Advice for Flying with a Baby
Looking for advice for flying with a baby? I’ve been there and done that. And I made a lot of mistakes. Now, I’m here to share with you everything that worked (or what didn’t!) to prepare for flying with a baby.
Also, be sure to check out my article on traveling with a baby for more advice!
Worry About Yourself
The best tip that I can give you during the process of flying with a baby is to focus on your baby. If your baby cries, just worry about them. You can’t control a baby. And you are not responsible for managing the feelings of anyone around you who may be annoyed. Unfortunately for them, it’s a part of flying. There has been a baby on almost every flight that I have ever been on and to be honest, I always expect there to be. That’s just the way public travel goes.
Plan Ahead for Flying with a Baby
I personally believe that you can never be too prepared. In fact, I wish I had been more prepared when flying with my baby! Better safe than sorry, right?
Booking Your Flight
Consider an overnight flight, especially if your baby sleeps well in the car or their car seat. However, this can be tricky. Because it might require one parent to stay awake to keep an eye on your baby. Ultimately, we chose to fly first thing in the morning, when my baby is the calmest and happiest. No matter what time of day you choose to fly, I would recommend packing a lot of caffeine. It also helped us to take turns napping while our baby slept.
Picking Your Seat
In my opinion, there are a couple of ideal places to sit on an airplane with a baby. The first is near the engines. It tends to be a bit noisier at that spot on the airplane which can provide the perfect amount of white noise for your baby. The second place that I would recommend is by the bathrooms. Not only is it convenient for diaper changes, but this means more people walking by and more people for the baby to watch. When my baby has other people to watch around, he tends to be more focused on that and less fussy.
Picking Your Baby’s Seat
So, you have two options for flying with your baby (assuming they are under 2): Flying as a lap infant or having their own seat. Let’s break these options down and talk about the pros and cons. I recommend double-checking to be sure that the airline you chose has these same rules and regulations.
Flying as a Lap Infant
This is a free travel ticket for your baby. Because you are not paying for their own seat, you are not paying for their ticket. This can save you a lot of money and be a great option for shorter flights. Especially if your baby loves to be held or is happy sitting on your lap for long durations of time.
Getting Your Own Seat for Your Baby
This is my recommendation, if possible. There is potential for your baby to be happy and entertained off of you. This allows your hands to be free and gives you a bit of a break or distance so you don’t burn out as easily. If you have a long flight, like we did, I would go as far as saying this is a must. Again, be sure to make sure that your car seat and/or base are FAA approved.
I did not feel comfortable checking our car seat. The treatment of them is unknown and it’s hard to say that your car seat won’t end up with damage that might deem it unsafe for traveling afterward. I was much more comfortable having our car seat with us so I didn’t even have to worry about it.
Packing for a Flight with a Baby
I mentioned this is my Top Tips for Traveling with a Baby and I’m going to mention it again. Think of the worst possible scenarios for your baby and prepare for them. I’m talking about blowouts, meltdowns, and situations where you need medication. And be sure that you (and anyone else traveling with you and your baby) know where each of these things is. Also, make sure the most important ones are easy to access. Here are the essential items that I would not travel without. Click here to see the full Amazon List.
Disclaimer: I only recommend products that I truly love and use. With that being said, this blog post contains affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, these links allow me to receive a small commission to continue providing free content to my readers. I am grateful for your support!
Baby Travel Essentials for Flights:
- A copy of your baby’s birth certificate. Forgetting this document could completely prevent you from traveling with your baby, so triple-check that you have this before you leave the house!
- Extra clothes. (And one more than what you thought you might need!)
- Extra food. You’ll want this for unexpected cluster feeding or spills. If feeding breastmilk or formula, you can find really handy travel bottle warmers.
- Pumping: You can call the airline or look online to see what their guidelines are when it comes to breast milk if you are traveling with extra. Usually, you can check it (in cargo) with dry ice to keep it frozen.
- Formula: Pack extra formula. Pro tip: Ask for water bottles when you board. This will keep you from having to haul extra liquids around and your body will thank you.
- Solids and Purees: I would take solids or purees that don’t require more ice packs if any at all. Think avocado, pears, bananas, or puffs.
- Baby Carrier. Pick one that is lightweight because your hands will be full enough! This one even folds into itself to create a wearable fanny pack that doubles as a hip seat for carrying your baby.
- Nursing Pillow in case they fall asleep while nursing or eating on the flight.
- Medications for your baby (Tylenol, Motrin, Benadryl, Orajel, etc.)
- Baby thermometer
- Lots of diapers. Like more than you think you need. This is one of those items, like food, that you do not want to run out of.
- Diaper bag to hold all of the essentials
- Changing pad.
- Bags for dirty diapers.
- Additional bag for blowout clothes.
- Bibs, muslin blankets, burp cloths, etc for spit-ups.
- Hand sanitizer for all of those airport germs (and diaper germs!).
- Diaper cover. I don’t worry about these as much when I’m driving around in the city that I live in. But when you are traveling and don’t have easy access to an appropriate sink or a washer to clean blowouts, a diaper cover is much easier to manage. (I’m speaking from experience…)
- Bottles, pump parts, pump, and charger.
- Travel Sanitizing Bags for sanitizing on the go (this works great for bottle or pump parts, and teether toys as well!)
- Toys, pacifiers, and Books. Pro Tip: Buy new ones that your baby has not seen yet to entertain them longer.
- Toys clips to keep from losing or dirtying those toys and pacifiers.
- Travel-sized bottles for baby lotion, wash, etc. Of course, these ones are TSA-approved!
Parent Travel Essentials for Flying with a Baby:
- A change of clothes (or two!). Keep these close by, like in the diaper bag. That way you don’t have to dig through your luggage while on the flight.
- Snacks. So many snacks. We made this mistake on our six-hour flight from Hawai’i to California. Because it was during the pandemic and no food services were offered… And we were not prepared for that. Honestly, I was so distracted with loading up all of our totes and luggage (military moves are quite the handful!) that I forgot to feed myself. Now, I fully believe that there is no such thing as having too many snacks on hand
- Entertainment. Books, podcasts, headphones, or games on your phone.
- Water bottle. This needs to be empty when going through security but bringing a water bottle to fill afterward will keep you hydrated and feeling good.
- Caffeine. If you are like me, this is a must anytime you leave the house. Not sure how I forgot it on my flight, but I will never make that mistake again.
- Medications for adults (ginger chews, Dramamine, Tylenol, etc.).
Airport Tips for Traveling with an Infant
Babywearing through an Airport
Wear your baby through the airport. You can even wear them through security and up until the plane is set for takeoff! I’m already a huge babywearing fan because it allows you to be hands-free and capable of so much more than you could be while carrying a baby. Also, you don’t have to worry about pushing your stroller or keeping an extra eye on it if you are focused on talking to TSA or trying to buy a snack before your flight. You know your baby is safe when they are on you. Plus, your stroller can now carry your diaper bag, nursing pillow, personal carry-on items, etc.
Try your best to time your baby’s nap for departure. Know your baby’s suggested wake window. The Bump recommends the following lengths of time to keep your baby awake between naps and bedtime:
Newborn wake window: 60 to 90 minutes
4 to 6-month-old wake window: 1.5 to 2.5 hours
7 to 9-month-old wake window: 2 to 3.5 hours
10 to 12-month-old wake window: 2.5 to 4 hours
13 to 15-month-old wake window: 2.5 to 4.5 hours
16 to 18-month-old wake window: 4.5 to 5.5 hours
18-month-old+ wake window: 5 to 6 hours (follow a by-the-clock schedule while still keeping wake windows in mind)
As you’ve probably figured out, it’s almost impossible to get your baby to do anything on your schedule. But I’ve found that these wake windows allow me to better expect when my baby might be napping. And have allowed me to plan my day accordingly if I want him to be napping during any specific portion of it.
Airplane Tips for Traveling with a Baby
Families with little ones are generally allowed to board in one of the first groups. This is because they know it requires a little extra time (and space!) to get settled in. Take advantage of that and be sure you are ready to board. Keep the essentials close by, whether that is stowed under the seat in front of you or directly above you. Make sure everyone in your party knows where your bags are.
When everyone is boarded, you could consider saying hello to your neighbors and letting them know it’s your baby’s first flight (or not!). Kindness can go a long way and might prevent them from adding stress to your plate with their annoyed sighs and judging glances. I’ve heard of people who bring little bags that contain nice notes, earplugs, and a treat for the people sitting around them. None of this is required of course. As I mentioned earlier, you are not responsible for their feelings or experience on the flight. It is ok to just worry about yourself and ignore those around you.
Another crucial tip to prevent meltdowns: Feed your baby at takeoff and landing. A pacifier can help as well. Just like you experience ear pressure with the air pressure changes, your baby does too. However, your baby doesn’t understand what is happening and cannot resolve it on their own. Think about what helps you – swallowing and yawning. Feeding your baby or giving them a pacifier to suck on can help their ears pop and prevent additional pain.
Walk whenever you can, especially if they are fussy. Through the airport, aisles, etc. Movement soothes and entertains your baby. And if your baby is anything like mine, it can help them fall asleep much more quickly than sitting still.
Important Reminders for Traveling with an Infant
This Too Shall Pass
First, please remember that this situation is temporary. This too shall pass. No matter how stressful the situation is and no matter how many things go wrong, this is temporary.
Before we boarded our flight, we had not had breakfast (don’t worry, our baby had been fed multiple times at that point!) and had no caffeine. Then, we ran into complications with boarding our dog onto the plane. There were 20 minutes where I truly believed my dog would not make this flight.
Finally sitting in our seats, completely unable to leave the plane before takeoff, we found out there would be no food services for our long flight. And my husband got a call that the car he wished to purchase after landing had been sold the night before. It felt like everything was going wrong.
But it all worked out. Our dog made the flight. We found snacks to get by for a while in our diaper bag, (just barely!) got by without caffeine, and ended up with a car that we are happier with now. Now, we can laugh at that day because it was such a wild series of unfortunate events. Even though it all felt like major hiccups, nothing major actually went wrong.
And lastly, be gentle with yourself, anyone flying with you, and with your baby. You are in a challenging situation. Anyone who might be flying with you is also in that same position. And think about it from your baby’s perspective for a moment. This experience could be scary, confusing, and even painful at times for them. Make it your ultimate goal to be there for them.
Does the next part of your journey include a road trip or long-distance drive? Check out my tips for road tripping with a baby!
Need more tips?
Check out these articles:
- Tips for Traveling with a Baby
- Road Tripping with a Baby | Plus Essential Items to Pack
- Mindfulness in Everyday Life
What else would be helpful for flying with a baby? Leave a comment below to help others!