Traveling with an infant

Originally posted at – May 12, 2009
I had no intentions of traveling with Lucia and taking her on an airplane while she was so young but, as I’ve learned through pregnancy and early motherhood, nothing quite goes as planned. We found out in early April that Dad would have to undergo another surgery for the cyst in his brain; the surgery was scheduled for April 29th. I’m still off work on maternity leave so Mark suggested that Lucia and I go out to Arizona to be with my dad. I thought I’d go anyway but when Mark said I should take the baby, I kinda thought he was out of his tree. But then I figured my dad would be so happy to see her and it probably would help lift his spirits and help speed up his recovery. The decision was made: Lucia and I were flying to Phoenix and we’d stay for nine days. Immediately my head began spinning: how am I going to do this on my own? Do I buy Lucia her own seat or hold her in my lap for the entire flight? What do I need to know about getting through security with a baby?

The two airlines I researched were American (my preferred carrier – frequent flier miles, baby) and Southwest. Both airlines offer “infant fares”, discounted prices for infant travelers whose parents choose to buy them their own seats rather than hold them in their laps. Ultimately, I booked with Southwest and the cost for Lucia to have her own seat was over $300. If I’d made the reservations farther in advance, I would have gotten a better price but it was so worth it. Traveling alone, I would be left with one free arm since one would be holding Lucia, and I never would have been able to handle her and the carry-on baggage. I definitely would not have been able to make her a bottle during the flight if she needed one. So the decision to pay the $300+ was an easy one. Moreover, the airlines and pediatricians recommend, for safety reasons, that infants do get their own seats since they are strapped in to their car seats, and then strapped in to the airplane seats. It worked out well for me because Lucia’s car seat is part of the stroller travel system: the car seat snaps into the stroller, and both pieces can be used separately and exclusive of one another if needed. I was able to use the stroller in the airport before boarding and that made everything so much easier. What’s also great is that I got to keep the stroller until the very last second. Airline personnel take the stroller right before boarding, at the end of the jetway, and gate-check it. When I got off the plane in both Phoenix and in Chicago, there was my stroller, right outside the plane’s door, waiting for me. All I had to do was snap Lucia’s car seat in and away we went.

Going through security is a different story, even with the TSA’s newly designated “Family Lane”. The lane wasn’t the problem; it was getting everything broken down and onto the conveyor belt with one hand, while holding Lucia with the other hand. I also had to keep hold of our boarding passes and my photo ID, and remove my shoes! At Midway, I was lucky to be behind a family who was very experienced with traveling with children. The mom helped me break down the stroller and even lifted it onto the conveyor belt for me. The same family then waited for me to get through the detector so they could help me get everything back in order before proceeding to our respective gates. I encountered the same situation in the security line in Phoenix. The family behind me helped me that time. It’s amazing how nice people are when someone, namely a lone female, is traveling with a baby. Even the TSA agents were nice! Speaking of the TSA, there are specific rules regarding what baby-related items are allowed on-board and specific instructions on getting those items through security. Check out this link before traveling with baby.

All in all, it was a pleasant experience. Sure, I was slightly stressed but, as I’ve learned in my early days of motherhood, I just have to take a deep breath and focus on the task at hand. I may not be able to complete some tasks as quickly as I did before, but it’ll get done eventually. That being said, I’m still looking forward to having a travel partner (Mark) the next time I fly with Lucia. It’ll be nice to have an extra set of hands going through security.

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