Top Tips for Travelling with a Baby on a Plane

Wondering how to fly without fuss with a baby in tow? This guide demystifies the process of travelling with a baby on a plane, from securing the right documents to keeping your little one content at 30,000 feet. You’ll find straightforward tips on safety, packing, and navigating the airport, ensuring your trip is as smooth as your baby’s nap time.

In a Nutshell

  • Plan air travel with your infant considering their health and sleep schedules, familiarize yourself with airline policies for infants, and secure proper travel documents.

  • Prioritize your baby’s safety during the flight by using an FAA-approved car seat or harness, and choose the right seat on the plane for comfort and convenience.

  • Pack essentials to ensure a smooth journey, navigate airport procedures efficiently, and manage in-flight challenges, especially regarding feeding and comfort during takeoff and landing.

First Steps Before Flying with Your Infant

The first question many parents ask is, “When is it safe to fly with a baby?” The answer varies. Some airlines allow infants as young as 2 days old on board, but a doctor’s clearance is needed for those under 7 days old to confirm fitness to fly. Some airlines have no minimum age requirement, while others set specific limits such as 2, 3, or 7 days after birth. However, it is generally advised to avoid air travel with newborns until they are at least 7 days old and ideally wait until they are 2 or 3 months old.

It’s also essential to carefully consider the timing of your flight. To reduce discomfort during travel, consider booking overnight flights that align with the infant’s sleep pattern. Traveling on Tuesdays and Wednesdays can be more comfortable and cost-effective as flights tend to be less crowded and cheaper, which may provide an opportunity for extra seating space next to you.

Choosing the Right Flight Timing

Selecting an opportune flight time can significantly enhance the likelihood of a seamless journey. Here are some tips for choosing the best flight time when traveling with a baby:

  • Booking flights that coincide with a child’s nap schedule can help ensure they stay calm and happy during the journey.

  • Morning flights are less likely to be disrupted by delays or cancellations and many babies are in a better mood during this time, making it an ideal choice for travel.

  • But every baby is different, so parents should weigh the pros and cons between daytime flights when infants may be more awake, and nighttime flights when they might sleep through the journey.

Confirming Airline Policies

Grasping the airline policies is vital when travelling with an infant. For instance, while many airlines allow infants under 2 years old to be included in the reservation as a lap infant, policies can vary, especially for international flights due to taxes and fare differences. For safety reasons, buying an extra ticket for the baby or toddler to ensure they have their own seat with a Child Restraint System (CRS) is recommended.

Additionally, remember that for international flights, a passport is required for a baby, and for domestic travel, a baby’s birth certificate may be necessary.

Securing Your Baby’s Comfort and Safety in the Air

Rear facing car seat on an airplane

Prioritizing your baby’s comfort and safety during the flight is of utmost importance. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • For infants weighing less than 20 pounds, a rear-facing car seat is recommended for use during airplane travel.

  • Children weighing 20 to 40 pounds should use a car seat and not switch to the airplane’s lap belt until they are at least 40 pounds.

  • It’s important to note that when using a car seat, it must be certified for use in both motor vehicles and aircrafts.

Infants with their own airplane seat should be secured either in an FAA-approved car seat or be able to sit upright without assistance. The Child Aviation Restraint System (CARES) is an alternative to car seats for securing a child on an airplane. Also, remember that car seats and strollers are generally not counted as luggage on flights, but airline policies can vary.

Lastly, carrying an infant on the lap can be unsafe due to potential turbulence, with FAA guidelines and experts recommending secured seats for infants.

Selecting the Ideal Airplane Seat

For your infant’s safety and convenience, choosing an appropriate seat on the plane is vital. A window seat is recommended over aisle seats to shield the baby from potential harm from passing carts, spills, and falling bin items in the aisle. Seats with additional legroom, such as bulkhead rows, provide more comfort and make it easier to manage baby care duties, ensuring both parent and baby enjoy a more relaxed flight.

To utilize special amenities like airplane bassinets for infants, it is advisable to book suitable seats in advance, as these facilities are often available on a first-come, first-served basis, and you don’t want to end up with an empty seat that doesn’t accommodate your needs.

Understanding FAA Regulations

Getting acquainted with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations for child safety on planes is indispensable. The FAA strongly urges the use of an approved Child Restraint System (CRS) over holding a child in your lap to prevent potential injuries during severe turbulence. A Child Restraint System must be certified for use in both motor vehicles and aircraft, indicated by a label, and most car safety seats are typically approved for aircraft use.

For children under 2 years old, a rear-facing CRS is recommended, and booster seats are not approved as they require a lap-shoulder belt, which planes do not have. The FAA-approved CARES harness system is an alternative for children weighing between 22-44 pounds. Lastly, airlines are required to accommodate an approved CRS if a seat has been purchased for it and may dictate safe seat locations for its installment.

Packing Essentials for a Smooth Journey

Having the right items packed can facilitate a smoother journey with your baby. In your carry-on bags, include essentials such as diapers, formula, snacks, and changes of clothes for both the baby and caretaker. For maintaining comfort during the flight, pack items in your hand luggage that will soothe your baby, like their favorite blanket, stuffed toy, or pacifier.

Also, remember that parents flying with a baby are generally allowed one piece of standard checked baggage, two pieces of baby equipment, one piece of hand luggage, and a nappy changing bag.

Diaper Bag Must-Haves

Diaper bag essentials for traveling with a baby

Having a fully-loaded diaper bag can be a game-changer on a flight. Make sure you have:

  • A sufficient number of diapers (1.5 times the anticipated need)

  • Wipes, including travel-sized options

  • Two full extra outfits for your baby

  • An extra top for yourself to handle any mishaps

Include the following items in your diaper bag:

  • Changing pad or blanket that doubles as such

  • Cozy blanket or sleep sack for napping

  • Familiar small lovey or comfort item

  • Toys

  • Hand sanitizer

And don’t forget to change the baby’s diaper before boarding.

Carry On Considerations

Regarding your carry-on luggage, there are several considerations to bear in mind. Here are some items to pack in place of plastic bags:

  • Silicon bib

  • Silicon plate/bowl

  • Milk bottle and servings of formula

  • Clean bottles or sippy cups for feeding

  • Breast pump with accessories (if pumping)

  • Extra formula or milk for at least two more meals than expected

Don’t forget to bring ample snacks for both the baby and yourself to prevent hunger during the flight.

Navigating Airport Procedures with Ease

Mom navigating through airport with a baby

Managing airport procedures with a baby might appear daunting, but with adequate preparation, it can be conducted effortlessly. Utilize fast-track queues at check-in and security that are available for people traveling with young children. Airlines usually encourage families with children to board the flight first, although some may choose to board later.

Arranging help with your airline can be beneficial if you need assistance making a connecting flight. Always have a pen in your carry-on to fill out any required travel documents during boarding or flight changes. And don’t forget to gate check the car seat and stroller to manage potential flight delays and cancellations more effectively. A flight attendant can also provide valuable assistance in these situations.

Smooth Check-In and Security Screening

An untroubled check-in and security screening can lay the foundation for a pleasant travel experience. Utilizing curbside check-in can significantly ease the check-in process when traveling with an infant, allowing parents to avoid long lines at the ticket counter and conveniently handle luggage and baby gear.

To ensure a stress-free start to your journey, here are some tips when flying with a baby:

  1. Arrive at the airport 90 minutes to two hours prior to your flight.

  2. Parents can bring any reasonable quantity of formula, breast milk, and juice for their infant.

  3. Inform TSA officers before screening to allow for separate scanning.

Boarding Strategies for Families

When it comes to boarding the plane, families must consider their ability to entertain young children on a stationary airplane when deciding whether to board the airplane early to secure space and settle in or to board later to minimize the time spent on the aircraft.

Airlines such as American Airlines and United Airlines offer domestic flights with pre-boarding for families with children under 2 years old, allowing for additional time to get settled before other passengers board.

Managing In-Flight Challenges

All parents are aware that traveling with a baby can pose distinct challenges. To alleviate discomfort from ear pressure changes, encourage the baby to suck on a pacifier or feed during takeoff and landing. It’s advisable to keep children awake for takeoff and landing to encourage frequent swallowing, which helps equalize ear pressure.

Also, keep in mind that if the baby is sleeping soundly during takeoff or landing, it’s best to let them be as waking them might cause discomfort.

Feeding During Flights

Feeding a baby on a plane

Feeding your baby during a flight might seem like a balancing act, but with some forethought, it can be straightforward. Breast milk, formula, and baby food in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces are permitted in carry-on luggage, exempt from the quart-sized bag rule as they are medically necessary liquids. For nursing mothers, a portable cover can provide privacy during feedings.

To prevent spills during potential turbulence, utilize a sippy cup for the baby.

Comforting Your Child During Take Off and Landing

Takeoff and landing can sometimes be a bit scary for little ones, including lap children. Having babies drink from the breast or a bottle, or suck on a pacifier during these times can mitigate ear pain by facilitating swallowing, which aids in opening the Eustachian tubes. Teach older children a breathing exercise to equalize ear pressure by breathing in slowly, pinching the nose gently, and exhaling through the nose while keeping the mouth closed.

A portable sound machine can be used to provide familiar white noise, aiding the baby’s ability to sleep despite the unfamiliar noises of the aircraft’s cabin.

Special Considerations for International Travel

Embarking on international travel with a baby carries its unique hurdles and considerations. All U.S. citizens, including infants, require a valid passport for international travel. In addition to a passport, obtaining any necessary visas is crucial for the destination country.

Parents expecting a child within 4 weeks of an international flight must provide a recent doctor’s certificate confirming fitness to fly.

Preparing Documents for International Flights

Procuring the required documents for international flights with an infant is crucial. Passports and visas are needed for international travel with an infant. A child’s passport is mandatory for international travel, regardless of the infant being a lap child or having their own purchased seat.

If a child under 18 is traveling internationally without both parents, a Letter of Consent may be required in addition to their passport. This ensures authorization for the child to travel.

Adjusting to New Time Zones

Adapting to new time zones can be among the most significant challenges of international travel, especially when traveling with a newborn baby. For short trips, maintaining the infant’s home time zone schedule could be more manageable than adjusting to a new one.

Initiating sleep schedule adjustments prior to departure can pave the way for a smoother transition into the new time zone for the infant.

Services and Amenities for Young Travelers

Regardless of how intimidating traveling with a baby might appear, numerous airlines and airports provide services and amenities tailored explicitly for young travelers and their families. Family lounges at airports provide space with comfortable seating and tables which are beneficial for families traveling with children. Some lounges include private areas for children to play, whereas others offer amenities like showers, quality coffee, and high-speed WiFi.

Airline Assistance and Accommodations

Numerous airlines provide help and accommodations for families journeying with infants. Bassinet seats are bulkhead seats with a fold-down bassinet, which can be reserved ahead of time, providing extra room and comparability for the baby.

Buying a separate airplane seat for a baby or toddler increases safety, comfort, and the chances of sleep, especially when using one car seat.

Airport Facilities for Families

Airports extend a variety of facilities intended to accommodate families with young children. There are dedicated nursing spaces available that come equipped with a table, bench, and outlets for breastfeeding. This ensures a comfortable and convenient experience for mothers. Lactation centers at certain airports provide amenities such as deep sinks for cleaning equipment, easily accessible electrical outlets, and comfortable seating.

For families with kids, some airport departure lounges offer play areas and other beneficial amenities.

Circling Back Around

Traveling with a baby doesn’t have to be a daunting experience. By taking the time to prepare well in advance, understanding airline policies and FAA regulations, packing the right essentials, and making use of available amenities, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey for both you and your little one. The key is to stay calm, be flexible, and remember that every challenge faced is an opportunity to learn and grow. So go ahead, embrace the adventure of flying with your baby!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the rules for flying with a baby?

When flying with a baby, each adult can travel with one lap child for free domestically. It’s recommended to secure a safety seat for your infant or ask about open seats when boarding the plane. Happy travels!

How do I protect my baby’s ears from flying?

To protect your baby’s ears from flying, use ear plugs or muffs designed for babies and encourage chewing to help equalize ear pressure. This will ensure a comfortable and safe flight for your little one.

What is a good age to take a baby on a plane?

It is generally recommended to wait until your baby is around 3-9 months old before taking them on a plane. At this age, the baby is more adaptable and parents have gained some experience.

What documents do I need for my baby to fly?

For domestic flights, your baby will usually only need a valid passport or a copy of their birth certificate, although it’s a good idea to check with your airline beforehand. If you’re traveling internationally, your baby will need a passport regardless of their age.

How soon can you travel with a baby?

Most doctors recommend waiting until your baby is at least three months old before flying, as it allows their immune system to develop, making them more resistant to infections. Waiting also reduces the risk of catching infectious diseases during air travel.


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