Flying with a baby can be one of the most challenging aspects of parenthood, but it doesn’t have to keep you from traveling with your precious one. If you plan ahead, pack wisely, and get to the airport in plenty of time, you can meet the challenge head-on. Here are six tips to make flying with a baby much less stressful.
1. Book a Direct Flight (Or One With an Overnight Layover)
Do your best to avoid a layover when booking a flight. That’s because landing puts air pressure on a baby’s ears leading to pain that causes crying. If you have to book a flight with connections, keep them to a minimum. And schedule enough time on the ground (2-3 hours) so you have enough time to relax, get a bite to eat, and change a dirty diaper. You don’t want to be rushing through the airport with a baby and all that gear in tow.
For long-haul flights, consider an 8-hour plus flight so you can check into a hotel and continue your destination fresh and rested the next day.
Always plan for the unexpected when packing to travel with a baby. Your flight could get canceled, severely delayed, or stuck on the tarmac. Pack double everything for the baby including some diapers, formula, and baby food. Keep an extra change of clothing for both you and your baby in the overhead. This way, you’re covered in case of spit-up or a leaky diaper.
If your baby is still in the infant stage ( 6-7 months), you’ll need to carry a bottle warmer. Look for one that is portable or built into the interior of a diaper bag. As a bonus, you can use the included USB charger to charge your phone. Now that’s smart packing!
It’s true that children under the age of two can fly free. The catch is that they must sit on your lap. You and the baby will be much more comfortable if you can book a separate seat for your child. Use travel websites like Kayak or CheapOAir to help you find the best deals.
If all else fails, here’s an old trick to try. Book an aisle seat and a window seat in a row of three. Then cross your fingers that the middle seat will remain free. If it does get booked, chances are, that passenger will happily offer up the middle seat for a window or aisle seat.
Keep in mind that although exit rows are more spacious, children younger than 15 aren’t allowed to sit there due to safety concerns.
4. Prepare for Airline Security
If you’re traveling abroad, even Baby will need a passport. Some airlines also require a birth certificate. It’s wise to have a copy with you even if they don’t.
If for some reason you’re traveling with someone else’s baby, you’ll need a notarized letter of consent from the baby’s parent or legal guardian.
Keep in mind that the 3.4-ounce (100 ml) rule doesn’t apply to breast milk or baby formula, but it does have to be a reasonable amount.
Arriving early will help. Get there two hours ahead of time for a domestic flight and three hours for an international one. Some airports have a special family screening line. With any help, you’ll have time to head to the airport play area to relax before your flight.
Most airlines allow you to gate-check bulky gear like strollers with no additional charge. All you have to do is ask for gate check tags from the gate agent. It will also not count against your luggage allowance.
At no additional charge, most airlines allow parents and caregivers to gate-check bulky baby gear like strollers and car seats. Simply request gate check tags from the gate agent at the airport. This does not count against your luggage allowance, either.
To lighten your load, consider renting baby equipment once you reach your destination. You can rent strollers, booster seats, car seats, cribs, and more. Some resorts may even provide gear for babies. Call ahead to check.
6. Keep Your Baby Comfortable and Happy
The top tip for flying with a baby is to nurse or bottle-feed your baby at take-off and at landing. Their tiny ears are very sensitive to changes in air pressure. The swallowing will keep ears from popping. You (and the other passengers) will be glad you did.
Since infants have to be at least two weeks old to fly, your baby will probably be old enough to enjoy some visual stimulation such as a colorful plush toy. Older babies can entertain themselves with rattlers and similar baby toys.