Everything You Need to Know About Flying Babies

Gabriella was on 14 flights in her first year of life. Her initial assent into the clouds was at six weeks. We flew to San Francisco for work meetings. She got her first passport stamp a few weeks later on a 10-hour, overnight flight to Buenos Aires.

So when a friend emailed me recently about tips for flying with babies, I was remembering those days. I can't say that I'm the best person to ask for advice. After all, it was just me and Ella on that 10-hour red eye. I swaddled baby girl, laid her in the seat next to me, and promptly fell asleep!

But there were several helpful ideas I read or have experienced, so I thought I'd share. Have a good time with your baby in the friendly skies!

People Won't Yell at a Cute Baby

One of my strategies for flying with infants is to dress them in their cutest little outfits. I have no proof that this earns us favor with flight attendants and passengers, but I figure it can't hurt!

Packing Tips

I make sure to put lots of extra diapers and change(s) of clothes in the carry-on. I don't want to be caught without if there's a delay or unexpected layover or anything. Also, I put a few of the jingly toys and bottles in my purse so I don't have to stand up anytime I need something.

My understanding is that you can always check a car seat for free and it doesn't count as one of your luggage. I believe you can put it in the plane seat if you buy your child a ticket. A kid under 2 can be a "lap child" or you can choose to purchase their own seat.

We always checked strollers planeside, and it was no biggie.

International Baby Tickets

Domestic flights are free for kids under 2 who sit in your lap. Not the case for international flights! They are deeply discounted, but you do pay a portion of the ticket price.

Also, you may need to check in with the infant at the ticket counter. This process is sometimes very lengthy for no clear reason.

And sometimes, because a person flying with a baby has nothing going on, they will give you the baby's return flight ticket when you check in for initial flight. If you lose it, they will make you re-buy the second ticket. Don't even ask me how I know this!

Choose Your Seat.

You can't sit in a exit row with a baby. They seem to think you'll be less-than-helpful in an emergency. (Go figure!)

However, if you talk with the agent at the gate, you can request a bulkhead. On large planes, they may actually have a little basket that's attached to the wall in front of the seat. It's like a little floating, pod crib with a cover. Kinda creepy, but I used it once. Ella didn't love the cover closed (which I understand), but it was handy.

Talking to the agent, though, is key. One on of my flights, the bulkhead was not available. Still, she changed my seat assignment so I had an open seat next to me. Score!

Little Baby Ears

You may have already heard that babies ears can pop during take-off and landing. Go-to strategies are to encourage babies to suck during this time. Nursing, bottles, or passies can help them transition.

Naturally, my kids were always famished during boarding. They'd gobble their milk and finish just as we'd start rolling down the runway. Thankfully, neither one has seemed to be particularly bothered by the pressure changes.

Bathroom Surprise

No, I'm not going to get gross. But until I had a baby, I never knew that some of those airport bathrooms actually hide a changing table. It pulls down over the toilet. It's not spacious, but it works!

Lamaze for Flying Babies. 

I've always had pretty good flying experiences. And people are generally kind and understanding. If the babies do start screaming, I just remind myself that the people around me will survive.

They may shoot me dirty looks or complain. But in reality, the situation is more painful for me than for them. And if I get too panicky or worried about what people are thinking, it only amps my kids up more. So I have to breathe deeply and relax. Usually, that act alone helps the kiddos calm down.

Have you flown with babies? What's your secret?


  1. Yeah, I've done my fair share of flying with small children although I think the youngest any of them ever flew was 9 months (with the twins) and we had a lot of extra hands because we were going on a family trip.

    That thing about paying for part of an international ticket with a lap child... yeah, it also means they don't provide you a meal for said child, even if he's almost 2! On an international flight that we'd raced to make our connection (not our fault) and had no extra food with... that sucked.

    Be aware that just asking for a bulkhead when you get to the gate may not work anymore as more and more airlines are charging extra for those types of seats so they may not be able to move someone. Personally I hated the fact that it meant you couldn't lift your armrest or have anything stowed under a seat in front of you. I much prefer an empty seat beside me to the bulkhead! And we got one on our way back from Paris last year, cutest thing ever to have an 18month old next to me with her own headphones on and when she finally passed out across my lap at least we had extra room!

    You can also take an extra carry-on bag with a lap child, it's considered the diaper bag, but essentially it's an extra bag for all those extra diapers and changes of clothes you WILL need! We were down to our very last diaper when we arrived back in Seattle this past trip! Plus, 2 of the 3 adults had been peed on because the diapers were so full. Airplane air is really dry so my one girl who already guzzles water, was doing so even more and went through all the diapers!

    Okay, is that enough of a book for ya? ;)

  2. That's really helpful advice, Krista. Thanks! I may actually make a note in the post about bulkheads. That was several years ago for us, and I wondered if things have changed. And I didn't know that about food on international flights! Our babies were too young on those flights to notice. Thanks for the additions!


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