This post is LONG overdue and probably one of my most requested post! We’ve now made it through two trips: Cayman Islands and California! I absolutely love the beach, warm weather, and ocean breeze, so most of our trips are to tropical locations. I’m going to back track and talk through planning my first trip with Ava and then go over any updates we did for the second. Before booking our vacation to the Caymans, we honestly debated going because Ava was only 3 months old. We didn’t know how she would act being out of her comfort zone and had a million questions. Would she sleep on the flight? Would she scream the whole time? The truth is, we didn’t know! #momlife We just decided to book it and realized that regardless of how the flight went, we would probably never see these people again. [#yolo…wait is that still a thing?!]
There weren’t any direct flights from Houston to the Cayman Islands on the days we were wanting to travel, so we had to fly from Houston to Fort Lauderdale. We used that as an excuse to break up our flights in case things didn’t go smoothly. The next day, we flew from Fort Lauderdale to the Cayman Islands. I had so many questions while getting ready and packing, so I resorted to Google [I don’t recommend this, hence the reason for this post]. I wanted to make it a little easier for any other parents out there looking for tips. This post is focused just on infants, so some of these tips won’t be helpful if you have older kids or even toddlers. As Ava gets older, I’m sure I’ll have an entire new way to pack for her. In the meantime, I hope this helps and safe travels!
1. Give Yourself Time to Plan and Pack
You would think packing for a tiny human would be simple. I mean their clothes are so small and they don’t need THAT much, right? Wrong wrong wrong. Packing for a little one is tricky. To make packing simpler, start by answering a few key questions.
- Airplane travel: Will you be checking a bag or only bringing a carry-on?
- What will the weather be like?
- Will the baby need warm or cool clothing?
- Will you have access to a washer and dryer?
- What are the essential baby toiletries, toys, and food/bottle utensils that you absolutely need?
- Are you pumping? If so, do you need to bring your pumping device as a carry-on?
- What will you need for transportation or bedtime? Car seat, baby carrier, stroller, pack and play?
With each questions answered, start making a packing list and plan enough outfits (including extras for blowouts). For us, we packed two outfits a day plus a night time outfit, a stroller, car seat, base, baby carrier, pump bag and accessories, diapers, and lastly co-sleeper. Packing light, right?! Remember: don’t panic! Your usually never too far from a store and if you are and your forget something, you will still survive….unless its diapers, then you might be in trouble.
2. Plan to Leave With Plenty of Time
I’ll share our story to emphasize the importance of this tip. Our flight was at 9:40 AM. We dropped our dogs off the night before because mornings with Ava can be unpredictable. I woke up at 5:30 AM to get ready and pack everything up. Somehow the hour and a half flew by and were scrambling to leave at 7 AM. We knew we’d be driving in rush hour…but in Houston, all hours seem like rush hour, so we arrived at the airport at 8:30 AM. My husband had a conference call he had to take before going through TSA which took up about 10 minutes. We made it through security (more on that below), pumped and arrived at the gate with Group 3 already boarding. Needless to say, next time I’ll make sure to have at least 2 hours at the airport.
3. Enter “Family” Line at Security Check or Ask
Did you know these lines exist? I sure didn’t! They’re lifesavers, but don’t get mad if your airport doesn’t do this. We had to go through the regular security line in Houston and Fort Lauderdale. It wasn’t until we arrived in the Cayman’s did this occur. We literally went into our own line with another family traveling and customs took a total of 5 minutes #win.
4. Baby Wear through Security
I’m so glad I found this tip out before the airport. Little back story: Since we booked our flight 2 weeks before we went, we knew we didn’t have enough time to mail in the forms for Ava to have a passport. We had to make an appointment Downtown, and show proof of our vacation in order to get hers next day. [I promise I’m getting somewhere with this.] WELL, after arriving Downtown, we go to walk through security with Ava sleeping in her stroller, and the security person decides to tell me I have to have the stroller and car seat go through on the belt and that she would need to come out and walk through security. I was a little upset…. I mean, had he ever waken a sleeping baby?! I assume so working there, but he didn’t have to deal with the repercussions. I’m sure you can see how this story ended. All this to say, one I found out you could baby wear through security and still talk a stroller through, it was a win/win situation
5. Use Family Bathrooms
Until having Ava, I never used the family bathrooms, but these were great as they have outlets to plug your breast pump to and so much space for luggage, stroller, etc.
6. Gate Check Car Seat and Stroller
Another piece of information that was super helpful! Before flying with her accessories, I was always worried about her stroller getting lost or damaged and wondering what we would do the rest of the trip if this occurred. We bought these to put her car seat and stroller in right at the gate for two reasons: 1. germs and 2. big red bag- can’t miss them.
7. Choose an Aisle and Window Seat
Most airline companies, minus Southwest, have you purchase seats prior to your flight. If your infant is under 2, can you choose an “Infant in Arms Seat” which means you’re not purchasing an actual seat. If you’re flying with your husband, choose an aisle and window seat as those are the first seats to be purchased. No one wants a middle seat, I mean absolutely no one. If your flight isn’t full, you’ll hopefully be lucky enough that the middle seat stays empty. It comes in handy if your baby falls asleep or needs a diaper change and the plane doesn’t have a changing table [Southwest]. If your flying Southwest, you’ll probably get most passengers look at you then look at the baby and walk right past to find another seat.
8. Feed Baby on the Way Up and Down
These probably saved our lives and the lives of the passengers around us. I was thinking about this and it makes perfect sense. When our ears pop as adults, we know to either chew gum or gulp to make them pop, but since babies can do that, they recommend feeding them so they’re gulping while their ears adjust and they don’t realize it. Plus, Ava gets super sleepy after she eats [like most babies], so she slept for the most part as soon as we got in the air.
All these tips were from our first trip and I wouldn’t change any of them. There are a few things I would add now after our second trip. We were rushing to get to the airport and after a missed dinner and a missing laptop, I’ll never plan a trip for a Friday afternoon after working all day. I’ll at least take half a day off to make sure we get there with plenty of time.
9. Pump after TSA (if possible)
During our first trip, I had no problems with my milk bottles getting through security. I packed two and TSA did their standard of pulling the bottles to the side to test them. However, one of my bottles was flagged [weird, I know] and we actually had to dump it and go back through security. Since we didn’t have much time between getting there and our flight taking off, I didn’t have time to make her more milk. I ended up having to pump on the plane. [sorry other passengers….they probably thought I was doing something else…lol] It wasn’t terrible, but it was a pretty tight space in that little bathroom, so I say all of this to say if you are breastfeeding and pumping, wait until after TSA so you don’t have to potentially dump precious milk.
10. Update on Co-Sleeper
*To each parent their own. We didn’t pack a co-sleeper for our trip to California. I know everyone has their feelings on this, but one less thing to pack was much easier for us.
11. Update on Car Seat Base
*Again, to each parent their own. Unless your renting a car, this was just more of a hassle than it should be. We did bring it to California because we rented a car, but if we weren’t, I wouldn’t have brought it.
I hope these were helpful! Any tips you want to share, please feel free to comment below!