Flying with a Baby Tips



Dec 09, 2021

Does the thought of flying with a baby give you anxiety? Perhaps you are a new parent and just getting the hang of being a momma or a daddy and now you want to take your new baby on their first vacation or to go to meet family. Don’t worry, you’ve got this.

flying with a baby domestic flight
My 6 month old on a domestic flight

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Does A Baby Require Their Own Ticket To Fly?

No, up to the age of two you have a choice; either book your baby as an infant lap seat or purchase their own seat. You can book as an infant lap domestically (USA) at no additional cost, however, international flights will normally charge you 10% of an adult seat.

I flew domestically and internationally with my three kids when they were babies. For all our travel we DIDN'T purchase a ticket for the baby. My babies always went as lap infants and I saved the extra cost of a ticket.

flying with a baby on your lap
My 4 month daughter as lap infant

However, I would suggest considering purchasing a separate seat if traveling long distances and your baby is closer to the age of 2. This option might provide a  better sleep option for your baby and also frees up your space so you can enjoy yourself. 

If you plan on bringing the baby’s carseat on the plane make sure it is FAA approved. Note FAA is an American association, if you are flying not with an American Airline best to check with your airline carrier. Below is the carseat that we have used while flying.

Some airlines provide bassinets for babies up to a certain weight limit. If you have a long flight this could be a great option. Research your airline before booking so you understand what the airline offers. 

Pro Tip: Even if you haven't purchased a ticket for your baby you can ask at the check in desk if there are available seats. If there are open seats the airline might let you bring your carseat on and place in a seat without paying.

Does A Baby Need Identification To Fly?

For international travel, yes! You will need to obtain a passport for your baby before being able to take them on international trips.

baby on airplane seat 5 months
My 5 month old on his first plane

For domestic flights (USA) a baby does not need identification. However, rules change and it is best to check with the airline before leaving. 

What Is The Luggage Allowance From The Airline When You Fly with A Baby?

Each airline is different. Commonly an airline gives an adult flying with a baby certain additional items they are allowed to bring, regardless of if the baby has his/her own seat.  Most carriers allow you to bring a carseat, a compatible stroller (or carrying device) and a diaper bag with you free of charge. 

A carrying device can be a hiking backpack instead of a stroller. This is very useful when you are planning on hiking with a baby.

baggage allowance for flying with a baby
My stroller, carseat and diaper bag for travel

Basically most carriers allow a way for you to transport your child around the airport. I have used both a travel stroller and a hiking backpack depending on the type of trip I took. 

Allowances for traveling with a baby should be available on the carrier’s website. Make sure you understand what your carrier allows to make for an easier plane ride.

9 Tips For Flying With A Baby

1. Breastfeed or bottle feed your baby during take off and landing.

Take off and landing are the most common times to experience ear popping while flying. The sucking motion can prevent a baby’s ear from popping.  If your little one is not hungry and is used to a pacifier you can try offering them a pacifier as well.

Another benefit of offering milk or nursing is the calming effect it has on your baby. At least for me, when I nursed my sons they usually fell  asleep on me. If you nurse on take off and they fall asleep that is an ideal situation.

sleeping baby on airplane
10 month old fell asleep on me after nursing

If you are worried about nursing close to other people, use a nursing cover. I personally liked using muslin blankets for nursing covers. The material is light weight, soft and breathable for my sons. I would drape it over my shoulder and let it fall around my son.  Also, I would bet the other passengers on the plane would prefer an eating baby over a screaming baby.

Below is my favorite nursing cover.

Feeding a baby via the bottle can be a bit harder, but still manageable. Most babies prefer their milk heated up, if your baby prefers warm milk talk with the air hostesses. The airline should be able to provide you with a cup of heated water, you can then place your bottle in the cup to heat up the milk.

Talk to the air hostesses as soon as you board to ensure you get the cup of hot water and enough time to heat the bottle before takeoff. 

2. Bring an extra pair of clothes for the baby AND yourself.

Babies are notorious for spitting up. Once my maternity leave was up with my first son I had to go back to the office; I quickly learned not to put on my work clothes, mostly my top, until my son was already in his carseat ready to go to daycare. Burp cloths help, but don’t always catch the spit up and nothing is worse than sitting in spit-up for the entire plane ride.

Bring a spare pair of clothes, or maybe even two, for your little one in the diaper bag.   I would also suggest a spare set of clothes for yourself as well and a couple of  burp cloths. Better to be prepared and not need something than to be without when you are in need.     

Another pro tip is to pack a plastic bag in your diaper bag. If you have to change your baby or your clothes you will want a separate bag in which to put the dirty clothes.  

3. Give yourself extra time at the airport

Babies can be unpredictable. The last thing you want is to be stressed at the airport while having to sprint to your gate. Your baby might have a blowout and require immediate assistance or your baby could  start crying and demand to be fed immediately, you never know.

The best thing you can do as a parent is to prepare for the unknown. Security check in might take longer than you anticipate. When you bring baby milk with you it will trigger alarms going through security. Your diaper bag will be separated out while a security agent ensures everything you brought is indeed safe and allowed.

You are permitted to bring milk for your  baby but it might take an extra few minutes for the security check.

Individuals traveling with children under 2 are allowed extra time to board the plane and are called first. Getting to the gate in time to board before other passengers is helpful. You might have items to check at the gate or a carseat to lug onto the plane. You will get first pick at placing your overhead items ensuring they are close to your seat.

Pro Tip: Take advantage of this airline policy and board early.

4. Check your stroller or hiking backpack and carseat at the gate

Airlines normally grant larger luggage allowance when traveling with babies, as previously discussed. Make sure you know what your airline allows before packing for your trip. 

Airlines normally give you the option to gate check your stroller/hiking backpack and carseat or to check it before you go through security. I recommend you check these items at the gate.

When you gate-check an item it normally will be delivered to you right as you exit the plane. Therefore, you can use your stroller/hiking backpack to get around the airport. My carseat would connect to my travel stroller making it a great spot for baby to sleep and very convenient for me. If you check it before security you do not get your items back until normal luggage reclaim. 

mountain buggy compact stroller in car
My Travel Stroller in collapse mood in my car

The stroller that I use and recommend to travelers is the mountain buggy Nano stroller collapses down to fit in an overhead compartment for those of you who prefer to keep the stroller on the plane with you.

This stroller is lightweight and folds to fit in my car between the carseat and seat in front of it (picture below). It very easily fits a car seat that you strap on safely. When your little one gets bigger you can use the stroller without the carseat. For instance, I still use this stroller for my toddlers and it always stays in my car.

Another reason I gate-check my baby equipment is because I believe my items will be handled with more care. I have heard horror stories of people checking their baby items before security only to find that they are dented or damaged when returned. 

5. Bring snacks for the older baby as a distraction

Babies older than 6 months old start experimenting with finger food. When a baby is closer to a year they often are able to eat puffs and cheerios. If your baby enjoys finger foods and does well with them, bring a snack container on the plane for your baby. 

You can also bring a travel highchair to use at the airport. I use the Hiccapop Omniboost Travel Seat and love it.

I love the Skip Hop snack containers. When little ones tip them over, as they will, the food stays in the container. It might be hard for a baby to reach in and retrieve, but I’m sure you could help them out. As they get older they will learn how to get the snack themselves and less mess will be made. My son figured out his container around 14 months.

If your baby is getting fussy and you need a distraction, bring out the snacks. This might save you from the crying or give you and the other passengers more peace and quiet. 

If your baby is only on purees bring a pack or two along. I would also pack a bib, baby spoon and an extra burp cloth or two for spills.

6. Pack a couple simple toys as a distraction

A baby doesn’t have the longest attention span. Your dreams of them sitting quietly and listening to you read a book or quietly sitting on your lap as you both watch a show are exactly that:  dreams, at least they were for me.   

I recommend bringing small toys to try to distract your baby on a flight. A couple rattles that have different textures, a **simple book with flap**s, and a blanket with which to play peek-a-boo.   Your baby most likely will only be interested in any item for a short period of time which is why you should keep cycling through what you brought. 

Do not overlook the distractions around you on the plane. Your baby might be interested in your watch, making faces at another passenger, or he/she might like the feel of the rope pattern of the magazine holder from the seat in front of you. Let your baby take it all in before bringing out the distractions you brought from home.

7. Try to arrange flight time during nap times

This one can be harder to do, but if possible really helps.  At home your baby might be used to a certain schedule, my sons were always on nap schedules. If you can arrange for your flight to coincide with a nap time then, by all means, do so. This will make it easier to get your little one to nap on the plane which is the ultimate goal to flying with a baby.

When on the plane go through the steps you normally would take to get your baby to sleep. For me I swaddle my little one and nurse him. You might want to bring an extra blanket, planes can be cold and babies sleep better when warm and cozy.

8. Change your baby before boarding the plane

The thought of changing a baby while on a plane always gives me anxiety. The bathroom surely doesn’t have the space and the only viable options I have were to lay out a changing pad in the aisle of the plane, or change with the tray down. This only works for a young baby and if you can use two seats.

how to change a baby's diaper on a plane
Diaper changes in the air aren't fun

People will most likely stare at you, but it is better than having the baby sit longer than necessary  in a soiled diaper. After all, you don’t want to have to deal with diaper rash when you get to your destination.  Other parents will understand.

You can’t plan when your baby will go, however, you can preemptively change his/her diaper before getting on the plane. At least then you started with a clean dry diaper that might last, fingers crossed, till you arrive at your destination. Also it is much easier to change your little one in a public restroom than the airplane.  

If your little one has a blow out on the plane, first take a deep breathe. You got this!

9. Give yourself some grace

People are often disappointed when they set their expectations too high.   Flying with a baby is hard and you might hit some road bumps along the way. Acknowledge the fact that your trip is going to be harder than it was flying solo, but realize that at the end of the day you can do it. Your flight is only a small portion of your overall trip and shouldn’t stop you from making great memories with your family.

Hope this helps and let me know if you have any questions or comments!

Other Resources For Traveling With Babies

Plan the perfect Road Trip With A Baby.

Check out what to pack for baby with Baby Travel Items Packing List.

Your baby is growing up so now you need Tips On Flying With A Toddler.