Top Tips for Flying with an Infant
With all the fuss on social media showing airline passengers complaining about crying babies or screaming infants, parents of new babies are often anxious about flying with their new addition. But flying doesn’t have to be scary of uncomfortable at all. Like with all travel – things run smoother if you plan properly.
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Top Tips for Flying with an Infant – Choose the Best Flight Time
There are several things to consider when choosing the best time for a flight with baby:
Choice 1 – Fly during nap time. Some people swear that flying during nap time is the best choice. In theory baby naps o the plane and makes the entire trip uneventful.
Choice 2 – Fly with it is not nap time. Others swear that flying when it is not nap time means baby is well rested from having their regular nap elsewhere and thus is a very happy flier.
Choice 3 – Choose the flight when parents are at their best. If you are a morning person then choose the o’dark thirty flight. Personally, the thought of getting out of bed really early in the morning makes me cranky so I’m more of a mid day flier. In theory this means parents are well rested and can handle whatever comes their way during travel with baby.
I’ve tried all of these choices and in the end….just choose one and move on. It is just a small part of the entire journey anyway.
The Educational Tourist is proud to be #6 in the Top 20 Traveling with an Infant list! Chosen out of thousands of blogs!
Top Tips for Flying with an Infant – Should You Buy Baby a Seat?
I think you should buy an extra seat for baby if you can swing it at all. We always did this when traveling with ours even when they were teeny tiny. Why spend the extra money? In case of ‘what if’….
What if baby falls asleep? You can put them down to sleep snuggled safely in their car seat while you catch a few winks yourself or eat dinner….with both hands!
The main and most important reason to buy baby a seat is ….what if there is severe turbulence? We often hear the captain ask us to keep our seat belts fastened and encounter a few bumpy moments. Thankfully severe turbulence is rare but when you encounter it the effects can be deadly. Buckled in a car seat is the safest place for baby to be on a plane in case of severe turbulence.
If you DO decide to carry baby on your lap during the flight, consider a safety vest like the Baby B’air. I’ve tried this product and loved it. When baby was nursing or otherwise out of the car seat I felt safer with baby still attached to me. It is uncomfortable to think about what could happen to baby during severe turbulence but as parents we have to keep baby safe. Just like in a car – you can’t hold on to baby like you think you can.
If you need more convincing go here: What can happen to an unsecured baby during severe turbulence.
Keep your baby safe!
Top Tips for Flying with an Infant – What to Pack
In short, pack more than you think you need of diapers, blankets, clothes and burp cloths – AND an extra set of clothes for yourself.
I was so proud to have packed an extra set of clothes and diapers the first time I flew with my baby. I knew about the diaper blow out possibilities, spit up, and delays from being stranded on the tarmac. Baby did GREAT!!! But, then…and isn’t there always a ‘but then’ in a baby story…. I spilled an entire cup of apple juice all over me. So…even though baby was not at fault, I was wet and smelled like apples for hours. It could have been worse, of course, but it sure would have been nice to have an extra shirt for myself!!
Pack Puppy Pee Pads! (Extra credit if you can say that three times fast!) They are cheaper, bigger, and more absorbent than pads designed for babies. You might need them to place on changing tables or wherever you creatively put baby in the absence of a changing table.
Ziploc Baggies – All parents should own stock in these!! Use gallon size baggies – add a puppy pee pad, and wet wipes in a smaller ziploc. Once baby is all clean and fresh you can put the used diaper and the used wipes back in the gallon ziploc before disposal to keep down the fumes. Your neighbors will thank you!!! Keep an extra gallon size or two for clothes that have been pooped on, peed on, spit up on, etc, etc, until you can get to a washing machine!
Top Tips for Flying with an Infant – Should you apologize in advance?
I’ve seen cute photos of candy bags that were handed out to passengers near an infant with a note inside, “Hi! I’m Susie Q. Baby and I’m 2 months old. It is my first flight. My parents hope I’ll be on my best behavior and not disturb anyone, but just in case I’m feeling fussy, here are some lovely treats and earplugs.”
Now I admit that the idea is clever and I have no doubt there are some really cute free printables on pinterest for making these adorable candy bags. BUT – I think they are 100% unnecessary. Parents of new babies have WAY too much to do and WAY too little time for them to waste time putting together cute little gift bags for adults. They literally have their hands full with a new human.
Firstly, I think it is safe to assume that parents are going to do everything humanly possible to keep baby happy. After all, they don’t want to listen to peanut screaming bloody murder for an hour either.
Secondly, I was once an infant who no doubt had my noisy moments (actually I probably had more than a few as rumor has it I had colic) and SO WERE YOU. We all I’ve in the world together and sometimes babies cry. As adults we should just be tolerant of baby noise, feel empathy for exhausted parents of noisy baby and get on with our lives.
So should you pass out little “I’m sorry bags” – in my opinion, no, but on the other hand….I never turn down chocolate either.
Top Tips for Flying with an Infant – What about strollers?
Strollers are a god send and the next best thing to an extra set of hands for any parent. If baby isn’t riding in one (One of mine HATED the stroller yet I never went anywhere without it because where would I put all the stuff???) you can still use it to transport all the stuff. So – much – stuff. Drive it right up to the open door of the airplane for gate check. This means it will be the last thing put on the airplane and the first thing off.
Top Tips for Flying with an Infant – TSA PreCheck and GOES
If you use these programs and if you don’t – YOU SHOULD because they are awesome and so worth the hassle and money it takes to get them, you’ll need to know the rules.
TSA Pre-Check – Children 12 and under DON’T need to get their own number. If they are with you, just bring them along through the speedier line. Keep your shoes and jacket on which will free up those hands for baby stuff.
Global Entry – Everyone – NO MATTER THEIR AGE, needs their OWN Global Entry number – even baby.
Top Tips for Flying with an Infant -Baby and Ear Pain
Changes in air pressure as you ascend and descend in an airplane affect infants even more than adults AND they don’t understand what is happening to them. Nurse or give baby a bottle or pacifier to help equalize pressure in tiny ears.
Top Tips for Flying with an Infant – Changing Diapers
This can be a touchy subject. As parents we get used to things like messy and wet diapers because we see sooo many of them daily that we get a little numb to it all. Some people are so grossed out (and rightly so) about how germy an airplane bathroom is so they choose the lesser of evils and change baby right at the seat. I’ve even heard – though have never seen – people change baby on the tray table. ***Pack Clorox wipes and use them on the tray table.***
Read here about the germiest places on a airplane – now you know the tray table is one of them.
Poop happens so what is your best option for changing diapers on a plane?
Ask about changing tables. Sometimes only one lavatory on the entire plane has a changing table. Yes, even in this day and age…not every single bathroom has a changing table. Know where they are so you can head to the right spot when the time comes. Check out your specific airplane on seat guru for all sorts of cool information.
Start the journey with a dry diaper. Check that diaper right before boarding and change if necessary. That will get you off to a fresh start and hopefully give you a little longer before a change is necessary. All parents know this isn’t a sure thing though. How many times has a baby immediately peed in a clean diaper????
Speaking of…sometimes baby manages to peed all over clothing and blankets and yet the diaper is completely 100% dry. My newborn did this a few times and to this day I have no idea how????
Use the closed toilet seat as a changing table. IF a changing table isn’t available and heaven only knows why there isn’t one in every single bathroom on the planet, you’ll need to go to Plan B. First, spread out a large disposable changing pad or puppy pee pad on the top of the closed toilet seat. When you are done toss the whole thing in the garbage.
Perfect the standing diaper change. If baby can stand consider the standing diaper change. We went through several months when this was the ONLY way I could manage to get our littles diapered. Practice this at home!!
Last resorts – If for some reason – and remember, the wild card of travel always means unusual circumstances are possible, then you’ll need to resort to…..desperate measures like:
Your lap. If baby is small enough and you are fast enough (and/or desperate!) then change baby on your lap.
The floor. Whether the floor near your seat (gross) the floor in the galley (grosser and often not allowed) or the bathroom floor (grosser still) sometimes the floor is the last resort.
Why? Because poop happens! Poop at 30,000 feet in a closed cabin where you share the air with 100+ people who would all like to pretend baby poop did NOT just happen is a desperate time indeed.
Maybe the line for the bathroom is long. Maybe someone inside the bathroom is lolly gagging and taking artistic photos like Nina Katchadourian or maybe the bathroom is closed for the entire flight. (yes, it happens) or just whatever!!
If you have to do it right then and there…Like Nike says…Just Do It! We all know it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission (Thank you, Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper for this amazing quote.) So, lay down something like a clean pee pad, work quickly and move on. Remember that most likely you’ll never see any of these people again anyway, right? 😉
Top Tips for Flying with an Infant – What if Baby Cries?
I think this is everyone’s top fear when they think infant and airplane in the same sentence. Parents worry about it and so do nearby passengers. The truth is….sometimes babies cry. Sometimes there is a good reason and sometimes there just isn’t.
I will never forget walking around with an inconsolable infant. Thankfully I was only walking around my own living room at the time, but try as I might I could not find a reason for that crying. I even walked into a pitch black closet thinking she was over stimulated and the darkness would help. Nope. Nothing helped…until suddenly she stopped just as suddenly she started. To this day I have no idea what set off that screaming jag.
Luckily though sometimes there IS a reason that you can address:
Reason #1 Noise –
Airplanes can be very noisy places especially during take off when the sound level can be as high as 100 decibels. (To get a feel for how loud this is…a motorcycle, jackhammer and garbage truck are all in the 100 decibel sound range.) Window seats can be even louder. The quietest spots are the middle or aisle seats FORWARD of the engines. Loud noises can seem louder to baby because an infant’s skull is thinner than an adult’s.
Options for noise reduction for the infants –
earBanz – These tiny little earphones are made just for the littles aged 0 – 2 years. You might have seen celebrity babies wearing them to concerts and Prince George wore them when he visited his Daddy’s helicopter. Noise Reduction Rating 31 dB
HearTek Earmuffs – These are handy for babies about 8 months and up. They even have a little travel bag! Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is 27dB which is nice protection but babies can still hear your voice.
BEBE Noise REduction EAr Muff Hearing Protection – These ear protective headphones are great for babies 3 month and up. Noise Reduction Rating 25 dB
Reason #2 – The Usual Suspects
Hunger, tummy ache, boredom, wet/dirty diaper…run through the usual suspects when baby cries to see if you can find the cause. On tiny babies be sure to look for a hair wound around a finger or toe. Baby is too little to explain!
I had this happen to my baby. Her toe had a hair wound around it so tightly..it had to hurt! Thankfully, someone had passed long this information to me as I don’t think I would have thought to check for that otherwise! I’m happy to pass along this unusual piece of advice.
Reason #3 – Unexplained Crying
It happens. Sometimes babies just cry. Are they venting? Are they mad? Who knows? This type of crying instills near panic anxiety in parents who are stuck on a plane with a screaming baby.
It happened to me. Once, while flying alone with my infant son and 2 year old toddler daughter, my infant began to scream. I fed, diapered, patted, jiggled but still the screaming continued. I could feel the eyes of fellow passengers burning a hole in my head and my anxiety was through the roof. I finally announced loudly to no one in particular, “I’m doing the best I can! No one wants him to stop crying more than I do.” Thankfully and finally he stopped crying. At the time it felt like the longest few minutes of my entire life.
In the end you can guarantee one of the following will happen:
1 – Baby will be an angel.
2 – Baby will act like a demon possessed.
3 – Baby will be a little bit of both.
AND none of that will matter in the end. Just get through the flight one way or another.
KUDOS to you for showing your child the world. Travel is educational! Your child will have a better educational foundation in EVERY way by exploring the world and seeing new cultures and new places and new things. The memories you are making are priceless.
If you also have preschoolers you’ll need to keep them busy and occupied while you travel! Moms need more hands! Read Traveling Activities for Preschoolers! Elementary school aged kiddos will enjoy learning all about your destination so check out the list of travel guides written just for kids.
Happy tear free travels,
Natalie, The Educational Tourist