Are you thinking of air travel with your little one? If so, you may have a number of questions and concerns. For some babies, flying is no big deal, as it’s easy for them to sleep through an entire trip, whereas for other babies the process is more difficult. Either way, flying with your baby goes more smoothly if plan well and make smart choices along the way. Check out our tips on flying with your baby, including what you’ll need to pack, when is the best time to fly, and which seats might be the best to book.

25 Tips for Flying With Your Baby

Although flying with your baby can be challenging, it can be manageable and even pleasant if you prepare ahead of time and approach it with a positive attitude.

Many babies are able to adapt to changes in their eating and sleeping schedules quite well, and with any luck may even be quite content during the trip. Read on for 25 tips to help make flying with your baby as stress-free as possible.

Making Flight Reservations and Other Preparations

1. Choose an evening flight. Flying is much easier with a sleeping baby, so consider flying in the evening to increase the chance of your little one nodding off. If a daytime flight is your only option, you might consider trying to delay your baby’s usual nap until after takeoff.

2. Allow plenty of time between connecting flights. When you’re traveling with your baby, you’ll want to give yourself as much extra time as you can to get from one terminal or concourse to the next in order to make your connecting flight.

3. Select seats in advance. If you can, choose your seats early so you’ll have the most options. The bulkhead area (behind the wall that oftentimes separates the cabins) has the most room. For safety reasons you won’t be able to choose an exit row. If available, pick a seat close to the window. An aisle seat won’t be as safe for your baby, especially during meal service.

4. If you can, purchase a seat for your baby. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) doesn’t require you to purchase a seat for your child if he is younger than 2 years old and you plan to keep him on your lap, but purchasing a separate seat is recommended, as having your baby in your lap during turbulence can be dangerous. Many babies may be more content and relaxed if they’re in their own seats. If you do purchase a seat for your baby, you will need to bring your own FAA-approved infant car seat.

5. Have your baby’s passport ready for international travel. In order for your baby to fly internationally, he’ll need a valid passport, just as you will. You’ll need to apply for your baby’s passport in person at a passport office. Check in with your local office or the U.S. Department of State website to find out what types of documentation you will need to provide, such as a birth certificate. You'll also need a photo of your baby taken within the past six months. The photo should be of him alone with a white background. You could either have the photo taken by laying your baby on a white blanket or towel, or by having him sit in a car seat covered by a white sheet. You might consider having the photo taken by a professional photographer who specializes in passport photos.

6. Get any prescriptions filled beforehand. If your baby needs certain medications, it’s a good idea to get them filled in advance just in case you can’t get them at your destination.

Getting Ready for the Flight

7. Bring your FAA-approved infant car seat. If you’ve purchased an airplane seat for your baby, the FAA requires that you use an approved child restraint system (CRS). The good thing is many infant car seats are approved for use in aircrafts, which means you may be able to use the infant seat you’re already using in your vehicle. Make sure the infant car seat you bring has a clearly visible label with the following: “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.” Here are the requirements for using a CRS on an aircraft:

  • Place your CRS in the rear-facing position if your child weighs under 20 pounds

  • Place your CRS in the forward-facing position if your child weighs between 20 and 40 pounds

  • Another option is to use an FAA-approved child harness device (CARES) for your child who is between 22 and 44 pounds. This device is approved for use on aircrafts exclusively and will have a label with either of the following: “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.”

For more information on this, visit the FAA’s page on flying with children.

8. Pack thoughtfully. Consider what you might need at the airport, during the flight, and once you land. You’ll need enough of everything, but don’t pack too much as you’ll be carrying it. Make sure you have all the diapering supplies you’ll need, including extra diapers. Other essentials can include baby wipes, changing pad, blanket, your little one’s favorite soft toy, baby food, pacifiers, a change of clothes, and plastic bags for dirty diapers or soiled clothing. You may decide to pack all of this in your own carry-on bag or take it in a separate diaper bag. Find out how many bags the airline allows as carry-on as you may need to pay extra if you go over the carry-on limit.

9. Bring expressed breast milk (if needed) or formula. Although the TSA’s rules generally don’t allow liquids over 3.4 ounces in carry-on, parents with babies are exempt from this. Simply pack your expressed breast milk, liquid formula, or powdered formula with the water separate for mixing later. Notify the TSA agents at the security check that you have these items. They will most likely ask you to remove them from your bag for screening separately. Learn more about the best way to store breast milk for travel.

10. Pack books or toys for older babies and young children. Having a few favorite toys or books on hand can help keep your child occupied during the flight and during swaiting periods at the airport.

11. Pack earplugs for your baby. An aircraft cabin can get quite noisy, especially during takeoff. Pack small earplugs, cotton balls, or noise-cancelling headphones so that you can protect your baby’s ears from the loud noise. It might also help your little one sleep more comfortably, too.

12. Dress your child in layers. Since an airplane cabin’s temperature can vary greatly, it’s a good idea to dress your child in layers. Go for layers that are easy to put on and remove like elastic-waist pants, zippered sweaters, and snap-crotch jumpsuits, for example.

13. Check in online. Checking in is so much easier these days with self-check-in kiosks at the airport, as well as the option to check-in online through the airline’s website or smartphone app. Since you’re traveling with your baby, why not check in ahead of time, before you even leave for the airport. This is also a great way to confirm that the flight is still running and hasn’t been rescheduled or cancelled.

Navigating the Airport With Your Baby

14. Use a child carrier. Strapping your baby into a baby carrier or sling will allow you to have your hands free as you navigate through the airport. Keep in mind that you may need to remove your child from the carrier before going through airport security and carry her through the metal detector.

15. Use a stroller. If you plan to take your stroller with you on the trip, you may decide to use it when navigating the airport. You may prefer not to check the stroller in at the luggage drop off. Instead, use it until you board at the gate, where a member of the crew can check it. Once you land, you’ll get the stroller back.

16. Take advantage of pre-boarding perks for families. Gate agents usually offer families with small children the opportunity to board the airplane first. This way you don't have to fight through the crowds to get to your seats, making it easier to get everyone settled. Exit last for the same reason unless you have to make a connection.

17. Ask for help if you need to make a connection. Make sure to let a flight attendant know if you need to make a connecting flight. A member of the crew may be able to help you by ordering a transportation cart to take you to the next gate.

18. Change your baby’s diaper before boarding. If there’s time, change your baby’s diaper before boarding the aircraft. Many airports have specifically designed family restrooms that you can utilize for this purpose.

Flying With Your Baby

19. Watch the in-flight safety video. When the plane starts taxiing, you may be preoccupied with getting your baby comfy, as well as yourself, but it’s important to pay attention to the in-flight safety video especially when traveling with your little one. For example, when it comes to using the oxygen masks that drop from overhead when air pressure is lost in the cabin, you will be likely instructed to position the mask on yourself first before placing it onto your baby.

20. Wash and sanitize your hands. Whenever traveling with your infant, be sure to wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer often to reducing your baby’s exposure to germs.

21. Locate the best spot to change your baby’s diaper. Airplane restrooms are small. Even with a fold-down changing table, you may find it uncomfortable to change your baby in such cramped quarters. If the restroom doesn’t have a changing table, you could try changing your baby on the toilet seat, taking care to keep a hand on your baby at all times. Use a disposable changing pad. Another option may be changing your baby on the cabin floor, but be sure to ask a flight attendant’s permission first.

22. Be prepared for your baby’s ears to hurt. The changes in pressure that happen in an airplane’s cabin during takeoff and landing can make your baby’s ears uncomfortable. Nursing your baby, giving her a bottle, or having her suck on a pacifier can help equalize the pressure in her middle ear.

23. Plan your baby’s sleeping options. Buckling your baby into her CRS is the safest option for napping and sleeping, but some airlines may be able to provide a more comfortable way for your infant or baby to get some shut-eye:

  • Bassinet. If you’ve chosen seats behind the bulkhead, there’s a good chance the airline may have a bassinet you could use. The bassinet attaches to the bulkhead wall and can hold a baby under 6 months old and/or 20 pounds. Ask your airline in advance whether this is an option.

  • Sleeper seat. On international airlines, you may be able to book three seats in a row that have the option to interlock to form a big sleeper that can fit a parent and a child. Check with your airline in advance for more information on the availability of this option.

  • Inflatable seat extension. If your airline allows, you may be able to bring an inflatable seat extension to use for your baby when it’s time to sleep or nap. This type of product is new on the market, and not all airlines may allow it. Keep in mind your child must have her own seat to use this add-on product. Check with your airline in advance for more information on whether this is allowed.

Keep in mind that during take-off and landing, your baby cannot be using any of these sleep devices. She must be in your lap or in a CRS. Moreover, even on an airplane, you still need to practice safe sleep practices. Make sure that your baby is placed on her back for sleeping and that she's on a firm, flat surface with no soft bedding.

24. Don't hesitate to ask for help. The flight attendant or the person sitting next to you may be more than willing to help, especially if you are traveling alone with your baby. Many other people have been or will be in similar situations and don't mind lending a hand. Accept offers from the crew or other travelers to help with loading carry-ons into the overhead compartment, for example.

25. Try to remain calm and focused. Don’t take your own fears or frustrations out on your child. If your child has a meltdown mid-flight, don't worry about what other people on the airplane think or whether they’re staring. Keep calm and do your best. As long as you stay cool, your baby will be more likely to do the same.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • Check with your baby’s healthcare provider for guidance. Experts say that it's not a good idea to fly with a baby soon after she’s born because it can unnecessarily expose her to the possibility of infections.

  • Your baby will need a valid passport in order to fly internationally.

  • There are two things that can affect your baby’s ears during a flight: cabin pressure and noise levels. Here’s how to protect her ears:
    • During takeoff and landing try nursing your baby, giving her a bottle, or having her suck on a pacifier.
    • Have small earplugs, cotton balls, or noise-cancelling headphones for your baby.

  • Yes, you can. Although the TSA generally doesn’t allow liquids over 3.4 ounces in your carry-on, parents with babies are exempt from this rule and are allowed to pack expressed breast milk, liquid formula, or water for mixing with powdered formula later.

    Just like other liquids, these items will be screened separately at the security checkpoint.

  • The FAA doesn’t require you to buy a ticket for your child if he is younger than 2 years old, but purchasing a seat is recommended, since having your baby in your lap during turbulence can be dangerous.

  • In most cases you will be asked to remove your child from the carrier before you go through the security checkpoint and carry your child through the metal detector.

The Bottom Line

When flying with your baby, focus on trying to make him as comfortable as possible and remaining calm yourself. With a little preparation, flying with your baby can go smoothly, and before you know it you’ll be landing at your destination. Bon voyage!

Don’t forget to pack plenty of diapers and wipes for your trip. Did you know that for every Pampers product you buy you could be earning rewards? Download the Pampers Club app, scan the items you purchase, and earn points. Then spend your points on cool items like toys for your baby or gift cards for yourself.

How We Wrote This Article

The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.