Your First Flight With Baby: 12 Things to Know
Avoid turbulence! A little pre-planning makes traveling with baby way easier
Whether you're off to visit the grandparents or heading on a getaway as a family, that first airplane trip with a baby requires some advance planning. Follow these expert air travel tips for a smoother flight.
1. Avoid layovers if you can. "Nonstop flights are worth their weight in gold when traveling with a baby," says Danielle Contray, travel editor and mom to a 5-year-old son. "It might also be worth driving an hour or so on either end of your trip to get to an airport with more nonstop options."
2. Sync up with sleep. Dan Miller, father of six and writer at Points with a Crew, says it's best to plan travel around normal sleep schedules. He suggests flying when your baby is tired but not exhausted—meaning you'd have a flight depart around the start of your child's regular naptime or bedtime. And don't forget to bring something familiar to help your baby fall asleep, like a stuffed animal or a favorite blanket.
3. Add a seat. Parents have the option to hold children under the age of two in their lap, but for a flight longer than four hours, you may want to purchase an extra seat, says Kendra Thornton, national travel expert and mom of three. You can ask about discounted ticket prices when you make a reservation, or ask to be seated next to an empty seat when you check in. If you won't need or want the room under the seat in front of you to stash stuff, Thornton also suggests booking bulk head seats so you have more space. Keep in mind that the safest place for your baby to sit on a plane is in a car seat or an approved child restraint—check the FAA site site for more information about child restraint systems.
4. Be prepared. Include an "emergency kit" in your carry-on and have it filled with bottles, milk or formula, bottled water, fever reducer, saline, diapers, and lots and lots of wipes. Make sure to let the security officer know at the beginning of the screening process that you're carrying formula, breast milk, or juice over the minimum of 3.4 ounces in your carry-on bag. These liquids may be X-rayed or tested, though you can request to have them screened by alternate methods.
5. Pack extra clothes-for everyone. Contray says to consider having a change of clothes in the carry-on for the entire family since you never know who is going to spill what and on whom. And don't forget plastic bags for dirty clothes!
6. Ease the pressure. There are many reasons babies cry on planes, but the ear pressure that occurs during take-off and landing is definitely one of them. Let your baby nurse, have a bottle, or suck on a pacifier to help keep ears opens. (And be sure to stock up on extra pacifiers.)
7. Bring the gear. Airlines don't charge for you to check your car seat or stroller and most will allow you to check your stroller at the gate. While this may mean you have to wait for it when you land, it does make it easier to transport your carry-ons to the plane. Another item to pack in your carry-on: a wearable carrier so you can walk the airplane aisles when the seat belt light is off.
8. Pack the snacks. Whether it's puffs, pouches (preferably light-colored to avoid stains if spilled), or a bottle, never forget the power of snacks. Bring your baby's faves and have extras on hand for unexpected delays.
9. Bring the entertainment. A new toy or an old favorite will keep kids occupied for at least part of the trip. If you can, bring enough items to pull something out of your bag of tricks every hour. Thornton says her go-to items include plastic cups, coloring books, flashing toys, and finger snacks.
10. Give yourself (lots of) extra time. As you've probably learned by now, everything takes longer when you have a baby. Flying for the first time with baby is stressful, and you don't want the added stress of racing through the airport to the gate, says Thornton. Budget plenty of time for all stages of travel—and then add in a little more time if you can.
11. Lost luggage? Thornton says that all airports typically have emergency baby supplies at the lost luggage counter. They can provide you with diapers, formula, blankets, wipes, and more!
12. Don't forget to breathe. Babies cry and every parent will tell you they've had at least one nightmare trip, so take a deep breath and try your best to relax.