12 Travel Tips for Flying With a Baby

Twelve Tips for Flying with a Baby

In Hank’s first year, we’ve visited four different states and three different countries. We’re very tired. Still, we’ve learned a lot about flying with the little guy, and it’s all stuff you should know too.

Follow these guidelines and you’ll be comfortable, entertained, and prepared for the duration of your flight. And if not? Well, at least you’ll be in Belize when it’s over.

1. Book wisely. If your baby is on a regular sleep schedule, take a moment to savor your good luck. Then book your flight during nap or sleep time. Booking tickets is your first chance to optimize seating, though fortunately not your last.

2. Ditch your diaper bag. This smallish Samsonite tote is Hank’s travel bag. (On sale for $20! The hell?) We use it as his carry-on instead of the diaper bag because it has more room, but still stows under the seat. The extra pockets and U-shaped top zipper also make things much more accessible.

3. Provide entertainment. Pack a few new toys if the baby is older, otherwise cup lids and pretzel packets will fascinate. Leave noise-making toys at home. Even soft jingle or squeak will irritate others after an hour or so.

4. Prep for security screening. Invest in a couple of sturdy clear bags that you can yank out of the tote when you get to the security gate. (By the way, food doesn’t count toward your quart-bag limit on toiletries.) We use a medium bag for all his food—usually two ready-to-use bottles of formula, one empty bottle filled with the right amount of powdered formula, and a baggie of powdered formula with the scoop in the bag. The little bag houses children’s Tylenol, hand cream, travel-sized butt paste, a nasal sprayer, eye drops, thermometer, etc.

5. Plan for mishaps. Tuck in two fresh onesies for the kiddo, and a clean T-shirt for you or your partner, in case there’s an incident. You’ll want a few quart-sized plastic zippie bags for wet clothes. I also throw in a large plastic yard bag because it packs so small and is useful if you have a little guy who decides to poop, pee, spit up, and repeat. Dress the baby for easy changes.

6. Prep for fussiness. If you know your baby is a screamer, pack a bag full of foam earplugs for your neighbors. We also find that chamomile or herbal teething drops help calm our baby when he’s grumpy.

7. Buy a couple bottles of water. You can’t get bottled water through security in The States, but you can bring it on the plane if you buy it at the airport. The water on planes has lots of bacteria, so I add bottled water to our powdered formula. We also use a little bottled water and bathroom soap as a last resort if we have to wash a bottle for re-use on board.

8. Strategize seating. A bulkhead seat or an extra empty seat will change your life for the next few hours. First ask for the bulkhead (if you’re traveling internationally with a baby who’s under 28″ or so, this is where they hook you up with bassinets). If they’re not available, and you’re traveling with a partner, ask them to seat one of you on the window and the other on the aisle. This often leaves you with an empty seat between, because no one wants to sit in the middle. If you still haven’t wrangled an empty seat when you get to the gate, bring your cute baby up to the counter and ask very nicely if they can help you find an empty seat should one open up. Then ask if you can get them some coffee.

9. Keep your stroller with you. They’ll give you luggage tags at the gate, and you just leave it outside the door of the plane. We travel with a Kolcraft car seat stroller so we can check the wheels and take the car seat aboard if there are empty seats.

10. Make friends. Be extra kind to every crewmember you encounter. When you board the plane, show the flight attendants your baby, introduce them, take your baby’s hand and help him wave. Flight attendants are awesome, and they’re your allies in keeping the little one quiet and happy. They’ll heat bottles, bring extra blankets, supply cup lids, you name it. But only if you’re pleasant.

11. Do a scrub down. Our doctor advised us to use a few baby wipes to clean our arm rests and table trays. We even clean the light buttons and air vents so everything we touch is a little more sanitary. When you use the changing table in the bathroom, you might also want to wipe off anything the baby can reach in there.

12. Ease ear pressure. The baby should suck on something during takeoff and landing. Nursing works, as does bottle feeding, pacifiers, or a lollipop.

That’s all there is to it. Easier than you thought, right? You’re welcome to leave more ideas in the comments. Tomorrow I’ll do a little roundup of the best way to get through airport security efficiently. You can hardly wait.

56 thoughts on “12 Travel Tips for Flying With a Baby

  1. A fun tip – ask a flight attendant if your little one can have a pair of wings. We just did this with our infant daughter’s first plane ride. Makes for some cute pictures and a small keepsake to show her one day.


  2. I found the handing out foam earplugs an exceptional tip! Those with a sense of humor will be more sympathetic. Those without a sense of humor will appreciate how much you respect your co-passengers.


  3. Great tips Maggie. We have found that our daughter sleeps better on the plane if she is in a car seat. However, as people have noted, what a pain to drag through the airport. Until I found this, http://www.gogobabyz.com/products/gogo_kids.html
    greatest thing ever. You can make the car seat a stroller. You have a car seat for the plane, the rental car and for the cab, which then can be used as a stroller. Granted not the most convenient stroller, but a stroller. Has made traveling much easier with a toddler.


  4. I SO wish I had thought to bring extra clothes for myself when my 15 month old son barfed all over himself and me halfway through a 5 hour flight. Luckily, I was wearing a short sleeved T over a long sleeved one, so I was able to take the most barfilicious one off and keep the other on.

    Another thing to remember? When you are removing the offending shirt in the airplane bathroom, sitting there in just your bra while your youngster stands in just his diaper and pulls all the toilet paper off the roll, make sure you remembered to LOCK THE DOOR TO THE BATHROOM. That was a fun moment.


  5. These are fabulous.

    I would add the following:

    1) bring your own baby blankets. The airplane ones are super gross.
    2) always have extra food/ snacks on hand because of common delays.
    3) you may want to ditch the car seat and use the newly-invented child restraint system: CARES http://www.kidsflysafe.com/ No need to lug around a car seat any longer.


  6. CARES is great, but is FAA approved for airplane use for kids who weigh 22-44 pounds only, so it does not work for the littlest ones/babies.

    I guess you could use the Sit n Stroll carseat, airplane seat and stroller all in one, prior to 20 pounds. Or for 0-40 pounds.

    Then use CARES for the plane and one of the following: the Eddie Bauer Portable Car Seat/Harness, the GO SEAT or a RIDESAFER Travel Vest for the car/taxi.

    The CARES and these others are foldable, lightweight and not too expensive, especially if used for more than one child/passed down in a family.

    But to be honest, I am worried about actual safety with the car seat strap systems vs a real car seat.

    I think they need to make a portable harness for kids that is both NHTSA and FAA approved, so you have one harness for both planes and cars, for travel use.

    Who out there wants to go in on creating an all- in- one kiddie harness with me? We’d make millions!

    Maggie, are you in this?


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