10 Tips to Make Air Travel with Baby Easier

checking flight schedules at an airport

We hear from many moms concerned about flying with their baby, and no wonder – air travel can be stressful without kids! Add a baby and most of us would rather just stay home. But flying with your little one doesn’t have to be a dreaded experience if you follow these travel tips from a former airline employee and mom of two.

1. Consider Your Schedule

checking flight schedule

Pre-baby you might have shopped for airfare on price, searching for the cheapest fares. With a little one, look for flights that fit your baby’s schedule as best as possible. Most moms find traveling during nap time to be the most relaxing for everyone; ideally your baby will be awake while going through security and waiting at the gate, then fall asleep on the plane. If you can’t engineer it quite so perfectly, at least try not to travel around dinner time, when most babies are tired, extra fussy, and prone to crying fits.

2. Have a Travel System

checking flight schedules at an airport

These days airports tend to be huge and just getting to your gate might involve getting on an intra-terminal train or shuttle bus, so have a plan for how you’ll transport your baby all that way. Load her into a carrier or bring your car seat-stroller combo for the trek. Most airlines allow you to gate-check your travel system for free, so you can take your stroller all the way to the door of the aircraft.

3. Give Yourself Enough Time

a boy going through airport security

Airlines recommend getting to the airport an hour before take-off; with a baby in tow you’ll want to give yourself an extra 15-30 minutes for peace of mind and emergency diaper changes. Getting through security is the real wild card: it could take a little longer with a baby and assorted gear, or you might get lucky and be whisked off to a no-wait family lane, you never know

4. Baby Liquids Are OK

a bottle of breast milk

Parents with little ones are permitted to bring a small amount of liquid formula and breast milk through security checkpoints; all other liquids need to adhere to the “3-1-1” guidelines. The Transportation Security Authority (TSA) agents will need to test the milk—it just takes a second.

 5. Change Baby Before Boarding

a family public bathroom sign

Change your baby’s diaper just prior to getting on-board. Diaper disasters are particularly annoying when they occur on a plane, so do yourself a favor and take preemptive steps by at least starting off fresh.

6. Nurse Baby Strategically

a mom nursing her baby on a plane

Try to time your baby’s feedings to happen during take-off and landing. The change in air pressure that occurs during these events can cause your baby’s ears to clog and irritate her. The continual swallowing from nursing or bottle feeding can help avoid this issue.

7. Ditch the Baggage

bags on a baggage carousel

A baby, baby gear, diaper bag, and a carry-on are a lot to schlep through the airport and on board. Save yourself some agony and check a bag. Almost all the airlines charge for checked luggage these days (Southwest Airlines is one exception), usually about $25 per bag. It will be money well spent!

8. Smart-pack Your Diaper Bag

a diaper bag

What you have—and don’t have—in your diaper bag can make or break your flight. Write out a checklist of the essentials—including a few diapers, wipes, changing pad, diaper cream, nursing cover, light blanket, extra bottle, formula, pacifiers, spare outfit, a baby toy or two (preferably a new-to-baby one to keep her freshly amused), snacks for you, and water—and pack your bag carefully, putting everything in its place for easy access during the flight. We love diaper changing kits for traveling; they keep all the essentials in one place and let you leave the big bag behind if you have to venture into that tiny airplane bathroom.

9. Plan on Sanitizing

a hand sanitizer

Airplanes tend to be on the filthy side—the five-second rule definitely doesn’t apply here. Instead, bring extra pacifiers and nipples in case they fall on the floor, or pack some sanitizing wipes to keep everything that goes in baby’s mouth as clean as possible. You can take hand sanitizer through security as long as you adhere to the TSA’s “3-1-1” rule on liquids.

10. Fear Not Some Tears

a kid watching a video screen on the back of a plane's seat

A mom’s greatest air travel fear—that her baby will cry inconsolably and bother other travelers—has in some ways gone the way of the free in-flight meal. Take a look around you before you sit down and buckle up: most of your fellow fliers will be plugged in and zoned out. Add engine noise at 35,000 feet, and your crying baby can’t even compete. So if your babe freaks out, keep calm and worry about soothing her for your sakes, no one else’s. And relax, you’ll be landing soon!

I’m a married mom of two living in Seattle, WA. I have a seven-year-old little boy, a first grader! He’s a fairly reserved kid and all about Legos and building sets. I also have a little girl who turned three at the end of February. She’s a tiny thing but a big ham; we call her our clown. They’re a lot of work but also a ton of fun. I love to eat, cook, and run (in that order). But at the end of the day, give me a spot on the couch and a little bit of TV or a good book, I’m done!