When he is not writing, Arthur loves to spend time with his wife and two daughters. Over the years, he's picked up lots of parenting tips.
7 Tips for Flying With a Baby
Traveling is stressful enough to begin with, but doing it with a baby can make matters even worse. Lugging your little one through an unfamiliar situation can cause anxiety for all parties, but luckily, you can relieve some of the stress by being prepared.
In fact, traveling on an airplane with your baby can actually be fun if you are prepared. Knowing what to bring, what to leave behind, and what to expect once you get to the airport are all keys to traveling with your baby.
1. Start Prepping Well Before Departure
Get Your Documents in Order
If you are planning on traveling internationally, your baby will need a passport. Remember that even expedited passports will take a few weeks to show up, so give yourself plenty of time before the trip.
Note: If you are traveling with a child that isn't yours, you must also make sure to get documents proving that you have permission to travel with the child.
Invest in an Airline-Approved Car Seat
Not all car seats are approved for air travel. Most will have a sticker on the side saying if they are appropriate for flight, but it's always wise to check with the airline to see if they have any restrictions involving car seats. Some airlines don't have any issues as long as the FAA approves the car seat, but others will treat a car seat like luggage and charge you extra.
Visit the Doctor for a Pre-Flight Check-Up
This is especially important if you are planning on traveling internationally. It is good to have a clean bill of health before you go thousands of miles from home. This is also an opportunity to vaccinate yourself and your child to reduce the risk of contracting any illnesses you may come in contact with.
Note: Even with a clean bill of health, it is still a good idea to invest in travel health insurance just in case something happens while you are abroad.
2. Pack Your Carry-On Bag Wisely
For something so small, babies sure need a lot of stuff. Even on a short plane ride, you will have a bag filled to the brim with baby stuff.
Always make a checklist and pack your carry-on before you go to make sure it all fits. This gives you a chance to organize the bag to reach the most-used stuff first, like diapers and bottles.
Every baby has specific needs, but here are a few suggestions for your carry-on checklist.
- Change of Clothes
- Teething Items
- Nursing Cover
- Empty Ziplock Bags
- Baby Blankets
- Hand Sanitizer
- Passenger Goody Bags
Fitting all of this in your carry-on can be a challenge, as the bag gets full and heavy quickly. Check the airline's guidelines and weigh and measure your bag before you go to avoid extra expenses.
3. Make a Plan for Takeoff
Takeoff is one of the hardest parts for anyone on the plane, but at least adults know why their ears hurt; a baby doesn't know and has no idea how to fix it.
Giving your baby something to suck on during takeoff (like a pacifier) will hopefully get that jaw moving enough to alleviate some of the pain from the pressure change.
Some parents try to time feeding around takeoff for the same reason. This tactic may work, but you also run the risk of having an upset baby screaming for food while you wait for takeoff.
4. Keep Baby Healthy and Happy In-Flight
Make Hydration a Priority
Flying can dehydrate you, and it happens much faster in babies than it does in adults. If you are on a long flight, watch for signs of dehydration and try to feed your baby as much as possible to keep them hydrated.
Keep That Little Tummy Full
The smaller they are, the more often they need to eat, so the longer the flight is, the more chances there are that your baby will be hungry.
If your baby is bottle-fed, be sure to pack more than enough milk or formula in your carry on bag. If you are breastfeeding, don't stress out. It may not be as comfortable to do on a plane as it is in the privacy of your own home, but most reasonable individuals will keep their eyes to themselves. A good nursing cover will cover anything you want to stay private and can double as a blanket if the baby falls asleep while nursing.
If nothing else, feeding your baby will keep them occupied for a solid 15 minutes if nothing else is doing the trick.
Prepare for Diaper Changes
Diaper changes on a plane are a pain no matter how you go about it, so prepare yourself for that. Some airplane bathrooms have changing tables, but if you have ever been in an airplane bathroom, you know that there is no room in there to change a baby.
You'd probably be better off changing your baby in your lap if they're small enough or in the seat, but that may make people around you uncomfortable. Talk with your flight attendants, and they may find a space toward the front of the plane or in the attendant's area that gives you space and privacy to change a diaper.
Try to Avoid Germs
It sucks for us to be sick, but it especially sucks for your baby to take ill. Planes are pretty good at filtering out germs, but you can never be too safe.
Make a point to avoid people who seem like they have cold symptoms and use hand sanitizer often for you and your baby when applicable. The last thing you want is to end up at the doctor in an unfamiliar place because your baby caught a virus on the plane.
5. Take Your Time Getting On and Off the Plane
Unless there is a clear need for you to board early or get off the plane asap—like catching a connecting flight—it pays to sit tight.
Boarding early sounds like a good idea until you realize that you have to sit there for another hour with a squirming infant in your arms. And when you land, everyone else will try to rush off the plane, leaving you crammed in the aisle holding a baby that feels heavier by the second.
6. Getting To and From Your Gate
The most stressful part about the whole journey is often simply getting to and from your gate while managing both your bags and your baby. A stroller can be helpful, but it can also be cumbersome and make for a worse experience. Luckily there are a few other options that make getting your baby and your stuff around a lot easier.
Wear a Baby Wrap
The first option is to wear your baby using a wrap. There are a ton on the market, and they all work almost exactly the same. The best part is that TSA will allow you to go through security while wearing your baby as long as the wrap is a soft-sided design.
Strap Your Car Seat to Your Bags
Another helpful tool that you can find on Amazon is a car-seat strap that allows you to strap your car seat to your luggage to quickly get around the airport with everything neatly in tow.
7. Try Not to Stress Too Much
When we're stressed, we make mistakes that only add to our problems. Babies may be needy, but their needs are at least small compared to toddlers and bigger kids. You don't have to worry about them running off, and they will hopefully sleep through most of the ordeal, making all your preparation in vain.
© 2020 Arthur Thares
Liz Westwood from UK on February 11, 2020:
This is a useful guide for anyone planning a flight with a baby.