Air travel with a baby does not need to be anxiety-ridden! My husband and I are seasoned travelers and recently started air travel with our 6-month-old baby. There is no right or wrong way to travel with a baby because every baby’s needs differ. This blog post specifically targets air travel with a baby and what has worked best and worst for us and my observations of watching other parents navigate traveling with a baby.
This post focuses on air travel with a baby. If you are planning for a road trip with a baby, check out “Effortless Road Trips with an Infant“.
Flight Planning for Air Travel with a Baby
1. Time of day to travel
I recommend booking the first flight or close to the first flight out for the day. With this method, you will hopefully avoid a progressive delay situation. Indicate that your baby will be a lap child when booking your flight.
TSA Policy on Traveling with Children
Various airline baby procedures:
- American Airlines Child Policy
- Delta Airlines Child Policy
- United Airlines Child Policy
- Southwest Airlines Child Policy
2. Seat Location
Select seats towards the back of the plane. This will allow you to get to the washroom easily, without having to carry your baby through twenty rows of passengers. Sitting near the back of the plane will contain the noise. If you sit in the middle of the plane, when your baby cries, the front and back of the plane are disrupted. If you sit in one section, front or back, you will minimize the number of passengers to potentially disrupt.
You might be thinking, “babies cry, if someone has an issue, that is their problem”. While many passengers are empathetic to the scared feelings our baby might have, it is our responsibility to proactively minimize disruption.
3. Seat Arrangement
Always make sure you select an aisle seat for air travel with your baby. This allows you to easily exit the row, for diaper changes and walks up and down the aisle to calm your baby. Book seats next to each other, when traveling with a companion. In an ideal world, you both might want aisle seats, however, sitting next to each other will allow you to easily help each other with the baby.
4. Seat Type
If your baby will be under two years old at the time of flying, your baby can be a lap child. A lap child must sit on your lap the entire time. There will be no additional room/set available for them. The lap child process worked well for our six-month-old. We anticipate having our baby fly as a lap child up through twelve months. From observations, once the baby hits fourteen-fifteen months, a coach seat is cramped with a lap child.
If you are going to hold your older baby, I recommend upgrading to an economy plus seat. Depending on your airline, airplane, and destination, if you have some flexibility in your travel budget, explore a business or first-class seat. When determining the upgrade cost, also run the costs with getting your baby their own seat. You find it cheaper to get your baby their own coach seat than to upgrade your seat to business or first.
Plan Carry-on versus Checked Items
In the United States, airlines will allow you to check your stroller and car seat for free. Take advantage of this option.
Check as much as you can. The one must for carry-on is your diaper bag, the rest can be up to your discretion.
- We checked a travel stroller, and purchased a carseat bag in which we put our car seat and base. Now, this carseat bag isn’t weighed. If you can find one, get one with a zipper and put a few more big things in that carseat bag.
- We checked one large bag, which included everything for my husband, me and the baby.
We carried on:
I carried on my backpack-style diaper bag and my husband also carried a backpack, with some of my items and some rescue items for the baby.
Now, you’ll notice we checked the stroller. I am really happy with that decision. Looking around the airport, seeing parents trying to maneuver a stroller, kids wanting in and out of the stroller, plus carry-on bags, it just looked miserable. Lucky for us, our baby is still willing to be held in a wearable. I wore her the entire time in the airport and she loved the people watching! If you plan on wearing your baby, get your baby comfortably in the wearable by using it daily the week prior.
Day of flight preparation
The most important item in your day of flight preparation is the diaper bag. Check the bag multiple times to make sure you have everything your baby needs.
Other day of preparation items include:
- Some airlines may require identification for your baby. This can be a birth certificate or passport. Check your airlines policy to make sure you are prepared.
- Make sure you have a boarding pass for your baby. Lap babies still need a boarding pass. Even with listing your baby as a lap child when booking, the boarding pass may not print out. Allow for extra time to visit the counter at the airline check-in.
- Pre-boarding will be an option for air travel with a baby. If you have assigned seats, I do not feel this is necessary. Our mindset was the less time on the plane the better.
Enjoy air travel with your baby! Plan effectively and your trip will be anxiety-free.