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Flying with a Baby or Toddler ~ 15 Tried and True Tips

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Flying with a baby or toddler and afraid everyone on the plane will hate you? You are not alone. When I’ve given presentations about traveling with children to new parents at events, the most common worry I hear from audience members is being “that parent” on the airplane with the screaming baby. As someone who has been that mom, despite all my preparation and attempts to soothe my child, I understand. Follow these 15 tips for your best shot at a smooth flight with a young child.

Flying with a baby or toddler is easier when you follow these tips

Flying with a baby or toddler is easier when you follow these tips (Photo credit: Melpomene, Depositphotos.com)

This story is brought to you in partnership with JustFly.com.

1. Book a direct flight or one with a longer layover.

As the parent of a baby or young child, it is imperative to keep the number of connecting flights to a minimum. Landing is typically what puts pressure on those little ears, causing the pain that makes babies scream on airplanes. Plus, less time spent in transit means less chances for a mid-flight tantrum.

If you must book a flight with a connection, schedule extra time on the ground between flights. (Two hours is probably ideal, unless your flight is delayed quite a bit.) You don’t want to be running through the airport with a baby, diaper bag, car seat and other travel paraphernalia. You can use the time in the airport to grab some non-airplane food, change a dirty diaper, and most important for toddlers, let your child run free for a while to burn off energy!

A longer layover gives families more time to reach the gate and take care of the baby's needs

A longer layover gives families more time to reach the gate and take care of the baby’s needs (Photo credit: danr13, Depositphotos.com)

2. Visit the airport restroom before your flight.

Ideally, you want to board the plane with a dry diapered child. Therefore, be sure to hit up the airport bathroom one last time before heading down the jetway. While you’re there, you might want to double up on the diaper cream and put your baby into not one, but two diapers for extra leak protection.

If traveling with a toddler who’s potty training, of course you’ll want one last potty break, too. A pre-plane bathroom visit means one less trip to the tiny airplane lavatory. This leads to less work in the air for mom or dad and less inconvenience for those seated nearby. Plus, you never know how long it will be until the “keep seatbelt fastened sign” will be illuminated. It’s better to be safe than sorry (and stinky)!

Make sure to do one more potty break or diaper change before boarding when flying with a baby or toddler

Make sure to do one more potty break or diaper change before boarding (Photo credit: upslim, Depositphotos.com)

3. Take advantage of pre-boarding.

You may think you should skip the pre-board to ensure spending as little time as possible on the airplane with your little one. But getting situated on board a flight takes more time with a young child. Flying with a baby or toddler is stressful enough without having passengers behind you sighing as you struggle to buckle in your little darling.

Pre-boarding makes flying with a baby or toddler easier for you and for other passengers

Pre-boarding makes flying with a baby or toddler easier for you and for other passengers (Photo credit: smaglov, Depositphotos.com)

4. Buy a separate airplane seat for your child.

I recommend you book a separate seat for your child, even though lap children under age 2 typically fly free. Not only is this the safer option, but also it gives your family more room to spread out and relax on the plane. If you boarded a plane and were informed that your safety belt was broken, I’d bet you’d balk. Why put your child at risk?

Here’s what the Federal Aviation Administration says on their website, “Did you know that the safest place for your child on an airplane is in a government-approved child safety restraint system (CRS) or device, not on your lap? Your arms aren’t capable of holding your child securely, especially during unexpected turbulence.” They continue, “The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strongly urges you to secure your child in a CRS or device for the duration of your flight. It’s the smart and right thing to do so that everyone in your family arrives safely at your destination.”

A separate airplane seat for baby is safer and more convenient

A separate seat for baby is safer and more convenient (Photo credit: t.tomsickova, Depositphotos.com)

5. Save money on flying with a baby or toddler.

I know it’s more expensive to book a seat for your baby or toddler and this may limit your travel capabilities. For this reason, it’s important to find ways to save money when traveling with kids.

Air travel tickets can be one of the most expensive parts of travel. Thankfully, JustFly.com makes it easy to save money on your family’s flights. Use JustFly.com to search and compare the best flight deals from 440+ airlines. After you search for a particular route, this intuitive website will prompt you to set up a fare alert to receive a notification when prices drop to the destination of your choice. And, unlike some airlines that charge extra for booking by phone, JustFly.com’s team of travel agents are happy to assist you in finding affordable air tickets by phone.

You can also search JustFly.com for deals on hotels, rental cars and cruises for even more savings.

Save money on your family's flight with JustFly.com

6. Gate check baby gear.

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 attendant at your airline’s gate. Attach one tag to each item and deposit it at the bottom of the jetway. Be sure to fold strollers before boarding. Gate checked items will typically be waiting for you in the same spot at your destination when you disembark but sometimes must be retrieved from baggage claim. Check with your airline before your flight regarding their gate check policy.

You can typically gate check your child's stroller and car seat at no extra charge

You can typically gate check your child’s stroller and car seat at no extra charge (Photo credit: Gargonia, Depositphotos.com)

7. Rent baby equipment for travel.

To lighten your load in the airport and avoid baggage fees, consider renting baby travel gear. You can have cribs, car seats, high chairs and more delivered to your destination airport, hotel, or grandma’s house. This service is available in locations around the world for traveling families. (If traveling with a toddler, then you may want to use a lightweight CARES safety harness on board the airplane and gate check your child’s car booster seat.)

Rent baby gear to make navigating the airport easier and save money on baggage fees

Rent baby gear to make navigating the airport easier and save money on baggage fees (Photo credit: doble.dphoto, Depositphotos.com)

8. Keep your baby buckled.

Buckled snugly into a car seat or other approved restraint is the safest place for a baby or toddler on an airplane, especially in case of unexpected turbulence. Your child is used to being secured in the car seat during trips to the store or zoo. He or she knows to stay in this “special seat,” and if you’re lucky, your child doesn’t question this.

Of course, the time may come when you need to unbuckle your youngster for a diaper change, potty break or to stretch those little legs — especially during a long flight. Once your child tastes sweet freedom, though, you might struggle to get him or her back into the seat. An infant may want to stay in your arms for the whole flight. Meanwhile, a newly walking toddler may want to run up and down the aisle nonstop. Therefore, it’s best to stay securely fastened as long as reasonable.

The safest place for a baby or toddler on an airplane is a car seat or other approved restraint

The safest place for a baby or toddler on an airplane is a car seat or other approved restraint (Photo credit: Reanas, Depositphotos.com)

9. Bring double the baby necessities.

Bring twice as much formula, diapers, bottles, baby food and snacks on the plane than you think you will need. If your plane becomes severely delayed or canceled, you will thank me. The last thing you want to deal with is a hungry, thirsty, dirty-diapered baby when stuck on the tarmac, circling above a storm, or bedding down in a hotel room for an unexpected overnight.

Bring double the baby necessities on board the airplane

Bring double the baby necessities on board the airplane (Photo credit: yelantsevv, Depositphotos.com)

10. Dress in comfortable layers.

You may be tempted to doll up your baby in that adorable outfit from your mother-in-law for your flight. But think comfort and convenience first. Choose attire that is cozy and easy to change.

Layers are a must when going from a snowy locale to the sunny Tropics, of course. But layers also help with drastic changes in temperature aboard the plane. If you get stuck on the tarmac you might be boiling hot, pointing that tiny overhead fan at you and your child. Once airborne you might be begging for one of those blue blankets from the flight attendants as the temperature dips to Arctic lows. (Better yet, pack your own baby blanket since those airline blankets are rarely, if ever, washed!)

Wearing layers is also helpful for breastfeeding moms. I suggest wearing a wrap of some sort that can double as a baby blankie, or bringing along a nursing cover.

Dress the baby in layers for the flight

Dress the baby in layers for the flight (Photo credit: yelenayemchuk, Depositphotos.com)

11. Pack an extra change of clothing for baby and you.

Of course, you will want to pack an extra change of clothing in your carryon for your baby or toddler in case of an unfortunate blow out mid-flight. A friend of mine did exactly that when flying solo with her baby from the California to Europe. Unfortunately, though, she did not pack additional clothing for herself. A leaky diaper left mama sticky and wet for the duration of her long flight. To avoid this inconvenience, toss a compact outfit for yourself into the diaper bag, too.

Pack an extra outfit not only for baby but also for you when flying with babies

Pack an extra outfit not only for baby but also for you (Photo credit: belchonock, Depositphotos.com)

12. Protect ears when flying with a baby or toddler.

Sucking or chewing helps ease ear pain caused by pressure changes in the airplane’s cabin. Bring formula or pumped breast milk and give your baby a bottle during take-off and landing so you can keep junior safely buckled. Keep in mind that breast milk is exempt from the 3.4 ounce liquid rule. If your child doesn’t take bottles, then a sippy cup or pacifier works, too. Chewing a cracker or cookie can also help older toddlers.

EarPlanes are wonderful for flyers with sensitive ears. Pop these special plastic ear plugs into little ears at the beginning of the airplane’s descent to lessen pressure and pain. Children’s EarPlanes work for kids aged 1+. You may also want to ask your pediatrician to prescribe ear pain drops before your flight with your baby.

Changes in cabin pressure cause ear pain for many babies and toddlers

Changes in cabin pressure cause ear pain for many babies and toddlers (Photo credit: marchibas, Depositphotos.com)

13. Don’t forget baby’s medication.

Make sure to pack any prescription and over-the-counter medicine you might need in your carryon bag. Liquid medications are exempt from TSA liquid limits. Be sure to keep them in their original packaging so they are easily identifiable. Infant ibuprofen may come in handy for sore ears and Dramamine for Kids is safe for children age 2+.

 

Pack medications in your diaper bag for easy retrieval during your flightPack medications in your diaper bag for easy retrieval during your flight (Photo credit: ruttapum2, Depositphotos.com)

14. Keep baby happy with distractions.

For now, the days of enjoying a magazine, good book or action movie while on board a plane are gone. You very well may spend your entire flight placating your baby or toddler. This means reading board books over and over and over to your little one. It means buying the right travel toys and actively playing with your child. Maybe it also means spoiling your toddler with smart device movies and apps, even if you eschew the lure of electronic entertainment at home. The bottom line is, you need to keep that baby happy on board the plane using whatever means you can! Take a look at our Airplane Kit for Babies and Toddlers to see what to pack in your carryon to keep your little one content in the air.

Plan to play, play, play with your baby on the plane

Plan to play, play, play with your baby on the plane (Photo credit: t.tomsickova, Depositphotos.com)

15. Ignore the haters.

Sometimes, no matter what you do, your baby or toddler is going to cry LOUDLY on the airplane. You can give bottles and snacks, try stories and movies, change diapers, and do everything in this list of tips for flying with babies and toddlers. Still, your child may have a screaming fit in the air. The most important thing is that you try (and that other passengers witness that effort). You have enough to worry about without concerning yourself with every cranky pants on the plane. Take care of your baby or toddler, and ignore the haters. Soon enough, your plane will safely land and your family will be ready to explore together.

Flying provides easy access to an array destination possibilities and certainly should not be avoided just because it may come with a few ups and downs. So book that flight and get ready to experience the world anew with your baby or toddler!

Worry about your baby, not the haters, on your flight with a baby

Worry about your baby, not the haters, on your flight (Photo credit: cunaplus, Depositphotos.com)

Save these tips for flying with babies and toddlers.

Be sure to save these tips for future reference. Just pin the graphic below to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

15 Tips for Flying with a Baby or Toddler that Really Work!

 

Do you have any questions or additional tips for flying with a baby or toddler? Let us know in the comments below!

For more help traveling with babies and young children, take a look at my book, The Travel Mamas’ Guide.

A Note from The Travel Mama: I received compensation from JustFly.com related to this story.

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. Thanks so much for such a detailed post! I remember when we had to fly with the kids. One was an infant, and one was a toddler. Well, let’s just say that I wish I’d had these tips. LOL

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Ha! I hear you, my friend. I wish I had had these tips too when I first started flying with my babies. Instead, I learned them the hard way!

  2. Amazing, what I LOVE about this post is how informative it is! Moreover, I will send this to my bestie as shes just had a baby! It must be fun flying with kids though, they become so excited about it all!!
    ENJOY

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Agreed – kids who are a little older do get very excited about flying. Speeding down the runway, soaring through the air, ordering drinks from the flight attendant — it’s all such fun for children! Thank you for sharing with your best friend!

  3. Paula Schuck says

    Pinning this for others to see too. These are excellent and well thought out tips for travel with babies. We rarely traveled when babies were that small. No money to fly back then and we were one income at the time. Anyways, I never thought about renting equipment but that said when my daughter was about 4 we flew and we went nowhere without our BOB jogging stroller built for toddlers and older kids to. It was just easier. She was a runner and we didn’t want to lose her in the airport.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Thank you for pinning these tips! I hear you about the stroller — we always brought along our own stroller, too. I didn’t bring one to WDW once and that was a huge mistake because I wound up renting a stroller every day instead. After a few days, I could have bought a brand new stroller for all the money I spent! I did like to rent cribs when my kids were little — you can rent a full-sized crib instead of a travel crib. My kids slept better in those and it made a lot of sense to do, especially when staying somewhere for a week or more. Happy travels!

  4. Thanks for sharing your tips on flying with a baby, I have seen too many times a monther try to hold a baby in her hands and the baby was crying. Having a seperate seat for the baby will ease their trip so much more.

  5. Bill Sweeney says

    Thanks for an in-depth list of tips! Flying with kids shouldn’t be a burden on the other passengers. I’ve seen good flyers, and not-so-good flyers.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Unfortunately, I have seen some neglectful parents on planes, too. These tend to be the exception to the rule, though. Most parents really are trying their very best!

  6. This is great a friend of mine wants me to fly to visit her but I’d have to take my youngest with me and that just sounds so scary to me! These are great tips!

  7. I totally agree with getting baby their own seat! I did the lap thing once and it was extremely uncomfortable for both baby and me. He really wanted to have his own seat!

    • Colleen Lanin says

      So much yes to this! Flying with a baby is stressful enough without the added issue of juggling a wriggling, unsecured baby the whole flight!

  8. To all those mamas out there, be stress free with all these tips from Colleen. This is so helpful!

  9. Thanks for the tips… #12… Or simply breastfeed? You didn’t mention that on there. It doesn’t have to be pumped breastmilk. Um… hello, pumping and dealing with bottles while traveling is waaaay too much. Simple put baby on the breast and, voila! Easy peasy.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Hi Karla – One of the most wonderful things about breastfeeding is the ease of carrying this food source with you no matter where you go! However, I am a big proponent of keeping kids buckled as much as possible when flying. If you want to give baby something to suck while taking off or landing and you want to keep them safe, it’s important to pack a bottle or more of pumped milk or formula. That way the baby can eat while staying safely secured in their approved carrier. Also, if there is major turbulence, airline crew may insist that everyone remain buckled for safety. Again, a bottle is best in that situation. Happy travels to you and your brood!

  10. Jack "Baby Expert" Johnson says

    No need for 15 tips I’ll narrow it down to just two. Nips for the passengers and drugs (Benadryl) for the baby.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Ha! Ha! I know you are probably joking but I must say I disagree. I don’t think parents should have to bribe fellow passengers — they already have enough to worry about! And as for the Benadryl, I wouldn’t recommend drugging a baby…and sometimes that medicine actually makes some kids hyper! If parents want to go that route, I suggest checking with their pediatrician first. 🙂

  11. Fantastic tips. We’ve flown a couple of hours with our 3 year old when he was only small, but have since found travelling by car much easier and more relaxed. We’ve driven all across Europe with no issues and found ourselves to really enjoy the journey compared to the A to B of a flight.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      So glad you like these tips for flying with kids! There are definitely advantages to doing road trips, too. Flying sometimes can’t be avoided, if you’re traveling very far or across a large body of water. Enjoy your travels with your little one!

  12. Frequent Flyer says

    Nobody likes being stuck in a confined space with a chain reaction of screaming babies. How about just accepting the fact that travelling with INFANTS is not a good idea at all. Imagine being that excited passenger who desperately needs this vacation and being sat right next to (or anywhere for that matter) a screaming infant. I’ve been this person too many times! I can’t help but look at those parents and thinking how selfish must you be to irritate hundreds of people TWICE IN ONE WEEK! The polite people will say it’s ok … But let’s be honest … If you had the choice of with or without screaming infants, I know your answer.
    Many children enjoy travelling after the age of about three. Save your money for a big vacation after that. We all thank you in advance.

  13. Thanks you for sharing such an amazing post. .I have a newborn who is just 2 month old and a 4 year old daughter. I am looking for a lightweight stroller which is suitable for flight travels, for the younger one, which can also be used by 4 Year old. One of my friend suggested to buy this oxo tot https://www.qhousekids.com/cubby-plus-stroller-gray-melange.html.html .., i need some advice on this stroller.. Would appreciate any recommendations.?

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