Tips for Flying with a Baby That You Need!

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I was lucky. My mom came along on my first flight with my one-month-old son. Since then, I’ve flown with three more babies, both alone and with reinforcements.

Traveling with infants and traveling with young children (especially when car seats are involved) can equal headaches for parents. How will baby deal with pressure changes? Will fellow passengers make it better or worse?

These 15 tips for flying with a baby can make family travel easier.

Before Flying With Baby

1. Think long and hard about which flight you book.

While finances may steer you toward the cheapest flight, price is not the only thing to consider when flying with an infant. Consider flight duration, layovers and even which airline you choose. The flight that costs an extra $100 but is nonstop in the middle of the day will be worth every extra penny. That’s especially true these days when the friendly skies have been a bit grumpy; delays and cancellations happen frequently.

Be sure to also look at airline fees. Remember that when you travel with a baby, you’ll likely want to check luggage. So factor in luggage fees before you book.

Booking international travel? For international flights, some countries charge entry taxes on a baby that have to be paid ahead of time. Call your airline for details if you’re flying with an infant (and to book a bassinet for that looooong flight).

2. Consider your baby’s schedule and comfort.

If y’all stay close to home most of the time, consider taking a few long car rides ahead of your trip. A baby who is only accustomed to short periods of time in a car seat may not do so well strapped in on a long flight. ‘

A few nap times in the car seat during drives will do wonders for your baby’s comfort level on the plane.

Read More: 25 Tips to Make Traveling with Babies Easier

3. Practice babywearing.

Mom flying with a baby in a baby carrier - SheBuysTravel
Make your flight a great experience by babywearing. You can also wear baby through security, leaving your hands free to wrangle the carry-on. Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

Babywearing — carrying the baby in a sling or other carrier that straps onto the adult — allows you to go through TSA security checkpoints hands-free. To wear a baby through TSA, choose a buckle carrier (with no metal).

During the flight, you can wear a baby (making it significantly easier to bring diaper-changing gear to the lavatory) except during takeoff and landing, when you are required to hold the baby in your arms.

There are many different types of baby carriers. They range from ring slings to wraps to soft structured buckle carriers like Ergo, Tula, Baby Bjorn and Infantino. A stretchy carrier like a Boba will allow you to take the baby in and out freely without having to retie or refasten.

If you have never tried babywearing before, head to a Babywearing International meeting near you to try different carrier styles so you can find the one that works best for you and for baby.

Read More: Complete packing list for traveling with a baby. What to bring and what to leave at home!

Car Seats on the Plane: How to Figure Out If Baby Needs a Seat

A lot of the questions about flying with a baby revolve around seating and car seats.

Let’s run through what you need to think about when planning airplane seating arrangements.

4. Lap child or separate seat?

Until the age of 2, young children can fly as a lap baby for free. While it’s always tempting to save that money, sometimes it isn’t in your best interest.

Factors to consider: How long is the flight? Will you be traveling with another adult who can hold the baby for part of the flight?

SheBuysTravel Tip: If you decide to bring baby as a lap child, get to the airport early. Many airlines will need to print out a lap child boarding pass that you cannot access by checking in on the website.

5. Flying with multiple babies or other kids?

If you are flying solo with twin babies or one baby and another child under age 2, you will need to buy a seat for at least one of the babies. That’s because airlines allow only one lap child per adult.

There’s a good reason for that: Airplane rows only have 1 additional oxygen mask. A plane configured with 3 seats per side will have 4 oxygen masks. Two adults flying with 2 lap children will NOT be allowed to sit in the same row. In the unlikely event of an emergency, there would be only 4 oxygen masks and the person in the third seat would not have a mask.

SheBuysTravel Tip: One other safety item to keep in mind is that you cannot sit in the exit row with an infant. Instead, book a bulkhead seat if you want the extra legroom. 

6. Know where you can put a child safety seat.

If you’re bringing a car seat on board for your little one, it must be an FAA-approved car seat. These seats can only go in window seats (or the middle seat if no one is sitting in the window).

There are also some restrictions around locations near exits. Be sure to check with a flight attendant once you’re on board.

7. What car seats are OK for air travel?

It may seem logical to most of us to assume that a car seat that’s approved for car travel will work for air travel. However, that’s not always true. Here’s what airlines look for when you bring a car seat on board.

  • Check the car seat tag for the following phrase: “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.”
  • Keep in mind that if you have an infant car seat with a handle you need to be able to install it using the seatbelt. You cannot use a click-in base on a plane because the seats lack the LATCH system.
  • For older children, booster seats are not allowed. Kids between 22-44 pounds can use a harness. It needs to have  “FAA Approved in Accordance with 14 CFR 21.8(d), Approved for Aircraft Use Only” or “FAA Approved in Accordance with 14 CFR 21.305(d), Amd 21.50 6-9-1980, Approved for Aircraft Use Only” on it.
  • Think about the car seat you want to bring onboard. That 40 pound seat may be great installed in your car but carrying it through TSA and down the aisle? You may be singing (or swearing) a different tune.
  • One thing to keep in mind is that babies do not need to be rear-facing on planes. That requirement relates to cars and impact during accidents. Please be aware babies can forward face at any age on a plane. Flight attendants may ask you to turn a seat around if it doesn’t fit properly.

What to Pack for Flying with Baby

baby boy lying on a map with a passport - SheBuysTravel
Babies need ID to fly! Don’t forget the passport if you’re traveling out of the country. Bring a birth certificate for domestic flights with an infant. Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

8. Bring ID for baby.

You may not automatically think to bring paperwork for baby (especially for a domestic flight), but many airlines will want to see a birth certificate. A baby has to be at least 14 days old to fly on most airlines. They will not let you on the flight if you cannot prove the baby’s age.

Traveling out of the country? Baby will need a passport. If only one parent is traveling, it is always a good idea to carry a letter from the other parent consenting to the travel.

When we lived in Vermont, I used to go to Montreal frequently with my daughter. We used to take a photo on my phone of my husband holding her with a consent letter in his hand before each trip. I was only asked about it one time.

9. Strategize your packing when flying with an infant.

You’ll have the urge to pack everything conceivable when flying with a baby. While it is good to be prepared, the most important thing is accessibility. If you have to dig through 18 inches of densely packed baby gear on the plane while holding a crying baby, you might be cursing your preparedness.

Choose a carry-on bag with outside pockets so items you are most likely to need are easily accessible.

After four children, I’ve worked my way through a fair share of diaper bags, and I always come back to a backpack style. It leaves hands free for baby and can fit items for you as well. This super-chic cognac leather look one is perfect for travel and can be carried as a backpack, over the shoulder or even strapped onto a stroller easily.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Make sure your carry on diaper bag is small enough to fit under the seat in front of you rather than in the overhead bin so you can get to it easily.

10. Ziploc bags are lifesavers!

Seriously, this is a top traveling with baby tip. Messes happen! Ziploc bags are incredibly versatile and should be on all packing lists.

Pack a couple of big Ziploc bags (gallon size or so). Stick diapers and a few wipes inside one Ziploc for quick lavatory changes. Use another plastic bag for anything liquid/goopy that you’ll need to pull out at the security checkpoint.

More empty Ziplocs can be used to hold stinky diapers if a trash can isn’t immediately available.

Baby in a car seat at the airport - SheBuysTravel
Flying with a baby doesn’t have to be stressful. Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

11. Bring a change of clothes for baby. And for you.

As someone who wound up covered in puke from a sick 13-month-old, please remember to bring a change of clothes for you as well as the baby.

I hope you never find out how important this tip is. It’s still not funny years later. I walked off the flight with puke covered jeans wearing an Airtran shirt.

12. What can you bring for your baby through airport security?

Formula, pumped breast milk and baby food are all fair game, EVEN if they are over the 3.4-ounce limit. Just be sure to let the TSA agent know that you have baby items BEFORE putting them through the X-ray machine. The agents will hand inspect them. It’s a good idea to leave bottles and sippy cups easily accessible to speed up this process.

If you need water for the formula, you can bring it through security, even if it’s a full-size water bottle. I highly recommend bringing room temperature water. Once you get past security. the water in the drinking fountains and even water from the restaurants will be chilled. Most babies don’t like cold beverages.

Read up on these TSA flying with children rules ahead of time. Or print them out and bring them to the airport with you.

SheBuysTravel Tip: If you’re traveling with baby, TSA will have you go through the metal detector. If you have a baby carrier with no metal (think Tula or LILLEbaby) wear your little one for this part. It will leave your hands free to gather up your luggage. They will probably swab your hands but it will be a quick process!

A mother holds a baby in both arms as her other child rests on a suitcase at an airport terminal. The mother is smiling and the older brother is looking out of the window at airplanes on the runway.
Here’s how to excel at the airport experience with baby. Photo credit: NadyaEugene via Shutterstock

Airport Tips When Flying with a Baby

13. Allow extra time.

Factor a buffer into your normal airport routine, especially if it’s your first time traveling with baby. It’s basically like a more complicated version of “getting out the door.” Everything takes longer than you think.

There is a good chance you will need to check in at the ticket counter to get a lap child added to your ticket. Most airlines will also then check the birth certificate you brought to be sure the baby is not over the lap child age allowed. This can take time if there is a long line.

14. No reserved seat for baby? Check at the gate.

If you haven’t purchased a seat for your infant, stop by the gate once you’re through security. There may be an extra seat on the plane that you can use for the baby.

You can also find out what time preboarding or family boarding starts and get luggage tags for your stroller and car seat. When you fly with strollers and car seats that won’t be used on the plane, airlines will gate check them. This means you set them down at the end of the jet bridge and the airline will put the item back onto the jet bridge at the next airport. It will not go to baggage claim.

Always get the tag ahead of time from the gate agent so you don’t hold things up.

15. When is the best time to nurse or bottle feed baby?

Plan to nurse or bottle-feed your baby as the plane takes off and lands.

Changes in cabin pressure can cause ear pressure and slight pain. A pacifier can also work if your child will take one. The sucking motion for all of these things will help prevent ear pain (and a screaming baby).

Learn More: Breastfeeding Tips: A Complete Guide for Travel

16. Identify which restroom has a changing table once you are onboard.

Not all airplane bathrooms are created equal. Many times, only one of the lavatories has a changing table.

There are lots of schools of thought about changing diapers in the seats themselves. So grab a portable changing pad and read up on these tips for changing diapers on a plane. This works even for babies who wear cloth diapers.

Have you flown with a baby? What are your best tips for flying with baby?

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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28 responses

  1. We use Flyaway Kids Bed for our flights with a 10 month old & LOVE IT! She could sleep and play comfortably for the whole flight – just needed to make sure she had her own seat.

    1. Thanks for the heads up! Good to know that you’ve tested it and it worked so well.

  2. Thank you! I was worried about ear pain. Tha k you for the tip.

    1. Did you fly with a baby? How did it go?

  3. Any thoughts on flying red eye with a baby to ensure they sleep? Mine is one who never cries for no reason and she likes to be held by us but NEVER sitting down. We must stand with her constantly. It’s exhausting. I’m so nervous to fly, especially after reading some of these really hateful comments.

    1. I understand the nerves. Please don’t think that everyone will be hateful. One troll stirred up some feelings in the comments and disappeared. I’ve got four I’ve flown with (hence why I wrote the article) and overall people have been pleasant. My recommendations would be practice. I know it sounds silly to practice for a flight but try to get her super comfortable and sit down for periods of time with her. I’m a huge babywearing advocate. If you have the opportunity to try out a carrier it feels a little like a hug to baby and mine would let me sit down wearing them. As a heads up you aren’t allowed to have the baby in the carrier during takeoff or landing but all other times are fine. Unfortunately with the Covid situation many airlines are asking people not to walk up and down the aisle unnecessarily so my normal suggestion of pacing as needed can’t be given. Try to book towards the back of the plane so that you can stand up and move around a little bit if needed. Other than that try to set routine beforehand with a specific blanket and lovey for bedtime and then bring those on the flight with you to hopefully create that feeling of bedtime. Best of luck!

  4. Yes, I have 6 month baby girl and I am really so worried about this. But when I read this article and follow up your 14 tips that’s helps me a lot. Thanks for the fantastic ideas.

  5. Very helpful. So many things to learn from this post. Thanks a lot for sharing all the wise tips.

  6. I loved all the instructions were also fun, all true and useful. greetings.

  7. This is fabulous. very helpful information for new mums like me.. we are heading to Canada with the baby its his first flight so i need all of this information & the comfy that he can make it cross-country without us losing our minds. thanks for sharing..

  8. Hi! Thanks for all the travelling tips I really appreciate it! Your blog is really helpful! I am bound to travel with my baby soon and your tips are worth remembering.

  9. And why would you even be on the website To be rude and demeaning.

  10. #3- Amy- I feel sorry for your mother. Wait until you become a mother and your attitude will change. I had your demeaning attitude at one point in my life and readjusted. I actually hope I sit by you and will make your airplane ride miserable!
    #6- Dude- part of life…feel sorry for your mother too….she should have raised your better. Hate to be in your life.
    That’s the problem these days with people like this….instead of being demeaning and hateful, one should be considerate and helpful. Then the world would be in a better place.

  11. Here is the only tip you need when it comes to thinking about bringing your baby on a flight-DON’T.

    If you do,though,accept that a lot of people resent it and for good reason.

    There are a lot of us who dont care why you think you need to fly with baby.We just care that we dont want to have to see hear or smell it.

    1. We can agree to disagree on that. I traveled for business weekly for years and flew over 500K a year. There are many many more adults that I met who were less welcome on the plane to me than a baby. That being said it is important for parents to be prepared and cognizant of people around them when they fly to ensure that everyone’s experience is satisfactory.

  12. Anyone who would change a baby in an airplane seat is a disgusting human IMO. Why should everyone else be subjected to faecal germs just because its a child? That is disgusting.

  13. Don’t even think of changing diapers at your seat. The only place to change diapers is in the bathroom.

    1. Agreed. It is far more sanitary and pleasant for everyone involved. That being said occasionally with flights where we have not been allowed to get up that needed a diaper change I have perfected a quick pee diaper change on my lap (NEVER on the airplane seat- gross!).

  14. I recently told a woman with a baby no when she dared ask me to trade seats so she could have the extra FREE seat I lucked into being next to for her noisy replicant. No one else with a spare chair accomodated her and her unwelcome freeloader, either.
    I also have and will continue to complain if someone tries to inflict the BIOHAZARD of diaper changing or breastfeeding on me by trying to do either next to my seat. I know many others who also complain about this, and women who try it DO get told they must use appropriate places.
    If someone tries apologising in advance for their baby being noisy , I will apologise in advance for my reflexive lashing out at anything that touches me or makes loud noise when I am resting, which I will be doing on the flight.Expect a LOT of purposely vulgar language from my husband and myself that isn’t aimed at you, but will be intentionally offensive, if you cannot keep your kid quiet.

    1. I wish I could be on a flight with you or a person just like yourself. I would purposely make your life a living hell. Also if anything is directed toward my kids such as rudeness, I would more than likely be removed from the flight because of the ruckus that I would keep up. But not before I had a hand full of your hair and left you with a Souvenir black eye.

      If someone wanted to be rude with their baby’s diaper, they would dump it right in your lap. Not put it nicely in a closed plastic bag.

      People need to realize they were once babies/kids also.

    2. Why even reading traveling mom, Amy? This guilting and shaming on a thread trying to help those dealing with the stress of travel and raising their little ones is wholly unnecessary.

      1. THANK YOU! I am just reading these comments and I cant believe the hostility. THank you thank you thank you for writing this comment. Your a stand up guy.

      2. Thank you so much for sticking up for those of us who are too scared and stressed out to do so ,I really hope my babies first time is ok , I’ve never flown with a baby before, but I can say she’s really good with car rides ,I hope people can be nice and mind their own business, it’s not the babies fault or the parents,

  15. I actually disagree w/the suggestion of getting on the plane first. Only do that IF you have car seats to install. If you do not have car seats to install then wait until the last possible minute to board. That’d mean less time in a confined space.

    Along w/the gate check suggestion – always put car seats and strollers in gate check bags – not plastic bags of any kind – they will rip. You can find these bags on amazon and other retailers. They’re easier to spot when you pick up your item AND it keeps them clean!

    1. We did a rewrite on this and we’re in agreement. I actually only prefer to get on first if it is a little baby. When my son was 3 months and under it was easier to get in and get fastened. But for some older kids getting on too early gives them time to get antsy and cranky. We do fly Southwest a lot and in those cases we always use family boarding so we don’t have any issues getting seats together.

  16. Great tips! I will add two. First, try and change the baby in the bathroom as it will keep diapers in the garbage and not in the seat back pocket. If not, please throw out diapers as soon as possible.

    If you have an extra set of hands, have them board first with gear and you board with the little one last. If you do get that “free” seat, should include the window because that is where car seats go for safety.

    1. You are absolutely correct. The car seat always has to go all the way in so it doesn’t block anyone’s exit. My changing pad has an area for a roll of plastic baggies. I always prefer to change in the lavatory but if I can’t make it there I always put it in a bag and seal it off!

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