Having flown with a baby and a toddler, I can say that flying kids can be intimidating. Flying with a baby is different from flying with toddler. Today, I’m going to share my experience of flying with a baby (this is defined to be under the age of 1), and hopefully give you some tips on how to survive a flight with a baby.
Some say flying with a baby is much easier than flying than flying with a toddler. It is true to a certain extent. Both present an entirely different set of challenges to deal with. This post will give you some tips on flying with an infant, and hopefully make your journey a little tolerable. The trick is to prepare for the flight (both physically and mentally), plan, and pack appropriately.
When Amaryllis was about 10 months, we travelled to Malaysia from Philadelphia. I mean, it was a full day of flying (literally, 20 hours of flight time with some layover time). Flying with kids under the age of 2 is free, so we capitalize on that and bought her ticket as a lap child. All you need to do is pay for the taxes and you’re good!
Do you need a passport for a baby?
Yes if you’re taking an international flight. If you don’t already have a passport for your baby, make sure to apply for one at least 2 months before your flight. The passport needs to be valid for at least 6 months from the date of your flight.
Are there any restrictions to flying with a baby?
Some airlines allow you to fly with a newborn as young as 48 hours but you would need medical approval for this. In North America, it is more common to wait for baby to be at least 7 days old. It is best to consult your doctor to get for approval before flying, and check with the airline to see what is allowed.
On the day of the flight, get to the airport early
By that, I mean 3 to 4 hours early for an international flight, and at least 2 hours early for a domestic flight. When it comes to kids, you can’t really plan for everything, so make sure you leave some time to handle unpredictable. Even if everything is smooth-sailing, what is the worst that can happen? You just need to sit in the waiting room and wait for your time to board the flight. With a baby, there’s always something to deal with. It could be a slower check-in time. It takes twice as long to get through the TSA lines, or you probably need to visit the bathroom a few times to change the dirty diapers. The less time you have, the more stress you will create. Arrive early and you never have to sweat missing your flight.
If you did not buy your baby a separate ticket, consider asking for a bassinet seat. You can either call in to reserve it before your flight, or arrive early for your check-in. An airplane bassinet is a small bed for babies and it’s fixed to the bulkhead wall (that is, the wall that partitions the First Class section from the Economy section, or the wall next to the toilets). The bassinets differ across different airlines, but usually they have a weight limit, and majority are just a rectangular box with raised sides. Some have harnesses for you strap your infant down. These seats are usually limited, and they give parents travelling with an infant priority. These seats allow you to have the extra legroom, however, the tray table is usually located under the armrest. When we traveled with Amaryllis, that is exactly what we asked for, and we were lucky enough to get the bassinet that was next to the first-class section. Note, bassinets are not available on all flights, so make sure to check before you purchase your tickets.
How to make sleep comfortable for your baby
If your baby is sleeping in a bassinet, I would highly recommend getting the CoziGo Bassinet and Stroller Cover to help your baby sleep better. For our first flight, we didn’t know better and had to use the airline blanket to make a makeshift cover so that our baby could sleep even with the lights on. Consider dressing your baby in comfortable loose clothing. If your baby is used to sleeping in a sleep sack, pack that along.
If you did not manage to get a bassinet, and if you didn’t purchase an extra seat for your baby, you will need to carry your baby for the entire flight. In this case, come prepared with a comfortable baby carrier. I would recommend this Ergobaby 360 All-Position Baby Carrier.
If you purchased an extra seat for your baby, or somehow managed to snag an empty seat for your baby, you can consider bringing a travel car seat. You could go prepared and check-in the car seat if it doesn’t work out for you. Bring a car seat travel bag too to protect your carseat if you need to check it in. For car seats, I would recommend a lightweight one. Check with your airline about car seat specifications and board early to install the car seat.
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What to pack for the flight
Now, this is a guide to packing for the flight, and not for the entire vacation. Having a packing list ready is key so that you don’t forget anything. Keep the list simple so that you’re not carrying too much. Trust me, less is more in this case.
- Baby carrier
- Baby diapers and wipes
- Portable Changing mat
- 1 extra outfit for baby if your flight is short. Two sets if it’s a long flight.
- Extra shirt for the parents
- Baby food (you don’t know what the airline will give you and this is not the time to try new things)
- Breast pump (if you’re pumping). For portable light weight ones, I recommend the Baby Buddha.
- At least 2 bottles if you’re not breastfeeding. Keep in mind breastmilk, formula and baby food do not fall under the 3.4 ounce (100ml) liquid restriction. You will just need to remove these items at the TSA line for screening.
- Formula if you’re not breastfeeding
- Travel toys
- Car seat (if you plan on using one during the flight)
- Light weight stroller if you plan on using one instead of the baby carrier
- Pacifier if your baby needs one. It helps with the ear pressure during takeoff and landing
Do you really need a stroller for the flight?
In my experience, not really. Many big airports offer strollers for free and you can easily get one when you arrive at the airport. Besides, if you have a baby carrier, it is not necessary to have a stroller so that you can travel light.
What kind of baby toys should you pack for the flight?
Babies enjoy new sights and sounds everyday. Everything on the plane with be exciting for them. Let them explore, but not before you give them a good wipe down. However, I would still recommend you bring some toys for your baby. Here’s a list of toys that I would recommend bringing on the flight:
- Infant soft book. This educational toy is easy to pack, and filled with activities for babies to do. There are quilted shapes with Velcro attachments, a rudder with movable hands and a belt to thread on a pair of red shorts etc. This will keep your baby entertained for quite some time!
- The Skip Hop Bandana Buddies Baby Activity and Teething Toy. This toy is great! It has a teether toy filled with textures and patterns. The teether toy detaches for mom to wear around her wrist. It attached to carriers and car seats, and there is a rattle ring and crinkle details.
- Consider a suction toy like the Sassy Fishy Fascination Station. Suction it to the tray table and it won’t fall all over the place.
- Something like the Bubble Dimple Fidget Popper Sensory Toy will be sure to keep your child entertained for hours. My baby enjoyed pushing all the dimples through one side, turn it over and start all over again. She could sit there and do it over and over again. This is easy to carry, non toxic and well made.
How do you get a baby to sleep on an airplane?
Well, this is a tough one. Babies sleep best in familiar places. When surrounded by new things, they get excited and it will be hard to put them down to sleep. One thing that you can do is pick the best time of the day to fly with your baby. If your baby is happiest during the day, you could choose to fly early so you don’t have to deal with putting the baby to sleep so soon. If you have a long international flight, it is best if you can leave a little before your baby’s bedtime. This will give baby time to explore on the plane a little, and you can start your bedtime routine shortly after. Just remember to not let your baby get overtired because cranky babies are a nightmare to deal with. You could also prepare a warm bottle of milk to feed, and if your baby is tired, your baby will just fall right to sleep after feeding.
There are so many aspects to cover and I could go on and on giving you more tips on flying with a baby, but in reality, I think you just need to be prepared, pack appropriately and relax. Even if your baby is crying, stay calm because babies can sense your emotions. Do not worry about other people throwing you dirty looks. Check the rules before flying, give your baby as much play time as they need, and ask for help if you need it especially if you are flying alone. You will do just fine and survive the flight!
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