Changing Diapers on a Plane: Things to Know Before Flying

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Cute baby wearing a diaper looking at camera
Are you ready to change diapers on a plane? We’ve got tips, tricks and the things you’ll need. Photo credit: Stock Unlimited

Dealing with diapers on a plane is never a thrilling part of traveling with a baby. In-flight poops are not fun, but you will get through it. We promise! With a few tips, the right diaper changing supplies and a little practice you’ll be an in-flight diaper pro. Then you’ll be able to concentrate on finding the best spots to visit with baby. Let’s go through everything you’ll need to be ready to handle diapers on a plane.

Changing Diapers on a Plane: How and Where

As a frequent business traveler and mother of four, I can confidently state that flying with babies requires planning. We cover general flying with baby tips but the topic of changing diapers on a plane deserves its own discussion.

Changing diapers in flight is obviously a necessity. One question that always comes up is where you change a diaper on a plane. The two main options are in the lavatory of the plane or at your seat.

The Only Time You Should Ever Change a Diaper at Your Seat

Please promise us that you will head to the bathroom to change diapers if it is possible. It gives you a changing table, space to work and privacy to perfect your craft.

The only time an in-seat diaper change should occur is if you are not permitted to get up and move about the cabin. Not only does no one want to see that but it sets up a precarious, potentially messy situation. You love your baby but do you really want to end up wearing their by-products?

Best Tips for Changing Diapers On a Plane

1. Invest in a travel changing pad to deal with diapers on a plane.

We have a travel-changing pad that folds up into a little kit. It holds wipes, a few diapers, a change of clothes and some plastic bags. This “small profile” changing kit is much easier to carry down a narrow aisle to the airplane bathroom than a full diaper bag.

2. Perform a pre-boarding diaper change.

Change baby as close to boarding time as possible. The hope is it buys you more time before they’ll soil themselves on the airplane. Or your baby might take it as a personal challenge and go during the boarding process- you never know!

Read More: 25 Tips to Make Traveling with Babies Easier

airplane lavatory changing table american airlines
Aircraft lavatories aren’t known for being spacious. Changing tables usually fold down. Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

3. Identify the location of the changing table.

Unfortunately, not every plane will have a changing table on board. Those that do often only have one in a lavatory (not necessarily all of the lavs). The flight attendant will be able to tell you the location of the changing table. Most equipment used for longer cross-country flights will have some type of changing table to deal with diapers on a plane.

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4. No changing table? Ask for advice.

Some small regional jets don’t have a changing table. In these situations, ask the flight attendant for the best spot for a diaper change. Some will offer a sheet to cover the jump seat or even have you do it in on the back galley floor. Another popular recommendation is to change baby on a closed toilet seat which we go deeper into in a bit.

5. Plastic bags are for winners.

Show your love for fellow passengers by bagging poop diapers on a plane in their own plastic disposal bag to contain the smell. Airplane lavatories are small and easily overwhelmed by odors. If it’s a particularly offensive diaper, ask the flight attendant if you should put it in the plane’s rear trash receptacle.

Read More: 7 Creative Uses for Ziploc Bags When Traveling with Kids

6. Repeat after me: Never on the tray table.

Please don’t even look at the seat back tray table as an option for changing diapers on a plane. First, they aren’t that sturdy. Second, they aren’t that clean. Third, it is the epitome of rude. I’d venture to say it’s one of the biggest air travel faux pas you can perform. I’ve heard rumors about toenail clipping on planes though and it’s a hard contest between those two.

smiling woman is wearing a small baby in a pink soft structured baby carrier on her front. She is seated on a plane.
Babywearing makes getting to the bathroom and using the changing table easier. Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

7. Wear baby in a carrier if possible.

Airplane bathrooms are small. The changing tables? Sometimes they fold out origami-style. I travel with a baby carrier. Being able to keep baby closer to you and have both hands free makes it so much easier to get the changing table down. No one wants to juggle changing supplies while holding an infant. Trying to release a drop-down changing table is tricky and no one wants to accidentally bonk baby.

Don’t have a carrier? Ask nicely and a flight attendant may hold your kiddo for a minute or put the table down for you.

8. Keep it sanitary when changing diapers on a plane.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a unique fear. Baby touches something nasty. They jam their hands in their mouth. Baby develops a strange disease that is named after them. Bring a travel pack of Clorox-style disinfectant wipes or individual Purell wipes. Wipe down the changing table, toilet seat and seat area before starting the diaper change.

Read More: The Germiest Spots on a Plane and How to Avoid Them

portable changing pad that unfolds has diapers and wipes on it and is seen on an airplane lavatory changing table
Invest in a good changing pad before flying with baby. Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

9. How do I change a baby on a closed toilet seat?

When planes don’t have changing tables, a frequent suggestion is to change baby’s diaper on a closed toilet seat. I do not recommend this. It’s not conducive to diaper changes. The angle is tricky and you either need to work your calf muscles with a hardcore squat or kneel on the lavatory floor.

A lot of folks suggest disposable changing pads. These can definitely work, but they move around. My secret weapon? Disposable sticky placemats like they have at Chick-Fil-A. With adhesive on the bottom and around the edges, you stick them to surfaces like the floor (or closed toilet seat if you went that route). Then throw it away. Total germ barrier. Kneeling? Put one on the lavatory floor to kneel on. Isn’t family travel fun?

When changing a dirty diaper on the closed toilet seat, be sure to keep one hand on the infant at all times. These lids usually have a slight curve to them. You want to make sure baby doesn’t roll or fall off off. Again, I recommend a baby carrier of some type. Once the diaper change is complete, strap baby back in. Then gather your supplies, clean up and wash your hands.

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blonde Toddler boy lays on a changing table staring up a t the camera on a Southwest flight. There is a pack of wipes near his head
Toddlers can hang over airplane changing tables. Perfect the standing diaper change. Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

10. Perfect the standing diaper change.

Obviously this trick isn’t going to work for a 2-month-old. For taller children who are still in diapers, a standing change is an option. Have your kiddo stand on the closed toilet seat lid. Pull down their pants, undo the diaper and let it drop into your hand. Don’t forget to check for poop first! Roll it, bag it up and secure a fresh diaper on your child.

If you put on the new diaper while the child is standing, be sure to inspect the edges. Make sure you haven’t given them a diaper wedgie that will result in a mess later. For best results, don’t try this for the first time on the airplane! Practice a few standing diaper changes at home pre-trip. Standing also works for side-of-the-road diaper changes during road trips.

11. In-lap diaper changes: What you need to know!

All else has failed. The seat belt sign is on, there’s no changing table, the seats next to you are taken and your kiddo has a wet diaper. It’s time to perform a feat that any traveling parent dreads: the in-lap diaper change. Basically, you are going to use your lap as a changing table. It’s not ideal and done improperly, it can end in mess and disaster. If there’s an option to change baby in the aisle quickly, you may want to go for it.

How to Change Baby’s Diapers on a Plane on Your Lap

Rope your seat neighbor into holding supplies. Trust me, that person wants it over with as fast as possible too. Take a receiving blanket or disposable changing pad and put it over your lap. Lay baby on their back, butt end towards you. Try to distract them with a toy if possible.

Spread out the new diaper and put it under their butt. Once that’s in place, peel off the old diaper. Slide it out and fasten the new one.

Pooptastrophe? It gets more complicated. Have your travel partner or seat neighbor hand you wipes. Have a plastic bag open and ready to put dirties into.

Again, lap changes are a last resort and should only be attempted if absolutely necessary. This is one of the main reasons I recommend people pack a change of clothes for themselves AND baby.

12. What diaper supplies should I pack for a flight?

Look at the length of your flight and think about your child’s patterns. Most kiddos require a diaper change every 2-3 hours; more frequently for breast-fed babies. If it’s a one-hour flight, you may not even have to change a diaper. For a two- to three-hour flight, a folding changing pad carrier with five diapers jammed in should be adequate. Don’t forget the bags for dirty diapers!

A cross-country flight? You should pack a diaper bag that contains the easy-to-grab changing kit as one of your carry-on items. Be sure to include disposable changing pads or a receiving blanket for covering changing surfaces (like your lap). Many airlines will not count a diaper bag against you as a carry-on. Check your carrier’s policy.

13. Add extra protection to diapers on a plane.

Obviously you want that plane diaper to contain everything. No leaks, pooptastrophes or escaped pee! I recommend using nighttime diapers on a plane. They’re made to contain extra fluids and if baby sleeps for a long time on the plane, you won’t be worried. Another trick we’ve used? Cloth diaper covers. Believe it or not we actually brought two of ours cross-country on flights while cloth diapering. We stopped that for our fourth, but I still used the waterproof cover over a disposable diaper as an extra “uh-oh” layer.

14. Attitude is everything.

Above all else going into the flight with the right attitude can make or break the trip. Flying with a baby can be tough. It can induce anxiety. You WILL get through it. We promise.

a woman with tan skin sits on a plane next to a tan baby boy with curly hair. he is seated in a car seat an looking out the window
Bottom line? Enjoy traveling with your kiddo. You can do this! Photo credit: Kim Miles

FAQs: The Too Long Didn’t Read (TLDR) Version of Changing Diapers on a Plane

Q: What should I pack in my diaper-changing kit for the plane?

A: You’ll want to include plenty of diapers, wipes, a changing pad, and a plastic bag for disposing of dirty diapers. It’s also a good idea to bring a change of clothes for your baby and a spare shirt for yourself in case of any accidents.

Q: Where is the best place to change a diaper on a plane?

A: Most planes have changing tables in the bathrooms, which is the best place to change your baby’s diaper. However, these can be cramped and may not be available on all planes. If the bathroom is occupied or unavailable, you can also try changing your baby on your lap or in an empty seat if there is one available.

Q: How often should I change my baby’s diaper during a long flight?

A: It’s a good idea to check your baby’s diaper every hour or so during a long flight. This will help prevent any leaks or accidents and keep your baby comfortable.

Q: What if my baby has a blowout diaper on the plane?

A: If your baby has a particularly messy diaper, you may need to use extra wipes and possibly even a spare outfit. It’s a good idea to pack a few extra changes of clothes for your baby in case of any accidents. Always bag poop diapers in a plastic bag before throwing them away.

Nasreen Stump Avatar
Nasreen’s adventures started out as business travel. Working as a territory sales manager she covered 21 states during her tenure, traveling 3-5 nights a week. As she visited new cities and states, she always worked in a quick stop at a unique or iconic site. A travel writing career was born. When her father-in-law’s cancer came back she started writing and consulting full-time around his chemotherapy schedule. Traveling with her firefighter/paramedic husband, kids, friends and solo allows her to cover a variety of situations and topics. Her four kids (19 year old boy, 13 year old girl, 11 year old girl and 7 year old boy) are professionals at the cross country road trip. After 10 years in Texas, their family is back in the Northeast exploring both familiar and new destinations. There she runs her own business providing go-to-market, sales strategy, podcast, and content marketing consulting for websites and B2B businesses. Whenever possible she writes for a variety of publications in the podcast, travel, and business space. Connect with her on LinkedIn to chat about travel, content, sales, and podcasts!
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