The night before our first flight with a baby, I was so nervous I could hardly sleep. Our baby has now been on 12 flights so far, with 4 of those being international flights. And thankfully, they’ve all gone pretty darn well. I’ve learned a lot of helpful tips from trial and error when flying with our baby, so I wanted to share our tips with you to help you out!
I decided it would be best to go through the entire process of flying from start to finish, so you know what to expect when flying with a baby.
Step 1, booking the flight.
Should you buy your baby a seat or not?
That depends. It’s really up to you and how you think they will behave best.
Cost-wise, babies are free on domestic flights as a lap child. On international flights, babies typically cost 10% of a normal fare ticket as a lap child. We have flown with Adaline as a lap child on 8 flights. All of these flights were 4 hours or less and it’s worked great! Your arms do get a little tired, so some people like carriers, and if that is useful with your baby, it could be a great idea! Adaline likes sleeping in our arms, not in the carrier, so that doesn’t work for us. Typically, I nurse her to sleep during takeoff (to help with air pressure) and then she sleeps most of the flight in my arms (Although, now that she’s 7 months, she sometimes is awake for a good bit of it).
For our long red-eye international flight, we got our baby her own seat. We used SkyMiles to purchase her ticket and it was well worth it, in our opinion. She was able to sleep about 7 hours straight in her car seat, during her typical nightly schedule, which was awesome because it helped with her jet lag and we had a chance to sleep too!
Choosing The Best Time To Fly With Your Baby
Choose when your baby will be the happiest. We like flights during the day; not too early so they wake up at their normal time (I really like to keep her wake times and bed times consistent as much as possible), and then we fly during one of her naps. OR if it’s a long flight, we preferred the red-eye because she was able to sleep through most of the flight just like it was her normal bedtime.
After you book the flight, if your baby is a lap child, you need to call the airline to let them know you are flying with a baby. They will then add your baby to your ticket. If you are flying domestic, you need the baby’s “ticket”. We also always bring her birth certificate just in case. If you are flying Internationally, you do need a passport. Make sure to plan ahead for that and google the requirements!
On the day of your flight, your first step is to check-in.
All baby stuff like car seats and strollers check for free. Personally, we don’t recommend checking the stroller and/or car seat until you get to the gate. If we are going somewhere that we need a pack and play for her to sleep, we check that and our luggage right away to make it easier to get through the airport.
If not, we sometimes don’t check bags and just put them on our stroller/the person not carrying the stroller has a bag because not checking a bag saves you time once you arrive to your destination!
Next step, security.
One of the reasons we enjoy bringing our stroller to the gate is because sometimes you get to go to a special security line that saves you time. The baby does have to come out of stroller/car seat, just a heads up on that (especially useful to know for planning nap times. We like to have our baby nap on the ride to the airport, keep her awake at the airport, and then have her next nap on the plane). We also recommend getting TSA pre-check if you are flying more than a couple times in the next 5 years. Precheck saves time in line AND you don’t have to worry about taking off your shoes and stuff since you have enough to worry about while traveling with a baby. Also, formula/breastmilk can go through security and bypasses the 3.4 ounce rule.
Now you’ve made it to the flight!
Which is definitely a mental game. Just don’t give a cr** about what others may be thinking. The baby can feel your stress and will react to it! So keep calm and realize that many people on the plane are parents and can relate. If your baby does have their own seat, make sure their car seat is FAA approved- it should say on your car seat or you can google it. During take-off, sucking helps the baby to regulate the pressure. Definitely have them suck the first time because you have no clue how they will react.*
*Our baby has been fine though and we usually just let her sleep.
We freaked out at first because we didn’t know if we should wake her up or not. DO NOT wake them up! If they end up waking up then you can have them suck on something but leave them sleeping. Have a bottle or pacifier handy at all times, just in case they wake up crying from the pressure. Also, the seating is really up to you… we like the aisle seat for the option to get up if we need to. However, we have never gotten up, we just like knowing that we easily can if we need to.
And Finally, You’ve Arrived!
At arrival, It does take forever to get off the plane and the baby either becomes excited because everyone is getting up and moving or they will get grumpy because they want to move! So think of this and your baby’s personality when choosing a seat. I personally would choose one towards the front. Either that or near the wing of the plane because it’s loud and will help drown the baby out if they are crying.
If you are going somewhere with a large time difference, the first couple of days will probably be extra tiring. My recommendation is to fly through the night and have them sleep either in their own seat or in your arms, whichever is better for you. Our baby sleeps really well in her car seat so we kept her there. I also recommend not planning much for that first day because you are going to be exhausted too.
You’ve Got This.
You can totally fly with your baby! We’ve done it 12 times now over 5 months and have had a great experience every time, overall. If we can do it, you can too. Trust me! We hope these tips have helped you have confidence in flying with your baby and that you have an awesome trip.
PS: If you are overwhelmed about what to pack for your baby, check out my baby packing checklist here!