10 Tips for Air Travel With An Infant: Ensure A Successful Flight With Your Baby

A baby sleeping on an airplane.
My son sleeping through one of his many flights.

All my life, I have LOVED babies. Long before I was ready for children, I would find myself gazing longingly at babies almost anywhere I went: restaurants, grocery stores, pretty much everywhere…. except airports and airplanes.  I have always felt sympathy for parents traveling with infants and small children- You can just feel their stress. After having my son, I can confirm that air travel with an infant is, in fact, quite stressful (or at least a lot more complicated). However, both my family and my in-laws are out-of-state, so we travel to visit them all the time. Through a lot of trial and error, I have acquired some ways to make air travel with an infant a little less stressful. I hope that you find these tips helpful too!

1. Allow extra time for security if you are bringing breast milk/formula

As you might expect, traveling with liquids requires extra screening in security. There have been times when it has taken us a solid 30 minutes just to get our bottles through. Let the TSA officer know that you have breast milk or formula at the beginning and they will tell you what to do. According to the TSA website, you can notify the TSA officer if you don’t want your bottles to go through the x-ray or to be opened, but this will require even more screening, so you’ll want to plan to give yourself even more time.

2. Check your stroller at the gate

I find that it’s helpful to bring the stroller through security and check it at the gate. Even if your baby demands to be held (which, let’s be honest, he will), it’s useful for holding your bags. When you get to the gate, stop at the counter and ask for a claim tag for your stroller. Just fold it up and leave it at the end of the runway, then pick it up there after the flight.

3. Get a protective case for your car seat

(Unless you paid for a seat for your infant and are bringing it on the plane). If you use a car seat that attaches to your stroller, you can check them both at the gate (but again, don’t forget to get the claim tags for them at the gate counter). If your car seat doesn’t attach, it’s easiest (and free) to check it at baggage check. Either way, be sure to get a protective case for the car seat. We were the rookies without one on my son’s first flight and the car seat was damaged.  Or if you are visiting family/friends, ask a buddy if you can borrow a carseat during your stay and then you won’t have to worry about a having a car seat on the plane. 

4. Take advantage of family boarding

Most airlines allow families with young children to board early. Be sure to take advantage of this to give yourself extra time to get situated (or if flying Southwest, to get a good seat!). If you are checking a stroller and/or car seat, be sure to get a claim tag at the gate before boarding starts so that you don’t miss the chance for early boarding (if you don’t have it at boarding, they will send you back to the gate to get one).

5. Keep your necessities handy

Take advantage of the early boarding time and make sure that everything you will need during the flight is easily reachable. Keep all your necessities in the seat back pocket or in a bag under the seat in front of you. You don’t want to have to get up mid-flight to look for something in the overhead bin, plus you won’t be able to if there is turbulence and the fasten seat-belt signs are left on.

6. Don’t forget the sanitizing wipes

If you’re like I was traveling with a new baby, you’re a little paranoid about all the germs in airports and airplanes. After all, nothing can ruin a fun vacation faster than a sick baby. I try to keep hand sanitizing wipes handy and use them to wipe down the armrests and tray tables of our seats when we board, and to wash my son’s hands periodically. You can’t avoid germs altogether, but I feel like it can’t hurt to try reducing exposure where you can. I really like these wipes by Babyganics®.

7. Feed during take-off and landing

The air pressure changes during take-off and landing can cause ear pain or discomfort for some babies since they aren’t able to pop their ears like adults can by yawning, swallowing or chewing gum. Be ready to feed your baby during take-off and landing – the swallowing should take care of the ear issues. If you aren’t able to feed, a pacifier will help too.

8. Invest in a diaper clutch 

Knowing how tiny airplane bathrooms are, you can imagine the logistics of trying to change a diaper in there. Your big diaper bag isn’t going to fit. I have a diaper clutch, similar to this one, that folds out as a changing pad and holds a few diapers and wipes only. It’s perfect for airplane diaper changes.

9. Bring something to prop up your arm 

If your baby sleeps through the flight, consider this a success! The ONLY downside is that you may get stuck holding him in an awkward position for an extended period and your arm will feel like it’s going to fall off by the end of the flight. If you can squeeze it in your bags, bring a small pillow (or even a balled-up sweatshirt or blanket) to prop up your arm on the armrest.

10. Be friendly with your neighbors

As I mentioned earlier, I feel sympathy for parents traveling with babies. I also feel sympathy for the adults that are seated right next to the parents with their babies. So, I like to start things off on the right foot and offer them a smile and a piece of gum. Just a simple gesture like that can go a long way in making sure the flight is smooth.

Just when I felt like I had the hang of air travel with an infant, my son was suddenly a toddler and I had a new set of flying challenges. Look out for my next post with tips for flying with a toddler! 

Do you have any other tips? Please share them in the comments!

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Mallory Eastman
Mallory is a digital marketer and mom to an energetic toddler. She lives in NW DC with her husband and son. Born and raised in Tampa, Florida, Mallory moved to DC in 2007 after graduating from Wake Forest University (go Deacs!). Mallory went to graduate school for Health Communication & Marketing, so she especially enjoys writing about health-related topics. She’s an advocate for all things in moderation, including moderation. Likes: sauv blanc, Netflix, true crime, all things crafty. Dislikes: winter, traffic, non-adherence to the courtesy wave. All of my opinions are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer.