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Flying With a Baby

Flying With a Baby

To even the most experienced travelers, air travel with a newborn baby can feel like a completely new…adventure. Security lines and flight delays can already make traveling a taxing and frustrating experience—throw a fussy infant in the mix. You may feel like your holiday is anything but.

If you’re a new parent, know that there are ways to boost your chances of a smooth trip. Often, successfully traveling with a baby comes down to reducing your feelings of stress, along with theirs, by implementing some strategic planning.

In this how-to guide, we’ll help map your next trip’s flying-with-baby plan, what to include in your baby travel essentials, and what to expect. We can’t guarantee they’ll conk out the whole flight—but with some travel with baby tips for what to expect (and keeping it flexible), you can meet your #1 parental priority: responding to their needs at the moment.

Prepping For Your Trip

So you’re ready to book your trip with the baby. For many, it can be a puzzle to determine the best flight time to ensure minimal fussiness. Ideally, you’ll find a flight that corresponds with your little one’s nap schedule, increasing the likelihood they’ll sleep soundly once you’re airborne.

If you have the option to book an overnight flight, this may be the best way to keep your newborn’s sleep schedule consistent. But no matter which trip you choose, keep these tips top of mind before it’s time to head to the airport.

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Keep Their Identification On Hand

As your most precious carry-on item, you’ll need to bring along a few documents to present to airline staff when flying with a baby.

Depending on where you’re going, you may need the following:

  • Their birth certificate – For a domestic flight, many airlines require you to show a birth certificate for proof of your baby’s age. Be sure to travel with a few photocopies of this document on your trip—you may have to show it at different checkpoints, like security and boarding.
  • Their passport – Yep, you guessed it—on an international flight, your baby will need a passport.1 Depending on the time of year, passports can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to arrive. Be sure to arrange for one early to avoid any hiccups in your travel plans.

Some countries may also require proof of custody from you or a letter of consent from an absent guardian if you’re traveling alone.2 If you’re unsure of your destination’s policies, do your due diligence well before it’s time to check in at the airport.

Choose Your Seats Wisely

New parents, rejoice: most airlines don’t require you to buy a ticket for babies under 2 years old.3

If you forgo that extra ticket for your infant, they’ll be allowed to sit on your lap for the duration of the flight. Fees and taxes may still exist depending on the airline, but these will be significantly less than a full-priced ticket.

That said, this can be the thriftiest option—but it’s not necessarily the easiest. Having a squirmy newborn on your lap can:

  • Make it harder for parents to access the essentials in your carry-on
  • Sit comfortably through a long haul flight
  • Make it more difficult for your baby to sleep peacefully or sit safely during a long haul flight

To make this option more comfortable and safe for you both, you might try sitting with a baby carrier on your lap or purchase a child-safe seat belt that attaches to your seat belt to keep your baby secure. Many airlines also provide free onboard bassinets on international flights for your newborn to sleep in.

The alternative? Go ahead and purchase a full-priced ticket for your newborn. While this may seem unnecessary (especially if they're still under 20 pounds), it may be worth it. Extra space and room to store diapers, toys, and pacifiers is never a bad thing. You can even bring your car seat and secure it to the aircraft seat, providing a familiar and safe space for your baby. Just make sure the car seat is FAA approved and its dimensions are compatible with air travel.4

Pack Like a Pro

Your best bet to ensure a smooth travel day is to travel lightly but efficiently. It’s advisable to check a larger bag with your baby travel gear, like extra clothing, diapers, and other necessities, when you check in to your flight to avoid hauling a large piece of luggage through the airport.

Generally speaking, most domestic flights will let you bring a diaper bag in addition to a small personal one, but check with your specific airline to see what they allow. For ease of travel, add the following essentials to your diaper bag packing list:

  • Diapers
  • Baby wipes and diaper cream
  • Changing pad
  • Change of clothes (for both you and your baby)
  • Pacifiers and a pacifier clip
  • Bottles
  • Milk, formula, and baby food
  • Hand pump
  • Nursing cover
  • Burp cloth or bib
  • Blanket
  • A trusted toy your baby loves
  • Medications
  • Travel documents

You may even consider adding a baby bag organizer, like the Tote Savy Delux to make traveling a little easier.

At The Airport

Travel day has arrived, and it kicks off with some excellent news: many airlines provide express lines for passengers traveling with babies. This can significantly shorten your wait time and decrease the chance of a meltdown.

If your baby is acting fussy and you’re traveling with another adult, one of you can tend to the little one while the other waits in line to check your baggage and retrieve boarding passes. Once you’re ready to go, here’s what to expect from the next leg of your trip.

Feel Free to Bring Their Formula

Some parents worry that the TSA liquid restriction will restrict them from bringing bring milk through security, but don’t fret—little mouths will not go hungry while you’re on the road! TSA allows formula, breast milk, baby food, and juice in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces (or 100 millimeters) to be carried through security in your carry-on bag.4

Unfortunately, you’ll still have to:

  • Remove other liquids from your bag before you pass through security devices
  • Keep other personal liquids, like shampoo and body wash, in a separate bag

But those ice or frozen gel packs you lovingly place in the diaper bag to keep formula and milk fresh? All clear for TSA (and take-off).

Spend Layovers and Gate Time Wisely

Once you’re through security, make your way toward the gate to get settled. If you have a stroller or car seats that won’t be used during the flight, check in with the gate agent to get tags for your belongings. You can gate-check these items before boarding and retrieve them once you arrive at your destination.

For many parents, the best way to spend layovers and time before flights are to help their little one get tuckered out before take-off. You can try the following:

  • Keeping them entertained with baby's first toys, board books, and other enrichment materials you brought along
  • If your baby is mobile, create a confined space with your bags to give them the freedom to crawl or totter about
  • Taking them to one of the airport’s family areas or nursing areas to snuggle. Some parents prefer to feed their babies before the flight to make them relaxed and sleepy. For others, bringing out the formula and snacks on the plane can help keep them busy.

On the Plane

Before other passengers board, they’ll make an announcement inviting you to board first, giving you a chance to skip the line and get situated on the aircraft.5

This expedited process is great for some families. Others know their baby will be fussier the more time they spend in the cabin. If that’s the case for your family, it may be best to forgo this option and board last.

But whenever you board, parents’ best course of action is to make an in-flight plan with some tried-and-true tips for keeping meltdowns at bay:

  • Plan for post-take-off adjustment time – Many babies experience discomfort during takeoff and landing because changing air pressure can hurt their delicate ears, which aren’t able to regulate pressure like adults’.6 One way to relieve painful pressure is by encouraging them to swallow. To do so, try feeding your little ones during pressure shifts to help relax them.
  • Keep a flexible mindset – Outside factors like turbulence, changing air pressure, or loud noises might cause your little one to cry—but remember that these are totally beyond your control. What you can do on your end is to ensure your baby is fed, comfortable, and entertained. If your baby is resisting sleep, you can keep them entertained by playing with their favorite toy, giving them snacks, or bouncing them up and down the aisles.

The luckiest of parents are blessed with a sleeping baby on the flight—but this is certainly not the norm.

You Don’t Have to Wing It with Monica + Andy

Yes, navigating the airport with your little one can be stressful. But remember: you are the expert on knowing what it takes to help your baby feel happy and comfortable. Throw in an adaptable mindset and some exceptional travel gear, and you’ll be ready to pull off this trip without any major hiccups (as for the spit-up? no promises).

At Monica + Andy, we provide sustainably sourced family essentials to help your baby feel cozy and you feel organized for any travel experience. From Wearable Sleep Bags to the Sights & Sounds Travel Toy, find the perfect essentials to make your next trip a smooth one.


Sources:

  1. American Passport. Passport is Necessary to Travel Abroad. https://americanpassport.com/a-baby-passport-is-necessary-to-travel-abroad/
  2. U.S. Passport Service Guide. Minor Travel Consent Form. https://www.us-passport-service-guide.com/minor-travel-consent-form.html
  3. American Airlines. Traveling with Children. https://www.aa.com/i18n/travel-info/special-assistance/traveling-children.jsp
  4. TSA. Is Breast Milk, Formula, and Juice exempt from the 3-1-1 liquids rule? https://www.tsa.gov/travel/frequently-asked-questions/breast-milk-formula-and-juice-exempt-3-1-1-liquids-rule
  5. The Seattle Times. Which airlines let families with children board early? https://www.seattletimes.com/life/travel/which-airlines-let-families-with-children-board-early/
  6. Kids Health. Flying and Your Kid’s Ears. https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/flying-ears.html
  7. Federal Aviation Administration. Flying with Children. https://www.faa.gov/travelers/fly_children


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