Maybe you are planning your first vacation abroad with your baby? Or you want to visit relatives who live on a different continent to introduce them to your newest family addition? Either way, you might have to hop on a plane and fly for a few hours to reach your destination. Traveling by plane with a baby can seem scary. Whether on domestic flights or international flights, here you find the most helpful tips for parents flying with a baby.
A flight can turn into a beautiful adventure with your little one with the correct information and preparation.
Make most out of your trip and enjoy the adventure
We traveled by airplane with our firstborn for the first time when he was 11 weeks old. It indeed was an adventure to take him on an 11hours flight. But with a few tips from other mommies ahead of the trip, it turned out quite relaxing, to be honest.
Let me share some specific information and tips which have helped us a lot. Hopefully, within that article, your mommy heart can find some answers and peace. I am sure you, too, can experience an amazing first flight as a new family.
Preparation – get ready the right way
For the day of travel, I have probably THE most important tip for you:
Make sure you have ENOUGH TIME.
Have everything packed the day before. Get up early, get to the airport early, and check in as early as possible. It will make such a difference for you if you can take it all step-by-step. And that way, you can stay calm if one more unexpected feed or diaper change comes up in the airport.
Remember: everything takes a little longer with a baby in tow. It won’t be like last time when you and your husband took a spontaneous trip together.
In addition to all your travel documents, you might have to include your baby’s birth certificate as well. Check out the specific travel requirements for the countries you are passing through and arriving in.
Some airlines have rental buggies ready before departure. In that case, you can leave your own stroller with your baggage.
Otherwise, you better keep your own and take it directly to the gate. You can then hand it in before you board the plane. It will be given to you again when you get out. That makes walking in the airport more manageable, and your child can sleep in the buggy while waiting.
Sometimes, the strollers handed over as carry-on at the entrance to the aircraft are NOT given back directly when you get off. It depends on the airline. The stroller might only be available again by the baggage belt. That means that you would have to carry the baby for quite some time upon arrival. Make sure to ask when making your booking.
By the way, most airlines let you check in a baby stroller and a car seat for no additional cost. So, if you decide not to use those items up to the gate or on the plane, you can comfortably drop them off at check-in.
Personally, I totally recommend a baby carrier for in the airport. It’s such a great travel gear for parents. It has always helped me keep my baby close in all the crowds of people. And I still had my two hands-free to pull my carry-on and hold my passport.
After check-in comes the security screening, most big airports have staff who will gladly assist you with a child.
We have often experienced how we were even called up to skip the line when traveling with a baby.
When flying within or through the US, you can find more helpful information about the screening procedures on the TSA Website here.
The gate will be your next stop once you are past check-in and made it through the security screening process. Most likely, the gate agents will welcome you as parents with a young child to boarding first. You can take advantage of that, or you can wait. Waiting has the advantage that you can let your baby crawl a little longer while everybody else is taking their time to board.
Personally, we have found that early boarding has worked best for us. That way, we have had time to settle and organize everything in our seats and overhead space. All before the big “crowd” arrives.
Unfortunately, baby seats are still not provided on planes. Meanwhile, some airlines recommend bringing your own baby car seat and securing it against the direction of flight. Window seats apart from emergency exit rows are particularly suitable for this.
However, the required extra seat on the plane is not available for free. It can be up to 2/3 of the regular ticket price (infant fares).
If you consider bringing your own baby seat, find out about it first. Check the possibilities and costs of it when booking. And make sure you inquire beforehand whether your particular seat is suitable and permitted by the airline.
Personally, we never used a baby car seat on a plane but booked the baby on our lap until he turned two. After the second birthday, a child is required to have a separate seat. For us, this has worked out very well.
Before take-off, you will receive a small additional belt to strap around your baby’s waist and onto your own belt. That way, your little one stays close to you, and you can comfortably breastfeed during take-off, landing, or any turbulence when your baby must remain strapped in.
Bassinets on board
Additionally, on the long-distance flights, we had seats with a baby bassinet in front of us. That way, our baby boy could usually sleep through significant parts of the flights without our arms and laps getting too tired from holding him.
Flying with a baby can even turn out quite relaxing at times.
If you book your baby on your lap, I recommend contacting the airline 48 hours before the flight. Make sure they put you in an airplane seat with access to a baby bassinet. Usually, the airline bassinets are available on all long-distance flights.
Take-off and landing
Sometimes the baby falls asleep before the take-off, reassured by the hum of the engines. That might seem easy but could be tricky in terms of ear ventilation and ear pressure equalization.
Ideally, you keep the baby awake until at least around 10mins after take-off. The change in air pressure shouldn’t be underestimated. Try to feed the baby during take-off.
I used to time my breastfeeding sessions to that critical time of take-off and landing. But even if it didn’t work out, I made sure my baby was awake. Either he was still sucking my breast or at least his pacifier. That worked out well, and he never seemed bothered by the air pressure change.
It’s good to know that even if your little one reacts to the pressure change, it can’t harm your baby’s ears. Worst case, your baby will feel pain and start crying.
Then, calm and serenity are required from you as a mommy to give your baby comfort and a sense of safety. That way, your little one can also calm down again.
I know it’s hard to endure the potentially annoyed looks from fellow passengers. Try to blend them out in such a moment. Remember, they all were babies too back in time. Right now, it is just about you and your little one as if you were alone at home.
Babies always notice when their mommies are stressed out, and it catches on to them. The key is to try to stay calm.
When you pack everything you need in your carry-on bag, fill it so that you have the individual items at hand quickly. You will be glad if not every time you have to offload your whole carry-on fully.
Make sure you have more than enough diapers and food supplies ready in your carry-on for unforeseen waiting times and on the plane. Extra clothes (for baby and mommy!), wet wipes, and small plastic sacks are just a few other essentials.
I also recommend you have a couple of age-appropriate travel toys for the happy baby. And a few extra snacks for yourself if you are breastfeeding.
In my experience, it has always been helpful to have a baby blanket as well. Additionally, I dressed my baby in layers. Usually, it can get quite cold during the flight, but you also don’t want your baby to sweat when you arrive at the possibly hot holiday destination.
The air in the plane is very dry. You must make sure your baby stays well hydrated. That could mean you will have to breastfeed a bit more often or offer an extra bottle.
Usually, baby bottles or jars of baby food can be warmed by the flight crew on long-haul flights.
Generally, if you have any problem, don’t be shy and just ask the crew if they can help you. So far, we have only experienced very friendly and caring crew members on our air travel with our baby. Usually, they have been willing to work extra hard to make us feel as comfortable as possible.
Traveling with babies can be a wonderful experience. Trust me, in a few years; you will be happy about all the special memories you are about to make with your little family.
That was it, my best tips for flying with a baby
Generally, I recommend you check out your specific airline’s website to find more details on flying with your baby. If you haven’t booked yet, for example, you can look at Delta Airline’s website here.
I hope to have brought some inspiration and peace to your mind concerning your upcoming trip. You got this, momma! Prepare well and enjoy the adventure!
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Tabea Gittens is a trained medical professional and mother of two active little ones. She is passionate about pregnancy, birth, babies, and motherhood. In her free time, she blogs on MyMommyHeart and helps fellow moms with tips and advice on their journey of motherhood.