Airplane Travel with a Baby

The night before the trip

  • Get a good night's sleep so that you can be more relaxed during your trip.
  • Pack all of your bags and put them in the car or near the front door so you're not scrambling when it's time to leave.
  • Review your checklists.

At the airport

  • Get to the airport early.
  • Check as many pieces of luggage as possible. Avoid overloading yourself with things to carry.
  • Keep in mind that most airport rental carts have to be unloaded to go through security, and that your child may have to be taken out of the stroller or backpack when you go through the metal detector.
  • When you check in, tell the desk attendant that you are traveling with a baby. Let her know if you have a stroller or carseat with you.
  • Change your baby's diaper immediately before boarding the airplane.
  • Avoid breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your baby just before boarding as he may fall asleep and wake up crying as you struggle to carry him and your belongings to the gate. Wait until you are seated and unloaded, then feed him and maybe you'll be lucky and he'll take a nap!
  • Avoid feeding your little one just prior to boarding. Save food and drink for when you're on the airplane, as these carry great entertainment value.
  • Consider bringing your stroller and checking it at the gate. This way you can carry baby, the carseat, and all your belongings right up to the airplane gangway. Smaller strollers can be brought on as carry-ons, and an attendant will take bigger strollers as gate-checked items. (Find out where to retrieve these.)
  • If traveling with two adults and multiple children, ask at the desk if one adult can do the early-boarding and set up your carry-on bags and carseat(s). Usually the pre-boarding time is extremely short, and you'll have to rush to get the carseat secured and carry-on items organized before all the other passengers begin to board. This will also allow your little ones some last-minute exercise before boarding with the second adult.
  • If you have a connecting flight, go straight to the gate upon landing. Sometimes it takes longer to get gate-to-gate than you expect. Any waiting time is best done closer to your next gate.

On the airplane

  • To help your baby's ears adjust to changes in cabin pressure, encourage swallowing during takeoff and landing. You can do this by breastfeeding, or offering a bottle or pacifier. Toddlers can take a drink, nibble on crackers, or suck on a lollipop. (Look for those without a gum or chewy center, which can present a choking hazard.) Use the feeling in your own ears to determine when to give your baby something to swallow, or feed your baby when you see the flight attendants preparing the cabin for takeoff or landing. If your baby is sleeping soundly, don't feel you need to awaken him; he'll be fine.

  • Flying in an airplane can cause dehydration, which occurs much more quickly in a child than with an adult. Keep your baby well hydrated with water, juice, or milk.

  • Changing diapers can be a real challenge. Some airplanes have changing tables, but these are typically very small, and while great for newborns a tricky challenge for bigger babies. You can ask the flight attendant for the best place for changing. A small baby can be changed on your lap on or the pull-down tray table. (Be sensitive to the people seated near you if you do this.) Some airlines will allow you to use the flight attendant's jump-seat; some will let you change your baby on the floor near the galley or in the bulkhead area. If you have an older baby, consider using pull-up disposable diapers on the flight, as these can be pulled up with your little one standing. Use a plastic bag from home or the airsickness bag for disposal in the bathroom trash. Remember that, since flight attendants handle food, they can't handle dirty diapers. (And they probably don't want to, either.)

  • The flight attendant will usually heat a bottle for you. Be sure that you shake it well and test it thoroughly, as the galley system often makes things very hot.