Today I am sharing tips on flying with babies. Don’t worry, it’s totally doable. I will be talking about the unique needs of flying with babies, but be sure to check out my post on Flying with Kids that included general tips that apply to kids of all ages.
Our three kids (ages 8, 5, and 3) have all flown numerous times since infancy. It’s perk or downfall (however you want to look at it) of living far from family. Our oldest flew for the first time at two months (just days after receiving his two month vaccinations). The majority of our flights are just me and the kids, so I will include some tips for flying solo.
1. Wait to board the plane.
- Many of the airlines no longer offer the option for families with young child to board early. Actually I prefer to wait as long as possible. We will be on the plane sitting buckled in our seats long enough. The less time we are confined to our seats, the better. I very rarely travel with anything that goes in the overhead compartment, so I don’t have to worry about trying to get highly coveted space.
2. Hold baby to save money on ticket.
- Kids can fly for free by sitting in your lap until they are two. There are only certain seats that have an extra oxygen mask. Ask at the ticket counter or at the gate if you are in one of these seats. I like to have seats in the back of the plane. I find these seem to be the least desired seats on the plane. There are usually less business travelers, more families, and if we are lucky empty seats.
3. Choose a window seat.
- Try to get a window seat. A window seat will offer you more privacy if you are nursing. A window may offer a source of entertainment for the baby. You can look at the clouds out the window or play peek a boo with the window by opening and closing it.
4. Schedule flights during naptime.
- Try to schedule flights during naptime if at all possible. I got very lucky flying with our kids as babies. I never had any problems…no obsessive crying, no blowouts, and no throw up (minus the excessive spit up that was the norm). Our kids loved to nurse. Any opportunity they got to nurse, they were happy to latch on. The minute I sat down with them in my lap on the plane, they were ready to nurse. I tried to hold off nursing until we were getting ready to take off. They nursed and then usually fell asleep. We often had connecting flights, so they did not always nap on the second flight, but were usually happy to nurse for part of the flight.
5. Rely on flight attendant for specific instructions.
- Some airlines are stricter in terms of how you hold your baby in your lap for the flight at take off and landing. Do what works for you unless the flight attendant instructs you differently.
6. Put your stuff in seat pocket.
- Once you get on the plane and settled into your seat, put your drink, magazine, book, or whatever you need in the pocket of the seat in front of you. If you are lucky and your baby falls asleep, you will have something to do.
7. Pack more than needed.
- Pack more diapers, clothes, food, snacks, and formula (if using) than you think you will need. We have been delayed numerous times and needed those extra items. We even had to spend a night in a hotel once when the kids were 5, 2, and 9 months. I was able to get a few diapers from the airline, but they had a very limited supply. Airline offices are usually a long trek from where you need to be, so it’s better to have what you need.
- You are allowed to take formula through security. I even forgot to dump a sippy cup once before entering security and was allowed to keep it after they checked it.
8. Nurse or offer something to suck on during take off and landing.
- Nurse or offer a bottle, pacifier, or sippy cup at take off and landing to help with ear popping from air pressure changes.
9. Bring a blanket.
- Bring a blanket. Planes are often cold. I have seen mothers with their boppy pillow. I love my boppy pillow, but flying by myself I could only carry so much and there were other items I needed more. The longest flight we have taken is three hours. If we were flying a much longer distance, I would have brought it to help support the baby.
10. Pack extra outfits for baby and you.
- Pack extra outfits for the baby. Consider packing an extra outfit for yourself or at least an extra shirt. Our kids were spitters and it usually ended up on me. I had one of the kids leak through their diaper onto me once and was thankful I had a change of clothes.
11. Put bags under seat in front of you for easy access.
- Pack what you need for the flight in a bag(s) that will fit under the seat in front of you. You will not have access to your gate checked luggage during the flight and getting into the overhead compartments during a flight is not convenient.
12. Bring snacks if your baby is eating them.
- If your baby is eating snacks, bring snacks. The snacks will help entertain your baby when they become restless.
13. Bring quiet toys and books.
- All those musical/light up toys that you use to entertain your baby at home or in the car, do not work on a plane. Actually, they work but other passengers would prefer them not to work, so bring a variety of small quiet toys and books.
14. You can change a diaper on the plane.
- Many planes have a baby changing station that folds down above the toilet in the very tiny bathroom. You could also use the closed toilet seat as a changing table. If you are flying with a relative, you may want to consider staying in your seat and changing the baby’s wet diaper either on your seat while you stand up or on your lap with a changing pad under baby. Always carry plastic bags to put dirty diapers into.
15. Some people use car seats on the plane…I don’t.
- I have never used a car seat on the plane, but I know some families do. I avoid car seats as much as possible when flying, especially now that you have to pay for each piece of checked luggage. When our kids were in the infant car seat, I almost always brought it. Sometimes I checked it with luggage and other times I checked it at the gate depending on our needs and the age of our babies at the time of flight.
- Car rental companies will provide car seats upon request.
- If you are visiting family frequently, it might be wise to purchase or ask them to purchase a car seat for their house (especially if you are paying $25 each way for the car seat to be checked).
16. Consider whether you need a stroller/what type?
- We have used different strollers at different times in our children’s lives.
- I often used an Infantino carrier for our oldest and left the stroller at home. The baby had to be removed from the carrier and the carrier taken off and put through the x-ray machine at security.
- As we had more kids and more stuff, I had to have a stroller to get through the airport. Be prepared if you bring a stroller. The stroller has to go through security.
- It needs to be folded down, put on the conveyor belt, and sent through the x-ray screening machine. My double strollers never fit, but there were still times I was required to try. If your stroller does not fit, a security officer will check it by hand. If you are flying alone, make sure you can open and close your stroller with one hand (you will have the baby in the other hand) or ask for help.
- The stroller will need to be checked at the gate. That means you need to get a tag from the gate agent and put it on your stroller. Ask for this tag once you get to the gate; don’t wait until it is time to board and there is a mad rush to get on the plane. You will need to fold your stroller down and leave it in the designated area.
- After deplaning, you will need to wait in the designated area and get your stroller. There were many of times that I had to rely on the help of strangers. It usually meant handing my baby to a stranger while I wrangled the stroller. Unfortunately there is no universal method for opening and closing a stroller, so it was usually easier do it myself while relying on a “grandma” to hold my baby.