When our son Aarav was born, our friends who were well-acquainted with our love of travel told us to slow down until he grew up. But we
So when we decided to travel with a four-month-old, we knew not to expect smooth sailing. His first flight was rocky. But we learned. And with each trip we take, we learn even more. Though Aarav has now been on over 70 flights, we’re still learning. However, one thing we know for sure is that there’s no substitute for proper preparation. In the spirit of helping you prepare for flying with an infant, here are a few of our favorite tips for flying with a baby.
Pick flight times that coincide with your infant’s sleep schedule.
Whether booking a short or long flight, it’s usually best to pick a flight time when your infant is asleep. Try to avoid flying with an infant in the evening, as that’s when they are most active. For longer flights, choose an overnight trip, if possible.
Decide whether you need a seat for your child.
Children up to 24 months are allowed to fly free as lap children. If you are going for a shorter flight, you might not need a separate seat for your child. But for longer flights, we almost always opt to buy Aarav a separate seat, for his comfort and ours. If purchasing a ticket for your little one, check our recommendations for appropriate flying harnesses or travel bassinets.
Choose your seat carefully.
Window seats are better options if you are traveling with an infant. They give you more privacy for breastfeeding, diaper changing, and the like. With an older child, though, an aisle seat might help. Toddlers seldom sit still, and an aisle seat will allow them to easily get in and out of their seat when the fasten seatbelt sign isn’t illuminated. But when flying with an infant, the absolute best choice is a bulkhead seat. Bulkhead seating gives your extra leg space, an area to spread a blanket for your little one to play on, and even stroller storage.
Carry things to keep your child engaged.
Despite your child’s wishes, you can’t bring all their toys on the plane. But it is important to bring some familiar toys to keep them occupied. Toys, activity items, picture books, mobile phones, and tablets can help your kid from throwing a tantrum at 30,000 feet, so keep them easily accessible. Though many parents are against children using technology, we live in a technologically-advanced world, and if used correctly, technology can make your travels easier.
If you want even more ideas, we have many more tips to entertain your child on a plane ride in our book, How To Travel With Kids (Without Losing Your Mind).
Tire out your child before boarding the plane.
Children are bundles of energy, and just because you’re worn out doesn’t mean they are. Before boarding the plane, try taking them to a playground, a trampoline park, or some other place where they burn off a lot of steam. That way, once they board, they are more likely to fall asleep, or at the very least, chill out.
Have a change of clothes handy for you and your child.
Flying with an infant is unpredictable. They might sleep through the whole flight, or they might be restless and hyperactive. Restlessness increases the likelihood of spilling food and drinks, both theirs as well as yours. Maybe they’ll throw up or spit-up. And then there’s the beloved blowout. In short, kids are messy, and as their caretaker, you’ll probably end up dirty, too. Keep an extra set of clothes handy for those less-than-pleasant situations.
Pack food and snacks that your child likes…and enough of them.
You can’t be sure what your baby might want to eat on a flight. Children sometimes behave erratically, and this includes breaking their habits. If your child is breastfeeding, then you don’t need to worry as much, but if they have already switched to some solids, keep a few options handy.
Take care of your child’s ear before boarding.
For children who are not used to flying, ear-popping caused by a change in pressure can be an uncomfortable and painful experience. Consult your pediatrician before the flight, and see if they have any recommendations. It also helps if your child is chewing, sucking, or drinking something during take-off and landing. If your child’s ear is already blocked because of a cold or infection, administer medicines as per schedule and pain relievers half an hour before take-off or landing.
When we first started traveling with an infant, it was challenging. But with each trip, we learned more and became better travelers. Aarav also got used to plane rides. These tips for flying with a baby are what has worked for us, but each child is unique, and what worked for us may not work for you. Have you traveled with an infant? Where did you go, and how was your experience? We’d love to hear from you!
To learn about our travel philosophy, get more tips for flying with a baby, and other useful travel advice, be sure to check out our book How to Travel with Kids Without Losing Your Mind. It’s available on Amazon and Apple Books, but you can grab a copy from our website at a discounted price.