Traveling by plane with an infant or toddler in tow can seem incredibly daunting. However, with adequate preparation and knowledge of what to expect, your flight can go quite smoothly with minimal fussiness. Here are six helpful tips when flying with your little one:
Book Direct Flights When Possible:
Booking direct flights decreases the likelihood of delays, missed connections, and layovers where you may need to switch terminals and gates. This reduces potential stress and disruption that could upset your baby’s routine. Although sometimes inevitable, especially for longer journeys, layovers and connections should be avoided when feasible for easier, smoother travel.
If connections can’t be avoided, allow plenty of time between flights and request a stroller tag at check-in so you may use it up until boarding, when you will gate-check it. This allows you to easily transport the baby through the airport without needing to carry them and all your gear.
- Strategically Choose Your Seats:
- Pack Smartly and Efficiently:
- Dress Comfortably:
- Feed, Play, and Sleep at strategic times:
- Stay Hydrated, Fed, and Rested Yourself!
- Request or Reserve Baby Accommodations in Advance:
- Contact TSA Cares if Needing Assistance Through Security:
- Have Activities Ready Upon Boarding:
- Occupy Older Babies with Apps, Games, and Books:
When booking, choose seats together whenever possible so one parent can hold or nurse the baby while the other parent rests. Bulkhead and row seating near or in the back provides more legroom and space. A bassinet or baby cot may also be available in certain areas of some aircraft – reserve these early, as only a few exist on each flight.
If traveling solo, window seats allow a solid surface to create a smaller contained area for your baby without strangers needing to consistently pass by. Whether solo or not, avoid rows near busy galleys and restrooms for minimal disturbances.
The lighter and more consolidated you can pack, the easier travel will be through airports and onto the plane. Having things well organized in clearly labeled bags or backpacks will assist with quickly finding what you need at various points, too. Essentials to include and have handy are diapers, wipes, changes of clothes, bottled formula or pumped milk (bring extra!), a few small toys/books, and portable baby comfort items like a pacifier, blanket, etc. Any medications needed should be brought as carry-ons, not checked luggage.
While many airlines allow each ticketed passenger – including infants sitting on your lap – to have a carry-on plus personal items like a purse or backpack, check your specific airline’s policies and fees for checked bags and car seats early. Checking some heavier items like your stroller upon arrival may make sense rather than hauling everything onto the plane.
For babies, dress them comfortably in breathable soft layers that can be added or removed since airplane temperatures can vary. Whether nursing or bottle feeding, bring lightweight blankets to use for privacy and warmth during feeds. Diaper only with clothes over the top instead of full onesies, if possible, to simplify diaper changes. Bring extra pants/shirts in case of diaper leaks, spit-ups, or other messes, too.
For parents, choose clothes with zippers, buttons, and access areas that simplify nursing or skin-to-skin contact. Hoodies that unzip fully or button-down tops with layers make for easy baby coverage and access. Comfortable walking shoes, cozy socks, hair ties, and lounge pants will keep you as content as possible as well during travel.
To align with your flight schedule, feed your baby right before and after boarding, play actively upon settling into seats, and doze as much as possible during the flight. Babies cannot sip liquids during ascent and descent due to swallowing issues with pressure changes, so avoid giving bottles at these points, or let your seat belt sign be a useful cue to hold off.
Pack a few small, engaging toys to capture their attention, like during take-offs. The novelty will entertain them and distract from surrounding commotion and uncomfortable ear popping. Between activities and after feeds, when sleepy but fighting it, try baby-wearing. The closeness and motion can sway them into much-needed naps well into toddler ages. White noise apps, pacifiers, swaddling, and baby carriers further assist in their winding down. Avoid overstimulation and too much disruption of their sleep schedule.
Lastly, taking good care of YOU is vital because if you’re exhausted, frustrated, and run down, everything will be far more difficult. Keep yourself fed, hydrated, and as rested as realistically possible. Pack healthy snacks you can eat with one hand as needed. Unless you have an aisle seat with an easy exit, avoid overindulging in fluids to prevent feeling desperate for restroom breaks you cannot quickly make. If traveling solo, don’t hesitate to kindly ask seat neighbors for assistance holding the baby if needing to use the restroom or stretch your legs. Most people are happy to lend a quick hand, and “it takes a village” applies perfectly to air travel!
While the previous 6 tips cover the key essentials for an enjoyable flight with your little one, a few extra pointers can further enhance your travel experience:
Depending on airline and aircraft size, various baby amenities may be available upon request or via online reservation. Baby bassinets, diaper-changing tables, bottle-warming capabilities, and sometimes even play areas cater to tiny travelers’ needs.
Research your airline’s offerings in advance and call to place requests if able. Some equipment is limited in quantity, making advance planning ideal. Even if not guaranteed due to operational constraints, being proactive sets you up for optimal access to baby facilities.
Traveling solo or feeling nervous about going through airport security screening procedures? For U.S. airports, you can call TSA Cares 72 hours ahead to arrange for assistance. Agents will clarify screening policies, like rules for baby food/milk exceptions, plus arrange for support like expedited screening if desired.
That initial plane boarding with the baby in one arm and all your gear in the other can feel stressful. Set yourself up for success by having a few key items accessible rather than deeply packed away once settled into seats. Have a pacifier, labeled bottled breastmilk or formula, a light blanket, and a small, engaging toy ready to briefly entertain your little one while you get sorted. This prevents unnecessary cries for attention as you scramble to dig out said items.
While young infants will sleep most of the journey, older babies and toddlers require entertainment. Download age-appropriate apps, games, and e-books ahead of time for easy access during the flight without relying on spotty onboard wifi. Also, pack lightweight board books, small figurines, and easy-to-grip plush toys that are packed flat in your bag. Offer activities periodically to break up funnier moments.
Preparing for a flight with a baby takes forethought but is very manageable. Staying organized, flexible, and armed with a few handy tips will have you sailing smoothly amongst the clouds!
While flying with infants and toddlers necessitates extra preparation and vigilance, the key is strategically planning for your baby’s routine while also expecting the unexpected. With the right tools and support people, smooth and even pleasant flights ARE totally possible. Always stay positive and patient and keep your little one’s comfort plus well-being the number one priority rather than any outside opinions or pressures. Maintaining reasonable expectations will serve in your favor, too. The effort you invest will ensure you both enjoy the amazing adventure!
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