12 Tips For Flying With A Baby
My baby is getting more frequent flyer miles than most adults.
My first time flying with a 3-month-old was petrifying. I heard so many horror stories about crying babies and had been on a few planes with them myself. I was that Mom who stressed over every detail and almost talked myself out of even trying.
I’m so glad that I got over my fear of flying with an infant and went for. By the time Ella was 2 she had flown over 13 times and was a champ. It wasn’t always easy, but hopefully, you guys can learn from some of my mistakes.
I know you are probably a bit nervous if you are reading this post, but seriously, don’t stress. Yes, it is hard to fly with a baby, but the benefits of being able to introduce them to family and travel are worth all the frustrations and aggravations.
I knew flying with a baby could turn negative very quickly, so my number one goal for flying it to make my daughter as comfortable as possible. I know that if she is comfortable and happy everything else will work itself out.
I know it is a daunting task, but you can fly with a baby and have fun doing it.
12 Travel Tips For Flying With A Baby
1. Prepare everything you can in advance.
This one is a bit of a no-brainer. My goal when I leave the house is to have a packed diaper bag with all of Ella’s supplies easily accessible.
I keep snacks, pacifier, and a few toys at the top of her pack. I also keep wipes easily accessible. Ironically enough, I’m mainly used them to help other passengers, but know that at some point I’ll be glad they are easily available.
I have her formula premeasured with two bottles ready to go. I’ve found it easiest to fill the bottles after getting through security. It isn’t worth the hassle of dealing with TSA to pre-make the bottles.
I personally use a backpack diaper bag (I love this bag) when traveling. This helps me keep my hands free (see #7), but is also super easy to access everything I need.
The goal when packing it to think through various scenarios and plan accordingly. If your baby is prone to throwing up, you may want to bring extra blankets and clothing. If you are breastfeeding your most likely want some type of cover-up.
When you are planning, don’t forget to pack extras for you too. My daughter threw up on me during one of our later flights and I was stuck with a vomit-covered shirt for the rest of the flight. It was miserable and between the turbulence (the worst I’ve ever experienced) and the smell of vomit, I almost lost it myself a few times.
If I had an extra shirt to change into it would have made a huge difference on that particular flight.
The important thing is to plan your trip in advance. If you are going to fly with your baby prepare for worst case scenarios. 😉
2. Bring a few new toys or fun items to keep your baby entertained
Ella just isn’t a toy baby. She just ignores normal toys, so I watch what she is playing with a few days before the flight and then don’t let her play with it for a few days.
Typically this means that she is back to being curious about the item again by the time we fly.
She is currently fascinated by my sunglasses and the cap on her bottle. She literally spent 20 minutes trying to get the cap on her bottle during our most recent flight.
You know your child, find objects that will interest them, but that are small and don’t make a lot of noise.
Depending on the age it is nice if you can find objects they are less likely to drop. There is nothing worse than constantly encroaching on your neighbor’s space.
If you are looking for flying friendly toy ideas, here are a few that Ella likes:
3. When possible schedule your flights around your baby’s nap time.
Obviously, this is in an ideal world. In real life, this rarely works, but you can at least try.
The more they sleep, the easier your life will be.
Ella naps best with a partial swaddle, so I always bring extra blankets (these are the ones I love). She still hates sleeping on our laps, but at least she has a sense of familiarity when I swaddle her.
Do what you can to make your baby comfortable. Every baby is different, but hopefully, by scheduling your flights for an optimal sleeping time you’ll get lucky.
4. Be polite and friendly to everyone you meet while traveling
I joke with people in the security lines, the check-in lines and even in the terminals. My goal is to make as many friends as possible. Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but when I’m friendly to people, they constantly go out of their way to help me.
Fortunately, most of my flying has been with my husband Aaron, but when I fly solo with a baby I’m dependent on strangers for random bits of help.
When you are open and friendly, people notice you and are just more willing to help when asked.
Which on a side note, don’t be afraid to ask for help. All people can do is say no. Most people have been in your shoes at one point and will bend over backward to help you out.
On the opposite end, don’t be afraid to accept help either. When you are traveling with a baby, people will go out of their way to offer to help and will treat you with so much kindness. Don’t be afraid to accept their help. Yes, you have to be careful, but when you have a baby, a car seat, a stroller, diaper bags and all the other junk you need for flying you can’t do it all.
5. Know your airline’s rules for carry-on luggage, diaper bags, strollers and car seats.
This is a huge one! Look up the different regulations for each airline. Most of them are similar, but you don’t want to be caught unaware.
It is also important to know the rules because not all of the employees know their own rules.
Aaron and I are hikers and knew that on our Hawaii trip we wanted to bring Ella’s large backpacking pack. When hiking I carry her in an Osprey backpack which is significantly larger than a regular baby carrier.
Related Posts: Hiking Baby Carrier Review: Osprey Poco Child Carrier
I knew we were flying with American and then Hawaiian airlines, so I checked both websites and then measured the size to ensure we could bring it on the plane. 3 of the 4 flights we were fine, but one of the employees wanted us to check it for one of the flights.
I was able to give her information from her own website and she quickly changed her tune.
6. Bring a copy of your baby’s birth certificate
I’ve never actually been asked for this information, but have read over and over it is a good idea to have your baby’s birth certificate.
Ella is a very small baby and obviously under the age of two. I’m assuming that when she gets a little bit older and closer to two that I’ll be asked to provide a copy of her birth certificate to prove her age.
Either way, I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
Editors note: Now that Ella is two I’ve been asked for her birth certificate multiple times while flying. Get in the habit of carrying it with you now for future use.
7. Keep your hands free if possible
I know this sounds like the stupidest advice ever, but trust me, you don’t want to carry your baby through the airport. It will break your arm and back, but more importantly, you need your hands for all of the other junk you are stuck dealing with as you navigate security and check-in.
Based on our trip, we either bring our stroller and have it checked at the gate or use an Ergobaby 360 carrier. I highly recommend using a baby carrier in the airport. It will make your life so much easier.
Both routes work, the important thing is to make sure you aren’t stuck sitting your baby on the floor while trying to get through security.
I’ve used a variety of baby carriers and personally believe that the Ergobaby 360 carrier is the best baby carrier for flying. The ability to carry your baby on the front or back and have them face forward or backward is awesome when flying.
8. Travel Light With a Baby
As a newbie parent, I tend to overpack. I’m scared I’ll forget some critical piece of baby gear and poor Ella will suffer. Guess what, she will survive.
As long as I have food, diapers, wipes, changing pad, pacifier, blanket, and toys, I’ll survive.
The goal is to have enough for your immediate needs, but not so much that you break your back carrying your diaper bag.
9. Always check your baby’s diaper prior to the flight.
I think most people automatically do this one, but just in case, decided to include it in this list. I always, change Ella 10-15 minutes before we start boarding.
There is nothing worse than trying to change a baby’s diaper on a plane. If you think those stalls are small normally, wait until you have a crying wiggly baby. Just trust me on this one!
Also on that note, always bring a changing pad. Airplanes are germ cities and I really like knowing I’ve got my own changing pad.
10. Carry food items that will pass through TSA checkpoints.
This one is very age dependent. Right now Ella is in that middle ground between using a bottle and eating regular food.
I’ve found that flying with baby food pouches are the easiest baby airplane food. However, be aware that most of the food pouches are 4 oz. They will get flagged by TSA and you will end up having to do a manual inspection.
I haven’t been able to verify this, but on my last flight, a TSA agent told me that once my baby is over 2 they won’t allow me to bring the larger food pouches onto the airplane.
He also told me that there were smaller food pouches that aren’t flagged by TSA. Finding them is top of my list when I get home.
To date, I haven’t had any issues with baby food and the TSA, but I’ve read a lot of horror stories about other parents who had issues.
I also put my food in a ziplock bag in my backpack and send it through the scanner. They virtually always do a manual inspection but have always let me through without issues. However, be aware it may take an extra 5-10 minutes to get through TSA.
Here are links to some of the food that I’ve had success getting through the TSA security checks:
11. Wear comfortable clothing – especially shoes when traveling with a baby.
Wear clothing that will pass TSA inspection. You don’t want to be messing with a metal belt while trying to hold your baby.
My one exception to this is shoes.
Fashion shoes just aren’t my thing when flying. Give me comfort all the way. This means I may have to remove my running shoes, but I’m willing to make that sacrifice.
On our most recent flight, we ended up at the wrong gate 15 minutes before our flight was going to depart. I’m sure I made quite the picture running through the airport with my baby in my Ergo Carrier. I was very thankful to be wearing comfortable shoes.
I’m not sure I would have made the flight if I had been in high heels.
12. Be prepared for potential ear issues when flying with a baby.
Ear issues were one of my biggest concerns prior to flying.
I read extensively on this subject and virtually everyone recommends trying to have your baby drink during the take-off and landing. The sucking motion counterbalances the change in cabin pressure and will usually prevent ear issues.
Another great method is to have your baby sleep and they will adjust automatically.
Depending on the source some experts say a pacifier is enough. However, be aware that not all baby’s actually suck on their pacifiers enough to counterbalance the pressure changes.
I would always hold off on feeding Ella as long as possible so that I could feed her during take-off. As you can imagine that is a dangerous idea and can backfire dramatically if you miss the timing.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a perfect way to handle this problem. I’ve found that a combination of bottle feeding and pacifiers works well for Ella, but know that every baby is different.
On our most recent flight, she didn’t even seem to notice the air pressure changes. She just turned one, so I’m assuming it is a mix of age and experience. Hopefully, this will be an ongoing trend.
On a side note, I did a bit of research and found a product called EarPlanes Ear Plugs on Amazon. They have pretty decent reviews and people seemed to like them, so if your kids are over 1 and have ear issues they may be worth trying for $6-10.
Essential Baby Travel Items When Flying With an Infant:
- Formula (in premeasured Dispensing cups)
- Water (after security checkpoint)
- Disposable Changing Pad
- I forgot these once and had to change Ella while she stood up. I wasn’t about to lay her down in the airport bathroom changing areas.
- Baby Food (my baby is currently 1, so this list may change)
- Small Toys
- I love the Muslin Swaddle Blankets
- Extra set of clothing (including socks)
- Jacket and other warm weather gear as needed
- Copy of Birth Certificate
Flying with a baby is possible
I know that flying with a baby can be scary and overwhelming. I wish I could say it is always going to be easy and smooth with these steps. The truth is that you can do everything right and still have a miserable flight.
Don’t let fear stop you from having a great adventure with your baby. I firmly believe that traveling with children is a great way to introduce them to the world. The sooner you start, the easier it will be to travel as they get older.
However, with these steps, you will have a significantly better chance of having a good flight.
Good luck! Let me know if you have any helpful hints that I can use in the future.
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