handling this kind of stuff really well.

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        • January 27, 2019 at 3:16 am
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          It was stressful the first time, but each time it got a little easier. I ended up flying across the country with my son 10 times during his first year.

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      • September 22, 2018 at 3:33 pm
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        I have a toddler and you really do need a system in place to make sure you are well prepared to travel. Especially if you go away to a resort where it can cost you an arm and a leg to get simple stuff.

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        • January 27, 2019 at 3:17 am
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          The thought of navigating a store with a baby in an unfamiliar place is even more stressful than trying to figure out where to put everything when packing.

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      • September 22, 2018 at 7:49 pm
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        Traveling with toddlers can be a lot of pain, with all the stuff they need. It might seem like one can never pack enough stuff. Looks like you can handle it in a pretty organised way.

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        • January 27, 2019 at 3:18 am
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          I could definitely use more luggage! There is so much stuff to take. However, now that my son is eating normal adult food and not breastfeeding, it’s a little easier.

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      • September 23, 2018 at 6:02 am
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        I found the double diapering informative and at the same time amusing. My fear of flying kept me off planes during my years with infant children, but could see the added security of double wrapping your baby’s bottom. You definitely laid out a well detailed strategy to help parents with infants select the best flights, get through security expeditiously, and keep baby comfy while in the air. I’ll be sharing this post with my children!

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        • January 27, 2019 at 3:20 am
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          I definitely learned my lesson the time we didn’t wake my son to change him before boarding. I think we had a wet diaper leak and a poop explosion both on the same flight. We always make sure to change him right before boarding and add the second diaper now.

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      • September 24, 2018 at 3:37 am
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        Wow, this is such an awesome list! I am sure it would be really helpful for parents who are planning to travel with their babies, as lots of them have no clue on what to prepare. Thank you for sharing this, I will pass this to my mommy friends!

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        • January 27, 2019 at 3:21 am
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          Thanks! I found it really hard to find all the necessary information before traveling with my son for the first time. Therefore, I wanted to compile everything I learned to hopefully help other new moms.

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      • September 24, 2018 at 4:50 am
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        It’s definitely important to be prepared when traveling with a baby. Thanks for some great tips! The stroller is definitely essential and lots of snacks.

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        • January 27, 2019 at 3:27 am
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          Snacks for my son, snacks for hubby and snacks for me. Give us all the snacks!! Seriously, the amount of food we travel with is ridiculous.

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      • September 24, 2018 at 6:39 pm
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        The first pic is so cute! I remember when I flew with my 8 month old for the first time. He LOVED it!

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        • January 27, 2019 at 3:28 am
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          Thanks! My son loves to travel or “fly high in sky” as we call it. It makes for some pretty cute pictures!

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      • September 24, 2018 at 9:38 pm
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        Awesome tips!! I haven’t tried flying with a baby but it’s really important to be prepared for anything that might happen.

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        • January 27, 2019 at 3:28 am
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          Being prepared for anything is definitely mothering lesson number one!

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      • September 25, 2018 at 11:30 am
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        Don’t have kids for now but seem like useful tips for the future. Thanks for this!

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        • January 27, 2019 at 3:29 am
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          There is so much parenting info that I wish I knew before I became a mom. I’ve never felt so much like hindsight is 20/20.

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      • September 26, 2018 at 5:08 pm
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        Such great tips for travelling with a little one. I also am not a fan of making little bribe bags for the same reason as you. Is the guy beside me that snores when he sleeps giving my ear plugs? Nope.

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        • January 27, 2019 at 3:30 am
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          I have found that I have a lot more sympathy for moms with screaming kids on planes and a lot less sympathy for the cranky couple sitting next to me when I fly alone.

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      • September 26, 2018 at 5:19 pm
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        Oh my goodness… I wish we would have had something like this when we flew cross-country with my 3month old brother. What an absolute nightmare! These tips would have been so very helpful!!

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        • January 27, 2019 at 3:31 am
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          Flying is such an adventure and when you add a baby to the mix you have to be super prepared and ready for anything but willing to shrug it off and go with the flow.

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      • September 27, 2018 at 11:47 am
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        That fist photo of your post is so cute! I’ve never experienced flying with a baby get but I have friends who have and they mentioned it wasn’t easy!

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        • January 27, 2019 at 3:32 am
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          There is so much stuff you need to fly with a baby! We were overwhelmed by the amount of stuff the first time, but we never did trim down our amount of luggage no matter how many trips we took.

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      • October 1, 2018 at 1:27 am
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        I didn’t realize that it’s a real baby in the photo! hihihi So adorable. <3 Anyway, yeah, when the kids are younger, there's so much fuss about air travel. It was good that we didn't bring the kids abroad when they were still babies or toddlers.

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        • January 27, 2019 at 3:34 am
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          It’s hard to keep babies happy and toddlers fed and entertained while traveling. However, since we live on the other side of the country from all our family, it’s become a necessary normal.

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      • October 1, 2018 at 3:53 am
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        Such an awesome list of tips and great advice. I wish I had these when I travelled with my kid, although we never travelled much at the baby stage.

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        • January 27, 2019 at 3:35 am
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          I’ve decided that traveling during the toddler stage is actually even harder because now my son is old enough to get bored. When he was a baby, he slept a lot but now he gets mad when we won’t let him crawl around the plan and bother everyone else.

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      • October 9, 2018 at 11:09 am
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        I checked out your post for our upcoming trip and found a few tips to use. Thank you!! One tip I’ve adopted for our travels came from a friend: use disposable puppy pads (or leftover bed liners from your hospital stay) to put down on changing tables under your normal changing pad, that way the regular one doesn’t get dirty and you can just toss the liner away!
        Also I like having my clip on hand sanitizer available. So many germs and it’s hekpful to easily clean my hands after getting into the plane and getting buckled, before feeding the baby!

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        • January 27, 2019 at 3:37 am
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          I love the idea of using puppy pads! I had never thought of that, but those restroom changing tables can be disgusting! I also make sure to have my hand sanitizer hanging from my diaper bag for ready access. However, that might have to change now that my son is old enough he’s started trying to chew on it.

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