Flying with a Newborn on a Plane 101: Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

We love traveling, and so does our son. Well, considering that he was only four-months-old when he went on his first flight, he hardly had a choice. He didn’t choose the travel life. The travel life chose him. His first flight was not easy, but we never expected it to be easy. Like any parent flying on a plane with a newborn, we were terrified. But we decided to go anyway.

If you enjoy traveling, it’s essential to make it a habit early on during your child’s life, both for your sake and your child’s. And no matter how long or short the flight, it’s best to be prepared. Here are a few things we’ve learned about flying with a newborn on a plane. Though they can’t guarantee you a hiccup-free trip, they’ll certainly help your flight be more enjoyable.

Keep baby’s sleep schedule in mind when choosing your flight.

Flying with a newborn on a plane
Our first flight with Aarav when he was just a little baby

If you have a choice, try selecting a flight when your child is sleeping. Though newborn babies generally spend most of their time sleeping, they also have a fixed sleep schedule. Shorter flights can be scheduled whenever, but if you’re taking a longer flight, opt for an overnight or one when your kid is usually asleep. This might not be possible all the time, but when you have a choice, go for it.

Make a list of travel essentials, and pack them in your handbag.

man holding bag on airplane

When flying with a newborn, you’ll want to have everything you need within reach. Make a checklist of travel essentials, and check off each item as you drop them in your handbag. Here are some of the things we always keep handy when flying with a newborn:

  • Enough diapers and wipes to last 48 hours
  • A couple of changes of clothes
  • Pacifiers (remember to take spare ones)
  • A baby carrier or sling, if you are used to them
  • A few Ziploc or garbage bags (for dirty diapers, soiled clothes, etc.)
  • Formula and bottles, if needed
  • Nursing pads, if you are breastfeeding

Note: We provide a comprehensive packing checklist in our book, How To Travel With Kids (Without Losing Your Mind).

Select an appropriate travel car seat, bassinet, or stroller.

Prechool children with backpacks and their baby boy in stroller at the airport, going on holiday, family concept

If you are flying short distances, you can accommodate your child on your lap. But when it comes to longer flights, it is best to arrange for a separate seat for your child, even if it costs a little extra. Since the seats are too big for newborn children and infants, it is best to carry your car seat or your portable travel bassinet. Our article on the most recommended travel bassinets can help you choose the best ones. You can also use a stroller for moving around during layovers. Just make sure the stroller is easily collapsible so that the flight attendants can keep it in the cargo hold for the duration of the flight and give it to you immediately on landing. Or better still, choose from one of our recommended strollers, many of which can be put in the carry-on bin without having to hand it over to the attendants. 

Prepare your child (and yourself) for take-off and landing.

baby drinking bottle on airplane

Children are not used to the changes in pressure and might feel scared during take-off and landing. Remember, sucking or chewing can help prevent ear pressure, so keep a pacifier handy. You might also want to start feeding your child just as the plane starts to take off. You can give your baby a bottle or breastfeed while the flight taxies to help alleviate ear pressure.

Be prepared to compromise on your rest.

Flight passengers sleeping plane cabin night travel

If it’s your child’s first flight and if it is a long one, be prepared to give up on your share of sleep or rest. If you are traveling as a couple, you and your partner can take turns attending to your child. However, if you are traveling alone, mentally prepare yourself for the worst and have a back-up plan ready to tackle the situation. It might not be a foolproof one, but nobody knows your baby better than you, so be confident in your ability to improvise and figure out something.

Focus on keeping your child comfortable.

Little Girl Sitting Next To Mother Screaming On Airplane

Instead of trying to make others comfortable, concentrate on how you can better handle your child’s temper and mood tantrums. If your child is fine, you won’t have to worry about inconveniencing anybody else. Your co-passengers are adults who can figure out a way to make themselves comfortable, but your newborn does not know how to do that. So instead of feeling embarrassed or bad about how people might be feeling if your baby starts bawling, try to figure out what is causing your newborn discomfort.

Read more about Focus in our travel philosophy, Be F.L.E.X.I.B.L.E.

Keep food handy.

young girl eating on airplane

If your baby is on formula, make sure you have clean bottles and formula readily available. Children, especially newborns, have a habit of short but frequent feeds. Since they can’t express their hunger verbally, they start throwing tantrums or crying. Make sure to have enough food to last you at least 48 hours if you are planning a longer flight. If your baby is breastfeeding, go ahead and do that. Breastfeeding is normal and natural, so don’t be embarrassed. Remember, your child and their needs come first. 

Take the necessary medical precautions.

happy cute little baby girl with her sister travel by plane, family in flight

Consult your pediatrician before flying with a newborn on a plane. Take all necessary medical precautions to handle the sudden change in ear pressure, potential stomach aches, blocked nose, cold and any other medical situation. You might not need any of it, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. After all, your baby’s comfort and safety is top priority.

We also have a medical checklist in our book that you can ensure to make sure that you have what you need while traveling with your newborn.

These tips cannot guarantee a perfect and smooth flight. However, life can be made a wee bit easier if you follow these tips. Remember, that each moment on a trip, no matter how tough, will give you memories to cherish and make you better prepared for the next one. Grab a copy of How to Travel With Kids Without Losing Your Mind directly from our site if you want more tips on how to travel with your newborn or infant, travel essentials, and more.

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