Best milk options when flying with a toddler

 In Travel Tips

Fellow family traveler Beth Henry frequently flies the friendly skies. As an airline attendant she has seen the ups and downs of family travel over the years, and is now experiencing it first hand with her own little ones. Milk is always a hard one to figure out when you travel with a toddler, but Beth has come up with a plan that will make travel easier for not only her family, but yours as well. 

Once baby is weaned off breast milk and formula, what are your options for milk when you travel?

This is the question I had to ask a few weeks ago when we were packing for a trip for Miami Beach. My son John, who is 13 months old, depends on milk for a good part of his nutrition, but no longer uses formula.

Since I work for an airline I know it is best to assume milk will not be available on your flight. Airlines do supply it, but in small amounts and not at all times of the day. The airline I work for doesn’t stock milk on flights after 10am for those sitting in economy seats, except for on transcontinental and international flights. I was looking for the best milk to pack as a back-up in case fresh milk wasn’t easily accessible while en route. I don’t remember for sure what I used to pack for my older daughter Ella once she was off formula; I probably just went for the milk boxes you can find at any U.S. grocery store.

After a bit of research, I found these options for bringing milk on a plane:

Baby Formula or Toddler Formula

EnfagrowIf your baby still tolerates the taste of formula this will probably be the easiest option when traveling. I love the sticks of powdered formula since they are lightweight and easy to pack. You can try to buy fresh milk everywhere you go, but as a back up you can carry the formula sticks in your bag for those times milk is nowhere to be found. I received some samples of Enfagrow Toddler Next Step that worked well.

Money saving tip: Write to formula companies to request samples. If your baby isn’t picky about the flavor, these formula samples are perfect to have around “just in case”. Just make sure your baby has tasted that brand and liked it before depending on it for travel though.

Milk Boxes

Organic-Valley-MilkMilk boxes work well for travel since they do not require refrigeration. The downside of flying with milk boxes is you will need to declare these at the TSA checkpoint for additional screening since they are above the 3.4 oz (100mL) permitted. Although TSA does allow a reasonable amount of milk or other liquid for babies you might not want the added hassle of extra screening time. For me, the few minutes the TSA took to check the milk was worth it for the convenience of having milk readily available for my toddler.

Milk in Reusable Containers 

Playtex cupYou could just bring your own milk in containers, but then you need to worry about keeping it cold enough and getting it through security. I usually go ahead and fill a bottle with milk as we leave the house to use right away when we get to the airport, but after that I don’t want to worry about storing the milk at a safe temperature. If you bring fresh milk make sure you bring freezer packs that will really keep the milk at a safe temperature.

Note: check the TSA website for the latest on carrying freezer packs through security. Always check the airport security rules for any country you will be traveling from that is outside of the U.S. Each country has their own rules when it comes to liquids and freezer packs.

Airport Vendors

Airport shopNot all airport vendors carry milk in convenient bottles (no straws or easy way for a baby to drink). Sometimes you only find pint size bottles or cardboard half pints which easily spill. I have seen Horizon Milk Boxes (similar to juice boxes) at some U.S. airports including LGA, SFO, and JFK.  At DFW I can only find the pint size bottles. I always bring a bottle, sippy cup, or even for my daughter Ella, at age 5, a straw cup to pour drinks into when we travel. These are great at keeping spills to a minimum.

Depend on the Airline/Hotel/Restaurant

Airport-MilkI always think “what if” and plan for the worst. If milk is not available for some reason, what is my back up? My son John will drink water, but I have not offered him any other liquids yet. Sometimes milk is all that will do for that relaxing drink before nap time. If your hotel doesn’t have a refrigerator in the room you can usually request one but I have stayed in hotels that have actually run out of extra refrigerators! Bringing your own back up options keeps these little hiccups from becoming a huge inconvenience on your vacation.

Tip: call ahead to the hotel to request a mini fridge for your room. They may not be able to guarantee it, but at least you won’t be the last in line on the request sheet when you arrive.

Conclusion

In packing for our trip last week to Miami Beach I decided to use Formula Sticks in the diaper bag. I also packed 3 milk boxes in the checked bag to use as back up if I couldn’t obtain milk as I needed it.  Sadly we had to cancel our trip because my husband was very sick and there was a winter storm that had iced over our roads. I am happy to have the powdered milk and milk boxes on hand for back up at home though. It’s not a bad idea to have these around in case of a power outage or other emergency!

Beth Henry has been a flight attendant for a major US Airline for over 14 years. She frequently flies with her children, Ella and John, ages five and one. Beth offers tips to help make flying with kids fun and memorable on her blog, Cloud Surfing Kids

Featured image of mother feeding babyb by Anne Hack Photography for Cloud Surfing Kids. Baby Drink Milk via ShutterStock.com

Milk options when flying

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Showing 13 comments
  • Vicki Howell

    What an informative article. Thank you for these great tips.

  • Christin

    These are all great tips. Can I add one more? Somewhere along the lines, I got a small cooler pouch that just holds 2 bottles/2 sippy cups. I bring that (empty), empty sippy cups and a small zip lock bag with me to the airport. Once I get through security, I go to one of the coffee shops and buy cold milk – sometimes they fill the cups directly, sometimes they prefer to give it to me in a cup which I then pour into the sippy cups. I also get a cup of ice which I put in the zip lock bag and into the cooler pouch. This will usually buy us enough time (and milk) until we get to our destination. Plus the coffee shops usually have the range of milks from whole to skim so you can choose what your kids would normally drink.

    • Beth Henry

      Christin, that is an excellent idea! Have you ever had trouble with the ziploc bag leaking? I sometimes do. I guess you could always double-bag it. I like to use The First Years “Take and Toss” cups. They are reuseable but inexpensive so if you need to toss them you’re not losing too much money.

      • Christin

        I think I’ve used this method several times and only had 1 leak which was mostly contained in the cooler pouch. I try to use the quart size freezer bags so they’re extra thick. Doubling up is a great idea though.

        • Keryn Means

          Another alternative is freezing grapes and sticking them in ziplock bags. Works as a great freeze pack and you get to eat them once it thaws. I also grab ice from a vendor at the airport, but always double bag the ice. I have enough spills to deal with from my kids 🙂

  • Jason Redd

    Very well thought-out article! Our preference is the cardboard milk containers because of their convenience (no refrigeration *required*) and inability to cause large spills if just turned over thanks to the small hole for punching a straw through (watch out for squeezing too hard though). I also like that the cartons are disposable pretty much anywhere; the last thing I want to have to worry about while traveling from Point A to Point B is washing out a reusable container which has been filled with milk; the smell becomes stomach turning in a hurry (especially if you leave it in a hot car at your destination!). Thanks for sharing this article.

    • Keryn Means

      Jason- Oh I hate when I find sippy cups with milk in them in the car! Worst. Smell. Ever!

  • Jennifer

    Thanks for the good ideas!

  • Hilarye

    I like to bring powdered milk for my kids. I know it doesn’t taste as good- but my kids don’t seem to notice. It’s way easier to pack and when you need it you just add water. No need to keep it cold and it’s easy to pack in a ziplock bag and use as much as you need.

  • Noel

    That was comprehensive, thanks for sharing this well thought out post on toddler milk options.

  • wanderingeducators

    Great tips – I think many parents will find them useful!

  • Colleen Lanin

    Love these tips! I think it’s always important to plan for “what ifs” too. I wouldn’t count on an airline having milk when you need it. Unexpected turbulence may delay the beverage cart, much to your (and the rest of the passengers’) dismay!

  • Warren Andrews

    The Transportation Security Administration rules for carrying liquids on board an airplane require that you put liquids in containers that are 3.4 ounces or smaller. Although the TSA allows you to bring larger quantities of liquid formula or milk that you need to satisfy your toddler’s nutritional needs during the flight, you must inform the Transportation Security Officer that you are bringing milk before you pass through the screening checkpoint. The officer may ask you to open the containers for inspection.

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