Feeling overwhelmed with the idea of flying with a baby? Our family has done it a bunch and I’ve learned a few tips and tricks to make it easier. Keep scrolling for my top tips for flying with a baby!
This post about flying with a baby was originally published in April 2018 and updated March 2020 and may contain affiliate links, which means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Are you starting to plan a vacation? Does the thought of flying with a baby make you nervous?
I remember feeling panicked a few years ago when my husband suggested we fly to Thailand with our 6-month-old baby. Every time I imagined this scenario, I pictured my baby crying non-stop for hours and hours. I envisioned passengers saying mean things and giving us dirty looks.
And when I started Googling to get tips, I found all kinds of horror stories.
Let me help ease your fears. Flying with a baby is totally doable. For our trip to Thailand, I packed about 10 toys and had tons of snacks. My son played for 10 minutes and then slept. the. entire. flight.
That’s not to say your baby won’t cry. But, I’ve found that most passengers are extremely sympathetic and understanding. We’ve been seated next to loving grandparents, pediatric nurses, kind souls and other parents. I hope that you have the same luck when flying with a baby!
And if all else fails, remember that you’ll probably never see these passengers again!
Tips for Flying with a Baby: Before You Go
Know the Age Limits for Infants
Most airlines consider children to be infants if they are aged between 0-24 months. An exception to the 2-year cut-off limit for infants is KLM Dutch airlines. They consider infants to be 0-12 months.
It pays to check with the airline in regards to how old they consider infants to be because of the difference in cost between an infant and a child can be significant on international flights.
There are also minimum age restrictions for flying with babies.
Most airlines such as Continental, Air Canada, and Japan Airlines won’t carry infants younger than 7 days old. British Airways will carry infants as young as 48 hours old with a doctor’s permission. Other airlines, such as Korean Airlines and Southwest, impose a minimum age of 14 days.
To stay on the safe side, it’s best to wait until infants are at least 14 days old before flying.
Is Flying with a Baby Free?
Domestic travel for infants is often free of charge when traveling with a parent or adult over 18 years, as long as they are a lap infant. On international flights, infants are normally charged at 10 percent of the adult airfare.
For both domestic and international flights, infants only fly free (or for a reduced price) if they don’t not occupy a seat. If a seat is required, then either a child or adult fare must be paid. And Ryanair does not allow seats to be purchased for infants at all.
The fare for an infant is generally determined by their age on the day of departure, not the day that the travel is booked. If a child turns 2 years of age halfway through a trip, some airlines require a child fare to be purchased for the entire duration of the trip. Other airlines such as Lufthansa still charge an infant fare for the entire duration of the trip.
If cost is an issue and a child is turning 2 halfway through a trip, it pays to determine the airline’s policy on this issue before booking. Usually after a full vacation with a baby, you’ll be ready to get home and you won’t want any delays!
Airlines require adults to advise them if they will be accompanied by an infant regardless if a fare is applicable or not. Even when the fare is free, an e-ticket or boarding verification document is often still required for infants.
Just call your airline to tell them you’ll be traveling with a lap infant so they can note it on your ticket.
Adults traveling with infants are often excluded from sitting on aisles, exit rows, or in the immediate vicinity of other adults with infants.
All infants traveling internationally also require their own passports. This is something families sometimes forget about until they get to the airport. Make sure to apply early!
If you are flying internationally with a baby, oftentimes you’ll have the option of reserving a bassinet. This enables your baby to lay down during the flight (and relieve your arms a bit!)
Bassinets on flights should always be pre-reserved. However, this isn’t a guarantee that the adult will actually get the bassinet.
Some airlines such as Qantas don’t confirm bassinets until the day of travel because they allot bassinets to the youngest babies on board. Other airlines such as United Airlines allot bassinets on a first-in, first-served basis, so pre-requesting bassinets is essential.
Adults traveling with infants on flights that are either not fitted with bassinets, or that don’t fit into airplane bassinets, are usually permitted to supply their own infant seats.
Infant Car Seats
If you have purchased a seat for your baby, it’s a smart idea to bring along their car seat so you can install it in the airplane seat. This is a great way to give your baby something familiar (and encourage them to nap during the flight.)
Most airlines are very specific about the types of infant seats that are permitted on their flights. Both Continental Airlines and United Airlines will only permit FAA-approved infant seats to be used. The specific types of seats permitted and not permitted can usually be found on the airline’s website.
You can also call your airline to ask further questions.
We flew British Airways several years ago and they told us we couldn’t use our car seat for take off or landing, only during the flight. So, we ended up having them store our car seat and it was a huge annoyance.
Infant Baggage Allowances
Infant baggage allowances vary from airline to airline. KLM Dutch airlines permit a generous 10 kilos of hand luggage and 10 kilos of checked luggage. Scandinavian airlines permit one bag of checked luggage up to 23 kilos plus one stroller but no hand luggage.
It’s best to check luggage allowances direct with an airline instead of either assuming there is no allowance or that the standard adult allowance applies.
Insider tip: If you do purchase a seat for your baby, load up their area with your carry on luggage to give yourself more leg room.
Can You Bring a Stroller?
Most airlines have a policy for strollers in regards to luggage. Sometime strollers are permitted as part of the checked luggage allowance (or you can check them for free.)
At other times, strollers can be used through to the gate and then stored in the cabin or gate checked..
It pays to check how strollers are handled prior to departure so that they can be folded down and packaged appropriately if required.
Tips for Flying with a Baby: For the Flight
Create the Ultimate Carry On Diaper Bag
One of the most important pieces of luggage you will have when traveling with a baby is your diaper bag.
One of my favorite diaper bag’s is the Lassig Green Label Neckline Diaper Bag. I love how much stuff I can pack inside. There’s a spot for everything! Remember extra baby clothes, medications, ointments, and lots of diapers and wipes.
I like to get a nylon reusable bag (like these bags) and put a few diapers and a small pack of wipes inside. That way, I can grab this little bag when heading to the tiny restroom to change my baby’s diaper.
Insider tip: the one in the back of the plane usually has a changing table.
If your baby is old enough to eat solid food, bring some! Ask your flight attendant for a cup and pour a few Cheerios in at a time. It will become an activity for your baby to fish them out and feed themselves.
I’m also a fan of pouches because babies can drink them. One of my favorite brands is Plum Organics food pouches. Keep your wipes handy to clean up any messes.
Buy Milk at the Airport
If your baby is old enough to drink cow’s milk, buy a bottle at the airport right before you board. Most airlines don’t carry milk on board (we learned this the hard way!) Bring your favorite sippy cup and refill as your baby gets thirsty.
Milk can stay out at room temperature for 2 hours and airplanes are usually pretty chilly.
Breastfeeding while traveling? Find out how to travel with breast milk.
Infant Meals and Diapers
Some airlines provide no infant supplies at all. Others like Qantas carry emergency only supplies of baby food, milk, bottles, cereals, and crackers. For less fussy infants, baby meals can be ordered on some airlines such as Qantas and ANA airlines. Korean airlines have separate food available for babies under 12 months, and those between 12-24 months.
In addition, some airlines carry diapers and are equipped with baby changing tables. Scandinavian airlines have at least one diaper change station on each aircraft. Qantas carries a limited supply of diapers while disposable diapers must be pre-requested on Japan Airlines.
It’s worth finding out if the airline being flown has baby meals and diapers because these can mean two fewer things to pack.
Wear a Nursing Poncho
I was a bit uncomfortable nursing in public with my oldest. And when I got the hang of it, he started to get distracted.
That’s why I recommend packing a nursing cover for the flight. It will keep your baby focused on eating and possibly help them fall asleep.
Plus, it can be used as a burp cloth, an extra blanket, and you can stretch it over the car seat for privacy.
Remember how I just told you to pack snacks? Your baby may wipe this snack on you. Or spit it up on your shirt. Or pee on you. You may not want to remain in soiled clothes for the rest of your flight.
I’ve worn a nursing cover as outerwear to keep my clothes clean when flying with a baby.
Don’t Forget the Binky (or Lovey)
Both my kids have been binky babies. We always have one clipped to them on flights. My favorite pacifier clip brand is Booginhead because they are a local Seattle-area company. They make a sensory version of a binky clip that has a crinkle sound. My toddler couldn’t get enough of it!
And I usually have 2 extra pacifiers in my diaper bag, just in case.
If your child has a favorite stuffed animal, blanket or little lovey, don’t leave it at home! In fact, you might pack an extra one and hide it in your luggage. You won’t want to spend your vacation hunting down one after it’s been misplaced.
Use a Baby Carrier
The biggest tip I have for flying with a baby is to bring a baby carrier. Yes, even if you have purchased a seat for your baby. Chances are, at some point your baby is going to want you to hold him/her.
Being able to secure your child in a baby carrier will give your arms a much need rest.
I currently own 10 baby and toddler carriers. Yes, I know that seems excessive (and it is.) The ones that I use 95% of the time are my Tula baby carriers. I like that they fit my small frame and can easily be adjusted to fit my husband’s larger torso.
But, on a more stylish note, I’m obsessed with the variety of prints. There are even Facebook groups for people who love their Tula baby carriers! Plus, you can customize your Tula carrier with fun suck pads, creative hoods and decorative accessories.
You can see my customized Mickey Mouse Tula in my post Why You Should Take Grandma to Disneyland.
Traveling with infants can be a challenge at the best of times. Flying with infants and coping with the additional effects of altitude add an extra dimension to the challenge.
It’s best to find out everything there is to know about flying with an infant either directly with the airline concerned or from their website.