Infant air travel doesn’t have to be daunting, even in these times of extra security at the airport. There are many things you can do to feel comfortable and adequately prepared when traveling with your baby on an airplane.
When our second son was just six weeks old, we traveled by plane from San Diego to Portland, Oregon, for a wedding. In truth, it’s probably easier to make such flights when babies are so young because they sleep so much!
What’s the Right Age for Infant Air Travel?
Many pediatricians recommend you wait until your baby is two or three months before embarking on a plane trip, mainly to give your infant’s immune system time to get stronger.
However, that’s not always possible, so it’s usually okay to fly after two weeks, provided you had a full term birth and baby is doing well. Always check with your pediatrician for advice if you have any doubts.
TSA Rules for Traveling with Baby on Airlines
Ah, the dreaded Transportation Security Administration, or TSA, and all their rules! Whether you agree with their policies or not, the fact is that the guidelines on what you can/cannot bring onboard is confusing. Especially with babies in tow.
As of December 2010, the TSA rules say:
- “Medications, baby formula and food, breast milk and juice are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding 3.4 ounces and are not required to be in a zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint.”
To make the process easier, separate your baby’s liquid items from your liquid items, which must remain in a zip-top bag and will be inspected separately. Only bring as much formula, juice or breast milk that’s needed for the duration of the flight. Stow the rest of it in your checked baggage.
You can also bring gel teethers and baby food onboard.
More Infant Air Travel Tips
Since you’re brave enough to tackle an airplane trip with a baby, the least we can do is help make the experience as easy for you as possible:
Before You Leave
- Decide if you are booking a seat for the baby or not. Check to see if your airlines offer a discounted rate for the extra seat.
- Does your airlines have a baby luggage allowance for items like a stroller or car seat?
- Ask about sky cot/bassinet availability if you’re not booking a seat for the baby.
- If possible, prebook your seats before arriving at the airport. If you’re not happy with your seating, don’t hesitate to ask the gate agent for a change to a new seat or tow.
- Aisle seats are great, so you can get up and move with a fussy baby. Back rows are helpful, too, for easy access to the restrooms.
- Do you need a passport for your kid for the international travel? Keep in mind it can take several weeks before baby’s passport will arrive, even if expedited.
- If a parent is traveling with baby solo, you’ll may also need a notarized letter from the non-accompanying parent vouching that it’s okay for you to take the baby on a trip.
Packing for Infant Air Travel
Assemble a small bag of necessary goodies to bring on board for baby.
Depending on how long the flight is, pack as many diapers as you think you’ll need. Change baby before getting on board the plane and you may be able to make it through diaper-change free. I usually stick a few diapers and pack of baby wipes in a gallon-freezer bag, too, so it’s small and easy to grab once we’re on the plane.
Don’t forget baby wipes, change of clothes (clean t-shirt for mom, too? Just in case!), and a light blanket. If your baby is eating solid foods, bring a small bowl and spoon along, too. Then add bibs to the pack!
At the Airport
- Give yourself plenty of time at the airport to prep for boarding. You may have last-minute diaper changes or clean-ups, plus may take longer getting through security with baby in tow.
- A baby carrier/sling works great in airport settings. This keeps your hands free and you don’t have to deal with a stroller.
- Ask if the flight is full; if not, you may be able to score an empty seat next to you, even if you didn’t purchase an extra seat for your baby.
Once on board, keep in mind that the changes in airpressure because the plane takes to the air and lands is painful for tiny ears. Many recommend breastfeeding or bottlefeeding during these times to alleviate the pressure in your baby’s ears.
If your bottle or food needs warming, ask the flight attendants well in advance of when you’ll need them. You may catch them at a time that the have a lot to do, so it can be awhile before you’re helped.
Babies cry. Do your best to keep yours happy, content and entertained but if inconsolable crying does occur, do your best to remain calm. Stressful parents stress out babies even more! If you can, stroll the aisle to help relax your baby and try to ignore nasty looks or remarks. Keep in mind, you’ll likely never see those people again!
We hope these tips on making infant air travel as easy as possible helps you forge ahead with your plane trip and vacation plans!
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