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We just returned from a week of sand castles, sun hats, and seashells with our two favorite girls. Naturally, all I want to write about now is TRAVEL! Kid-friendly travel is my favorite thing to read and write about anyway, which if fine since this post about dealing with sleep issues during travel is one of my most popular posts!
But let’s not talk about toddlers today. Let’s talk about flying with babies. Flying with babies doesn’t have to be a dreadful experience. Actually, I kind of like it! We’ve traveled enough by now (Nate is a pilot, after all!) that we have a pretty good system in place. In fact, on our last flight (with our girls–2 1/2 years and 9 months), a flight attendant said to me, “Wow, I’m really impressed with how organized you guys are! Flying (with kids) overwhelms most parents!” For this travel-happy mama, could there be a better compliment? I think not! Okay, want to know what works for us?
For your convenience, I’ve included amazon affiliate links to a few of the products we regularly use.
Tips for Flying with Baby
Wear your baby. We always bring a stroller (or our neighbor’s GoGo Babyz, which is awesome!), but it’s helpful to have your hands free in the airport when you’re lugging around two suitcases, three carry-ons, three personal items, two kids, and the overpriced lunch you grabbed in a rush on your way into the terminal. Bonus: the stroller is then free to be used as a luggage cart.
For a lap infant (children under two who fly for free on domestic flights because they sit on your lap), you can usually gate check your stroller and carseat for free. (Some airlines limit stroller weight to 20 pounds. This eliminates most double strollers.)
I bring several huge garbage bags and twist ties to put my car seats in because it keeps them clean and offers the tiniest bit of protection. (Edited to add this reminder: the FAA says that the safest place for your child is in an airplane-approved carseat. Please keep this info in mind when choosing how to fly with your infant!)
With that said, once our lap infant moved out of her infant bucket seat, I started bringing a cheap travel seat (this Cosco Scenera) because I didn’t want her good car seat to be damaged.
While we’re talking about lap infants, call your airline before you fly to add your child to your travel documents. Your ticket will indicate you have a lap infant.
Additionally, bring a copy of your child’s birth certificate to prove that he or she is, indeed, under two.
For takeoff and landing, lap infants can’t be worn. (If someone understands the logic, please explain!) But you can strap your baby in for naps as soon as you reach a comfortable cruising altitude.
Thinking about traveling abroad with kids? Check out this post! 14 Things to Know about Traveling Internationally with Kids.
Travel during nap time whenever possible. Flights pass quickly when babies sleep.
Should you purchase a seat for your baby (or toddler), there are special seating rules for car seats. We knew that car seats and kids couldn’t go in the emergency exit row. But, until recently, we did not know that they were also prohibited on some airplanes in the row behind the emergency exit. Similarly, the preference (or rule, in some cases) is that car seats are next to the window.
In this day and age, you may have to pay if you want to guarantee your family sits together. On several airplanes, window and aisle seats are now offered only to passengers willing to pay for a seat upgrade. True, most passengers will agree to trade so you can sit together (like the man on our last flight who said, “You just tell me where to sit. We’re all going to Charlotte! Seats don’t matter to me!). But a passenger who paid for the window seat may be reticent to give it up just so that you can sit next to your spouse.
Babies Need to Eat
Conventional wisdom says that babies need to pop their ears during takeoff and landing. Nate (speaking as a pilot) says that babies only really need to drink/suck on the descent. Their ears will adjust naturally on the ascent. (Unless, presumably, they have an ear infection or other ear problems.)
We usually make our own baby food. But fresh food doesn’t travel well, so we bring store-bought food with us when we travel. One of my most brilliant ideas has been to package one sample spoon (like these) in with every container of baby food. I know, I know–disposable spoons and plastic containers aren’t eco-friendly! But we make exceptions when we travel. And it’s so helpful to have those two items readily available as we fumble our way through meals on the road. We also LOVE washable bibs that are easy to fold and throw in even the smallest diaper bag! We have two of these. I chose them in part because they’re free of BPA, latex, and PVC.
Don’t use water from the plane bathroom for anything besides washing your hands. This was new to me! Don’t rinse pacifers and cups with it, and definitely don’t drink it. On a recent flight, Nate was going to rinse a sippy cup in the bathroom. The flight attendant freaked out and brought us several bottles of water to use instead. She said the bathroom water is “purified” with chemicals, and it has been known to make grown men very, very sick.)
Pack Your Bags!
We use every inch and pound of allowed luggage; therefore, to make sure our bags aren’t too heavy, we don’t leave home without this luggage scale.
Should you decide you’re up for laundry on your trip, bring laundry pods or samples instead of your normal full-size detergent.
Heading to the beach? Check out our tips for taking baby to the beach!
I have a well-stocked travel toy bag. (You can read all about it HERE.) But, honestly, babies don’t need much. Barf bag puppets, peekaboo, and a few snacks (cheerios and baby puffs worked well for us!) might be all you need. Since babies like to toss their toys, make sure the toys you do pack are washable.
To minimize trips to sinks, we bring lots of links to attach teethers and toys to our baby carrier, car seat and even clothes. Suction toys (like these) can also be helpful. My real-life friends know that I’m a little bit of a freak when it comes to germs. Okay, who am I kidding? I’m a total freak about germs! Not surprisingly, I bring wipes to clean tray tables, arm rests, changing tables, and little hands. So far I’ve resisted the urge to clean the hands of my fellow passengers or force my family to wear masks.
Puppy pads make great disposable changing pads.
Dress your baby in layers. We were stuck on the runway in Guatemala in a plane with no air conditioning when our oldest was seven months old. She was miserable. Other times, we’ve found the plane to be chilly.
Check the TSA website before you go to see what’s allowed for luggage and carry-ons for babies. There are exceptions to the 3-1-1 liquid rule for babies. For example, you can have bottled water and baby food in your carry-on, and most airlines will allow you an extra carry-on diaper bag for free.
Even with great planning and organization, kids are wild cards. We always bring earplugs for other passengers, just in case. If nothing else, your fellow passengers will likely appreciate your humor and thoughtfulness.
Thanks for sticking with me! That was a ton of info. Okay, your turn. Have you flown with your babies? How did it go? I want to hear your best travel tips!
Check out these posts in our popular Traveling with Toddlers series: Packing Tips and Navigating the Airport Surviving the Plane Ride Managing Sleep-Disruptions You can find this post at some of these great link parties and Tuesday Tots!
41 thoughts on “Tips for Flying with Baby”
Thank you for your seasoned experience! I just read like 5 posts of yours related to baby/toddler travel and I’m feeling more prepared for our next trip. Thanks again!!
Aww, that’s awesome! How sweet of you to take the time to read and comment. I really hope the posts help! Where are you going next and how old are your kids?
I think they will, I already have a new packing list in mind! We’re headed to Chicago this summer with our one year old. Hoping for peaceful travels:)
And p.s. I really like your blog too b/c we’re a Rachel + Nate couple!
Rachel + Nate—that’s awesome! I’ve been browsing your blog. (I hope you don’t mind!) Love reading about your journey!
This was a great post, Rachel! I didn’t know that about the water – so freaky!!! I am in awe of all your travel – I hate flying so much. 😛
Shhhh, don’t tell anyone, but I don’t really like flying either! 😉 Especially in a small plane like Nate flies. I get soooo motion sick! (Thanks for reading and commenting, Asia!)
Hi, im flying from the east to the west coast in a few days by myself with my 2 month old and I get very bad motion sickness…since you said you do as well how do you deal with that while flying with kids? That’s my biggest scare!
Ohh…yes! That’s a great question! Some people swear by ginger drops (I think they’re gross!) or pressure point bracelets (I haven’t tried them). Ginger is good for calming upset stomachs, so I bring ginger snap cookies made with real ginger. If nothing else, they taste good. 🙂 I find it helpful to eat often, don’t chew gum, stay cool, and try to talk/focus on something other than how you’re feeling. Of course not watching TV or reading is a good place to start! What kinds of things have or haven’t worked for you in the past?
Hi Rachael! This post is great! We’re planning for our trip to the states this summer and have been looking at car seats. Weldon and I had just decided to get the Cosco Scenera once we arrive for the multiple flights and car rides, so I was happy to see that you have been using that seat as well! What do you think of it? How do your girls like the seat? It looked from the reviews that it is easy to install, and since we’ll be traveling in lots of different cars we thought that looked good, and of course the price is hard to beat. I’d love to hear your review! Also, how does the go-go babyz travelmate compare to having the baby in a carrier? One less thing in your hands with the carrier, but maybe with an older child they just get so heavy?
Hi, Crystal! I’m so excited for you and your travels! When will you be in Indiana? 🙂 Cosco Scenera–it’s FANTASTIC for the price. It gets great safety reviews! We usually just install it with the seat belt when we travel, so I can’t really speak to whether or not it’s easy to install with the latch system. But I have nothing negative to say about it! It’s much smaller and lighter than our normal seat–the Graco My Ride. As for wearing vs rolling–we liked both. 🙂 We put our carry-ons and smaller bags in the carseat/Go Go and wore Z. That worked well in the airport! Will you need a stroller for anything else? We didn’t. Had we needed a stroller on our trip, we might not have used the Go Go. I can’t really imagine wheeling the Go-Go through the mall or on a walk outside. Thanks so much for writing! Did that bring up any other questions?
Thanks Rachael! I hadn’t really thought about the stroller, but I think we won’t have one. Ours is made for the Finnish winter with pneumatic tires and suspension, so it’s kind of an ATV 😉 It’s great for here, but it’s also super heavy so we’re not planning to bring it. We’ll be wearing B and definitely going with the Scenera. Thanks for the review! We’ll have to see about the latch system on it. I’ll pm you about our Indiana trip – we’d love to catch you on one of your outings to the library or the children’s museum!! (Loved your post about your daily routines) B and Z are how many days apart? Just a few I think!
Yes! Please send us your Indiana schedule! Her birthday is July 28. Is his the 27th? I know they’re close! 🙂
Rachel, where were you when my son was a baby? I so could have used this post. I looked online forever looking for information and while I found some posts here and there, nothing was as comprehensive as what you wrote! Pinning! Every new mom needs to read this.
That may be the sweetest comment I’ve had on my blog, Sam! Aww, thanks!
I love your advice, v practical, so many of us have to travel when babies are tiny , so we can visit our family abroad, to introduce our new baby to grandparents and aunts and uncles. its a bit daunting but with a bit of planning and prep its much easier. Good article.
Aww, thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment!! 🙂
Great article on travelling with babies. I’ll pass this link to all my friends. You had a question in regards to the reason why you can’t “wear” the baby for take off and landing… Maybe I can answer this one. Many of the devices have lots of straps/buckles/loops etc, and in case of evacuation it increases the risk of getting caught in an armrest or people pulling on you.
Ok time to try out the banana muffins.
Good point, Kimberly! I hadn’t considered the “hazards” of straps, buckles, and loops. Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing! 🙂
Love this article! It has been much more helpful than other ones I have read on the subject. I think we might consider getting the Cosco carseat and the Go-Go Babyz for our trip. Our baby is 9 months and getting too big for her infant seat so we’ve been wanting to either buy her the Britax Marathon or the Recaro ProRide (both of which I’ve read are nightmares on planes) so I think getting this will be a good deal and save us some money for the time being. I do have one question about the Go-Go Babyz though. Can you gate check this? What does your family usually do? Is it free to gate check just like a regular stroller? Do you ever also bring a stroller and the Go-Go Babyz? Just wondering if and what we’ll have to pay. Not sure which airline you usually travel with but we are taking a direct domestic flight on Alaska Airlines if that helps at all. Any more info would be greatly appreciated!
Hi, Daisy! Thanks so much for reading and commenting! We’re about to transition from our baby seat, too. On one hand, I think our baby (ten months) will be more comfortable in a bigger seat, but the bucket seats are so convenient! AND…our baby still sleeps in hers! I think I’m going to try to borrow a baby seat that goes up to 30 pounds so that we don’t have to switch for another month or so. ANYWAY! Back to your questions…. Yes, the GoGo Babyz would be free to gate check. Or it could go in the overhead compartment. If you bring both your carseat, gogo baby, and stroller, you may want to email or call your airline ahead of time to confirm. (I would assume it would all be free; the Go-Go Babyz is very small!) Yes, we traveled with all the things you mentioned….but we had two kids/babies. So the Go-Go Babyz was for one child and the stroller was for the other. You should be able to stow the Go-Go Babyz on the plane. Here’s what I found on the GoGo Babyz website:
The gogo Kidz is 16 ½ inches wide and ﬁ ts down the aisle of most
commercial airplanes. However, many car seats are wider and they may
not ﬁ t down the aisle of the coach section. A practical approach is to have
your child out of the seat and expect to carry the seat to your assigned
seat, once you reach the coach section. The handle on the gogo kidz
makes this easier to do than carrying the car seat by itself.
There are dozens of car seat manufacturers with multiple models of car
seats. THE GOGO KIDZ® TRAVELMATE HAS NOT BEEN TESTED
IN COMBINATION WITH THE CAR SEATS IN ANY CRASH TESTING
PROGRAM. Remove the gogo Kidz and either stow it in the overhead bin
or “gate check it.” Fortunately, the gogo Kidz is very easy to put on and
take off. Only one thumbscrew needs to be removed for the strap version
and two thumbscrews for the Britax®, Fisher-Price® and Recaro® seats.
Please let me know if you think of other questions! I could talk about flying with kids all day! 🙂
Thanks so much for the info; great site. The disposable containers and spoons are a great idea, I didn’t even think of it! What containers do you have pictured? I like that you can put the spoon in the container, but separated from the food itself. Thanks again!
Good question! They’re just gerber baby food in the plastic containers. 🙂 Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
I love the idea of taping the spoon to the container.
It makes such a huge difference to my sanity! 🙂
Hi, thanks for all these tips, I do have one large question though that no one seems to address in these types of posts. What do you do for your kids’ sleeping arrangements once you’re at your destination? I can’t see bringing two pack n’ plays on the plane but a 9 month old in a bed doesn’t make sense either.
Great question, Gabrielle! How old are your kids? We have huge rolling duffel bags that actually do hold two pack n plays! But when we stay at hotels, I always ask for the hotels to provide a crib. MOST places provide them free of charge. I’ve gone so far as to ask for the serial number, brand, or picture to make sure they haven’t been recalled. 🙂 Yep, I’m a little paranoid when it comes to little babies!
Also, we have slept on the floor NEXT to our baby (I can’t remember what led us to that!) or in a king bed WITH our baby. I’m not sure how comfortable you are with those options, but that’s what we’ve done. We don’t co-sleep at home (they’re too squirmy), but we make it work when we travel if there’s no crib. 🙂
Thank you@!!!!! We’re a military family with a baby on the way and we love to travel in-between moves so flying with a child/baby will be frequent and inevitable. Thanks for the helpful tips!
Oh, yay!!! Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Amber! Congrats on the new baby! If you ever have any other questions that I might be able to help with, please write! 🙂