How to Survive The Airport & Flying With Baby (Like a Total Boss)

Tips for a stress-free flight with baby in tow.

flying with baby

Yearning for the simpler days in which your biggest worries when traveling included whether you’d be able to sleep on the plane and what in-flight movies you’d watch?

As new moms, we’ve got a whole new set of concerns surrounding air travel.

In fact, anticipating a flight with your baby is one of those things that can send a parent into full-on panic mode. The packing, the other passengers, and the disruption of baby’s schedule are just a few common concerns you may experience as you prep for your trip.

But flying with a baby isn’t the nightmare you imagine it will be.

Thoughtful planning and preparations can go a long way in making your flight with baby less of an ordeal. And we’ve got the tried and true secrets to flying with a baby that will make you feel like an expert traveler and master mommy by the end of your flight.

How to do the perfect planning beforehand.

Wherever possible, opt for a morning flight.

You’ve probably noticed your baby grows fussier as the evening approache. By choosing an AM flight, you’ll also be less at risk for a meltdown and also less likely to put baby to bed past his/her bedtime once you land.

In terms of buying tickets, you aren’t actually required to get a boarding pass for your child under the age of two, and on short domestic flights most parents opt to fly with baby in their lap as an “infant in arms.”

That said, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) encourages parents to secure children in car seats during flight, which requires the purchase of a ticket for baby (unless you get lucky with an empty seat beside you). According to the FAA, some airlines offer discounted tickets for babies, so inquire about a discount if this is the route you’d like to go.

Tips for seating.

If you’re able to pick your own seat prior to arriving at the airport, keep this in mind:

  •  If you want privacy to nurse or to stretch your elbows without worrying about getting hit by the beverage cart, the window is for you.
  • If you want to easily be able to pop in and out of your seat to change a diaper or soothe the baby, then the aisle is the way to go.
  • If your flight offers the option of a bassinet or cot (long international flights generally do), you’ll want to call ahead to reserve the bulkhead seats. Even if your baby won’t sleep in it, it will be nice to have a place to put him/her down briefly.

All airlines tend to have slightly different policies when it comes to flying with a baby. Be sure to review your airline’s website, or talk to a customer service rep, so you know exactly what you’re in for.

Strategies for packing for a stress-free flight.

While packing, you’ll be tempted to bring all the items that your baby uses regularly. It’s important, however, to distinguish between the “nice-to-haves” and “must-haves.”

If you’re able to do laundry where you’re going, pack only what you’ll need for 2-3 days and do a load almost as soon as you arrive. You may also think about only packing enough wipes and diapers as are necessary for your travel day and the next day if you can just buy those items wherever you’re headed.

Did you know there are resources for renting baby goods in many cities across the US? You can rent everything from a crib for baby to sleep in, to an activity mat to keep baby entertained. Sites like Baby’s Away and Babies Getaway can save you room in your luggage and additional strain when it comes to carrying the gamut of your baby’s necessities on your flight.

You may also want to invest in travel versions of some of the items you use every day at home. For instance, traveling with the MyBrestFriend Inflatable Travel Pillow and the Medela Hand Pump allowed me to maintain my normal breastfeeding routine while traveling.

Be sure to pack the following:
  • Diapers (more than you think you’ll need).
  • Wipes.
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Travel size diaper cream, paste, or ointment.
  • A change of clothes or two for the baby.
  • A change of clothes for you.
  • Chux (absorbent and disposable underpads that can protect you if baby has a blowout while the seatbelt sign is on)
  • Bibs (if your baby tends to spit up it’s easier to change a bib than a whole outfit).
  • A few small toys or books, especially if your baby is 3 months or older.
  • Pacifiers and pacifier wipes.
  • A lightweight blanket in case baby is cold.
  • Some plastic bags to put dirty diapers in before you dispose of them in case a garbage can is not in arm’s reach or to put wet clothes in.

Surviving the airport with baby in tow.

When you get to the airport, if you’re planning to hold the baby through the flight, let them know at check-in that you’ve got an “infant in arms.” The airline representatives may also be able to get you into a row with an empty seat so you have a bit more elbow room.

  • If you’re traveling with your stroller and car seat, most airlines will allow you to gate check these items, thus making it easier to move through the airport right up to your gate. To make sure they don’t get damaged in transit, however, you’ll want to invest in gate check bags for both your car seat and your stroller.
  • You’ve only got two hands, and you’ll want them as free as possible. Bring your baby carrier so that you can fold up your stroller and carry baby hands-free. If you don’t have one already, you may want to consider a backpack diaper bag (or a normal backpack repurposed as a diaper bag). This will do wonders to free up your hands.
  • Be sure to change your baby’s diaper as close to boarding the plane as possible. Things get a bit trickier when it comes to changing a baby at 30,000 feet above the ground during turbulence in the tiny airplane bathroom. It’s not the end of the world if you have to, but if you can avoid it, that’s even better.

It may go against conventional wisdom, but the secret to keeping your baby happy as long as possible is boarding last.

As you know, babies tend to get bored and fussy when looking at the same thing too long. The shorter your baby is aboard the plane, the better. If you’re traveling with a partner, let him/her board first with the carry-ons, and wait until the doors are about to close to board the plane with

If you’re traveling with a partner, let him/her board first with the carry-ons, and wait until the doors are about to close to board the plane with baby in a carrier.

And finally, the plane flight itself.

Be prepared that some airlines may not let you keep baby in the carrier during takeoff. But don’t worry, mama, you’ve got other tricks up your sleeve.

You may be wondering when the best time to feed your baby is once you’re on board. It’s certainly ideal if you can keep baby sucking during take off and landing, which will help prevent baby’s ears from popping.

That said, you may find you want to feed your baby throughout the flight to keep him/her quiet, even if you’re usually on a feeding schedule. If baby’s not in the mood to eat, try giving him/her a pacifier or your clean finger to suck on.

If the seatbelt sign is off, you may want to take baby for a walk, even if he/she isn’t yet fussing. You’ll get admiring glances from fellow passengers, and the smiles and movement will calm baby. Baby will also be happy to play with toys and stare at other passengers.

If all else fails…

Even if your baby does wail and fuss on the plane, remember that the cries are harder for you to hear than for your fellow passengers.

Keep calm and smiling and your baby will pick up on your good vibes. You’ll be sure to earn the compliments of your fellow passengers and flight staff in the process.

And don’t be afraid to ask for help. People will be happy to lend a hand to get your bags down from the overhead bins, or perhaps hold baby for a moment. Even if you’re flying solo with baby, you don’t necessarily have to do it yourself.

11 Tips To Make Your Flight Easier

Here are a few more tips from moms that can make your whole experience of traveling with a baby much more easier.

Contact your airline beforehand.

I’d highly recommend calling your airline before your flight to ask them about their policies on things like car seats, strollers, and other baby gear. You might be surprised and find out that your diaper bag won’t be counted as a carry-on item, for example. It’s worth checking out, as each airline has different policies.

Strategic seating is key.

Along with our suggestions above, you can try another trick.

If you fly on an airline with open seating like Southwest, have your husband sit on the left and you sit on the right. No one is going to voluntarily sit between 2 parents with a crying baby. Some might call this rude, but it’s worth it.

If you’re taking an airline with reserved seating, consider taking seats on opposite sides of the aisle. This will give you a chance to pass baby back and forth to relieve each other of duties, and also make things a little more interesting for your child.

Try to Schedule the Flight For Naptime

A good tactic when flying with a child is to schedule the flight during their usual nap or sleep time. If you can get them to sleep through the flight, your experience is going to go a lot more smoothly.

Bring the birth certificate, passport & permission (if traveling solo)

Many airlines are making it a policy to require a birth certificate as identification for any child under 2 years old. Absolutely make sure to bring the birth certificate with you to make sure you aren’t stopped. Also, if travelling internationally, your child needs to have a passport regardless of age. Make sure you have one!

Absolutely make sure to bring the birth certificate with you to make sure you aren’t stopped. Also, if traveling internationally, your child needs to have a passport regardless of age. Make sure you have one!

If you’re travelling solo without the child’s other parent, you’ll want to have a letter of permission signed by the other parent letting security know that everything is fine.

If your child is under 14 days old, you may need a medical release from a doctor clearing them for air travel. Again, check with your airline to make sure.

Reconsider boarding the plane early.

Many airlines will allow parents with young children the courtesy of boarding the plane up to 30 minutes earlier than the rest of the passengers.

While this might seem like a good idea, it also means letting them sit for 30 minutes in the plane, getting antsy and cranky. Decide on whether or not boarding early is a good idea in your case.

Plan ahead.

Planning ahead is vital!

Make checklists of everything you need to bring with you, and stick them somewhere you’re going to see them.

Don’t forget anything! If flying to meet friends or family, consider contacting them ahead of time to pick up some necessities like diapers and wipes.

Traveling as lightly as possible (easier said than done with a baby!) is a good idea.

Consolidate and travel as lightly as possible, but be prepared.

Make sure you have everything you need in your diaper bag. Have diapers, wipes, bottles, formula or milk, snacks, and toys. Flights generally have restrictions on bringing unsealed bottles of liquid on the plane, but parents are allowed to bring medically-required liquids (breast milk, juice, formula) in larger quantities. Be prepared ahead of time before you go through security and have the bottles out and ready for inspection.

Flights generally have restrictions on bringing unsealed bottles of liquid on the plane, but parents are allowed to bring medically required liquids (breast milk, juice, formula) in larger quantities. Be prepared ahead of time before you go through security and have the bottles out and ready for inspection.

If you have a tablet, load it up with some kids entertainment! It can really help during a long flight.

Be careful not to overpack the bag, which makes it a pain. No one wants to handle a baby, their gear, and a heavy diaper bag on top of that.

A baby carrier makes the airport experience much easier.

I’d strongly recommend investing in the best baby carrier you can afford. Having both hands free is an absolute lifesaver when navigating through a busy airport and security checkpoints. A good stroller can also work, but it just doesn’t beat the convenience of a baby carrier.

Having both hands free is an absolute lifesaver when navigating through a busy airport and security checkpoints. A good stroller can also work, but it just doesn’t beat the convenience of a baby carrier.

Ear-popping & how to deal with it.

As you probably know when flying, you’re recommended to chew gum or swallow to reduce the pressure in your ears and discomfort.

Try feeding your baby a bottle during takeoffs and landings to help them deal with it.

Bring small goodie bags for those around you.

A good idea is to pack small goodie bags for the people who will be seated around you, as a token of your appreciation for them dealing with any kind of negative experience they’re having due to your child. Things like earplugs, snacks, and a handwritten note can go a long way toward making the people around you feel better about the whole experience.

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