How to Fly With a Baby: Tips to make everyone’s trip more enjoyable and stress-free
How to Fly With a Baby
Let me just start off by saying that Little J flew on 8 different planes before he was even 5-months-old. He only cried once, and it was for about five minutes. So yes, I think I am pretty much an expert on how to fly with a baby (and my baby is fantastic).
Before we flew, however, I was terrified. Little J was almost 3-months-old, but had never traveled. I was so worried that he would hate it and everyone around us would hate us and it would just be miserable. But I talked to several moms who had already flown with their babies (and one who had flown with a baby and a dog without her husband), and I got a lot of good advice. So now I will share my good advice and tips with you so that when you fly with your little one, it will be more enjoyable and stress-free.
1. Stock the diaper bag. Babies need a lot of stuff. And it is important to have a lot of options ready in case your baby gets fussy. You also want to be prepared for (pretty much) everything so you don’t have a disaster 35,000 feet in the air. Make sure you have extra outfits in case of blowouts, toys or books for your baby to look at and play with, a blanket in case your plane is cold or your air vent is permanently stuck on full blast and pointing right at you, and extra diapers and wipes, because you just never know what might happen. If your baby is bigger, make sure you bring some snacks for him, too.
2. Sanitize. Have you ever noticed that in movies where there is a killer disease that takes out everyone alive, it always starts at an airport? Airports are germy. Planes are germy. Have a supply of sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer ready to go. Am I a germaphobe? Yes. But you will be too when you are at the airport and you don’t know who is sick or who sat in the seat before you, or who touched what door handle. You don’t want to risk getting sick or even worse, your baby getting sick, especially while on vacation. Wipe down things your baby will touch, and wash your hands when you can. Trust me.
3. PACIFIER. This is one of the most important things when it comes to a happy baby on takeoff and landing. You know how people chew gum on planes so their ears don’t pop? Well babies can suck on a pacifier and it will help with the pressure change so their ears don’t pop. We gave Little J a pacifier for every takeoff and landing, and we never had a problem. Really, the only time he cried on all eight planes he’s been on was when it was past his bedtime and he was really tired. And we were able to give him his pacifier once he calmed down and he was okay again. The pacifier is key. Your seat-mates will definitely thank you on this one.
4. Have a bottle ready. Depending on the length of your plane ride, you will want to have a bottle ready, or if you prefer, have a nursing cover. Personally, I wanted to give Little J a bottle because with the armrests down, you really don’t have much room and if you’ve noticed, you need your elbows out when you are trying to nurse your baby. We got lucky and only had to use the bottle once because of timing, but it was really nice to have a bottle ready so that when he got hungry on the plane, we were able to feed him quickly and not worry about him screaming. And the flight attendants were very helpful about getting warm water to make the bottle, too. We took advantage of the family boarding and when we got on, I let the flight attendants know that I might need access to the hot water while on board. They were all very nice about it, and when we did need it, they helped us out.
5. Have a back-up plan. First of all, we do not let Little J watch TV. I think he’s probably watched a television screen for less than 30 minutes his whole life, and he’s almost 6-months-old. But for those times that we are in the car and nothing is working and we can’t stop and get him out (aka roadtrips), we have found that putting a video or movie on the iPad is a great back-up plan. He has seen a few clips of Winnie the Pooh, The Hobbit, The Hunger Games, and of course, Harry Potter. You don’t have to have your back-up plan be movies on an iPad, but for us, when he would not sit still on the plane and didn’t want to play with any of his books or toys, a quick clip of a movie worked wonders. And I didn’t really feel bad about it because it was a one-time thing!
6. Sell your baby. I obviously don’t mean sell your baby for money, but as you are waiting to get on the plane or as you are getting on the plane and passing people who have already boarded, turn your baby around and let him smile at people. Make him cute and show him off. People will be more inclined to sit through a baby’s cries if they think he is cute. And while this tip isn’t really something that will help your baby travel better, it will certainly help the passengers on your plane feel a little better (unless they are weird and don’t love babies, but you don’t want to please those people anyway).
7. Bring a big blanket. This is especially important if you have a layover, but it can be helpful before you board your plane, too. A big blanket is perfect for your baby to lay on, roll around on, or even sit on while you are waiting. You are going to have to hold your baby the entire flight, so let him have some space and be free while you can. We have had layovers every time we’ve flown, and letting Little J have his own space and be able to move has helped him stay happy on the planes when he can’t have that space. Also, if you do have a layover, find a space away from other people (if you can) so that you can stretch out more. You need some space, too! And look to see if the airport you are at has a secret second floor. We like layovers in Denver because the concourses have a small place upstairs where people don’t usually go. Also, my dad was the architect who designed those concourses, so way to go, Dad. Little J thanks you for giving him some space.
8. Bring a chest carrier. Some babies don’t like these, but if your baby does, a chest carrier is really nice because then you don’t have to worry about holding onto your baby and trying to remember to hold and manage all of your carry-ons at the same time.This also lets your baby not have to be in the car seat while you walk around the airport. Little J likes being in his carrier because he can a)chew on the sides and b)look around at all the people. It might take up precious space in your carry-on luggage, but trust me, it is worth it.
9. Help yourself when your baby sleeps. If your baby is going to be an angel and fall asleep on the plane (Little J has slept for take-off and landing almost every time), then you will need to remember to put the arm rests down, and to put something soft underneath your arm while your baby sleeps in your arms. Why? Your arm will fall asleep, too, and you will be in pain. This tip comes mostly from personal experience, and there’s a big difference between holding your baby without an armrest or cushion and holding your baby using an armrest and a cushion. But really, it’s up to you.
10. Relax! Remember, you are never going to see these people again, so if your baby does happen to cry for your entire flight, it’s okay! I’m sure a lot of people on your plane either have had kids or have kids, and they totally understand that sometimes there just isn’t anything you can do. Babies aren’t really built for flying, so if you’ve tried everything you can think of and your baby is still crying, it’s okay. Just apologize to the people around you and don’t worry about it. Everything will be fine once you get off the plane and get to where you are going. It’s not the end of the world if your baby doesn’t fly well. Maybe they will be better when they are a few months older. It really just depends on the baby.
Those are just a few tips that have helped the Mister and I as we’ve flown with our Little J. I hope they help you and I hope your baby flies well. If you have any other tips, please leave a comment below and share!
Rebecca Parsons says
All great tips for flying some I wouldn’t have even thought of.
Thank you! I hope they help!
Jelli B. says
Great tips! We flew with our little girl trans-atlantic at around 5 months and used #1,#2, and especially #8 with her and it made so much difference! I’m a huge baby carrying fan, and when I’ve got the choice, always fly with the carrier and leave that awkward stroller at home. Flew once with a stroller and will never again! I always tell ppl it’s best to try to borrow carseats and strollers from ppl you’re visiting, if possible, rather than toting them along.
Thanks! I can’t even imagine trying to fly with a stroller! I had a hard enough time with the car seat. Borrowing ones from people you are visiting is a great suggestion. That way you don’t have to worry about the airline losing or damaging yours.
A few other things we learned when flying with our [then-] 2 month-old: Be SURE to call ahead so the airline knows you have a lap-rider with you; ours didn’t know (even though I checked all the boxes when ordering tickets online) and our checker-in-er was not a happy camper b/c they have to seat you in a certain row that has the infant life vests. This turned out to be in our favor, however, because this row happened to be the very back of the plane for 3 of our 4 flights, and the noise and vibrations of the engine had Jr. asleep before we left the gate. It’s a good idea to be feeding the baby during takeoff and landing (if he/she is awake) to help equalize the pressure in their ears.
We did travel with a stroller (they gate-check for free on most airlines) and it came through just fine. We liked having it for layovers and getting around the airport, and we were travelling to a place with no family or friends with kids.
We love sitting in the back! Plus that way if your baby is crying, there are less people around to get upset haha. I actually didn’t think about calling to check because every time we’ve flown we’ve been fine. I’m definitely going to call ahead when we fly in December! Thanks!
Great tips!! I make little care packages for people sitting directly around us. I include things like EAR PLUGS, chocolates, cozy socks, and a little note explaining my babies first trip where we are going etc. Hopefully they will be more sympathetic to her crankiness and cries during the flight.
Chelsea J says
That’s another great idea! My husband told me once about some twins who were like a month old and their parents handed out little care packages like that for the whole plane warning them and telling them they were sorry if they were grumpy on the plane. Not reasonable for everyone, but I like the idea of handing them out to the people sitting directly around you!
Kristen Fullerton says
I have heard of people handing out earplugs just in case 🙂
Chelsea Johnson says
I have heard of that, too! Especially for the people directly around you!
P. Lea says
This is a great topic! Thanks!
I’m going to fly to France next summer with my 10 months old baby for the first time. I’m wondering about the logistics. How do you book a flight with a baby (knowing that I’m not going to pay another $1000+ for her own seat. Does the company need to know I am bringing a baby on board for each flight we take? When booking online, do I need to book it for her too? How does it work?
I’m interested in national flights as well since we will travel from west to east coast first then France.
Any tips would be greatly appreciated.
Chelsea Johnson says
If you book it online, you can usually just say that there is a child under 2 with no seat. If there isn’t an option online, you probably need to call the airline. They do need to know because you have to have a ticket for them. Some airlines make you have a copy of their birth certificate with you. You should probably call the airline because I think they are all different. I hope that helps!!
Bobbi Brown says
Thanks for the tips! We will be flying our almost 3 month old at the end of this month and I have one question. She is a heavy sleeper and I am hoping that she sleeps for the short flight. If she is asleep during the ascent and/or descent should I wake her to give the paci? I don’t want her to be in pain…
Chelsea Johnson says
I would try and get her to fall asleep with it. Or maybe just give it to her the whole plane ride! Good luck!
Trisha @ The Ham & Cheese Of It says
We are in the military and are moving duty stations this winter. These will be so helpful in our week worth of flying (Japan – Seattle – Dallas – Baltimore – Germany). She will be just over a year when this I happens. We plan to take a small trip back to the U.S. This summer to test out what will work best. But we will for sure use these tips! Thanks for these helpful tips!
Chelsea Johnson says
That sounds like a crazy week! Good luck! I am sure everything will go great!
Thanks for the advice.. i havent bring my baby on any flight .. but ur advice really open my toughts for the worst senario
Chelsea Johnson says
I definitely never thought of “selling your baby”, it is so true that if people think your baby is cute, they will be more understanding. Great ideas and suggestions.
Chelsea Johnson says
Hey, Chelsea! This was super informative & good to know. I only wish I had found this before I took my first plane ride with my baby, alone. Haha. Thankfully she was a dream (she is generally happy) but it didn’t stop me from getting those terrified looks from strangers who fear being trapped with a loud baby on a flight. I think my biggest flaw was packing the diaper bag with the important stuff on the bottom (insert eye-roll here) because i caught heck trying to make a bottle. Anyhow, I will definitely take these tips and use them next time, Chelsea! I’ve recently started a blog of my own in hopes to help other moms in this roller-coaster of motherhood! Thanks for the info!
Chelsea Johnson says
Yes, that’s so important! Make sure the things you need most are on top in an easy-to-access spot! Good luck, Sarah! Hope you enjoy blogging!