Flying with a baby for the first time can be very stressful. Actually leaving home with a baby for any reason is stress inducing! If you’re preparing for Airplane Travel with an Infant, here are 12 tips for Flying with a Baby (including what to pack for your flight and what to wear to the airport).
12 Tips for Flying with a Baby
- Purchasing the correct airline ticket for a baby. Arbor traveled as a LAP baby (infant in arms). We called Delta to ensure she had the appropriate ticket. Note: We have never purchased a seat for our babies or brought a car seat on the plane so I cannot give advice on this topic.
- When booking your flight, check with the airline for any required documents (birth certificate, passport, etc.). We did NOT need any documentation for our domestic trip on Delta for the baby or our daughters (ages 6 and 8).
- Make a list of everything you need for your trip a few days ahead of time. I have a list below with must haves for flying with a baby!
- Wear OR push your infant in a stroller. Do NOT attempt to travel without any type of carrying device. I have never had to remove the baby from the carrier during security check-in, but I always have my hands tested by TSA for gunpowder or explosive residue.
- Use a backpack diaper bag to keep your hands free. We love this backpack (FYI it’s pricey), but here is an affordable reliable backpack option.
- Gate check the stroller and/or car seat. It may mean you have to lug the car seat and stroller may mean through the airport, but this ensures your gear will make it to your final destination and is less likely to be damaged along the way. NOTE: We did not bring a stroller or car seat on our last trip – my in-laws had everything upon arrival.
- Change the baby’s diaper BEFORE boarding the plane. I had to change a dirty diaper right in my seat on the tray before and it is NOT easy with a little wiggly baby. I have also changed a baby in the plane bathroom and it’s hard! If you have a poop diaper you need to notify the flight attendant before tossing it in the trash. I highly recommend these disposable diaper trash bags to contain a dirty diaper.
- Board last or board separately if traveling with another adult. Babies can get restless quickly while you’re waiting to take off – as did Arbor on our returning flight. Send your partner on board first to gate check the stroller, stow luggage, and sanitize your seating area.
- Nurse or feed the baby on take-off and landing. I made a rookie mistake on our flight nursing Arbor as soon as we sat down. When we took off, she was happy and fed, so she wanted to climb my face and look around the plane. By nursing or giving them a bottle, the swallowing keeps their ears from popping. If they don’t want to eat, give them a pacifier (and offer a lollipop for big kids). Bring EXTRA pacifiers – we kept dropping ours and needing to sanitize them.
- Use food as an activity. If your baby eats solids, use the food as an activity. Sanitize the tray and let them pick up little puffs or snacks one at a time. I have seen these disposable placemats that would be great to keep germs at bay on the plane tray.
- Pack inexpensive toys and offer one thing at a time. I like to travel with new-er cheap toys for a few reasons. First, they will be more interested in a new toy. Second, if the toy is from the dollar store I don’t mind losing it under the seat.
- STAY CALM – this is the most important tip for flying with a baby. The old saying, “Your baby will feel what you feel” is very true. You will not believe how many people on your plane will actually understand or sympathize with a crying baby. Some have been there and others are patient. Kindness does still exist – I actually allowed a flight attendant to calm Annabelle and walk her through the aisles when she was a screaming infant.
If you are flying with a baby alone, do not Panic! There are many kind flight attendants, airport staff, or fellow travelers who can help you with anything. Just ASK for help – and you will be surprised at how many people will offer to help you with your baby.
Packing List for Airplane Travel with an Infant
- Easy to carry-on bag or diaper bag. If you are traveling alone with a baby, bring a backpack to keep your hands free.
- A stroller OR a baby carrier. If you choose to bring a stroller, you will ask the gate attendant for a tag to check the stroller before you enter the plane. I recommend any stroller that is easy to fold quickly (here are 12 travel strollers).
- Multiple extra outfits for baby AND at least a shirt for Mom. Pack the clothing in plastic ziploc bags – they will double as storage for soiled clothing. Note: I have been pooped and puked on during a flight before.
- New-ish inexpensive toys plus a favorite toy. Books are great if your baby likes to read too.
- Multiple pacifiers (if needed).
- Easy snacks in a large Ziploc bag. Most TSA agents will have you remove the snacks from the diaper bag while going through security.
- Multiple diapers, wipes, changing pad and diaper rash cream. I never leave home without lots of diapers and wipes – but some airport shops carry baby changing supplies. Just ask someone for help if you cannot find them. We also love these disposable dirty diaper trash bags or dog poop bags and disposable changing pads.
- A light blanket – or a nursing cover can double as a blanket.
- Don’t forget to pack any essential medications in a Ziploc bag in your carry-on. Our teething baby needed Infant Motrin on our flight home!
- Sanitizing spray or wipes or alcohol hand wipes to clean the seat, tray, etc. Disposable placemats are great for snack time or as an emergency changing pad.
What to Wear when Flying with a Baby
If you are preparing for airplane travel with an infant – or even a road trip – here is what baby and Mom should wear to the airport.
Baby – The best clothing a baby can wear on a plane is footed pajamas. Choose a lightweight pair of pajamas that you can easily zip up-and-down! Another option is a two piece pajama outfit with shoes – but I prefer a one piece. These are our favorite pajamas for Arbor.
Mom – Sneakers, leggings, a t-shirt and easy to nurse-in bra (if necessary). I always wear socks because I don’t like to be barefoot during security when I take off my shoes. Also, I like to a long sleeve shirt or zip-up hoodie around my waist in case it gets chilly on the plane (or if I want to cover up while nursing). See my outfit here.
Dad (or other adult)- Wear something comfortable, pack an extra outfit if you’re going to hold the baby on the plane. Annabelle threw up all over Brandon during our descent once on Thanksgiving!
A few final thoughts on airplane travel with an infant…
The first time I flew with a baby was in 2014 when Annabelle was just a few months old. Here is my first blog post before our flight with my fears and some tips from friends! Want more tips for flying with a toddler? Or how about How to Fly ALONE with Toddlers? I have you covered with travel advice for parents here!