Flying with a Baby
One of the best tips for flying with a baby has to be ALWAYS CARRY-ON. Pack your bags carefully because they have to contain everything you need to get through your trip. I’m not saying don’t check bags – personally, I’d rather overpack than be underprepared when it comes to traveling with a baby. A strategically packed carry-on bag will make your flight as smooth as possible and you’ll need all the resources you can at 40,000 feet. What’s inside your carry-on bags will vary from family to family but some items will be universally helpful.
When flying with a baby or toddler, diaper bags don’t count as a carry-on item or as your personal item. This means if you needed the space, you could bring a laptop bag (personal item), a carry-on suitcase AND a diaper bag. I only ever bring a diaper bag and a wheeled carry-on because I travel with 2 babies and I’m not an octopus. Still, you might want to take advantage of that policy. Let’s assume you are traveling with 2 bags for now. The Carry-on Bag is where you want to pack all your larger and backup items. The Diaper Bag is for your must-have and frequently accessed items. Once you reach cruising altitude you can remove items from your carry-on bag and place them by your feet. Here are 15 items you’ll be glad you have on-board.
Carry on packing list: Flying with a baby
1.) The backup clothes bag
Bring a full change of clothes for each person. That includes you. No one wants to be stuck on a 10-hour flight covered in …. well, anything. Place the change of clothes into a gallon sized freezer ziplock or a travel sized wet bag. When you need to change clothes, the soiled ones go in the bag after the clean clothes come out.
If your baby is on solids you can not have too many snacks. Bring your child’s favorite healthy snacks along with a few treats in case things go south. Be sure to check the ingredients to ensure you aren’t introducing any new foods on the plane.
Did you know you can bring sandwiches and fresh/dried fruit right through TSA? You may be required to remove any food items your flying with and place them in a clear, plastic bag but there is no limit to how much you can take. Just make sure to eat all your produce on the plane if your flying internationally (or to Hawaii) to avoid issues upon arrival. Liquid baby food pouches and water can also be brought through if you are flying with small kids – but you’ll have to go through additional security screening, so think if that is worth it to you.
3.) Diapers & Wipes
I know rocket science, right? I like to use overnight diapers on planes because I hope my baby sleeps for most of the flight. There can be a lot of turbulence making changes unsafe or long lines making it difficult so you want something that can hold up.
Wide, thin scarfs are the swiss army knives of traveling parents. It’s a makeshift blanket or car seat cover for baby. Taking tourist site photos? Throw a scarf on and you’re wearing a whole new outfit. Breastfeeding? You’ve got a cover. Spit-up on your backup outfit? Cover that spit up!
5.) The lovey
I first learned what a lovey was while watching Jane the Virgin. Yes – I did wear it around inside my bra for a day to help my kids self-sooth at naptime – no judging, it worked. If you are unfamiliar with the term lovey, it is a security or transitional object that helps young children transition from dependence to independence. Many children will end up choosing one themselves between 8 and 12 months but you can offer one of your choices sooner (say one that’s machine washable, and easily stuffed into a suitcase). After doing some research (1) I discovered that loveys are very beneficial while traveling. Loveys are soft and cuddly which is comforting on its own. Your baby’s scent and the scent of their room will remind them of the security of home. On the plane and throughout your travels, it will become the one object of permanence and familiarity.
If your baby uses them. Most people recommend babies suck on something during takeoff and landing to reduce ear discomfort be sure to use a pacifier clip so it doesn’t fall on the germy airplane floor. If your child doesn’t take pacifiers you might want to feed them during that time. Don’t stress if your baby refuses to either eat or take a pacifier – mine usually refuse because they are busy looking around and it’s never been an issue.
Big fan of single-use formula packets and bottles for traveling over here. Unless your baby has never had a bottle in their life, I would recommend bringing at least 1 bottle and a few single-use formula packets or pumped milk. Planes are new and exciting and sometimes babies won’t want to nurse. The stress of say – a long haul flight or time changes – can temporarily decrease your supply, so it’s just nice to have a backup. The final reason is that the safest place for your baby during takeoff and landing is buckled into an FAA approved restraint (2) – usually their car seat. The bottle allows you to feed them while buckled in to relieve any discomfort to their ears.
8.) Waterproof bags
Spills happen, especially when turbulence is involved. Keep those hard to replace documents in a waterproof, zip lock bag. Keep your liquids inside a quart sized clear ziplock bag for speeding through security and to protect your other items in case they leak.
Bring your and your child’s prescribed medicine in your carry-on. You never want to risk it being lost in a checked bag. Consider bringing Tylenol and Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) if your pedi gives the green light. Tylenol in-case of ear pain and Benadryl because your child will be exposed to a host of new potential allergens. Some parents also like to have Benadryl handy to mitigate stress for the baby and help them sleep. Just remember to run it past your pediatrician and it might not be a good idea if your baby has never had it before. Some people have a reverse reaction and become hyper and irritable, which is the last thing you want on a long flight.
10.) A new toy
11.) Teething item
If your baby is at a stage where this is helpful. You can even buy a three in 1 lovey/pacifier/teething object like this one.
12.) Cleansing wipes
I always carry travel-sized sanitizing wipes in my carry-on bag because planes are gross and babies immune systems generally aren’t great.
13.) Extra everything
Whatever you’re bringing (or wearing), bring extra for the flight.
14.) The bassinet
Domestic flights rarely have bassinets provided. In any case, I prefer this Travel Bassinet because it lays on the floor instead of scarily suspended 5 feet in the air. You would need to have a bulkhead seat booked and it can be placed right at your feet. I brought this even though I had booked seats for my babies. They were strapped in during takeoff and landing but when my daughter refused to sleep at ALL, I shifted her to the bassinet and the vibration of the plane helped her sleep the entire flight. If your baby is comfortable in their car seat leave them for the duration of the flight because it really is the safest place.
15.) *If you can carry it: The personal Items
Your purse, laptop bag, etc. and/or a carry-on bag for your child if you have purchased them a seat. This would be for families who are not outnumbered by babies and/or are aiming for a carry-on only trip.
*Bonus flying with a baby tip:
Dressing Baby for a flight
Dress your baby in layers. Airplanes temperatures vary and fluctuate widely, babies are unable to regulate body temperatures the way larger humans can (3). Really, no one enjoys being uncomfortable and keeping them cozy can prevent a meltdown. I suggest a short sleeved onesie, baby leggings, baby socks & or crib shoes, a zip or button front sweater with a hood and a drool bib if your baby is in a stage where one would be helpful.
So there you have it. Now go pack your bags and get exploring!
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