Flying with a baby

14 Essential Tips for Flying with a Baby

Flying with a baby
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Flying with a baby.  It doesn’t have to be as hard (or scary) as it sounds. After our first road trip with a baby, we knew it was time for Amelia to take her first flight.  

Honestly, I don’t think I slept for more than 3 hours the night before Amelia’s first flight.  We embarked on a two hour drive to the airport and a 5 hour cross country flight.  I was “on” about 100% of the time being entertainer of the year, making farm animal sounds and pulling out all the snacks and new toys.

While I was so concerned that Amelia would cry the entire flight, I didn’t need to be.  She did great!  She ate, played, slept, and even made friends with the couple next to us.  Had she been given the choice, she may have gone even home with them too! At the end of the flight, I breathed a sigh of relief.  There was nothing to worry about. 

My biggest advice: Be prepared. We’ve come up with our top tips for stress-free flying with a baby.

1. Remember that infants under 2 fly for free.

Flying with a Baby

How exciting that you can plan an incredible trip for yourself and also bring along your baby for free! This is definitely the biggest perk of traveling with an infant.

2. Pay extra for a direct flight if possible.

I had to fly during the coronavirus pandemic, so cutting down on flight time and exposure risk was extra important to me.  If you’re able to afford it, try to go direct.  We actually flew to an airport two hours away and drove the rest of the way to our destination just to cut down an additional flight and more risk.

3. Book a window seat.

Flying with a baby

A window seat will be so helpful if you are nursing. I can’t imagine the difficulty of having to nurse in the middle seat.  Kudos to those moms who have!  Having the window next to you also helps keep your little one preoccupied, especially if they are in the phase where they want to stand and check out the world (or sky…).  We actually took a window gel cling from home and put it on our window so that Amelia could play with it throughout the flight.  We even got a few “aww’s” from the people walking by.

4. Bring your child’s birth certificate.

Always, always, always bring a copy of your child’s birth certificate with you!  You never know when you might need it during your vacation. Some flights request to see it to ensure your baby is actually under two years old in order to be considered a lap infant. You won’t need to present your baby’s birth certificate at security.

5. Board with families early.

I always envied the people who would be one of the first to get on a plane.  Now that you have a baby, that’s you!  When you board early, you’ll be able to get your baby situated without feeling rushed.  If you’re flying during the pandemic, now’s the time to get out your clorox wipes and wipe every surface in sight including your seat, the tray table, the window and seat in front of you. 

6. Buy a few new and cheap toys for the flight.

We all know children are fascinated with new things.  Take a trip to the Dollar Tree and find some toys that will hold your baby’s attention.  The Dollar Tree is great since you won’t feel too bad if the toy is lost or destroyed on the plane. I would suggest rotating to new toys every half hour, but my baby was ready for her last toy by takeoff… *sigh*

7. Nurse, bottle feed or give snacks during takeoff and landing.

Some babies really suffer from the altitude during takeoff and landing.  Try to nurse or bottle feed during these rise and falls in pressure to alleviate any inner ear pain.  Snacks and gum work well for older kids as well. Amelia snacked on Happy Baby Organic Superfood Puffs most of the flight.

8. Take one swaddle blanket.

Tips for Flying with a baby

Swaddle blankets are essential.  These multi-purpose blankets can be used as a burp rag, a nursing cover or a lightweight blanket.  We brought our largest muslin swaddle and used it constantly during the flight.  She even enjoyed chewing the tag on the blanket!

9. Dress your baby in pajamas.

To keep the germs at bay as best as possible, dress your baby in lightweight pajamas to keep her skin covered.  Bonus if those pajamas have the hand covers!

10. If you’re on a direct flight (or have a short layover), babywear!

Kate and Amelia at the airport

If you’re going directly from Point A to Point B, just wear your baby in the airport. You do not have to take out your baby or take off your carrier when going through security.  The TSA agents will just do a quick wipe of your hands.

11. If you have a longer layover, bring your stroller.

If you have a long layover, babywearing may be difficult for your baby (and your back).  Consider bringing a stroller so your baby doesn’t have to be fully attached to you both on the plane and at several airports.  You can gate check your stroller for all flights.

12. Borrow (or rent) a car seat and stroller at your destination.

I’m very thankful I could borrow a car seat and stroller while we were on vacation, so I did not need to bring ours along. I have heard of strollers and car seats being broken due to mishandling, and that is quite an expensive item to replace. If you’re able, borrow (or rent) a car seat and stroller at your destination. It’s also one less thing to lug through the airport. 

13. Jump into the new time zone.

You may be crossing time zones and wondering what your baby’s sleep will be like once you’re off the plane.  I suggest jumping into that time zone as best you can.  If flying west to east in the USA, it might just be time for you to put your baby to sleep as you get to your hotel.  If flying east to west, try as best you can to push her bedtime a little later.

14. Accept help!

If someone lends you a hand, take it, especially if you’re traveling with a baby solo. No one wants to see you struggle, and everyone wants to have a safe and calm flight. It’s not a badge of honor to ignore help. 

Flying with a baby doesn’t have to be as scary as it sounds. You can totally do this! With these helpful tips, I hope this is one of many of calm and uneventful flights.  

Kate Schloe

I’m a mom and speech pathologist. I love reading to my baby girl, watching Netflix and drinking vanilla chai tea lattes! Favorite destination: Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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