Flying to San Francisco with a Baby
Traveling with kids adds an additional layer to travel. But can you still vacation with an infant? Absolutely!
Learn how to get your family to San Francisco from SFO airport in one piece. This article will give you tips about flying to San Francisco with a baby, such as:
- How do you navigate the airport with a baby or toddler?
- Should you use a stroller or baby carrier?
- How do you get a car seat through the airport and to your destination?
- What transportation options are there from the airport to downtown?
- Where are the best family-friendly activities and attractions in San Francisco (including a walking tour)?
Disclosure: I may get a small amount of money from any affiliate links that you click. However, I only recommend products that our family loves.
How Do You Navigate the Airport with Baby Equipment?
While adults must remove their shoes at security checkpoints, children may leave them on. All items must pass through the baggage check. Usually, adults must pass through the full-body scanner, but families with children can usually walk through the metal detector. Any adults carrying an infant through will have their hands swabbed.
The TSA will examine all strollers and car seats if they don’t fit on the belt. Allow extra time to get through security when vacationing with small children because the agent will swab and inspect the equipment.
You can fly with baby food, formula, and juice at any airport because they are exempt from fluid restrictions with the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Just pack the fluids separately and tell the TSA agent that you have them. We love to bring this diaper bag that has plenty of pockets and a separate cooler. The TSA states that you should only bring enough baby food and drink for the flight.
As always, Moms and Dads lug tons of baby products around in their diaper bag. To pass through security, carry diaper cream, hand sanitizer, and cold medicine in containers smaller than three ounces. A way to minimize the baby equipment that you have to drag through the airport is to send your diapers and baby wipes directly to your hotel before arriving. We typically order from Amazon Prime.
Should You Use a Baby Carrier or Stroller?
When traveling to San Francisco with a baby, it’s vital to have baby equipment that will help move the baby through security, reach gates that are further than anticipated, and stow on (or under) the plane. The two most accessible options that we recommend are a:
- baby carrier to wear your baby
- quickly foldable stroller to push your baby
Baby-wearing is an excellent option for families moving quickly through the airport. The baby carrier is lightweight and is perfect for stashing in a carry-on bag. It keeps your baby close and prevents strangers from touching your child, which is a massive perk during the cold and flu season.
My favorite part? Baby carriers allow me to pass through security effortlessly, stow easily, and strap my baby back on my chest before disembarking. The main drawback is back pain and strain from bearing the weight of the little person.
Strollers have benefits, like racing to gates. They are helpful for tired parents who don’t want to shoulder the baby’s body weight. The stroller also acts as a way to transport snacks, car seats, and bags.
The only drawback of the stroller is that it is difficult to get through security and is too large for the belt. Thus, a TSA agent must individually screen each stroller. Once through, you can use them until immediately before boarding the plane. Make sure to ask at the gate for a tag to check it.
The Great Baby Debate: Stroller vs. Babywearing
Personally? I bring both!
A lightweight, soft carrier that fits in a baby bag
Bulky, large stroller; Takes up space; Must park for some attractions
Major, depending on baby size, posture, and carrier-style.
Minimal, but hoisting on transportation is difficult.
Babies love sleeping on parents’ chests!
How do you Get a Car Seat through the Airport and to Your Destination?
Unless you have a car seat waiting at your destination, transporting a car seat is a significant undertaking that is challenging from a logistics and safety standpoint.
Children under two-year-old can fly as a lap child.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the best practice is to buy a seat for each child on the airplane. The AAP recommends bringing a car seat for each child. Make sure the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approves your car seat for flying on a plane.
If you choose to have a lap child, checking your car seat at ticketing or the gate may cause safety concerns. A car seat becomes less safe if thrown from a plane. If you are going to check the child safety seat, I recommend storing it in its original box for safety reasons. You can affix duct tape as a carry handle. It’s easy to slip extra tape in your suitcase if the handle breaks.
If you bought each child a seat on the plane and are placing your children in their car seats, you can buy a travel cart to transport the car seats through the terminal. The other option is to wear your baby and place the car seat in the stroller.
How do you get around San Francisco with a baby?
In your quest to travel to San Francisco with a baby, you have finally made it out of the airport! SFO Airport is south of the city and north of Silicon Valley. It is time for your family to board their chariot and enjoy all the culture that the bay area with a baby has to offer.
The BART Station
The BART is in the International Terminal at SFO. The best part? All domestic terminals (1, 2 & 3) are less than three minutes away on the AirTrain. Purchase your tickets from a kiosk upon arriving at the station. If you head past the ticket machines, the elevators are on the right side. The ease of getting on the elevator makes juggling luggage and a stroller a more straightforward task. The BART lets off right into the heart of San Francisco.
San Francisco Airport is Ground Zero for all ridesharing apps. These rides work by downloading the app to your smartphone, logging in, and requesting a ride. The rates vary based on time of day, demand, and service. Commonly used companies in San Francisco include Uber, Lyft, and Summon.
If you follow the signs for ground transportation, it will take you to the taxis. There is a long line of taxis in front of the airport. Make sure that you have your car seat ready. If you don’t want to wing it, you can use the Uber app to order and pay for a taxi.
There are a variety of rental cars available at San Francisco Airport (SFO). The AirTrain takes you directly to the Rental Car Terminal and the Domestic Terminal. You can also search for reasonable prices ahead of time, or request one on the day of the flight. Just make sure you can rent a car seat through the car service. Rental cars offer the ability to pay for a car seat rental by the day. However, there are no guarantees
What can you do in San Francisco with a baby?
When it comes to travel, there are incredibly fun and safe options for your baby or toddler to enjoy. Even while touring on a business trip, we located some of the most baby-friendly activities in San Francisco.
Once downtown, I put together a walking itinerary of our favorite attractions to tour San Francisco. If walking six miles seems too intense, Viator has the best San Francisco tours.
Here are the best attractions when traveling to San Francisco with a baby or toddler:
- Aquarium of the Bay is an aquarium in the heart of the tourist area.
- Pier 39 to see Sea Lions, eat at restaurants and shop for local souvenirs.
- San Francisco Zoo is full of animals and a great way to spend the day.
- San Francisco Exploratorium is on the walk to Pier 39 as a stand-alone exhibit.
- AT&T Park for San Francisco Giants offers both baseball games and tours.