Baby on Board: Tips for Flying With An Infant

With holiday travel just around the corner, I wanted to re-share this blog post in case you plan on flying with baby. Mal and I were (totally) clueless during our first couple of flights with Quinn. We’ve since flown across the country more than a half dozen times with him, and it gets easier and easier every time, but I still remember one of our first flights to Seattle and, holy cow, we were a hot mess. Anyway, I hope you find these tips helpful! 

Ok, here we go. I broke this post up into four sections (before you travel, at the airport, on the airplane, at your destination) to help organize the information. Our trip went fairly well, but, of course, there were some things we would do differently the next time we fly with Quinn. I made sure to note those below. I hope you find this post helpful!

BEFORE YOU TRAVEL

Make an insanely detailed packing list – We did this about four or five days before our trip, so we could add to it as we thought of things. That way, we had plenty of time to think through our packing list and not forget any of the essentials. We also made note of how many of each item we should bring (i.e. 5 onesies, 4 bibs, etc.). FYI: We packed enough diapers, wipes, and food for the trip to Seattle. We saved space in our luggage by buying more of these things once we arrived at our destination.

Buy covers for your car seat and stroller to protect them – We planned to check both our car seat and stroller at the gate (we have the KeyFit Caddy system), so we bought covers to protect them. The one for the car seat was totally worth it (it was cheap and kept the car seat clean), but the one for the stroller was kind of a waste of money. It was annoying to put on and take off, and I don’t think it did all that much. Mal didn’t even use it on the flight home. We’ll probably skip the stroller cover the next time we fly with Quinn.

Use backpacks as carry-ons to free up your hands – Every airline has different rules regarding luggage, so we made sure to check before we started packing. Mal and I ended up each packing three items: 1) a suitcase, which we checked before going through security, 2) a backpack, and 3) a “personal item.” (Mal took Quinn’s diaper bag and I had my big tote.) This worked out perfectly, and it didn’t seem like we had a ton of stuff with us.

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Pack extra everything in your baby’s diaper bag –  We probably went a little overboard with our baby supplies, but we didn’t want to run out of anything because you never know how travel can go! Quick note about our diaper bag because this is the one thing we would definitely change after our first cross-country adventure. Make sure everything you need is in ONE bag. Mal and I had mostly all of Quinn’s stuff in his diaper bag. We had his toys in one of our backpacks and disinfecting wipes in another. It wasn’t a huge deal, but we were definitely scrambling mid-flight to get exactly what we needed.

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Use Ziplock bags to keep things organized – We ended up packing a lot of baby supplies in Ziplock bags to keep them organized and easy to find (i.e. toys, snacks, tiny travel-size items, etc.). We had plastic baggies tucked away in all sorts of compartments and pockets! After our travels, we just threw them away.

AT THE AIRPORT

Bring (or buy) easy-to-eat food – Mal bought a couple of slices of pizza at the airport, which were pretty easy to eat while standing up holding a baby. I got a salad, which was not as easy to eat. Next time, I’ll get a sandwich or smoothie or something I can eat quickly and with one hand if needed.

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Wear your baby through security – This made going through security with our stroller and car seat so incredibly easy. We used the Ergo for carrying Quinn, and it worked great. I’d highly recommend this carrier. It was so easy to use and comfortable for both parent and baby!

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Keep a travel-size package of disinfectant wipes on you, like in your pocket – It took me a little while to figure this one out since I kept reaching in my bag to grab the wipes. Eventually, I put them in the pocket of my hoodie for easy access.

ON THE AIRPLANE

Wipe down everything with disinfectant wipes as soon as you get to your seat – Airplanes are kind of gross, so as soon as we got to our seats, I wiped down the tray, arm rests, safety info, etc. I wanted to keep things as sanitary as possible for our little family.

Buy a bunch of inexpensive toys to keep your little one entertained – Quinn is easily bored, so I went to Target and CVS to buy him about a half dozen new toys to keep him busy on the flight. The newness of each item kept him happy and entertained.

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Quinn really liked these teethers because of the different textures, which were fun to touch with his little fingers and feel in his mouth.

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Feed baby at take-off and landing – The drinking and swallowing helps with the changing pressure that your little one will likely feel in his/her ears. We packed three bottles and portioned out the right amount of powdered formula for each one. Once we were through security, we bought a big bottle of water to prepare them when we were ready.

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AT YOUR DESTINATION

We borrowed a lot of baby gear from friends of my in-laws, so we didn’t need to bring a lot with us on the plane. But now that we own the Chicco 360 Hook-On Chair as well as the hiking backpack, and we know how travel-friendly they are, we’ll likely take them to Oregon and Maine this summer on our family vacations.

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Questions of the Day

Have you ever flown with your little one? How’d it go? What would you do differently the next time you travel?

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This post was originally publish on March 5, 2015 and republished on December 19, 2018.

57 Comments

  1. I can’t imagine the prep and work it takes traveling with a baby. I once flew with a friend and her child. The baby threw up on the plane but she had everything covered. I was amazed by her organized as yours. Good tips!

  2. I have yet to travel with my five month old but have a trip this summer and am definitely bookmarking this post! I love the tip to wear the baby through security. With so many things and people to juggle being organized is a must!

  3. My first trip with my 3 month old son was to Australia. He was really really good. I kept him in the Bjorn during takeoff and landing and he sucked his paci, which helped. They also have little bassinets so he could just sleep for hours and hours!

  4. Hi Tina! I <3 your blog and have an off-topic question…if you don't mind sharing, what brand/style of jeans are you wearing in the pics? They look fantastic on you and I'm in the market for some new jeans that fit athletic (ie not twig) legs….

    Thank you 🙂

  5. Quinn is adorable. Those are great tips! I have flown cross country with my 7 month old 4 times and it is always scary, but has always gone great. Wearing through security is so easy. I also was told by TSA that you can bring any size bottle of water through for formula. We have also found that we book an isle and window seat and check with the gate agent is our middle seat is full, if they are able to they will block the middle seat so it stays empty.

  6. Babywearing through security is fantastic. It makes things so much easier! We had a little who hated the car seat during her first flight so pushing her in a stroller through the airport wasn’t going to happen. That Ergo was a lifesaver!

  7. This post is perfectly timed! I am leaving tomorrow on a trip with my 8 month old – travelling solo! We have 2 flights and a total of 11 hours of travel time. I am already packed but I am going to make some adjustments based on this post (disinfectant wipes in my pocket, ziploc bags and everything in one bag) Thanks Tina!

  8. I love this post, thank you for writing it! We have not flown with our little one yet but I’m hoping to get a vacation in soon, he’ll be about 6 months by then! We have alot of Chicco products at home and love everything! (infant car seat, play yard, jogging stroller, keyfit caddy, hook on chair). We have even already bought the Nextfit car seat for when he out grows the infant seat. And I’m dying to use the jogging stroller once we get some warm weather here in Boston!

  9. We’ve flown with little one a few times – both within the continental US and to Switzerland! The carrier was the life saving piece of eqpt. When we fly with little one we actually skip the stroller all together (I hate strollers – your hands are tied up!), and rent a carseat with the rental car so we don’t have to bring anything. I wear my backpack on my back with kiddos stuff and the toddler in a front carry in the Ergo, then pull my small roller carryon. I try and make sure the backpack is small enough to go under the seat, so I can be sure of having access. So even if you’re crazy like me and annoyed by the stroller, travel is still no problem! (Maybe I’d like the stroller better if it had cup holders? My main complaint is that I can’t hold my coffee. Hubby maintains this is ridiculous :p)

    Also, on international flights you can pay $100 to get a seat by the bulkhead with a clip on bassenette. It was amazing to have a place for little one to sleep and play on the 8 hour flight. No crying!

  10. We have traveled a few times with our little guy. I always get so anxious leading up to the flight. The most anxious was when I traveled alone with him but it went surprisingly well. You are right, organization/food/formula and toys are KEY!

  11. We flew with our daughter for the first time when she was 7 months. Luckily she was still breastfeeding, so we didn’t have the problem of running out of milk. She slept half of the time during the 4.5 hour flight, which was nice. She is now 20 months and we have traveled three times(once to Europe) and I have to say entertaining her now is a challenge. Lots and lots of snacks and new and favorite toys are a must. An iPad doesn’t hurt either.

  12. Such great tips!!! I love learning from people with experience. Thanks! 🙂 By the way, I LOVE your camel colored purse. It’s exactly what I’m looking for. May I ask the brand/style name?

  13. It’s not really something that I have had to think about since I don’t have kids yet, but that’s a lot of work! Im impressed with your ability to travel with a baby. I would like to say that I would just skip flying until he/she is older, but I don’t know that that will be possible considering our families live all over the place!

    1. @Erin @ Erin’s Inside Job:

      Traveling with kids can be as easy or complicated as you make it. 🙂 our kids have traveled a lot more than the average kids (I would guess) both by car and by plane. They actually really like traveling and we don’t stress about it.. Go with the flow is key!

  14. Two things to add to your list:

    1. Most airports (every one I’ve been through, including Logan) don’t let you wear a baby through security. You must have lucked out with nice TSA agents!
    2. You can take water through security if it’s for a baby/toddler. Not sure on official amounts, but we usually do two normal sized water bottles (plus milk).

  15. Helpful post! We’re expecting a little one in July and have your same infant car seat but are stroller shopping. Is the stroller you have just for the infant seat, or does it transition to a toddler stroller? Thanks!

    1. Yes, the KeyFit stroller is just for the car seat, but it’s the best little thing ever. I rave about it to everyone! It’s perfect for running errands and traveling because it’s small and super lightweight. We’ll eventually get a toddler stroller when Quinn outgrows his car seat.

      1. I started poking around on the website and saw that – they do have ones that transition but I am grateful to have your review that you think the KeyFit just for the car seat was worth it. Small and lightweight are my goals so thank you for the information! Quinn is adorable 🙂

        1. I agree with Tina! I have the same car seat and use the lightweight frame — so easy to get in and out of the car. I have also heard from mommy friends that the transition strollers don’t really fit well when a child is 25+ lbs. They all recommend to get a regular toddler stroller when the child is big enough. 🙂

  16. Great tips!
    Mommy Points is a great family travel blog that features a ton of traveling tips too… including international flights, long trips and staying at hotels, etc. I don’t have kids yet, but it makes me happy to read because I want to be able to travel with my future family 🙂

  17. When I flew with my little one I definitely followed a lot of these. I made sure to nurse her during take off and landing, and I brought several snacks and toys for her. It was funny though because she mostly wanted to play with my phone, the airline magazines, etc., just like most babies do ha! The one thing I didn’t do is get a cover for her carseat and I really wish I had!

  18. I have a few other tips. First, make sure you’ve called the airline and told them you’re traveling with a baby. Below a certain age kids fly free on your lap but you need to let the airline know.

    Second, most airlines don’t count your baby bags against you as your carry-on. That means Mal could have brought his own bag (his personal item) AND the diaper bag (for the baby).

  19. We have flown 3 times since my baby was born and 2 of those flights we ended up being diverted (because of weather) to a different city where we had to sit on the runway and wait for the weather to clear up and then fly to our destination adding an extra 3-4 hours to our flight. So my tip is to bring EXTRA of everything!! Diapers, extra outfit, toys, formula, entertainment and snacks! Things would have been much worse had we not brought lots of extras. I also freeze those squeezy yogurt or fruit packets to use as “ice packs” in a very small lunch bag that holds snacks. Wearing my now toddler through security was also the best advice! They don’t make you take them off, they just have to test your hands.

  20. Great post! 🙂 We did a three month long around-the-world trip (8 countries) with our 6-9 month old last year, and this year we have a two month around-the-world trip (3 countries) planned, so traveling with a baby has soon become traveling with a toddler for us! We have also done a ton of road-tripping around the USA with baby which has been fun. Some tips I think are important are buying a travel stroller that has smaller wheels so it doesn’t get stuck in the security scanner, and I totally agree about having tons of baby wipes/wet wipes/tissues on hand at all times! I’ve linked my posts on our travel adventures (road trips and flying) here:

    World Travel with Baby on Board – http://www.hotteatravelandthyme.com/2014/07/world-travel-with-baby-on-board.html
    The Challenges of Travel –
    http://www.hotteatravelandthyme.com/2014/08/the-challenges-of-travel.html
    A bit of background on our travels/Around-the-World in 88 Days –
    http://www.hotteatravelandthyme.com/2014/04/welcome-to-hot-tea-travel-and-thyme.html
    and
    http://www.hotteatravelandthyme.com/2014/07/around-world-in-88-days.html

  21. I have flown with my kids too many times to count. I know I flew with my son at least 3 times (by myself, no hubby to help) in his first year of life.

    Most memorable trip when my daughter was 18 months and my son was 6.5. I flew them (again, my hubby wasn’t with me) to FL. I’m not sure how I managed to get them and all of our stuff to FL at the same time… But I did. 🙂 I know I had the baby in a carrier and had our bags piled on the stroller.

    I am not the type of person that really stresses about these types of things, though. I’m very go with the flow and “it’ll be FINE” mentality.

  22. I’m going to have to tuck this post away for if and when I have a little one! Great tips. I know I’ll be a crazy wreck the first time I fly with (hopefully) a child of mine. I always get freaked out about their ears hurting and popping and it makes me cringe a little about it for some reason…thanks for this info!

  23. Hi Tina,
    We are traveling for the first time with our 4 month old soon and we actually have the same car seat/stroller set up as you. Did you travel with the car seat base? Is there anyway around doing that? So heavy!!

  24. Our little one will arrive in April (but honestly any day now!). We have family from Maine to California, so I’m sure we will end up flying with an infant at some point. I’m already anxious thinking about it. This post definitely eases my mind. Maybe we can convince people to just come to us for a while 😉 lol

  25. Another tip, you can actually bring water thru security for a baby or toddler! Baby food or pouches are fine too.
    I just wore my 19 mo in our ergo when we flew and I was told I didn’t have to dump his cup out either. Good to know! They tested his bottles last year and test our hands when we wear him. Quick and easy though!

  26. Other tips…we were going to FL last year and packed our sons big mickey and some extra stuff in the car seat in the bag. We also buy a pack of diapers when we land, I like grabbing stuff like bananas at the store anyway and it’s one less thing to pack.

  27. I always wonder how people travel with little ones, and have so much respect for them, travelling just by myself is a lot to handle so when I see families doing it I am always impressed 🙂 sounds like you are nailing it!

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  29. Please do some research about flying with your car seat. It should not be checked for a number of reasons and when we flew with our daughter at Thanksgiving was a total lifesaver as we had to do an emergency re-route and detour to another location. Check out Car Seats for the Littles (both on Facebook and their website) for more information on why it is important to have your seat on the airplane with your baby.

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  31. If you dont want to pay an extra seat for your 9 month old, where do you put their carseat? Ive never traveled with infants so i have a lot of questions. Thanks in advance

  32. We flew with our 9 mths old baby to Asia, a month ago and I surprised that it went really well. I was overpacked but better to have more than being scrambled on the planes and airports. One thing I wish I would have is the jolly jumper change pad that has pockets for diapers, wipes and plastic bags to dispose the dirty diapers, so I don’t have to bring the whole diaper bag to the bathroom. I also bought those dollar store dog bags and it was a life saver. Bringing formula-fed baby is rather tricky cause we have to really calculate how many bottle, formula and water we should bring. I brought dish soap too just in case I need to wash the bottles at the airport. Many international airports have nursery room which was awesome. My baby was confused and got cranky a bit because he’s tired and don’t know how to fall asleep on our lap but as soon as he figured it out, he just snoozed. He charmed the passengers beside and behind us (so much needed act), made them all loved him and they became really nice to us. That was on our first flight of 13,5 hrs. The second flight (4,5 hrs) went really easy as he slept all the way through.

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