Even if you aren’t a big traveler, there may come a time when you are going to find yourself needing to fly with a baby! Here is the first of three posts filled with tips on how to prepare for flying with a baby!
We live in such a globalized world that the chances of you needing to fly with your baby are pretty high! We have family in Texas, Arizona, California, and Alabama and that’s not even counting extended family! So when we had Ollie, we knew that flying with a baby was inevitable. Before our first flight with him at 4 months old, we did so much research that I feel like we read every possible article on flying with a baby. Although that helped us prepare for our first flight, there is nothing like experience, right?
The 8+ flights that we took with a baby have given us so much more knowledge and patience for flying with a baby that I am so excited to share it all with you to help ease some nerves. There is so much to know and say about this topic that I am actually going to break this up into 3 posts that I will be releasing over the next week!
Since one of the biggest things we advocate is preparation, that’s where we will start! This first post is all about how to prepare for flying with a baby.
OTHER POSTS IN THIS SERIES:
Preparing for Flying with a Baby
You’ve chosen your destination, now it’s time to set it in stone. That’s right, buying your flight. Here are all of the pre-trip stuff you should know about preparing for your flight with your baby – from when to fly to what to pack. Let’s do this!
Best Time to Fly with a Baby
Let’s start with booking your ticket! When is the best time to fly with a baby? Well, that depends! Each baby is different so some may do really well just sleeping on the plane if you go during nap time. Others might do better if you fly during their awake time. I recommend flying during a time that suits your baby’s schedule. You know your baby best so trust your instincts.
The biggest tip I can give is to avoid your baby’s witching hour. That’s the time when they are the fussiest. The most inconsolable. The time when you just can’t wait for bed or nap time… You know the time.
I will go over some tips on how to help your baby nap on the plane, so if that’s the route you go, stay tuned for the third post in the series!
Do Babies Need Tickets?
Do babies need a plane ticket? No! That is if they are flying on your lap (lap child). On domestic flights, babies and toddlers under 2 can fly for free if they are sitting on your lap. For international flights, you may be charged a discounted fare (mainly just taxes). If you want to buy them a seat so you can bring an approved car seat though, that will cost you. When your baby is small and the flight isn’t too long, taking them as a lap child is not too bad! Actually, it’s amazing because buying an extra seat can get spendy.
Adding your baby as a lap child is different for each airline. For some, you can do that while you’re booking your flight. For others, you will have to do it afterward. Each airline has different rules on how to do this though so it’s best to check with them. The one thing that they all have in common though is that they will want to see a copy of your baby’s birth certificate. Since babies don’t have IDs, a birth certificate acts as their ID to verify their age. Here are some of the major airlines’ rules and a website to check for the most up-to-date information.
- Alaskan Airlines – You can add your baby as a lap child by calling Alaska Airlines reservations at 1-800-252-7522 with your confirmation code.
- Allegiant – You can add your baby as a lap child when booking your flight.
- American Airlines – You can add your baby as a lap child while you are booking your flight or afterward by pulling up your reservation on the American Airlines website.
- Delta – You can add your baby as a lap child to your reservation on the Delta website
- JetBlue – You can add your baby as a lap child when booking your flight on the JetBlue website.
- Southwest – You can add your baby as a lap child to your reservation using the Self-Service kiosks at the airport or by going to the ticket counter line.
- United Airlines – You can add your baby as a lap child when booking your flight.
What seat is the best to sit with a baby? Well, that totally depends on you! The aisle seat is nice because you can get up and bounce the baby if they get fussy. It also makes it easier to get up to go to the bathroom for diaper changes or grab anything from the overhead bin if you need to. The window seat on the other hand is nice because it allows you to cocoon yourself and your baby next to the window to eliminate stimulation, especially if your baby is trying to sleep.
Since you can’t always add that you have a lap child with you when you are booking your ticket, you have full reign of the seats available to you. However, most airlines will not let you sit on the emergency exit row and the rows in front and behind it, so try to steer clear of those to avoid any headache later on. Other than that, all other seats should be fair game! Whether you choose the aisle or the window, they each have their benefits! There is definitely no right answer! It’s just a matter of what will work best for you.
If you can swing it, I recommend buying a seat for your baby and bringing the car seat with you. If they do well in a car seat in the car, they will do just as well in an airplane. We have taken the car seat with us on most of our flights and it has been amazing, especially for flights during his nap. You can even have the car seat face backward which is amazing!
Bassinets on airplanes seem to be all the rage right now so let’s talk about those! If you don’t know what they are, some airlines will provide complimentary bassinets for babies, typically under 20-22 lb, so they can sleep during the flight. Typically bassinets are only available on longer, international flights. There are only a limited number of bassinets available per flight (if any). Some of them are first come first serve and others are going to require a reservation. It totally depends on the airline. Below are the bassinet policies were some of the major airlines that provide them.
- Alaskan Airlines – No bassinets offered.
- Allegiant – No bassinets offered.
- American Airlines – Bassinets are available on a first-come-first-serve basis and can be requested at the gate.
- Delta – You can contact Reservations prior to your flight to see if a bassinet is available and whether you can reserve it.
- JetBlue – No bassinets offered.
- Southwest – No bassinets offered.
- United Airlines – You can contact Customer Service to reserve a bassinet and update your seating selections.
In order to have the luxury of a bassinet, some airlines will require that you upgrade your seat since there are only a few places that a bassinet can be put. I know that for Delta, you have to upgrade your seat to that very front row right behind first/ business class.
Something else to keep in mind with a bassinet is that the baby actually can’t be in there for the entire flight. They won’t bring out the bassinet until the airplane is at a cruising altitude. That means that you can’t have the baby in the bassinet for takeoff, landing, or any sort of turbulence. And when I say turbulence, I mean any sort of turbulence. I’ve had friends whose flight attendants told them in advance that they were expecting turbulence so they couldn’t bring out their bassinet for a half hour to an hour after they were up in the air. The airlines take your baby’s safety super seriously.
However, if a bassinet is available and you are going on a longer flight I highly recommend making sure that you know ahead of time whether you can get one or not. And make a reservation if available! We didn’t take any super long flights with our baby so we never got to try them out, but we’re excited when we have her next baby.
How to Pack with a Baby
You’ve bought your ticket and you picked your seats. Now it’s time to pack! Although what you pack will depend on where you were going, one of the biggest recommendations I can make when flying with a baby is to consolidate. Consolidating all of your items into as few bags as possible will make your travel experience just that much easier. When flying with babies we already have given extra things that you will most likely need to bring. A car seat is usually a must unless you have access to one at your destination. Same with a pack ‘n play. A stroller is of course helpful so you aren’t having to carry your baby everywhere. Only 3 main things, but those are some of the biggest things!
Here are some tips on how to consolidate your luggage:
Put as Much as you Can in your Checked Bags (Within the Weight Limit Of Course)
If you don’t have to carry it around with you through the airport, then don’t do it. This will make maneuvering the airport and boarding the airplane so much easier. Trust me!
If you don’t need all of the space in your suitcase, share a suitcase! If you can make it so you Are bringing one list suitcase, it will be so worth it.
Divide the Weight in your Bags
If you aren’t checking your bags, then try to divide the weight evenly between your carry-on bags if you have more than one. Putting heavier items in smaller bags and all your later items in bigger bags will help in carrying your luggage through the airport. This will especially help when you are having to store your luggage in the overhead bins. No one wants a big heavy suitcase to try to put in the overhead bin. Especially when you’re trying to juggle a baby and all of the stuff that they have.
What to Pack for the Plane
Packing for a flight with a baby is actually not too complicated! Thank goodness, right? It’s just like packing for a longer outing. Here is a list of items that we packed for our flights with our baby:
- Diapers – depends on the length of your flight, but we like to have at least 5
- Changing Pad
- Bum Cream
- Disinfecting Wipes
- Hand Sanitizer
- Extra outfit (or 2)
- 2-3 Baby Toys/Books
- Sleep Sack
- DockATot for naps – super helpful to provide a comfortable space for them to nap
- Pumping items or Formula
- Burp Cloths
- Copy of Birth Certificate – this is your baby’s form of ID, so don’t forget it!
That’s a wrap for how to prepare for flying with a baby! The next post in this series will be the airport experience, so stay tuned!
OTHER POSTS IN THIS SERIES: