1. Bring baby's birth certificate. Absolutely. They checked Jack's both going and coming. If your child will be riding in your lap, they want to verify age, otherwise you'll be buying baby a ticket. Make sure you have it!
2. Know your air carrier's bag check policy. This goes without saying. No one wants sticker shock at the ticket counter. Most carriers will let you check at least one piece of baby gear for free. If we had taken our car seat, we would've checked it for free.
3. Check it if you can. Yes, yes, and yes. I went through security with a stroller, handbag, and tote. This worked well for me as I would not want to have wrangled a rollaboard suitcase in place of the tote bag.
4. Pack an umbrella stroller. I was so glad I did for many reasons. We actually got to the airport in Charleston an hour earlier than necessary and right in Jack's morning nap sweet spot. I was able to recline that sucker all the way so he could catch a comfortable nap. I can't say enough good things about the Uppababy G-Luxe. Actually, maybe I can, but in another post. Anyway, gate checking was no problem, and each time we exited the plane, someone from the airline (on one flight, the Captain!) had already unfolded the stroller and had it waiting to go. Love that kind of extra mile service. One thing to note on the stroller--you must collapse it and send it through the baggage X-ray at security, which I'm sure the travelers behind us loved, but there were plenty of other lines from which to choose.
5. Pick your seats well. We sat at the back on both our outbound and inbound flights. We had smooth air and plenty of time for the young man to get up and charm our fellow passengers. He did great! Going out was during his nap, and he did just that. (aww, baby snuggles.) Coming home was during his lunch hour, so that wasn't as much fun for him, but he was a trooper.
6. Rent what you can when you get there. This worked so well for us, but I will admit I brought a crib sheet from home because I am that mother. And I probably will always do that because I am that mother. We rented a car seat from the rental car company, which was so-so. It was the $40 Cosco model from Wal-mart (which there is absolutely nothing wrong with), but if we plan to be in the car more on future trips, I would probably check our own car seat for the comfort factor.
Other item of note: one thing I was particularly pleased about regarding our security experience is that even though I took baby food that was over the allotted 3.2 oz, all I had to do was declare it and remove it from the bag to go through (just like you would separate your ziploc baggie of liquids from its parent bag). They tested it, and we went on with our day. I did purchase milk in the concourse though, so I didn't have to deal with it in the line.
This concludes the most boring post ever. Wake up!
And have a lovely day!