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Everything you need to know about traveling with kids

If you’ve ever been stuck on a flight with a screaming baby in the row in front of you and thought to yourself, “why can’t those parents just shut that baby up”, I’ve got some bad news for you.  Karmatically, that thought all but guaranteed you would become the parent with the screaming baby on a plane.  Okay, that’s not entirely true, but if you have a young child and travel regularly, there’s a pretty high likelihood that said child will, at some point, cry on the airplane.  And inevitably, another passenger will have the same thought you had all those years ago.  And it will make you feel better to know they are messing with their future airplane baby karma.

My husband and I took Foodie Baby on his first plane ride when he was nine days old and by the time we celebrated his first birthday Foodie Baby had been to California (three times), Wyoming, Massachusetts, New York (twice), Costa Rica, and Wisconsin.  Traveling with an infant requires different tools than traveling with a toddler, but I think we’ve got both down to a science, which is good because Foodie Baby 2 will be here in a few months!

As with most things, fear of the unknown seems to cause the most anxiety for parents traveling with kids for the first time.  I am going to try to put your mind at ease by giving you some general information about what to expect at the airport and on the flight with your kid.  You can also review my infant and toddler travel essentials to get an idea of what to pack for travel with young children.  Most often, the questions I get from parents are about travel gear and airport security requirements, so I’ve tried to pay extra attention to those areas in my posts.

Here are my top infant and toddler travel tips as well as some general information about traveling with kids.  Please post additional tips in the comments!

General Information for kid travel

Identification:  If you have a child under 18, they do NOT need to have photo identification unless they are leaving the country.

Liquids: According to the TSA, breast milk and formula qualify as “medically required liquids” and can be carried through security in excess of 3.5 ounces.  You simply need to alert a TSA employee that you have medically required liquids and they will test them.  Some airports have new machines that do not require the liquid containers to be opened in order to test.  Others insert a small paper strip into the liquid and test the liquid that way.  As I’ve mentioned, I have never had a problem carrying whole milk through security either.

Airport Security:  Airlines are incredibly tolerant of traveling with baby gear but you must put all gear including food, strollers, car seats, blankets (give your kiddo a warning about this ahead of time!) and bags through the x-ray machine.  Children under 12 do not need to remove their shoes.  If something will not fit through the x-ray detector, do not fear! TSA has other ways to search it.

Individual Screening: Rest assured, TSA will not do anything that REQUIRES you to be separated from your child.  There are two types of devices that screen people—the walk through x-ray machine and Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT).  If a child is able, TSA will ask that the child to walk through the x-ray machine on their own.  When our entire family travels together, we usually go through one at a time with Foodie Baby in the middle.  I’ll be honest with you: he doesn’t love it.  The airport security line is just kind of scary, but it helps if one of us walks through first and then beckons FB to come through.  If your child absolutely will NOT walk through on his own, that’s ok.  The only real drawback is that if you carry the child through and you set off the security alert, you are both subject to “additional screening”.  Anyone can go through AIT, but you cannot carry a child through.

Family Boarding:  When Foodie Baby was born (way back in 2011), airlines allowed families travelling with small children to “pre-board” immediately after the priority/elite travelers.  Although it meant extra time in the confined space of the plane, it allowed us extra time to situate all the gear (link to travel essentials) we had to lug on board.  Unfortunately, in addition to charging for checked bags, most airlines have discontinued family boarding in the past few years.  One stalwart remains that allows family boarding AND doesn’t charge for checked bags—my FAVORITE airline, Southwest!  If you aren’t flying Southwest, you will not have the benefit of family boarding.  However, this blog post gives some tips for boarding earlier which primarily consists of buying credit cards associated with various airlines that give you priority boarding status as a perk.  You can also purchase early boarding on most airlines.

Seat Sharing: Children under 2 years old do not need their own seat.  They are allowed to ride on their parents’ lap.  Here are a few things to know about seat sharing:

  1. You need to bring a copy of your child’s birth certificate.  The airline might ask you to prove that your child is under two years old.

  2. When you book airline tickets online, you do not need to include your lap child.  Instead, you need to get a “Boarding Verification Document” (BVD) at the ticket counter when you check in for your flight at the ticket counter.

  3. If you decide you WANT a seat for your child (really a good idea and a safer option), most airlines offer REDUCED fares for infant travel.  However, you have to CALL the airline to receive the reduced fare because they aren’t available online.

International Travel: Anyone traveling abroad by air, land or sea MUST have a passport, including infants and children.  We applied for FB’s passport when he was 6 weeks old.  The Walgreens photographer looked at my like I was a crazy person.  Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Take a passport photo (full front view, 2×2 size).  Make sure to bring a white blanket (or in my case a dish towel) to lay the baby upon for the photo.  This will act as the background.  You can also lay a white sheet over the child’s car seat and take the photo that way.  You cannot be in the photo with the child and they need to be looking at the camera…I know…good luck.

  2. Obtain evidence of your child’s US citizenship (make a copy of child’s birth certificate)

  3. Obtain evidence that your child belongs to you, his parents (make a copy and bring original of child’s birth certificate and your identification)

  4. Complete this form but DO NOT SIGN IT! (

  5. Visit for a list of current passport fees and write appropriate checks

  6. Make a copy of both parents’ identification document (passport or driver’s license) and bring the orginal with you.

  7. Take your child, along with his other parent to the “Passport Acceptance Facility” or passport agency At the passport acceptance facility the agent will look compare the photo of your child to him to make sure they resemble each other and check your documentation.

  8. If only one parent appears at the passport agency, the other parent must complete and notarize this document

  9. Wait…Average passport application waiting time is 4-6 weeks though recommends applying at least 10 weeks before scheduled travel.  There is an expedited passport application process that takes 2-3 weeks.  If you go to a passport agency, you can get your passport much more quickly.

  10. Check the status of your passport application here 5-7 days after applying.