Traveling can bring joy and create lifelong memories, but it doesn’t come without a lot of work, especially if you are traveling with a baby or young child. The thought of taking a baby on an airplane can be overwhelming, so we reached out to experts and parents and compiled some advice for braving the skies with a baby in tow.
Six Tips for Traveling with a Baby
Bringing your babies with you during a flight can be a stressful activity for both you and your babies, so I would like to share some tips on preparing for a flight with your babies based on my experience.
1. Prepare the necessary documents and medications. Before flying, prepare all necessary documents to ensure smooth entry to the airport and fast airport checks. Also, bring your children’s medications, if any, with you so you don’t have to rush or panic during medical emergencies.
2. Visit the comfort room before the flight. Before the flight, it is ideal for babies to be dry, so one last visit to the comfort room before the flight is beneficial in keeping your babies comfortable. This will hopefully mean fewer visits to the plane restroom and less hassle for you and other people boarding the plane.
3. Bring distractions for your children. To keep your children distracted, bring them toys that they can play with during the flight. Bring their favorite toys and purchase new ones to keep them from throwing tantrums while on the flight.
4. Keep your hands free by bringing a stroller or baby carrier. Bringing baby carriers or strollers can make going around and doing tasks at the airport more accessible for parents. Using carriers for your babies allows you to carry your belongings and baggage with more ease.
5. Purchase a separate seat for your babies if you can afford it. I highly suggest purchasing a seat for your baby instead of cradling your baby on your lap. Through this, you may relax while flying, and you won’t have to worry about having to hold your baby all the time, especially during turbulence.
6. Lessen ear pressure. I suggest nursing or feeding your babies during takeoff and landing to alleviate ear pressure. You may opt to breastfeed your babies, use a bottle of milk or pacifier, or give them some baby crackers or cookies.
Bring Extra Necessities
Prepare everything you need if you are taking a flight with a baby or toddler. This includes buying baby gear, equipment, or extra seats for your child during the flight so [they are] comfortable and safe.
It is better to have these ready ahead of time to avoid cramming and having last-minute realizations about your baby’s needs. In addition, take into account how this equipment will add up to your luggage and carry-ons for you to avoid overpacking.
To make sure that you won’t run out of food, water, or clothing for your baby, bring extra in your luggage and carry-ons in case of an emergency or an unfortunate blow-out in the middle of the flight.
You don’t want to gain too much attention from the people in the plane because your baby will cry every time he or she needs something, so come on board with everything prepared. Moreover, bring the little one something to chew, since planes can hurt their sensitive ears, and chewing can help ease pressurized ears.
Packing is the Key to a Good Flight
Flying with a baby is something that many parents worry about, so let me share some of the tricks I’ve learned over the years.
Packing cubes or luggage organizers help, especially if you’re packing the essentials for your baby. Babies have so much tiny stuff and clothes, so these packing cubes are perfect. Have a separate packing cube for your breastfeeding equipment like breast pumps, baby bottles, etc.
I tend to pack all the light items in one large suitcase and the heaviest ones in a small suitcase. This is to avoid getting overweight.
Take note that strollers and car seats all check for free no matter the airline. Because of this, you can usually stash extra items. Be aware that some airlines might still check, so have room in your suitcase just in case.
In my carry-on I make sure to have:
- Portable changing mat
- Burp cloths
- Nursing cover
- Change of clothes (for both baby and me)
- Pacifiers or teethers
- Hand sanitizer
- Infant Tylenol just in case
And one of the most important things in my carry-on is a cooler with a bunch of frozen purees and some breastmilk. Let a TSA guard know you have purees or breastmilk ahead of time to avoid any issues.
Five Tips for Flying with a Baby
1. Consider taking your baby’s car seat onto the airplane. Your baby is likely already used to sleeping in their car seat, and it’s nice to be able to put your baby in their seat so you can free up your arms from time to time.
2. Request a bulkhead seat when you book your tickets. This can often be done by calling the airline and explaining you’ll have a baby in tow. Some of the larger airplanes have pull-down cots for babies in this row!
3. Make sure you have extras of everything in your carry-on. Fill your carry-on with extra pacifiers, extra diapers, extra burp cloths, extra formula, and extra clothes for your baby and yourself. This may seem like a lot, but you’ll be so glad you have it if you need it!
4. Bring a lightweight frame stroller. Lightweight frame strollers are great for air travel because you can click your baby’s car seat into it quickly and easily at the airport. Plus, they are less bulky and are easier for aircrews to store under the plane.
5. Relieve cabin pressure in their ears. Just after takeoff, plan to nurse your baby or give him or her a bottle. This can help them deal better with changes in cabin pressure.
Remember that your baby is a baby. He or she might cry, fuss, or have a massive blowout diaper. Try not to stress too much about these things in advance. If they happen, they happen, and you will handle them if they do.
Finally, remember that the airplane flight won’t last forever, and you will make it to your destination!
Be Prepared When Traveling with a Baby
My main advice for traveling by air with a baby is to be prepared for anything that might come up. Don’t overpack (been there, done that, and it’s no fun lugging around a heavy bag along with a baby). But do bring anything and everything your little one might need, including toys, solid foods and snacks, and extra clothes and diapers. And don’t forget the baby wipes
Try to change your baby’s diaper before the flight begins, because that’s so much harder to do during the flight.
Try to choose seats near the front of the plane to reduce the likelihood of motion sickness.
Bring the baby’s car seat on board — it’s not only safer and recommended by the FAA, but it also gives your sweet baby somewhere familiar to sit (and hopefully sleep).
I like to book flights during nap time, and the natural white noise of the airplane can help a baby fall asleep if they are tired. That’s always a plus. Bring a travel white noise machine if your baby responds to one, as well.
Bring the carrier
Be sure to bring your baby carrier on board in case your little one gets fussy on the flight.
Feeling safe and close to mama will usually help calm a baby on the flight. Walking up and down the aisle, bouncing, and calming your little one in the carrier can be comforting and will hopefully get them down for a nap.
Don’t apologize for your baby’s existence
Please don’t feel like you need to apologize to the people around you for your child’s existence. We were all children once, and anyone who has forgotten that is out of touch with reality. Also, your baby is human and has every right to be on the flight.
Attend to your little one and care for their needs so that they aren’t wailing during the entire flight but recognize that if your baby is having a hard time on the flight, it may be because of discomfort. Have you ever had your ears pop during a flight? That could be uncomfortable for a baby! Be ready to breastfeed or give a bottle during takeoff and landing, and don’t forget the pacifier if you give one of those as well.
Top Tips for Flying with a Baby
Children under two are usually accepted on your lap, but it is safer to have them in their FAA-approved car seat. You can call the airline ahead of time to find out their policies and guidelines for bringing a car seat on board.
Start talking to your baby about the trip ahead of time (talk about planes, read books about planes, etc.).
Stock extra stuff in the diaper bag for any surprises or meltdowns:
- Extra food
- Extra bottles
- Teething rings
- Their favorite distractions (books, a favorite stuffy, a video, etc.)
When you get to the gate with a baby you often have the chance to go on first, but that means your baby will be confined on the plane while everyone else loads. Ask instead if your spouse or the rest of your party can go on first and get everything situated, and then have you and your baby board at the end.
Three Things to Pack for a Flight with a Baby
1. Pack a portable DVD/Blu-ray player with your baby’s favorite shows to prop up on the seat. This should entertain and distract them for most of the flight.
2. Bring a goody bag for flight neighbors to say, “I’m sorry,” if the baby won’t stop crying. Little gifts like earplugs, candy, or $5 gift cards can help cool tempers that may get heated.
3. Buy a cheap and lightweight stroller to check at the gate. Don’t bring a nice stroller since it’ll get beat up on the trip.
Choose a Flight with Fewer Stops
It is easier to travel with a baby if you book direct flights. Babies are sensitive to landings. Most babies end up screaming or crying during landings because they cannot stand the high-pressure sounds. Simply put, the less time you spend switching flights, the fewer chances you have of your baby wailing at every stop.
If you still have no choice but to travel using longer flights, make sure that your baby can run around and replenish properly to burn off all that tense energy. You can also use this time to feed them properly and change his or her diaper if needed. The baby’s needs are as important as anything else, so keep that in mind when traveling with them.
Two Items to Remember on a Flight with a Baby
1. Comfortable and Cute Clothing
One of the most important things when bringing a baby on an airplane is their clothing and other necessities. They need to be comfortable. Airplanes can be quite cold, especially if you’ve booked a very long flight. Your toddler might not be able to handle the cold, so it is a good idea to come prepared.
Bring baby blankets and pack warm and comfortable clothing for your child. A good recommendation would be a baby jacket. It’s very portable and most of them come in cute and snuggly designs, so other passengers will find your baby cuter, and they’ll be able to tolerate your baby’s crying a little bit better on the flight.
2. Baby Earplugs
Most people don’t like air travel simply because it causes discomfort on their heads. The sudden rise and fall of pressure can be nauseating. If adults can have this problem, then imagine what your child could be feeling. You should bring baby earplugs for your child, so they’ll have a much easier time bearing the cabin pressure changes. It also helps keep them calm since airplane engines can be very noisy, especially when taking off. You wouldn’t want them crying at the start of the flight now, would you?
Plan for the Worst
1. Pick flight times that coincide with the baby’s natural sleeping time. If you can get the baby to sleep, this will help a lot.
2. If only one parent is traveling, it is always a good idea to carry a consent letter from the other parent consenting to the travel. This [rule] also applies if you are not the parents (such as grandparents). You may need consent forms.
3. All U.S. citizens, including infants, need a current passport to travel internationally.
4. Bring a change of clothes for the little ones. It’s not uncommon for them to have accidents and clean clothes will keep them comfortable.
5. Plan for the worst. What will you need if your plane is delayed? Do you have enough supplies? It happens all the time, so pack enough food, medication, and supplies for a couple of days, just in case.
6. Don’t pack car seats and strollers. Instead, rent them at your destination. Think about how much you already need to travel; these add way too much stress to the process. Your child will sleep much more comfortably on you than they will in a seat, anyway.
7. Don’t leave home without the little one’s favorite toy or blanket of comfort. Have this ready for the flight.
Nikki Webster is a travel writer who covers how to travel while grinding a day job and travel without breaking the bank, hotels, cruising, and off-the-beaten-track experiences. You can read all about her travels at www.britonthemove.com.
Intentionally Book Flights with Baby’s Nap Time
If the schedule of the flight coincides with her body clock, the baby will most likely sleep the entire time. The silence during the trip is a big help as well. We have been doing this every time we travel with our baby to avoid inconvenience to the other passengers.