Flying With a Baby? Here's What You Need to Know
Plan • by Rita Tarnate • Nov 2, 2020 • 3 min read
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to flying with babies. From booking flights to navigating the airport, where do you even start? While it may seem overwhelming, there’s a lot you can control.
We’ve broken down the baby-specific logistics of air travel. Use this list as a starting point and refer back to it whenever you fly with your baby. Over time, you’ll learn what works for your family and can make adjustments to fit your needs.
Understand infant seating. When flying with an infant or child under 2, there are two options available to you: lap or seat.
If you don’t mind holding your child for the duration of a flight, they fly for free. Although, some airlines charge lap infants when flying internationally. Simply choose the lap infant designation at booking and provide your baby’s date of birth for proof of age. Only one lap child is allowed per adult, so if you’re traveling solo with two children under the age of 2, you’ll have to buy a seat for one of them.
While it’s not required, the safest place for a child on a plane is in a government-approved child restraint system (CRS). If your baby is a champ at sleeping in their car seat and your budget allows for it, splurge for the infant seat and enjoy your freedom.
Bring identification. Ticketing and security agents may ask for proof of age. A passport is required for international travel but, if you’re flying domestic and your baby doesn’t have one, a copy of their birth certificate will do. If you’re traveling solo, it’s a good idea to have a letter of consent from the other parent.
Get travel-friendly baby gear. The last thing you want to do is maneuver your jogging stroller or lug a car seat and tiny human through airport crowds. While you can’t always pack light, you can travel smart.
Go hands-free with an infant carrier or opt for an umbrella stroller, lightweight car seat, or a car seat-plus-stroller travel system. Car seats and strollers can be checked in for free or gate-checked before boarding. Invest in gate check bags to protect your gear from damage.
Make feeding convenient. Travel coolers or diaper bags with insulated compartments keep breast milk safe, and pre-measured formula dispensers save you time. They also make these items easily accessible when going through security.
Protect little ears. Infant-sized noise-canceling headphones protect your baby’s ears from the plane’s loud engines (especially on those puddle-jumpers) and provide some white noise for sleeping.
Arrive on time with room to spare. The rule of thumb is to arrive 2 hours before a domestic flight and 3 hours before an international flight. Even with a solid game plan, give yourself an extra 15 to 20 minutes.
Use curbside check-in. If you missed the online check-in boat, curbside check-in is the next best thing. It’s free for most airlines, although tipping is encouraged, and you’ll be glad to ditch your stuff before entering the airport chaos.
Get a paper ticket. If you booked a lap infant, you’ll need to go to the ticketing desk for your boarding pass, printed with the lap child designation. Mobile boarding passes won’t have it, and you won’t be able to check-in at a kiosk.
Talk to the gate agent. Before boarding starts, get gate check tags for your car seat and stroller, if you didn’t check them in. Keep the tear-off tag in a safe place – you’ll need it to claim misplaced gear. While you’re there, ask about seat availability. You may get a seat upgrade or score a free seat for the baby!
Consider family boarding. Airlines allow families with young children to board early. If you’re traveling with a partner, you can divide and conquer. Have one parent pre-board with the carry-ons while the other parent boards later with the baby, or vise-versa.
Gate checked items are dropped off at the end of the jet bridge and picked up in the same spot upon landing. Double-check with the gate agent in case you need to retrieve them at baggage claim.
Locate the bathrooms. As you board the plane, ask a flight attendant if there are multiple bathrooms and which one has a changing table.
Heed the age-old advice. Give your baby a bottle, breast, or pacifier upon take-off and landing to help with ear popping from pressure changes.
Did we miss something? Add other considerations in the comments below.