Flying with a Baby or Toddler in 2020 - 20 Tips that will make navigating air travel with little ones in tow a little easier.

mom packing things in bag with baby on the bed travel

Traveling with small children can be taxing on your sanity and a drain on your energy. Little kids require a big list of extras. Extra cargo in the form of diaper bags, car seats, and strollers. Extra supplies like diapers, double the changes of clothes, breast pumps, and formula or breast milk.  

  1. Book a Direct Flight to Limit Transitions
  2. Take a Restroom Break Just Before Boarding
  3. Take Advantage of Pre-Boarding
  4. Buy Your Child a Separate Seat
  5. Gate Check Baby Gear
  6. Rent Baby Equipment on the Go
  7. Double Up on Baby Necessities
  8. Dress in Comfortable Layers
  9. Pack an Extra Change of Clothes in Carry Ons
  10. Bring Extra Protection for Little Ears
  11. Bring Plenty of Distractions on Hand
  12. Don't Forget Important Medications
  13. Ignore the Naysayers
  14. Pick the Best Seat for Traveling with Babies
  15. Prep for Security with your Kiddos
  16. Wear your Baby When Boarding the Plane
  17. Research Local Nanny Services Before you Go
  18. Download Sounds and Entertainment Apps Ahead of Time
  19. Bring a Roll-up Diaper Pad
  20. Plan for Naps, Babies get Jet-lagged Too

No. 1 - Book a Direct Flight to Limit Transitions (and risk of lost cargo). 

Babies and toddlers may not handle transitions very well. Traveling is already a big experience that disrupts normal routines. Missing out on naptime or a favorite cartoon could be the final straw that causes a little one to have a very public meltdown.

direct flight screenshot travel

Disrupting their normal routine may be unavoidable. But parents can ease the disruption by doing what they can to minimize extra disruptive changes like getting on and off multiple flights. If a direct flight is not an option, look for a connecting flight with a longer layover to give your family plenty of time in between flights.

No. 2 - Take a Restroom Break Just Before Boarding 

airport restroom signage travel

Airplane restrooms can be very intimidating to freshly potty-trained toddlers. They are also a pretty terrible place to change a diaper. Pre-boarding priority number one should be a trip to the family restroom.

No. 3 - Take Advantage of Pre-boarding

Most airlines allow family boarding before the regular passengers begin to board the aircraft. Take advantage of this opportunity to get your little ones boarded and settled on to the plane before it fills up with unfamiliar faces.

mother and toddler in airport travel

Family boarding is especially necessary if your child will be flying in a car seat. Can you imagine trying to strap your car seat in with a crowded plane full of people waiting on you to finish?

No. 4 - Buy Your Child a Separate Seat

Flying for free as a lap baby is tempting, especially for the frugal traveler. But, remember that airplane seats offer little room for individuals. There is virtually no room for a fidgety, not-quite-two-year-old to sit comfortably on a lap.

toddler in airplane aisle

Purchasing the extra seat will provide the flexibility to use the additional space if you need to. It will also eliminate the awkward situation of having your toddler accidentally hit, kick, or bump your unsuspecting seat neighbor.

No. 5 - Gate Check Baby Gear

Hauling around the extra gear that your baby will need when you travel is one of the biggest drawbacks to bringing the little ones along. Car seats, portable cribs, diaper bags, and strollers are just the minimum of what you might need when you are away from home.

stroller with claim stub

Luckily, most airlines recognize that this is a big problem for traveling families. Depending on the airline, you should be able to gate check your necessities at no cost. This makes the gear available to you up to the point that you reach the gate, and immediately available to you once you arrive at your destination.

No. 6 - Rent Baby Equipment on the Go

Did you know that Uber Family offers rides with car seats in participating cities? Or that major car rental companies offer car seats at an additional fee? Cribs are available at most hotels and strollers may be available at most tourist destinations.

mom in uber car with kid on car seat

Before you tackle the logistics of hauling all of your little one's gear around, look into all of the options for your trip. It may not be necessary to bring all of it from home.

No. 7 - Double up on Baby Necessities

One of the worst situations is to be stuck somewhere and suddenly discover that you are out of diapers. This one might creep up on you because the chances are that plenty of diapers have been packed. But once the luggage is checked, you will no longer have access to some of those supplies.

baby essentials in the bag travel

What is worse is when the airline loses your bag that has the extra supplies in it. Save yourself from the scenario by packing double the supplies that you expect to use and split them between multiple locations. Put some in your carry on and some in the diaper bag.

No. 8 - Dress in Comfortable Layers

mom with baby wearing comfortable clothes in the airport

Keep both yourself and your baby comfortable in the airport, on the flight, and anywhere else that you may go by dressing in layers. It can be surprising how warm it gets when you are hauling a baby and all the baby cargo through an enormous airport.

No. 9 - Pack an Extra Change of Clothes in Carry Ons

extra clothes of mom and baby in pouches travel

Don’t get stuck traveling with spit-up stains or worse on clothing. Traveling alone can cause stress that is likely to upset little tummies. Be prepared with a change of clothes, wet wipes, and an extra burp rag.

No. 10 - Bring Ear Protection for Little Ears

A fussy baby can easily wreck the flight for yourself and everyone around you. As air pressure changes during take-off and landing, the eardrum stretches. This can sometimes cause pain or discomfort for little ones.

baby wearing ear muffs for protection travel

After consulting your pediatrician, you may want to give Acetaminophen or a decongestant before the flight to help ease some of the discomforts. In addition to medications, giving your little one a drink can help them manually open and close their jaw. This action will release the pressure build-up in the inner ear.

No. 11 - Bring Plenty of Distractions on Hand

kid sitting while playing with toys

Hours of boredom in airport terminals or on flights are hard for little ones to cope with. Bring favorite toys, tablets, or travel games to keep them occupied during downtimes.

No. 12 - Don’t Forget Important Medications

first aid kit travel

If your child takes any regular prescription or over-the-counter medications, do not forget to pack them. In some cases, missing a dose of medication can have serious health consequences. In other cases, it may just cause a mild disruption.

No. 13 - Ignore the Naysayers

Not everyone is kid-friendly. Unfortunately, there will probably be some less-than-patient travelers who have plenty of negative opinions to share. This is a somewhat ugly fact of life. Manage your stress by managing your expectations. Do not expect everyone is happy you brought a toddler on the airplane. Ignore them anyways.

father and son shushing travel

As long as you are abiding by all of the airline's rules, you and your child have all of the same rights to be on the flight as the negative Nancy sitting three rows behind you.

No. 14 - Pick the Best Seat for Traveling with Babies

babywearing on the plane

Depending on your flight situation, it may be better to be seated in the aisle seat near the front of the plane. Or, it may be better to get an in-seat bassinet for longer flights. Whichever you choose, make sure it is comfortable for you and your little one.

No. 15 - Prep for Security with your Kiddos

mom and kid in security checking airport travel

Security clearance requirements may vary by airport. In some cases, babies of a certain age may even be exempt from certain requirements. Or, you may be required to use a special, family-friendly station. Know what to expect before you arrive by checking requirements at the airport and for the airline, you plan to travel with.

No. 16 - Wear your Baby When Boarding the Plane

stewardess giving bottle to my mom with her babies

When you travel with babies, you travel with extra gear and supplies. Unfortunately, you will be carrying much of this stuff on to the airplane along with your baby. Lighten your load and free up your hands by wearing your baby to board the plane.

No. 17 - Research Local Nanny Services Before you Go

woman interviewing nanny travel

Even if you think that there is no way that you would use such a service, at least give yourself the option. Familiarize yourself with local nanny services that are available in the area that you are traveling to. Does the hotel that you are staying at offer childcare?

No. 18 - Download Sounds and Entertainment Apps Ahead of Time

A fussy or inconsolable moment is likely unavoidable. Be quick to the rescue with gentle, soothing sounds that will help calm your little one down quickly. The sound of rain or thunderstorms or the sound of gentle lullabies can soothe.

kid enjoying his tablet while on the car seat

Dave and Ava, Magic Fingers, and Musical Hands are a few great games available to entertain little hands. Even if your family policy is strictly no screen time, a trip may be a good time to make an exception.

No. 19 - Bring a Roll-up Diaper Pad

printed diaper roll up pad

Blowouts happen, usually at the most inconvenient time and almost always in public. As an experienced parent, you are probably adept at changing a diaper anywhere. Make it a little easier on yourself and pack an ultra-portable diaper changing roll-up.

No. 20 - Plan for Naps, Babies get Jet-lagged Too!

mommy and kids sleeping

Adults are pretty adaptable, but small children are not. Make your travel a little more pleasant by planning a little less and allowing plenty of time for rest. This applies both to activities on your vacation and travel schedules. If you must book a flight with a layover, use the opportunity to get naps in by arranging for a little longer layover.

Traveling with small children is a little more challenging, but it is not impossible. Being informed of all of your options will make it a little easier. Every airline has different policies and every city has different services. By knowing what to expect, you can make good decisions and reduce your stress during travel.

 

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7 comments

Tricia Maldonado

Awesome advise. I agree with all of it. I have traveled with littles and some of this would have been so helpful beforehand.

Richard Hicks

Great tips for flying…thanks

Angelina

This was so useful I can’t wait to make many memories and take my son to a lot of beautiful places ❤️

Nancy Hernandez

I just became a grandma again 2 weeks ago and this looks like an amazing product that will make life easier with a new baby!!!

Penny Harris

Love to try

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