For new parents, traveling with a baby on a plane can be stressful. You may be worried about all of the items you have to remember to pack for the baby or how to protect your baby's ears with the high altitude. There's so much to plan for!
I remember my first baby's first flight. We were headed on a family trip to a resort in the Dominican Republic for a few days during Christmas. I packed a VERY LARGE suitcase filled with formula, diapers, and wipes, and her clothes. I panicked and researched every little detail about our airline and TSA regulations to make sure nothing would go wrong at the airport.
One of the suitcases on my first trip with my baby!
Thankfully everything went smoothly and since then, I've traveled with my babies many more times, including an 8-hour trip to Italy! After all of that travel, I learned a few tips that every mom flying with a baby for the first time should know before their trip.
For more helpful travel guidance, check out these great posts:
At what age is it safe for a baby to fly?
One question you might have on your mind: At what age is it safe for a baby to fly? The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) doesn't give an exact age but generally discourages flying with babies shortly after birth because a newborn's immune system is very weak. Therefore, they have an increased risk of catching an infectious disease. For premature babies and babies with heart or respiratory problems, the AAP recommends first seeking clearance with a pediatrician before traveling.
Airlines, such as JetBlue, allow babies on board as young as 2 or 3 days old. However, for an infant less than a week old, some airlines require you to get a medical form filled out by your baby's doctor.
Best Tips for Traveling with Baby on a Plane
Here are the top tips you need to know for a successful flight with your baby:
1. Make a detailed packing list
Flying with a baby requires packing much more than you're used to for yourself. Because there are so many items you'll have to remember to bring with you for the flight, do yourself a favor and take the time to write it all down in a checklist. Have someone else review it too, like your spouse, to ensure you haven't missed anything. Check off each item only once you've packed it in your bag.
Some of the items you'll want to bring:
Diaper bag or other carry-on bag with necessary items such as a changing pad, diapers, diaper cream, and baby wipes.
Baby bottles, formula or breast milk, and snacks or baby food pouches.
A change of clothes for your baby (and yourself in case your baby gets you dirty too!)
Car seat and compact travel stroller. Most airlines don't charge a fee to check a car seat or stroller and it will not count towards your checked baggage allowance.
Toys, books, or other entertainment.
Any prescribed medications and Tylenol or Motrin.
A baby carrier.
When traveling with formula and breast milk, make sure you are aware of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening rules. While formula and breast milk are allowed through screening in reasonable quantities, they will have to be screened separately.
If you're traveling with frozen breast milk, this helpful guide can walk you through everything you need to know to ensure your breast milk stays frozen until you reach your destination.
2. Get the green light from your baby's doctor
It's a good idea to check in with your baby's pediatrician to let them know of your travel plans. Especially for international travel, the doctor may want to speed up some necessary vaccinations for your baby prior to the trip. Your doctor may also be aware of certain outbreaks in countries that you're flying to and help you take the proper precautions to keep your baby from getting sick.
3. For international flights, apply for a passport WAY in advance
TSA rules don't require identification for your baby (or any child under 18) for domestic flights within the United States. It is a good idea to bring the baby's birth certificate though, just in case you're asked to show proof of age.
If you're flying internationally, your baby will need a passport. Make sure you give yourself enough time in advance of your trip to apply for a passport. Generally, you'll need:
a completed application,
baby's original birth certificate and a photocopy,
both parents' original birth certificate,
both parents' original passport or driver's license and photocopies,
and a passport photo of your child.
Then, both parents must go in person to a passport acceptance facility to submit a completed application and pay required fees. If both parents can't appear, then you'll need to provide additional documentation.
In my experience, processing times vary, and it can take a few weeks to a few months for your passport to arrive. I've had to pay expedited fees to get my baby's passport on time, so I definitely advise you to apply for a passport as early as you can!
4. Book your baby their own seat
Although it's true that airlines allow you to sit your baby on your lap for little to no cost (it's why a baby under 2 is a "lap infant"), the risk is not worth saving money on an extra seat. Think of the worst turbulence you've ever experienced on a plane. Now imagine adding a baby on your lap during that flight. Sadly, there have even been reports of children deaths and injuries that could have been prevented had they been restrained.<