Trip type: Personal

Airline: Delta

Route: MSP-LAX

Well, it finally happened; I flew with a baby and lived to tell the tale.

My very dear friend, Maren, got married in LA last weekend and faced with the option to leave the baby at home or schlep him halfway across the country, my inability to part with my firstborn won out and we hauled H to California.

how to fly with a baby

Three checked pieces, one stroller base, one carseat, one carseat base, two carry-on bags…and a kid

Now, I knew there would be a lot of stuff to take with him but I don’t think I really realized the extent to which I’d have to completely recalibrate how I packed and prepared. Instead of streamlining to have all carry-ons, I accepted we’d be checking luggage and packed enough diapers for a month (because clearly there aren’t stores at which one can procure diapers in California). Rather than double-checking I had headphones for my iPad, I checked and re-checked that we had Penzey the Pirate (a beloved pirate rattle – yes, he’s named for The Pirates of Penzance). In lieu of ‘vulturing’ the boarding queue, we frantically packed up the stroller and carseat in their carrier bags before getting on the plane. In short, it was a completely new experience for more than just the baby in tow.

We set out nice and early for the airport and were shocked and pleasantly surprised to nab a front-row parking spot in the Gold ramp which made unloading all the easier. Once in the terminal, we were off to the Delta check-in counter where we were again surprised by how smoothly everything went. We felt somewhat lighter once we had checked our three suitcases but there was still plenty of baggage on hand.

gate-checking stroller


At the MSP airport, the big Delta checkpoint by door six has a family lane through which we were expedited. The best part of this was that it meant we got to go through the pre-check scanner and thus not remove our liquids or shoes. I typically pride myself on how few baskets I need to get through the security conveyor (one in summer, two if I have a heavy coat), but it was almost laughable how much conveyor space we needed this time. E was a football field away by the time we got everything loaded.

Baby H was then introduced to the wonders of the Delta lounge where we had a nice long break before we had to board for LA. He enjoyed looking at the lights and people as we walked him around and even nodded off for a brief catnap.

Finally, it was time to see if H would continue the good-naturedness he typically displays once up in the air. I’m thrilled to report that he did great. The flight had enough empty seats that they were able to give us all three seats in our row which gave us a lot of extra space and comfort. I must say, overall I was incredibly impressed with Delta and their accommodations for flying babies–they definitely made a tough situation much easier.

After this maiden voyage with the bebe, I feel I’ve gained some pearls of wisdom, including:

  • Check what you can. In retrospect, I think I would have opted to check the stroller/carseat mess rather than gate-checking them. On the one hand, it’s nice to not have the baby in a carrier or sling the whole time you’re in the terminal, but gate-checking all those items was a real pain (especially upon arrival when everything has to be re-assembled).
  • Go early. This one we did right. Although we were three hours early for our flight to LA, I’m glad that we weren’t trying to rush through security. Accommodating as everyone was, I can’t imagine how anxiety-ridden the experience could have been.
  • Fly direct. I know it’s not always an option, but getting on and off the plane was ridiculous enough without having to do it all twice. It’s worth the cost to fly from point A to B in the middle of the day. When you’re sitting in front of a computer booking the flight, it’s easy to debate the merits of saving a couple hundred dollars by taking a 6 a.m. flight or connecting through Chicago but it is NOT worth it.

All in all, it went a lot better than I expected. Once I gave in to the situation and realized this would not be the efficient travel to which I’ve grown accustomed, everything was great. ‘Let go and let [travel]gods’: Words to live by.

Plus, little H earned his wings: