Traveling with a baby is nerve wracking. When we decided to take our first trip with Baby M, he was just shy of 10 months old and he was definitely not the easiest of babies.
It took me a while to even feel okay about planning a trip. I was SO NERVOUS and I went around asking everyone for their tips for airplane travel with baby. I got some good ones, but most of these tips are just from my experience.
Our plane rides both there and back ended up going as well as they possibly could have gone. M slept the whole way there and the whole way home. While we were in the airport, he was perfectly fine, even though he usually freaks out around large groups of people. Everything worked out so well.
I was extremely surprised that our trip on the plane went so well. I am honestly still surprised. I feel a little silly about how stressed I was!
These are the tips for airplane travel with baby that really eased my stress and made both flights a BREEZE!
1. Try your best to get a direct flight
This can make all the difference between a smooth trip and a nightmare. When you don’t have a direct flight, you up the odds of canceled flights and getting stuck somewhere (more on that in the next tip!).
So, if it’s in your budget, it’s definitely worth it to get a direct flight to your destination.
2. Bring twice what you think you need
While we’re on the topic of direct flights, let me tell you a fun little story. Before we had M, my husband and I took a trip to South Carolina. We could’ve gotten a direct flight, but wanted to get a cheaper price, so we opted for a flight to North Carolina then another flight to South Carolina. It should’ve been a very short layover, which is why we figured it was worth the lower price.
Well, we got to NC and then our flight to SC was canceled. So we were stuck in NC.
Neither of us brought any extra clothing in our carry-ons, so we were forced to wear the same clothing overnight and then on a plane the next day.
I was thoroughly stressed throughout this whole ordeal and I didn’t enjoy it at all. If I had to do it with a baby, I would’ve lost my mind.
Anyway, the moral of this story is to ALWAYS bring extra stuff in your carry-on. The other reason for this is that your luggage could get lost and you’ll only have what’s in your carry-on.
With a baby, make sure you bring twice what you think you need. Twice the outfits, twice the diapers, twice the formula and food, pajamas, sleep sack, THE WORKS.
You never know what could happen with flights and luggage, so be prepared.
3. Cozy is King
It’s tempting to dress baby up for these types of big outings, but in this case you’ll want to skip the cute outfits. For me, this is one of the easier to follow tips for airplane travel with baby–M has some of the coziest outfits out there (like these ones, which you can get on Amazon).
Make sure you take the cozy route with your outfit as well, especially if baby will be in your lap. I had M in my lap the whole time and I was happy I dressed comfortably. He slobbered all over me so honestly I would’ve looked foolish with a legit outfit on. Let’s be real.
4. Bring an extra outfit for YOURSELF
Right, this is a post about tips for airplane travel with baby, but baby isn’t the only one you need to worry about when traveling. As I addressed in the last tip, babies tend to be messy.
If you’re a parent, this definitely isn’t news to you. You’ve probably been vomited on, pooped on, and peed on, and you most likely didn’t see it coming. You never know when you’ll need a wardrobe change, so make sure you bring an extra shirt and pants for yourself!
5. Look into renting baby gear
If possible, try to see if there are baby gear rental options at your destination. It makes ALL. THE. DIFFERENCE. when traveling if you don’t have to worry about those big items like Pack ‘n Plays.
If you’re staying at a hotel, check in with the hotel about if they have portable cribs on hand. You could also check out Baby Quip, which is a baby gear rental service for things like car seats, strollers, high chairs, monitors, and more.
If you’re visiting baby’s grandparents or other family, see if they’re able to have some basics on hand for when you visit. Pack ‘n Plays, strollers, and carseats can be used for years to come, so if you’ll be visiting frequently it could be worth the investment.
6. DO bring your own sound machine, though
Baby sleep can be hugely disrupted while you’re traveling. Many babies (🙋♀️mine included!) are weirded out by having to sleep in new unfamiliar places. If you’re a parent of one of those babies who can fall asleep anywhere, I envy you! Tell me your secrets.
Anyway, you can try to combat sleep disruption by making the sleeping arrangements as close to they are at home as possible. If you use a sound machine at home, definitely don’t forget to bring it with you!
We use the Hatch, which I love so much I added it to my list of must-have baby registry items, so I can definitely recommend that one first-hand.
7. Baby wear in the airport!
This was huge for me. I knew I didn’t want a bulky stroller to worry about through the airport, so baby wearing seemed like an obvious choice. M is always calmer when he’s in the baby carrier, and he sometimes gets very anxious in crowds (thanks, Covid!), so it really helped for him.
If you have a carrier without any metal on it, they’ll let you go through security while wearing your baby, which is great.
We have an ErgoBaby Omni360 carrier, which is great. It has a little zipper pocket in the front that I put my phone, driver’s license, and boarding pass in. Super convenient!!
8. If you can’t/don’t want to baby wear, gate check your stroller
If baby wearing isn’t an option for you and you bring your stroller, definitely utilize gate check rather than regularly checking your stroller as luggage. That way it should be available as soon as you get off the plane. Double check with your airline that you won’t have to get it at baggage claim beforehand, though. Maybe some do it differently than others? But I think most let you just get it as soon as you’re off the plane.
9. Try to make the timing work with naps
We did some crazy scheduling to make the timing work with M’s naps both ways on our flights. It was 100% worth it. He slept the whole 2 hour flight BOTH WAYS.
We basically timed out his eating times and wake windows, which at the time were about 3 hours. We made sure that the 3 hour mark would line up with when our flight was supposed to board. For the trip home, it ended up being a 4 hour wake window since the plane boarded a little late, but it still worked out.
So if it’s possible, try to stretch that wake window so that baby will be tired around your boarding time.
10. Don’t get to the airport TOO early
Now, take this tip with a grain of salt. I am normally the type of person to get to the airport SUPER early because I get anxiety about missing flights and being unprepared. However, my anxiety had to take a backseat during this trip.
We didn’t want to be spending too much time in the airport because we didn’t want M to get stir crazy before we even boarded the plane. So I let my husband convince me to get to the airport about 1.5 hours early. The airport we left from is a big city airport, so we tried to make sure we’d have just enough time to get through.
Surprisingly it worked out perfectly. We were at our gate just in time to hang out for 15 minutes, grab a snack, change diaper, get bottle ready, and get on the plane. The baby barely had time to get bored, so it was a success.
11. Bring a swaddle blanket for airport play time
Break out those old swaddle blankets and put them to use again! Swaddle blankets are awesome for makeshift play mats at the airport. They’re pretty large, but also they don’t take up too much space.
We brought several and they definitely came in handy (see #17 in my list of tips for airplane travel with baby).
12. Change baby’s diaper right before boarding
Who wants to get stuck changing a diaper on a plane when it might be able to be avoided?
If you’re on a shorter flight, you might get away with avoiding a diaper change altogether. Not all planes have reasonable changing stations, unfortunately.
So definitely remember to change baby’s diaper as close to boarding time as possible!
13. Prep a bottle before boarding
Getting a bottle ready while squeezed into tiny airplane seats is not ideal. Definitely get the bottle all set beforehand!
If you need to get it warmed up, you can utilize your body heat by keeping it under your arm until you get on the plane. You could also hit up a Starbucks and ask if they can give you a cup of hot water (this is probably the easier option 😂).
14. Board early if possible
I was a bit conflicted on whether boarding early would be better or worse. I didn’t want to be on the plane any longer than I had to, but I also wanted to be able to get a bit settled before being surrounded by people.
We boarded early and have no regrets about that. We definitely needed to get settled and we were able to do that by boarding early.
15. Feed during takeoff
The absolute best time for feeding baby a bottle is when the plane is taking off. I got this crucial tip from a mom in M’s Mommy & Me class.
It makes complete sense–breastfeeding or drinking from a bottle can help baby’s ears pop while the pressure is changing in the cabin. Of course we want to avoid any discomfort for baby!
We originally tried to do this, but we actually ended up feeding the baby slightly before taking off. This somehow worked even better for us both ways on our flights. He drank his bottle and was ready to take a nap. I guess he was so sleepy he didn’t even notice the pressure changes.
16. Invest in a portable sound machine
We’ve had the Hushh portable sound machine since M was born and we LOVE it. It has been a lifesaver when traveling in the car and it was exactly what we needed for our plane trip as well.
If your baby normally sleeps with a sound machine and you want them to sleep on the plane, a portable sound machine is a MUST. We turned it on to help M feel more comforted and in his sleep routine.
Here’s the other thing that the sound machine helped with: it helped drown out the very alarming and loud sound of the announcements throughout the plane ride. The announcements from the pilot and flight attendants while M was sleeping made me want to scream Shut up!!!😆 They almost woke him up, but the sound machine really helped mask that noise.
17. Bring a very lightweight muslin swaddle blanket
I mentioned earlier that my baby gets weirded out when he has to sleep in unfamiliar places. I don’t think I would’ve gotten him to sleep on the plane without covering him with a lightweight muslin swaddle blanket.
Being under the blanket made him feel separated from everything going on on the airplane. As soon as I covered him with it and turned on the sound machine, he settled down and slept for the entire flight. This happened both on our way there and on our way home.
I originally brought a few lightweight swaddles to use in the airport as a play mat, but I didn’t use all of them. I had no idea they would come in handy for this. However I really feel like this is one of the best tips out of all my tips for airplane travel with baby.
18. Bring baby’s favorite distractions
Whether it be toys, books, or snacks, make sure to pack your baby’s favorite distraction in your carry-on or diaper bag. What makes your baby happy no matter what?
For us, it’s puffs. My baby is obsessed with puffs. Also books. I made sure to pack these things just in case he wouldn’t sleep on the plane.
19. Don’t forget about pictures!
So, I’m a little obsessed with taking pictures of my baby and everything he does 😂. However I think I was so stressed about this whole traveling with a baby thing that I didn’t capture nearly as many moments as I would have liked to!
Please learn from my mistake! Don’t forget to take alllllll of the photos. Capture these moments that you’ll never get back. Even if baby is crying on the plane, snap a pic so he or she can giggle about it later when they’re older.
20. Breathe and ignore any rude people
Here’s the best of my tips for airplane travel with baby: Remember that this blip in time will pass and remember that it’s not as serious as it feels. I look back at how stressed I was and I now realize it was so unnecessary!
Even if things go horribly, everything will be okay. Even if every single plane rider is irritated by you and your baby, everything will be okay (and you most likely never have to see them again!).
So take some breaths. You are an amazing parent. The fact that you’re reading these travel tips shows that! Try to trust that your baby will be alright, and so will you.
So much easier said than done, I know, but I at least have to throw it out there!
The last thing to know about these tips for airplane travel with baby
I know traveling with a baby can be so super stressful, but you got this!
The hardest thing is taking the first step of planning the trip in the first place. Remember your reasons for taking this trip and keep them in mind.
So, what do you think about these tips for airplane travel with baby?? Did I miss anything?
Let me know in the comments!
Safe travels 🙂