Here’s your first tip for flying with a baby: don’t. Joke! It’s totally doable and completely worth it.
Having your little buddy as an adventure partner can be the best thing in the world—and there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t get them soaring through the skies before you even get them crawling on the ground.
To ensure a smooth(ish) journey, prep is everything. Knowing what to expect and how to prepare for some of the issues you may face will make the experience significantly more manageable.
Here are 15 ways you can make flying with a baby a whole lot easier:
Your guide to taking your baby on planes
When flying with a baby…
1. Fly before they’re two.
Traveling with infants on planes gets harder the older they become—and not just because they get busier. (Seriously, trying to control a high-speed toddler while on a long layover is a task fit for superheroes.)
The other reason that flying with a baby younger than two can be the more favorable option is that they generally fly for free. At this young age, they have the option of being a “lap child”, because, yes, your lap is where they’ll be plonked for the duration of the flight.
But before you go ahead and book that flight:
2. Know that free is not really free.
When flying with a baby under 2, be aware that free is not free. Airlines still charge a small amount, usually about 10% of an adult ticket price. Then, there are also taxes to consider. So yes, while so much cheaper, “free” is not entirely accurate.
3. Don’t start too young.
Is it okay to fly with a 3 month old baby? How about flying with a 2 month old baby? While you may want to get the serious discounts that come with having a lap child, it’s not advisable to get that kid on a plane straight out of the delivery room.
So at what age is it safe for a baby to fly? Flying with a newborn is not advisable until they are at least one month old. If your baby was born premature or has other health concerns, your doc will likely advise you to wait until about 3 to 6 months old.
4. Take a seat.
So, about that lap child. Remember the part where you had to sit with them on your lap for the whole journey? Yeah. That. If you don’t want to do that, book them a seat on the plane and then bring your car seat to seat them in that seat. A car seat will not only provide a familiar space for them to get comfy in, but it will also allow you to strap them in in a more secure way. And yes, that’ll give you a bit of a breather too.
Just double-check with the airline about whether your car seat (often dramatically referred to as a child-restraint system) is approved for air travel. Oh, and have a few practice rounds. Taking some long car trips may help them get used to the idea of being in the seat for that long.
5. Get your documents in order.
Do you need ID when flying with a baby? Yes. Your baby won’t be able to fly overseas without a passport. Apply for this as soon as possible as you can be met with a bunch of niggly bureaucratic delays. If you’re traveling locally, your baby will likely still need some form of identification. For this, a birth certificate or passport should work.
6. Get a letter of consent from the other parent and travel with it.
To prevent child trafficking and kidnapping, many countries require a letter of consent from the other parent. Check the rules of your destination and home country to see what they need from you.
7. Strategic packing is everything.
What do you need when flying with a baby? Traveling with a baby can feel a bit like moving house. How much stuff does this one little person need? One useful tip is to start a working list as soon as you know you will be traveling. You’ll be adding to and subtracting from it quite a bit before you start boarding. In your hand luggage, you likely want to pack:
- Pre-packaged snacks and drinks
- Poop paraphernalia (diapers, wet wipes, creams)
- Changes of clothes (more on that below)
- Boredom-quelling toys, particularly if you have a long flight
- Comfort blanky/bear/mouse/raccoon
- Any medications and ointments that are a regular in your life
8. Layer your baby up like an onion.
It will be too hot. It will be too cold. Have every option available.
9. Budget a little extra in luggage fees.
You might need them. Traveling light is no longer that simple as you will likely have to check a bag or two.
10. A change is as good as a holiday.
Or at least a very important part of one. You can either change your baby in the bathroom or on your lap with a changing pad. It may be a good idea to plan all of this ahead so that when things get urgent, you’re ready.
11. Allow extra time—but not too much.
The reality is that things are likely to be more complicated when traveling with a little one, so it’s important that you’re not trying to rush through the airport like you’re in a high-speed chase.
Getting there too early is also a problem, especially if you have a very long flight ahead of you. The less time you have to spend in airports with your little one, the better.
12. Pump it up.
Pumped breast milk and formula are allowed through airport security—so you may want to get ahead of the game and plan your pumping.
13. Find ways to deal with the pressure.
Cabin pressure, that is. As anyone with sensitive ears knows, cabin pressure can wreak havoc. Getting your baby to suck or drink during take-off and landing can be really helpful. It may be a good idea to plan meal times around this.
14. Remember that you and your little one are allowed to be there.
If your baby is practicing their operatics, you might be inundated with wisecracks and unwarranted advice. Let them wash over you. Your focus is just you and your little one.
15. Don’t forget yourself.
Look, air travel (particularly of the international variety) is hard enough as it is even without having to navigate the challenge of flying with a baby. Look after yourself. Get enough to eat and drink. Have a change of clothes in case you feel like freshening up. (Baby spit. Yum.) And, no, flying with a baby doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to catch up on all your favorite shows while in the air.
Right. Ready to take off?