Ten Tips for Flying With Baby

by Lara on April 1, 2013

I am about to claim expertise on something I have only actually done a few times.  You know, like a real blogger.

Ten Tips for Flying With Baby

I’ve flown with G on three round-trip flights now.  Two were on my own.  One was a 7-hour flight.  The 7-hour flight…I can’t lie.  We were scared.  G is seven months old and a fairly active, high-needs, imperfect baby.  We had visions of him screaming the entire time.  We were prepared to walk the aisles and sing songs and buy everyone in our cabin a cocktail.  But somehow we made it through with smiles on our faces and no free peanuts thrown at us.  Here’s how we did it.

  1. Dress accordingly.  Back pockets are crucial.  Put your ID and boarding pass in one and other items you’re addicted to (*cough* cell phone) in the other.  Wear shoes that can easily be taken on and off.  If you’re breastfeeding, you might want an extra tank-top layer if you have to lift your shirt.  Otherwise wear a button-up or V-neck.  And pull your hair back; this is serious business.
  2. Bring a carrier and wear baby until departure.  I’ll get to the car seat in a minute, but I found the hands-down easiest way to get through the airport is with baby in a carrier.  That means from the time you get out of the car, to check in, through security (you can wear baby though security but will have to have your hands screened), to your gate, until you have boarded.  Both of my carriers have buckles and I had to take G out for takeoff.  I have heard a rumor they do not make you take baby out of a sling, but I am not sure if this is true.  This post discusses the two carriers we love.
  3. Check the car seat at the gate (assuming you are flying with baby as a lap child):  There are two reasons for this.  One, this reduces the likelihood that your car seat will get stolen or damaged.  I have friends who checked it with their luggage and experienced both.  Two, if it’s not a full flight, they’ll usually let you bring the car seat to your seat.  This gives you the option to buckle baby in (it’s safer than on your lap!), or can potentially be used a place for baby to sleep during the flight.
  4. Board early…or don’t.  G is at the age where it worked for us to take advantage of the early family boarding.  It allowed us time to find our seat, unpack, and settle in without feeling rushed.  For an older baby or toddler, I think it may actually be better to board at the last possible minute, in order to reduce the amount of time spent in that tiny space.
  5. Feed on take-off and landing.  This is widely advised, and I was skeptical.  But it worked.  Getting them to swallow helps their ears adjust to the pressure changes due to the altitude.  
  6. Feed on demand.  I believe in doing this anyway, but I think it’s especially helpful during a flight.  Even if it doesn’t seem like your baby’s usual pattern, if they’re “asking” to eat, feed them.  You don’t know what might be going on with their tummies or ears, and if they’re nursing they could just be thirsty.  This leads me to my next point…
  7. Throw out the schedule.  I realize for a lot of people (including me), this is hard.  But travel demands so much that I think everyone is better off if you’re not stressed out about adhering to your usual routine.  This is especially true if you’re dealing with a time change.  When we traveled, from the time we left for the airport to the morning after we arrived, I quit worrying about when G would or should eat or sleep next.  I let him figure it out, tried to read his signals, and was pleasantly surprised with how well it worked.
  8. Bring novelty items.  A friend advised me to create a “treasure box” full of new and unusual items.  This doesn’t necessarily have to mean new toys.  I like the idea of finding entertainment in safe household items to which your baby isn’t regularly exposed (a silicone spatula or stainless steel bowl, for example).
  9. Bring familiar items.  For us this simply meant a binky and G’s lovey blanket.  Bring whatever items will make your baby feel safe and tell him when it’s time to go to sleep.
  10. When all else fails…get really, really creative.  By the end of the 7-hour flight, I was pulling every trick I could think of.  We were ripping up the pages from magazines, using puke bags to make puppets, and (at a particularly desperate point) reading the text from the tags on his toys and blankets.  “Ooooh, look!  Made in China!”

So while I was asking, “How much longer?” and “Can I get up and walk around?”, G did great.  Truth me told, he held up much better than I did.

Ten Tips for Flying With Baby

One last point.  People really surprised me with their kindness and understanding at the airport.  Strangers would offer to open doors or hold my coffee.  The guy behind me at security saw that I was rushing and reminded me to slow down and take it easy.

So have a little faith.  They really are pretty friendly skies.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

glidingcalm April 2, 2013 at 6:12 am

loved reading this! 😀 also, my schedule is always thrown off when i fly…. I’m usually more hungry (Papa GC is too- maybe the stress of it all?) and nap-y… so i try to just roll with it and bring lots of snacks.

in addition, i think a box of novelty items and familiar item sounds brilliant.

love you and your fam! say hi to G for me 🙂


Lara April 4, 2013 at 7:37 pm

That’s a really good point…travel is hard for adults, so it must be really tough on the little ones!


Andrea@WellnessNotes April 2, 2013 at 7:31 pm

Sleeping babies are so precious! 🙂

I’m glad the flight went so well! And you are so right, when traveling to a different time zone with little kids, in order to have a good trip, forget about a schedule and just “go with the flow”… 🙂


Lara April 4, 2013 at 7:38 pm

You know how good I am at going with the flow 😉


Nicole A. July 1, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Good read, and good insight! I am about to embark on a flight from North Carolina to Hawaii (it’s about 13 hrs total, longest flight is 8.5 hrs) with a 14 month old and a 5.5 yr old! Thanks for putting my mind a little more at ease!


Lara July 1, 2013 at 2:07 pm

With a 5.5 year old I am sure you are a pro by now! Good luck!


Bonnie L Roark July 6, 2013 at 11:45 pm

I have been a flight attendant for 38 yrs and this is a FANTASTIC post, the only thing I would add is BRING FOOD for a toddler or older child. We do not carry that much in crackers and munchies. Always found with my kids that small bags of cheerios are great. Also alot of
F/A’S today are older and we LOVE holding babies, please ask if you need help or a potty break.


Lara July 17, 2013 at 7:28 pm

Great advice! Thank you!


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