It’s June, and vacation time is finally upon us! I have gotten several questions lately about flying with babies.
Here are some of my top tips for making plane travel more comfortable for both baby and you, as well as those you’re sharing the plane with!
1. When booking flights, look for a direct flight or one with a longer layover. With toddlers, especially, this gives you time to eat and enjoy a proper meal, change a diaper comfortably, and let them stretch their legs in between flights, so that they won’t have as much excess energy to burn!
2. Visit the airport restroom before your flight. Airplane lavatories are tiny and it can be extremely inconvenient to get little ones down the aisle to them. You may not be able to totally avoid it if your flight is long, but trust me – it’s worth starting off by using the larger (and probably cleaner) one in the terminal!
3. Take advantage of pre-boarding, and make sure you’ve got the right forms of identification for your little ones ahead of time. Pre-boarding minimizes the rush, and gives you time to help your little one get comfortable with their new surroundings before you’ve got to buckle up and take off.
4. Buy a separate airplane seat for your child. Not only is this the safer option, but also it gives your family more room to spread out and relax on the plane. To do this, you must have an FAA-approved car seat! Check here to see if yours meets the criteria for use in flight.
5. Babywearing for the win! A stroller isn’t as efficient as you might hope when you’re navigating crowded airport terminals. Instead, take advantage of the hands-free benefits of babywearing and get a great carrier! It will make juggling your luggage, coffee, gate tickets, and food so much easier in the time between flights – and your baby will feel secure and comforted by your close presence in a loud, unfamiliar environment.
6. Gate-check your baby gear. Instead of leaving your stroller at home, use it to carry everything to the gate – and then check it! They will have it ready for you at the landing gate, too – ready for hauling your things easily.
8. Keep your baby buckled up as much as possible. Little ones are safer this way and older babies are already used to traveling in their car seat.
9. Bring double the baby necessities. Yes, really – bring twice as much formula, diapers, bottles, baby food and snacks on the plane than you think you’ll need. If your plane becomes severely delayed or your flight canceled, you’ll be so grateful to have the extra supplies.
It’s no fun having to grab emergency baby supplies in an unfamiliar place when you’re unexpectedly stuck on the tarmac, circling above a storm, or bedding down in a hotel room for an overnight you never planned on!
10. Dress in comfortable layers, and bring layers for baby, as well. It is hard to predict what the temperature will feel like, both in the plane and at your destination.
11. Pack an extra change of clothing for baby and for you, too! You might have several changes of clothes for baby, but what if her diaper leaks all over YOU? Eek! Better safe than sorry.
12. Protect little ears during takeoff and landing! Sucking or chewing helps ease any discomfort in the ears caused by pressure changes in the airplane’s cabin. You can bring formula or pumped breast milk and give your baby a bottle during take-off and landing. This way you can keep them safely buckled at the same time.
Did you know? Breast milk is exempt from the 3.4-ounce liquid rule. If your child doesn’t take bottles, then a sippy cup or pacifier works, too. Chewing a cracker or cookie can also help older toddlers.
13. Don’t forget baby’s medication. Make sure to pack any prescription and over-the-counter medicine you might need in your carry-on bag!
Liquid medications are also exempt from the TSA’s liquid limits – but be sure to keep them in their original packaging so they are easily identifiable. Infant Ibuprofen may come in handy for sore ears and Dramamine for Kids is safe for children aged 2 and older.
14. Bring a portable sound machine. Personally, I love using The Hush because it’s easy to use and so portable. If you already use a sound machine for white noise at home, it can help normalize the time on the plane for your little one.
15. Make a plan for your packing – don’t just “wing it”! You’ll have the urge to pack everything conceivable when flying with a baby. While it is good to be prepared, the most important thing is actually how accessible the items you need will be. If you have to dig through layers and layers of densely-packed baby gear on the plane while holding a crying baby, you might end up regretting your preparedness. Be sure to utilize a bag with easy access and many pockets, so you can put items that are most likely to be needed in the outermost compartments.
With four children, I’ve worked my way through a fair share of diaper bags, and I have always come back to using a backpack. Being able to carry it on my back distrubutes the weight evenly, and it leaves my hands free for tending baby. Best of all, it’s large enough to fit practical items for you as well.
If your toddler wants to help you pack, be sure to double-check their bag for any disallowed items, to avoid a delay with security!
Small Ziploc-style bags are great for packing travel items – espeically things that get wet and need to stay clean, like toothbrushes or pacifiers. Bring a few extras with you, just in case!
Pack a couple of larger Ziploc-style bags (gallon size) as well – they are great for containing spilled-on or soiled clothing, diapers and wipes, and so on. Use a Ziploc to collect anything liquid or goopy that you’ll need to pull out at the security checkpoint. More empty Ziploc bags can be used to hold stinky diapers if a trash can isn’t immediately available.
Just be sure to let the agent know that you have baby items BEFORE putting them through the machine, and they will hand-inspect them. Here’s a video about screening for baby items from the TSA.
You can read up on the TSA’s complete rules ahead of time at this link – or, print them out and bring them to the airport with you.
Keeping baby happy with distractions is key to a comfortable flight. You may spend your whole flight entertaining your baby or toddler, reading board books over and over, playing peek-a-boo, or shaking a rattle for them. It means buying the right travel toys (a fresh toy they’ve never seen before is often especially fun!) and actively playing with your child.
It might also mean allowing your toddler to play games on smart devices or watch movies, even if you never allow them at home.
Finally, don’t worry too much about what others might think. Occasionally, no matter what you do, babies and toddlers will make noise. While it may feel embarrassing in the grocery store…it’s a bit more tricky on a plane because you can’t escape the public eye. Simply do your best, try these tips for flying with babies and toddlers, and relax – because most people will understand.
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