Travel Tips: Flying with a Baby

This is a short series of posts with my tips for traveling. I’ll explore things from booking to packing to flying and many things in between.

Flying with a baby can be stressful, even before you get on the plane. For me, the preparation and worry did more negative to my mental state than actually flying with a baby. You can’t fully prepare for sickness, tears, discomfort, or baby diarrhea on a plane, but there are things you can do to make the entire process easier.

Booking and Flight

It’s a common misperception that a baby under 2 years old does not need a ticket to fly. While it’s true your baby can fly for free in your lap, he1 still must have a ticket to get through security and board. I recommend notifying the airline when you book that you plan to travel with an infant, but you can also add the ticket when you checkin2. Remember, he will have to sit in your lap for the duration of the flight.

If you’re able to choose your own seats, I recommend picking the very back row. It’s close to the restroom, flight attendants, and infant life vests. It also limits the number of people your baby might distract throughout the flight. When you get to the gate, let the gate agent know you’re flying with a baby. They’ll often double check your seats and may move other passengers away from you if possible. You’ll also get to board first!

Takeoff and landing can be rough on babies’ ears. My wife managed this by breastfeeding during both takeoff and landing without issue. If you’re worried about modesty, there are plenty of breastfeeding covers that can double as a blanket on the flight.

For the flight itself, make sure you have plenty of noiseless entertainment for the baby. Pacifiers, books, favorite toys, etc. Download some shows from Netflix on your iPad before you leave in case you need to break out the big guns. If possible, travel with a spouse or friend. They can help in so many different ways.

Some airplanes have changing tables, some don’t. We have been fortunate enough to not have the need for a messy diaper change en route. We have; however, made good use of family restrooms in different airports.

Supplies

Obviously, you’ll need diapers, wipes, clothes, toys, food, and other baby necessities, but there are few things you may not think about taking with you that can be helpful.

Unless you’re walking everywhere at your destination, you’ll need a car seat. If you’re renting a car, most agencies will also rent you a car seat. I do NOT recommend this. Instead, pick up this car seat from Amazon. It’s ridiculously lightweight and durable. At less than $50 it’ll most likely be cheaper than renting one, and you get to keep it. This is one of the smartest decisions we’ve made.

When flying with a car seat, you have two options. Airlines will allow you to bring one of a stroller or car seat as a gate check carryon for free. If you do not bring a stroller, consider carrying your car seat (it really is that light). If you are taking a stroller or just don’t want to carry anything extra around, you can check it for free on all airlines. You’ll need to put it in a bag of some sort3 either way. A lot of people that go this route will donate the car seat to Goodwill before heading home to lighten the load.

We decided to pass on taking a stroller through the airport. Instead, my wife used her Solly Baby Wrap. As our baby has gotten bigger, our next flight will require a structured carrier instead.

My wife also ordered a pretty ingenious breast pump that eliminated the need to lug around a massive power consuming version. Even though you can freely travel with a breast pump, it still makes sense to go sleek when possible.

Every baby and every parent is different. On top of that, every trip will present different obstacles. The key is being open-minded and as prepared as possible. Some travelers will be more understanding and interactive than you can imagine. Others will stare you down when your baby makes any noise at all. Enjoy your family and your trip regardless of the distractions and worries.


  1. I'm using HE in this article because my baby is a boy. 
  2. This can be a hassle if you're at an airport with minimal workers and lots of automated kiosks. 
  3. Even a durable clear plastic bag will work. 
Matt Langford @Mtt

Copyright 2018 Matt Langford

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