Even the most seasoned traveling parents can get clammy hands and a racing heart when thinking about flying with baby for the first time. Take some deep breaths and read our tips below. With the right preparation and a positive attitude — and these tips, you’ll be registering baby for frequent flyer accounts in no time!
Traveling with infants and traveling with kids young enough to be in car seats can equal headaches for Traveling Moms. But these 14 tips for flying with a baby can make family trips easier.
14 Tips for Flying with a Baby
- Think long and hard about which flight you book.
- Consider your baby’s schedule.
- Practice baby wearing.
- Lap child or Separate Seat?
- Flying with multiple babies or other kids?
- Bring ID for baby.
- Strategize your packing.
- Ziploc Bags are Lifesavers!
- Bring a change of clothes for Baby — or several.
- What can you bring for your baby through airport security?
- Allow extra time.
- No reserved seat for baby? Check at the Gate.
- When is the Best Time to Nurse or Bottle Feed Baby?
- Identify which restroom has a changing table once you’re onboard.
Before Flying With Baby
1. Think long and hard about which flight you book.
While finances may steer you towards the cheapest flight look at duration, layovers and even which airline you choose critically as well. That flight that’s an extra $40 but is nonstop in the middle of the day will be worth every extra penny. Airlines can also make a difference here. Many TravelingMom writers LUV to fly with Southwest because of their family-friendly attitude. Remember when traveling with a baby, you’ll likely want to check luggage so factor in luggage fees.
2. Consider your baby’s schedule.
If y’all are homebodies and stay close to home most of the time, going on a few scenic car rides ahead of your trip may be beneficial. A baby who is only accustomed to short periods of time in a car seat may not do so well strapped in for a several hour flight. A few naps in the car seat during drives will do wonders for kiddos comfort level once they are on the plane.
3. Practice babywearing.
In both everyday travel and real life, the practice of babywearing can help you perform tasks while keeping baby close. There are many different types of baby carriers ranging from ring slings to wraps to soft structured buckle carriers like Ergo, Tula, Baby Bjorn, and Infantino. I could ramble on and on about the amazingness of babywearing. With four kids it saves me on a daily basis.
While traveling though, it is a lifesaver. Babywearing allows you to go through TSA security checkpoints wearing baby while having your hands free. To wear baby through TSA, choose a buckle carrier (with no metal). During the flight, you can wear a baby (making it significantly easier to bring diaper changing gear the restroom) except for during takeoff and landing. A stretchy carrier like a Moby or Boba will allow you to take the baby in and out freely without having to retie or refasten.
Like with anything practice makes perfect, so head to a Babywearing International meeting near you to try out different carrier styles.
4. Lap child or separate seat?
Decide whether your baby will be a lap child or if you will purchase a seat. This goes hand in hand with the financial planning of a trip. Up until the age of 2, a baby can fly as a lap child for free. Using factors such as flight length and whether you’ll have assistance, you may want to consider purchasing a seat for baby.
If you plan to have a lap child on an international flight be sure to call the airline. With some countries, you’ll need to pay entry taxes on the baby ahead of time.
5. Flying with multiple babies or other kids?
Keep in mind there are some airline rules that you’ll need to keep in mind if you have twins or additional children flying with you. If you are flying solo with twins, you will need to buy at least one additional seat because you are limited to one lap child. The same rule applies if you’re flying with one baby and one other child under 2.
Keep in mind that airplane rows only have 1 additional oxygen mask, so on a 3 seat per side plane there will be 4 oxygen masks. If you are two grownups flying with 2 lap children you will NOT be able to sit in the same row because then the 3rd passenger would not have an oxygen mask.
What to Pack for Flying with Baby
6. Bring ID for baby.
You may not automatically think to bring paperwork for baby, but many airlines will want to see a birth certificate. A baby has to be at least 14 days old to fly on most airlines. They will not let you on the flight if you cannot prove the baby’s age.
Traveling out of the country? Baby will need a passport, and if only one parent is traveling, it is always a good idea to carry a consent letter from the other parent saying they are aware of the travel.
When we lived in Vermont, I used to frequently go to Montreal with my daughter. We used to take a photo on my phone of my husband holding her with a consent letter in hand before each trip. I was only asked about it one time.
7. Strategize your packing.
You’ll have the urge to pack everything conceivable when flying with a baby. While it is good to be prepared, the most important thing is accessibility. If you have to dig through 18″ of densely packed baby gear on the plane while holding a crying baby, you might be cursing your preparedness. Be sure to utilize an accessible bag where you can put items that are most likely to be needed on outside pockets.
With four children, I’ve worked my way through a fair share of diaper bags, and I have always come back to a backpack. It leaves hands free for baby and can fit items for you as well.
8. Ziploc Bags are Lifesavers!
Pack a couple of big Ziploc bags (gallon size or so). Ziploc bags are incredibly versatile. Stick diapers and a few wipes in one for quick lavatory changes. Use another Ziploc for anything liquid/goopy that you’ll need to pull out at the security checkpoint. More empty Ziploc’s can be used to hold stinky diapers if a trash can isn’t immediately available.
For more travel uses for Ziploc bags, check out this post! The Ultimate Packing Travel Hacks: 7 Uses for Ziploc Bags
9. Bring a change of clothes for Baby — or several.
As someone who wound up covered in puke from sick 13-month-old, please remember to bring a change of clothes for you as well as the baby. I hope you never find out how important this tip is.
10. What can you bring for your baby through airport security?
Know what you can pack and bring through security. Formula, pumped milk, and baby food are all fair game EVEN if they are over the 3.4-ounce limit. Just be sure to let the agent know that you have baby items BEFORE putting them through the machine. They will hand inspect them.
If you need water for the formula, you can bring it through security- even if it’s a full-size water bottle. I highly recommend bringing room temperature water. Once you get past security most water will be chilled and most babies don’t prefer cold beverages.
Read up on these TSA Flying with Baby Rules ahead of time. Or print them out and bring them to the airport with you.
Airport Tips When Flying with a Baby
11. Allow extra time.
Well duh, you might say- of course, it will take longer. Add time to your normal airport routine. When flying with babies there is a good chance you will need to check in at the counter to get a lap child added to your ticket. Most airlines will also then check the birth certificate you brought to be sure they are not over the lap child age allowed. This can take time if there is a long line to wait in.
12. No reserved seat for baby? Check at the Gate.
If you haven’t purchased a seat for your infant, stop by the gate once you’re through security. You can check to see if they have an empty seat they’ll allow you to use. You can also check on when preboarding or family boarding occurs and get luggage tags for any strollers or car seats you may have.
13. When is the Best Time to Nurse or Bottle Feed Baby?
Plan to nurse or bottle-feed your baby as the plane takes off and lands. Changes in cabin pressure can cause pain in little ears. A pacifier can also work if your child will take one. The sucking motion for all of these things will help prevent ear pain (and a screaming baby).
14. Identify which restroom has a changing table once you’re onboard.
There are lots of schools of thought about changing diapers in the seats themselves. We love these tips for changing diapers on a plane.