Flying with a baby for the first time can be nerve-wracking – but it doesn’t have to be hard! We’ve flown many times with infants, and it’s always gone pretty well. Here are our best tips for flying with a baby that will keep your sanity in check 🙂
Having had three children, we have flown our fair share of times with a baby. And honestly – it has never been as bad as I anticipated.
Flying with a toddler? Well…that’s another story.
I often hear moms asking for tips for going on long flights with a baby and small children, so I thought I’d share some of my top “expert” top tips on how to fly with a baby. Hopefully, this will make your next trip with young children a little less stressful, too!
Got children of all ages? Be sure to check out our top tips for flying on an airplane with kids!
Tips for Flying with Babies
1. Something to Suck On
Some of the best advice I received about flying with a baby was to make sure they had something to suck on during take-off and landing. This is the best way to help with air pressure and making sure their ears didn’t get plugged up. It would be a good idea to use a bottle, pacifier, or breastfeed- this is definitely something I would consider necessary.
Even better, get a Wubbanub. It’s less likely to get lost, or bounce a mile across the airplane or dirty airport floors!
And yes, you can ABSOLUTELY breastfeed on an airplane! So don’t worry about that.
2. Get your baby their own seat!
I remember saying when our oldest was a baby, “Well, we better fly while Jack was free!”, because, well, it was cheaper!
However, one time we were able to have an empty seat on the plane next to us, and they let us bring his car seat on…and it was HEAVEN.
With our younger two children, we’ve always gotten them their own seat, and it seriously makes it so much easier. I hate flying and get major anxiety every time we fly, so having my kids in a car seat just makes it a little less stressful. They also take naps much easier!
If there is an extra seat (a middle seat would be best!) on a plane, airlines will sometimes give you that seat for free- but you can’t always count on that.
It does cost more- especially if you do have a lap infant that could technically fly for free, but for safety reasons, it is something to consider. Flying is obviously a very safe way to travel, but in the case of an accident or even bad turbulence- you’ll want your baby in an FAA-approved car seat.
Obviously this isn’t an option for everyone, but I’d be remiss to skip over how this has made flying so much easier for us.
3. Baby carrier
Although we usually our stroller and car seat to the gate, I always put kids in my baby carrier through the airport. When they are younger, I used my homemade Moby wrap. Once they are a bit older, I always use my Ergo baby carrier, which I LOVE. Seriously, it was the best investment. It’s easy to breastfeed in an Ergo, they are sturdy, and Oliver loved it.
It also makes going through the security line easier. They just swab your hands — to check for explosives — and then you can go right on through. I’ve passed by quite a few lines because of this.
4. Anticipate delays
We used to breeze through the security checkpoint with no problem. Once you have kids, it’s a completely different story.
There might be other delays that come up — a quick diaper change (THIS diaper changing pad/bag is a must for travel) or to feed a hungry baby, flight delays, etc.
Just try not to stress about them, and give yourself plenty of time. I came from a family where we got to the airport several hours before we had to leave. Forrest isn’t like that. We usually get to our gate now probably five minutes before boarding. I don’t really recommend that — unless you like being stressed out!
5. Gate check stroller/car seat
Take my word on this — if you are planning to bring your stroller and/or car seat, it is worth it to lug it along to the gate. I have heard from countless sources that checking these items with your luggage isn’t the best idea, because they aren’t handled very well.
I’d rather not risk having my car seat or stroller get messed up from being thrown around with all the rest of the luggage. Taking it to the gate ensures that it gets nicely placed onto the airplane (at no additional charge), and the risk of it being damaged is low. Some people just leave their strollers at the gate with no protection, and that seems just fine
However, we are a bit paranoid, and since we want these items to last for at least one more kid, we try to protect them as much as possible. There are several different bags out there that will help protect your stroller or car seat.
We purchased this one, and it’s served us well. It isn’t technically made to hold the car seat and stroller, but we’ve made it work just fine. I would purchase a little more heavy-duty of one, if you are going to check it with your luggage, but otherwise, this one helped protect it from rain more than once.
6. Curb Check
With curb check, there is an extra charge- around $5-$10 but we’ve found it’s totally worth it for family travel. When Jack was a baby, we went from traveling with one suitcase each, to pushing the free baggage limit on Southwest (and that’s not including our cleverly packed carry-ons, and stroller).
After we’ve unloaded everything, we can barely make it the 10 feet to the curbside check-in, let alone the inside check-in desk. It’s so much nicer, just leaving our luggage with the curb guys, getting our boarding passes there, and just going straight to security.
It’s much easier than standing in the never-ending check-in line, attempting to drag all of our luggage along with us.
And, don’t quote me on this, but there is a better chance that they won’t weigh your luggage at the curbside check-in. Seriously. It’s playing with fate, but we’ve been banked on this happening quite a few times, when our luggage is overweight (usually by less than 5 pounds), especially after Christmas.
7. Bring lots of diapers, wipes, and snacks (if baby is eating solids)
Trust me. Your baby will have a massive blowout diaper while on the plane. Even if it never happens in day-to-day life. There’s something about traveling that makes this happen with babies. Be sure to bring as many diapers as you will think you need, plus a few extras. And don’t forget a change of clothes, too!
And don’t forget lots of wipes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought I had wipes, only to realize I left them in another diaper bag…and we’ve had to resort to using paper towels in the bathroom. Not fun. Always bring more than you need.
They are also nice to have, just to do a quick cleanup after eating a meal on the airplane, or just to wash hands.
If your baby is eating solids, be sure to bring along some snacks and baby food if it will be during mealtime. I highly recommend purchasing baby food pouches, because then you don’t even have to worry about bring a spoon.
Having a good stock of puffs (for the baby…and you! Or are we the only ones that love eating those?!) and whatever other snacks your baby likes. It definitely occupies them, making it less likely that they will cause havoc.
If you do bring baby food, especially in the jars, try and remember to have them easily accessible. When you go through security, they will more than likely make you take them out of your bag and do some kind of test on them (they did for us, at least!) And when you are on the airplane, having easy access will be a huge help.
This goes for any item your baby might need during the flight. Having a baby on your lap, and trying to rummage through a bag, can be difficult.
I also highly recommend a Peke*Buo diaper bag. These are SO awesome for quick diaper changes in the airport. I never go to the airport without mine.
8. Bring the Birth Certificate
Because children under two years of age fly free on most airlines. And even if it’s very obvious that your child is under one, a birth certificate is required.
I’ve heard from quite a few people that they didn’t realize this was a requirement, so definitely don’t forget. We put off picking up Jack’s birth certificate until right before we went on our first flight with him at three months, and we almost forgot. I can’t imagine it would be very fun to get all the way to the airport, only to be told we couldn’t get on.
If your child has a ticketed seat, you do not need their birth certificate.
Someone at the ticketing desk told me that you can take a picture of the birth certificate on your phone, and that will count. It’s usually better to avoid carrying around sensitive documents like that!
9. Inflight Bassinet
This really depends on what airline you are flying on, and I think it’s mainly just for international flor long-haul flights. But some airlines have a bassinet that people can use for their child to sleep in during the flight. I’ve heard mixed reviews about these — some love them, some hate them.
But if your child doesn’t like to sleep in your arms, this might be a good option. Even if an airline says they do provide these, but aware that they are usually available in limited quantity, and on a first-come, first-serve basis.
I did see that you can buy your own in-flight bassinet. I LOVE this idea when I first saw it, though after reading more about it, it’s not really FAA approved. So that may not be the best option.
If at all possible, buy your baby a seat. It’s safer and makes life easier. We always fly with Oliver in a seat, and it’s made traveling so much simpler.
Airplanes can get pretty chilly. And it seems like babies are more susceptible to changes in temperature than some people. Sure, you could ask the flight attendant for one but it will probably be those itchy, paper thin blankets available, but bringing your baby’s favorite blanket along can help a lot as well. Not only will it keep your baby nice and warm, but sometimes, having a comforting object from home can make being in an unfamiliar place a little bit easier.
11. Ask for help (or look desperate)
While there are probably going to be quite a few people on your flight that are cursing the fact that a baby is also on board, there are also bound to be a few nice fellow passengers. I’ve been lucky enough to encounter these people for the most part.
On the first leg of our flight to North Carolina, there was the nicest lady, about my mom’s age, who carried a few of our bags on for us, and saved us a spot next to her. She was in the boarding group A, and she wanted to make sure that Forrest and I could sit together. During the whole flight, she was so kind, and helped us afterward as well.
She was seriously a life saver, and I’m not sure how that first flight would have gone without her.
And, if you look desperate enough, someone is bound to help. It seems like Forrest always has to run and get something right when we are about to board, and almost every time, some nice person has shown pity on me and helped.
12. Early Boarding
Be sure to check and see if your airline has family boarding. Sadly, most airlines have done away with this, but some, like Southwest, have it still. Southwest lets families board between the A and B ticket groups. And if you are like us, and always get a bad boarding group, this can be really helpful especially so you can get a window seat or aisle seats.
Obviously, if you are able to select your seats before boarding, this probably isn’t as big of a deal, but if it’s a free-for-all flight like Southwest, being able to board a little bit early can make a big difference. I think I would go crazy if Forrest and I had to be separated, especially now that Baby J is older. He’s quite the wiggly worm, and it often takes two of us to make sure he doesn’t squirm away.
13. Entertainment (for older babies)
Our babies didn’t need much to occupy him when we flew with them under six month. They pretty much sleep the entire flight.
If you have a tablet, those can come in handy. We recently downloaded the Fisher Price apps for the iPad, and seriously- they are the best invention ever!
Don’t forget their favorite toys or purchase a new toy that is going to keep them occupied because they’ve never used it before! This is one of those baby tips that could actually work for older children, too! Who doesn’t love something new to play with?
14. For Formula Fed Babies
We didn’t have to worry about warming bottles, since Jack was breastfed. However, I’ve seen many women ask what to do about warming water for formula on a plane.
From everything I’ve read, most flight attendants are willing to microwave some water for a bottle if you ask. You could also ask for water from a coffee pot but make sure you let it cool down.
One person I know said just to buy a bottle of water before you get on the plane. Chances are, it will have warmed up before your baby needs it. So that probably works, too!
15. Bringing Breast Milk or Formula Through Security
Know your rights! I wrote this post about traveling with breast milk – I highly recommend reading it. You are allowed to bring as much breast milk or formula as you want through security – and if anyone gives you trouble, make sure you have the guidelines on hand.
16. Don’t Worry
Something is bound to go wrong. Your husband might decide to run and get water, or go to the bathroom, unknowingly before you are about to board and leave you with a baby, a stroller and car seat already in a bag, and four carry-on bags If your baby cries, people will glare at you. Just remember this — it’s okay. As the old proverb goes, “This too shall pass.”
No flight goes on forever (even though it might seem like it), and you will eventually reach your destination safe and sound. Just try and prepare as much as possible, and just hope for the best!
Do you have any good advice for flying with babies? How about toddlers? That’s our next phase in life, and I imagine it’s a little more difficult!