The Best Tips For Flying With a Baby (And Not Losing Your Sanity)

Tips For Flying With a Baby

The Best Tips For Flying With a Baby (And Not Losing Your Sanity) 

Since having our two sons, we’ve flown quite a few times with a baby – and I can honestly say, it hasn’t been that bad.

Flying with a toddler? Well…that’s another story. But our boys have both done well on cross country flights as infants.

I often hear moms asking for tips for flying with a baby, so I thought I’d share some of my top “expert” tips on how to fly with a baby. Hopefully this will make your next trip a little less stressful, too!

Flying with a baby for the first time? Don't worry - it can be a pleasant experience for all! Here are some tips for stress-free flying with a baby (flying with my son as an infant was MUCH easier than as a toddler!)

 1. Something to Suck On

Some of the best advice I received about flying with a baby, was making sure they had something to suck on during take off and landing. Unfortunately, Jack always wanted to eat about 30 minutes before either of those times, but he loved his pacifier. This helped with the air pressure, and making sure his ears didn’t get plugged up. He didn’t cry once, and enjoyed the ride up.
Whether you 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!

2. Get your baby a seat!

I remember saying when Jack 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 extra seat on the plane next to us, and they let us bring his car seat on…and it was HEAVEN.

With Oliver, we’ve always gotten him a 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.

If there are open seats on a plane, airlines will sometimes give you that seat for free…but you can’t always count on that.

It does cost more, but it is safer. 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.

3. Baby carrier

Although we took our stroller and car seat to the gate, I always put Jack in my baby carrier. When he was younger, I used my homemade Moby wrap. With Oliver, I always used 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.

Either way, get a baby carrier. You won’t regret it (here’s a few reasons why.)

It also  makes going through security 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 lines with no problem. Now that we have Baby J, it’s a completely different story. Just check out this picture of what our most recent trip looked like:

Flying With a Baby Security
And…that wasn’t even everything! We ended up having to be in line for about 10 minutes, once we reached this point, because of some random issue with our stroller, and having to empty out all our baby food. There were some nice people behind us, who helped us, and later told us they had been there many times before. Some people won’t be so nice, but oh well. Try and have everything as organized as possible before you get to security.
There might be other delays that come up — having to stop and change a diaper (THIS diaper changing pad/bag is a must for travel) or feed a hungry baby, delays in flights (we got stuck in Chicago for about five hours than we had initially anticipated), 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, 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’s 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

This one will put you out about 5-10 bucks, but we’ve found it’s totally worth it.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). A

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 they never weigh our 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 over weight (usually by less than 5 ponds), especially after Christmas.

7. Bring lots of diapers, wipes, and snacks (if baby is eating solids)

Take my word for it. 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 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 a meal time. 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.

8. Bring the Birth Certificate

Because children under 2 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 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 in 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.

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.

10. Blanket

Airplanes can get pretty chilly. And it seems like babies are more susceptible to changes in temperature than some people. Sure, the airplane might have 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 people. 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 afterwards 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.

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)

Baby J didn’t need much to occupy him when we flew when he was three months. He pretty much slept the entire time. However, when we flew to Colorado for Christmas, it was a little bit of a different story. He wanted to jump and play and kick the seat in front of us. And unfortunately, we didn’t have much to entertain him. But, we did have our phones, and luckily had downloaded a baby rattle app that he loved, and it calmed him down a little bit. 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!

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!

Flying with a baby / Traveling with a baby / family travel / baby tips / baby travel tips / baby hacks

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!

Looking for tips for going on a road trip for with a baby? Be sure to check out this post

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6 Comments

  • Some good tips- thanks for sharing! Just to add a few things.... Find out about the rules of using an infant carrier during the flight as they differ based on airline and country. I found using one to have a baby sleep on my chest so much easier than the bassinets they offer. Also, there are now a number of companies around the world where you can rent strollers, car seats, playpens etc. It makes it SO much easier than trying to pack them or take them with you. I also had a friend recently write a note to those who would be sitting near them along with a gift of ear plugs and chocolates- brilliant!
  • Hi I don't have babies anymore. But just read your post to see how Moms are coping with flying nowadays. I do have a tip for flying with toddlers. When our son was about three I started going to the dollar store buying cheap toys and things I knew would distract him for awhile. Then I would wrap them up in old wrapping paper with lots of ribbon and tape so it would take awhile for him to rip it open. I also would wrap up a few treats , a small pack of gummy bears or raisins. Then I put all of the little wrapped gifts into a small kids backpack which I placed in my own carry on. Once we were up in the air I would start getting out the gifts! I could keep him going for hours. Oh by the way we travel internationally. On occasion when other mothers were having a hard time I would give them a wrapped gift or two. Anyway this system worked well for our son until he got into game boy etc. Although even at 7 or 8 he would occasionally ask if I had anything for him in my carryon.
    • Thank you so much for sharing - these are some wonderful tips! I think I'm going to try that with my four-year-old when we fly to NC next month :)
    • You are totally outnumbered at that point! We like to fly with family when we can - it makes things so much easier!

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