Traveling with a baby can seem daunting at first. But with a few simple tips and tricks, you’ll be a pro in no time. From quick flights to long-haul flights, you’ll be (nearly) stress-free if you prepare yourself in advance.
Try to coordinate your flight times to work with you. When possible, get a flight an hour or two before their nap time. This accounts for boarding delays and take-off time so that by the time the fasten seat belt sign is off, your baby will be ready for a snooze.
Sometimes it’s not possible to make their schedule fit perfectly and that’s ok. Know that one day off schedule won’t ruin the whole week.
Diaper Bag Prep
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I’m a fan of a backpack style diaper bag versus a shoulder bag as I find it more comfortable to carry on the go and keep my body in balance. This Rafi Nova backpack makes it easy to carry and access your items.
Don’t forget to pack the essentials x2. Changes in clothes for both you and the baby are essential. I always put my baby in footed pajamas and packed two more in a Ziploc or wet/dry bag (or both). This made outfit changes simple in the event of a blowout.
And don’t forget to pack a change of clothes for yourself. Simple leggings and a t-shirt are my go-tos and pack up quite small.
On one eventful flight, my son had a massive blowout at takeoff that soaked through not only his clothes but mine as well and I was so thankful that we each had a spare set of clothing for the remainder of the 6 hour flight.
Having the extra Ziploc or wet/dry bag allows you to store soiled clothing without ruining other items in your bag.
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I love to bring a cozy large scarf or extra swaddle blanket for chilly airplanes. I use them as a blanket to keep us snuggled, as a cover for breastfeeding, a drape to block out bright lights while getting my little one to sleep, or for mobile babies who can’t sit still as a floor covering to keep them off yucky airplane carpets.
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For this purpose, I prefer a muslin swaddle over a silky one as it has more grip. Pack it in its own Ziploc or wet/dry bag to keep the germs off my other things in the diaper bag.
If your baby takes a pacifier, pack at least 2! They are great to offer during take off/landing to help soothe little ears that can’t “pop” with the altitude adjustment.
If your babe doesn’t take a pacifier, offering a bottle or breastfeeding can really help too. Munching on a crunchy snack does as well for older babies.
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For pacifiers and toys, toss in a travel pack of pacifier wipes for the inevitable toss to the floor.
How many diapers do you typically go through in the hours that you’re traveling door to door? Now add at least 2 extras.
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You don’t want to run out of diapers and wipes on a flight. I personally preferred to take the entire wipes packet rather than a travel pack. You can never have too many wipes. I ran out once midflight and bathroom paper towels do not do the trick. Don’t be me.
For longer flights, overnight diapers have more longevity and necessitate fewer diaper changes in tiny airplane bathrooms.
Some people prefer to double up on diapers to prevent leaks and blowouts. You know your baby best and what will be most comfortable for you.
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Change your baby’s diaper in the airport bathroom prior to the flight for more space and less time in the tiny airplane lav. Packing disposable changing pads or chux pads will make the diaper change area more sanitary as well.
Toys and Snacks
Pack a few beloved toys, pacifiers, and snacks for your little one. They keep busy hands occupied and entertained for easier travel time.
I like to put together a small bag of toys that are both new and loved. Depending on the age, light-up rattles, crinkle books, stickers, suction cups, and Water Wows are all great in-flight activities. (Need ideas for your 0-6-month-old? Read our best baby toys here).
Loosely wrapping toys in gift wrap or tissue paper can add another element of entertainment for your little one, especially if the toys are not new.
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Packing snacks in a portable, fun container is great for travel. Bento boxes and stacking snack towers take up less space in your diaper bag and offer variety.
Don’t forget to pack your own snacks too! You’ve got to remain nourished and hydrated as well!
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If your baby is bottle feeding, pack enough formula or breastmilk plus at least 2 extra feeding portions in case of delays. You can warm a bottle in a cup of hot water or a portable bottle warmer.
If you travel with breastmilk, please be aware that TSA security may pull it aside for additional screening. You are entitled to carry reasonable amounts of breastmilk, formula, and toddler puree pouches with you.
Some people choose to bring a car seat on the plane for their baby. This is considered a safer option than having your baby in your arms. However, if you do bring a car seat onboard you will need to purchase a ticket for your baby and their car seat. Under 2 years old, a child in the lap is free.
Need help with the best car seats to travel with? Read more here.
If you choose to have your infant in your lap, that’s totally up to you (and what I did). Some airlines have rules about having them secured in a seat belt that attaches to your own and will provide you with one.
When I flew to France, the Delta Airlines portion of our travel did not do this but the Air France one did. It’s airline specific.
If you don’t wish to take your car seat on the plane but also don’t want to hold your baby for the entire flight, get to the airport early and ask for the bulkhead bassinet. For long-haul flights on major airlines, it’s available on a first come first serve basis.
The bassinet attaches to the wall in the bulkhead row and you can place your baby in for napping or to play. I find the size of the bassinet to be best suited for babies under 1 year old, depending on size.
Not all airlines and planes have this option, so you may wish to call your airline in advance to ask or get to the airport early to ask. I found that I had to ask at the gate counter for this so early arrival and being the first to queue was helpful.
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Taking a stroller with you through the airport can make life easier, with the right one! Unless you need a heavy-duty stroller at your destination, I highly recommend bringing a more travel-friendly version with the appropriate car seat adapters.
There are many that fold up and fit into the overhead compartment of most planes. Even better yet? One that closes and opens with just one hand! This makes getting through security easier.
My personal favorite is the Colugo Compact. I previously had the Babyzen Yo-yo (a very popular travel stroller) but the two-handed close was a deal breaker for me after traveling solo to France with my baby. Other popular choices are Joolz Aer, Uppababy Minu, GB Pockit.
A Baby carrier is my favorite travel essential. I’m a baby-wearing fanatic and have too many to be considered reasonable, but my obsession is your gain and you can read about my favorite carriers here.
Baby carriers allow you to be hands free and breeze through airport security. Many babies find carriers to be very soothing and can help with getting them to settle and sleep midair.
I traveled with 2 (I did mention that I’m a fanatic) and would bring a structured buckle carrier for the airport and walking around our destination, and also a wrap or ring sling for the flight and cozy naps.
Checking in Gear
Baby items, like a car seat or stroller, are free to check in at the counter or the gate. If you don’t think you’ll need these items in the airport or on the plane, I highly recommend checking them in with their own padded bags approved for this purpose.
Be aware, however, that they do get handled with regular luggage (or with oversized luggage, depending on the airline). Some people choose not to check them in because of this.
I personally have never had an issue but do so at my own risk, knowing that items can become damaged by rough handling. If you do check the items at the counter, allow yourself extra time for the process.
For gate check, I do still recommend using a travel bag for the items as they will still be handled with luggage in the luggage hold. For compact strollers that fit on the plane (and some even fit down the aisle!), you can place them in the overhead compartment if space permits.
Ask for Help!
Don’t be afraid to ask others for help. Most people will jump at the opportunity to aid you and your baby while traveling.
From enlisting the porters at curbside check in to flight attendants to friendly seatmates, just ask. Pregnancy and parenting have been a humbling experience for my can-do-it-all-alone attitude but have made these moments so much easier.
I’ve flown solo and with my husband numerous times since my son was just 2 months old. Asking for help makes a world of difference.
Traveling with your little one takes a bit of prep and grit but the experience is absolutely worth it and doable! With the right gear, a well-packed diaper bag, and the ability to ask for and accept assistance will make it all the easier for you and your family. Safe travels!
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By: Erin Pasquet
Birth and Postpartum Doula
Certified Lactation Counselor
Pre/Post Natal Yoga Teacher