Pre-baby, travel is exciting: jetting off to far-flung destinations, relaxing with a glass of wine and in-flight entertainment, and trying, to various levels of success, to catch a cat nap or two so you wouldn’t arrive at your destination utterly jetlagged. For your first flight with baby, travel is just as exciting, but it’s often wrought with stress and nervousness too. And no wonder, we are inundated with stories about goody bags parents hand out to those around them, bad behavior of other passengers, parents being separated from children, and sometimes even kicked off of flights. It’s enough to cause even the most seasoned travelers to break out in hives!
But, I’m here to let you in on a secret: travel with babies doesn’t have to suck! In fact, I would prefer to travel with a baby over a toddler any day! As you prepare to fly with your sweet baby, here are my 10 Tips For Your Baby’s First Flight!
The first tip I always give to parents about to embark on their first flight with a baby is to babywear. A high quality, supportive carrier for your little one will make getting through the airport, security, boarding, time in flight, and deplaning so much easier. Baby will sleep easier, and longer, cuddled up to a parent. Plus, it keeps people from touching your baby without your permission. Not to mention, it leaves your hands free to maybe even enjoy a glass of wine during the flight. I have even napped while my baby was conked out on my chest and I didn’t have to worry about dropping her! I don’t know how people traveled before these things were so commonplace.
2. Bring Something to Suck On
Make sure your baby has something to suck on during take-offs and descents, as it will help them equalize their ears. This can be a pacifier, bottle, thumb, or if you’re breastfeeding, you. Sometimes, the white noise of the engines would lull my babies to sleep on the jetway before we even took off, and their pacifier would fall out. If that happened, I just left it. I have a policy to never wake a sleeping baby unless it’s absolutely necessary. They will probably fare just fine with the pressure changes if they are asleep. As you prepare to fly with a baby, don’t forget to pack this essential item!
3. Change Baby’s Diaper Before Boarding
Do one last diaper change before boarding. This is easy to forget on your first flight with baby, but you’ll be grateful you remembered! Changing tables in airplane bathrooms are itsy bitsy, making them hard to use. If you have a long haul flight, you’ll have to use them eventually, but you’ll have to use it one less time using this tip. Oh, and pack a changing pad. Airplane bathrooms aren’t the cleanest places, so having a clean pad to lay down and change baby on is really nice.
4. Pack a Change of Clothes
When flying with an infant, pack a change of clothes for the baby in a Ziploc bag, and an extra shirt for you. The ziplock can double as a garbage bag and a way to keep dirty clothes separated from everything else in your diaper bag. And, while we’re on the subject, make sure you have enough diapers and wipes, but not too many since the bag can get heavy and bulky. It’s also a good idea to bring one of those thin cotton muslin blankets along. They work great for blocking the sun, as nursing covers, providing extra warmth on a cold flight, and even as a place to set the baby down if needed. Finally, they wash up fast in a hotel sink with a little detergent and dry quickly. Packing a change of clothes for you and baby is a must on your first flight with baby!
5. Take Advantage of Empty Seats
Ask the gate agent if there are any empty seats on your flight. If so, request that you can be seated next to it when flying with an infant. Having the extra elbow room is nice when traveling, especially with a lap infant. You can also request the bassinet seats if your plane is so equipped. Personally, I would prefer an empty seat over the bassinet. You’ll have to take your baby out during turbulence or any time the seat belt sign is lit. And, I don’t really like the bulkhead seating anyways. Those folding tray tables and the pull out screens are annoying, and there is no underseat storage. Nonetheless, some people love it and swear by it! Either way, when flying with an infant, a little extra room never hurts!
6. Confirm Ticketing Requirements
As you prepare to fly with your baby, be sure to confirm ticketing requirements for lap infants with the airline. For travel within the United States, they require a ticket, but there is no cost associated with it. For international travel, they require a ticket that usually costs a percentage of the adult’s ticket. In either case, you will need to actually call the airline to do this. Most tickets for children under 5 cannot be booked online. You’ll want to double-check all tickets are labeled correctly before you check-in. Often, airlines can mail ahead infant-in-arms tickets. Plus, it’s always a special keepsake to have the physical ticket from your first flight with baby!
7. Put Baby in Pajamas
For overnight flights, I always put my babies into pajamas. It was a signal to their brains that it was time for sleep. I’ve often changed them into pajamas on my lap pretty easily mid-flight, but you can use a changing table in the bathroom, as well. Using the bathroom changing table is a great option if a diaper change is also needed. Flying with an infant is always better if they can sneak in a little nap or a full night’s sleep!
8. Ask for Help
Don’t be afraid to ask the flight crew for help. I’ve had to travel alone with my kids before. While I can go to the bathroom while holding an infant (usually in a carrier), it’s not easy. When I’m on a plane and need to use the facilities, I have had good success with asking a member of the flight crew to hold my baby while I go. They are usually happy to do it, as long as it’s not during service times. I mean, they don’t really have anywhere to go, so it’s pretty safe. On your first flight with baby, I encourage you to ask for and accept help. You may not want to at first, but it will make flying with an infant much easier.
9. Board Early
Board early, especially if you’re traveling with a car seat. They can be a hassle to get down the aisle. And bumping into other passengers with it is a recipe for disaster. Plus, boarding early also means you’ll have access to overhead space before it fills up. Boarding early can also give you a chance to get baby settled before other people get on the plane. During your first flight with baby, this quiet time to introduce them to a new environment can really help! Not to mention, you can get organized before anyone around you gets seated, allowing you to collect yourself and relax. Don’t forget, if you are traveling with a car seat, make sure it’s FAA compliant and will fit in the seats.
10. Take Essential Items Only
Evaluate what items you really and truly need to travel with on your first flight with a baby. Some people choose to travel with a stroller, car seat, travel crib, boppy, baby lounger, bouncy chair, and even more. While some of those items are essential, and some are nice to have, a few of those items can just become burdensome. We try to limit the amount of stuff we take with us and pare down to only the essentials. Remember that many final destinations offer rentals for baby equipment, as well as diapers and wipes in the local grocery stores. And for young babies – you can leave the toys at home. Plastic cups and half-filled water bottles work just as well as fancy toys.
Enjoy Your First Flight with Baby!
And there you have it: 10 tips to help you survive your first flight with baby! The pilot for my first ever flight with my oldest (when she was only 6 weeks old) gave me the best advice, saying, “This is my flight and I have two rules: Babies get to be babies, and adults have to be adults.” He followed up with, “Don’t worry if they cry, and just relax.” And man was he right! The best flights have been when my husband and I have been super relaxed and our most difficult flights have been when we were already stressed. So, try to relax, and not get too stressed out, and you’ll do amazing! I wish you the best on your first flight with baby!
Written by Families Love Travel Contributor, Meghan Oaks.