Flying With Your Baby: A Parent’s Guide
Flying with a baby can be stressful—for you, for your little one, and for everyone around you. But with a bit of planning, some creative packing, and a polite attitude, you can make even the longest flight a breeze for your family, the flight crew, and your fellow passengers.
To help make this a reality, the experts at Mustela have put together our top 20 tips for flying with a baby:
1) Always Bring A Safety Seat
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strongly recommends securing infants and small children who weigh 40 pounds or less in a child restraint system (CRS)—also known as a car seat or safety seat—that is government-approved for use on a plane.
2) Educate Yourself About Child Restraint System Restrictions
Before purchasing your tickets, visit the airline’s website to see if there are any specific or additional restrictions for the safety seat you plan to use. Also, be sure to look at the seat dimensions to see if your safety seat will fit.
3) Pick The Right Seat
Your baby’s safety seat will normally go in the window seat. If no window seats are available, your baby and their safety seat can sit in the middle seat. The safety seat should never be placed in an aisle seat.
If you have the option of choosing where on the plane your seats will be, we recommend sitting as close to the front of the plane as possible. The back of the plane is often noisier, vibrates more, and is less convenient for entering and exiting.
4) Buy Your Tickets Over The Phone
While it is legal for children up to a certain age to sit in your lap while flying, we suggest buying your little one their own seat and using a child restraint system (safety seat). It’s more expensive but it ensures that your child will be safe throughout the flight.
Additionally, we recommend purchasing your tickets over the phone so an agent can help you secure the best available spot. This also helps to alert the cabin crew that an infant in a safety seat will be onboard.
5) Allow Extra Time
When flying with a baby, allow extra time for activities like checking luggage, going through security, and boarding the plane. As a rule of thumb, aim to arrive at the gate (not the airport) an hour before your flight time. You’ll be more relaxed, and your baby will be happier and behave better as a result.
6) Be Polite
Despite all the planning and your best efforts to keep your little one calm and relaxed, no flight with a baby is perfect. There will be crying. There will be fussing. Whatever happens, don’t be afraid to apologize for your baby’s behavior. Acknowledging the discomfort of your fellow passengers can go a long way toward keeping everyone happy.
7) Be Prepared For The Security Line
You’ll need to carry your baby through the metal detectors, so it’s important to be prepared. Before you get to the security line, remove everything from your pockets and put your items in one of your carry-on bags.
If you’re wearing a belt, jacket, or bulky sweater, take that off too. You’ll also have to remove your shoes, so it’s best to wear a pair you can slip on and off without using your hands.
8) Let Your Child Move Around Before Boarding
While you’re waiting at the gate to board the plane, let your baby move around and play. This will burn off excess energy and keep your little one from getting antsy on the flight.
Worried about germs on your baby’s hands from crawling around on the airport floor and furniture? Pack Mustela’s Cleansing Wipes or No Rinse Cleansing Water for a quick and easy way to clean your baby’s hands anytime, anywhere.
9) Have A Boarding Plan
Boarding the plane with your baby can be chaotic. Avoid unnecessary stress by creating a boarding plan. If two adults and a baby are traveling together, we recommend having one adult board as early as possible.
The first adult can take the safety seat and anything else that will allow you to claim space in the bin above your seats. Then during final boarding, the other adult and the baby can walk on, sit down, and strap in with relative ease.
10) Check Your Stroller At The Gate
If you choose to use a stroller, we suggest checking it at the gate instead of having it packed with your suitcases. Even if you’re holding your baby the entire time, you can use the stroller as a makeshift baggage cart to hold your carry-ons.
11) Install The Safety Seat Properly
Your safety seat must be installed facing the rear of the plane if your infant is less than 20 pounds. Yes, this takes up quite a bit more space, but it’s for your little one’s safety. For babies over 20 pounds, the safety seat can be installed facing forward.
12) Pack A Small Bag Just For Your Baby
Pack a small bag just for your baby that contains the essentials like food, a few diapers, diaper rash cream, toys, and an extra onesie or two. Don’t try to pack everything you’ll need into this carry-on. Keep it small so that it’s easier to carry and manage when you’re entering and exiting the plane.
13) Pack Extra Supplies In Your Carry-Ons
There’s no way to predict what delays or unscheduled stops you might encounter when flying with your baby. That’s why we suggest packing some extra necessities in your own carry-on bag. Don’t overdo it with these extra supplies, which is surprisingly easy to do, and be sure to keep the bag as small as possible.
14) Buy Diapers At Your Destination
This tip goes along with the two above it. Diapers take up a lot of room, so leave most of them at home or pack them in your checked bags. Take only what you need for the flight (and two or three extras), and then buy a box of diapers on your way to the hotel.
15) Keep Your Baby Comfortable During Takeoff & Landing
The change in pressure during takeoff and landing can be very uncomfortable. Even some adults get cranky. So you really can’t blame your baby for having a good cry during these stressful times.
To alleviate the discomfort and keep your baby occupied, give your little one something to suck on. Good options include:
- A pacifier.
- A favorite toy.
- A bottle of formula.
16) Fly Off-Peak If Possible
When flying with your baby, choose off-peak hours whenever possible. The ground and cabin crews will be much more relaxed and more likely to provide an extra helping hand.
17) Pack Earplugs
Spongy earplugs, or even cotton balls, are a simple solution for the noise that may make your baby uncomfortable during the flight. They don’t take up much room, so you may even consider tossing in a few earplugs for the passengers around you.
18) Bring Your Own Water
Do not use the water in the lavatories for drinking or cleaning bottles. Instead, pack a bottle of water or two in your carry-on bags. In an emergency, ask a flight attendant for bottled water from the galley.
19) Don’t Worry About Keeping Your Baby’s Normal Routine
Some parents try to plan the flight around their baby’s routines. That can work in some cases, but more often than not, delays and other unexpected changes make this a recipe for disappointment.
Plus, it’s not really necessary. A day of travel won’t upset your baby’s routines in the long-run. Just get back to your little one’s regular schedule the day after you arrive at your destination.
20) Relax & Go With The Flow
The best thing you can do to make flying with your baby a success is to relax and accept the fact that the flight won’t go exactly as planned. When you’re at ease, you’ll be better able to deal with any problems that may come up during your time in the air.
Likewise, your relaxed attitude will rub off on your baby, the flight crew, and those passengers sitting around you. That’s a good thing for all involved.