Traveling With A Baby: Airplanes

Now that we’ve flown on 14 individual flights with our little guy and done three big road trips (2+ hours in the car), I feel equipped to share our suggestions for traveling with a baby! This post will focus on airplanes and this post will focus on car travel.

When it comes to plane travels, it really depends on the length of the trip and how many connections you may have. I’ve broken this into short trips and long trips with some general recommendations for all trip lengths as well. These recommendations are what has worked for us. You may need to make adjustments for your family! But I hope this helps at least.

General Tips
1. Pick a time that will work with your baby’s sleep/nap schedule. We have found that it is best to fly early in the morning so we can catch a good afternoon nap and possibly make adjustments for bedtime. This also increases the likelihood that we will get a nap on the plane if needed.
2. Avoid connections if at all possible! The air pressure changes are not fun for adults, so they are definitely not fun for infants. Thankfully, our little guy has not had issues with his ears hurting, but we generally have found that fewer ups and downs is better.
3. Bring all the toys…well not literally, but bring a variety! Especially once our son was mobile, plane travel required more distraction since he couldn’t just crawl around. Plane rides are about the only time we let our guy get any screen time. Depending on how you’ve approached screen time, you can consider adding this to your arsenal.
4. If traveling alone, try to get an aisle seat. This is MY preference, even though I’m nursing. Trying to climb over people with a baby is definitely not my preference. Even though that means you may need to nurse with a little less coverage and privacy. (If you CAN travel with someone, I would highly recommend that. Bathroom trips are super challenging without a buddy.)
5. Check in as early as possible and you may be able to get your seat switched. This is especially valuable if you are traveling with someone and don’t have seats together.
6. Don’t be too hard on yourself. I felt SO much stress with some of our first flights, especially those I did by myself. Yes, there may be jerks. But, by and large, I’ve found that people are pretty understanding and compassionate. And just know that you are doing your very best. Babies cry and they get bored and things happen. Don’t beat yourself up about it or stress too much!

Short Plane Rides
These are my tips for successfully making it through plan rides that are 2 hours and under, outside of the ones listed above.

  • Try to get the flight to get you to your destination right near the start of a nap. This way, the baby can get all his/her energy out with the fun distractions of the airport and arrive at your destination nice and tired and ready to sleep. Since there is already a lot of stimulation in flying, I have found this to be the most successful strategy.
  • Have the baby sit on your lap if at all possible. First of all, this saves you the price of a seat, but it’s also pretty doable on a smaller flight, especially if you plan around nap time.

Long Plane Rides
These are my tips for surviving those long plan rides that are 3 or more hours, although I haven’t had plane rides longer than about 5 hours.

  • Depending on your baby’s nap schedule, you may want to schedule your flight so that a nap lands in the middle of the flight. This has proven pretty successful for us. While the nap is usually not as long as we like, we’ve found it is better to sacrifice one nap on the plane than possible mess up two.
  • Get to know what your airline offers! Some offer bassinets, others offer pre-boarding, some may provide other ways to assist on your flight. Also, get to know the flight attendants! I’ve found that most (but definitely not all) are very friendly and willing to hold your baby while you go to the bathroom.
  • Make sure you bring food as needed. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, then no need to bring anything else! But if your little one likes to eat some real food or needs formula/bottles, you need to make sure you have enough for the flight. I have found that the Happy Baby little creamies are the best for this type of trip. (On shorter flights, it isn’t quite as necessary to bring these kind of supplies, but can be helpful!)

Packing List
Everyone has their own diaper bag staples, but this is my list of items to bring specifically for traveling with a little one!

  • Baby’s birth certificate (some airlines require this)
  • 4-10 diapers (depending on length of travel)
  • Diaper wipes
  • Diaper changing pad
  • Sanitizer wipes (you’ll want to sanitize everything the baby could put his/her mouth on…trust me)
  • Some layers for the plane (no matter how hot or cold it is outside)
  • A change of clothes, I would recommend a romper or jammies
  • A wet bag (for possible dirty clothes because poop happens and for us it happens a lot on plane rides…)
  • A blanket/swaddle
  • Burp cloths
  • The toys!
  • Any food, bottles, formula, breastmilk needed
  • Pacifier, if using

Do you have any tips you’d add for flying with a baby? I’d love to hear them!

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