5 Min Read | July 1, 2022

10 Tips for Traveling with a Baby on a Plane

Traveling with a baby? With careful planning, extra budgeting, plenty of packed supplies, and this baby travel checklist, flying together can be smooth and safe.


Planning ahead can make traveling with a baby easier. Know airport requirements about what items you can carry on before you set out to fly.

Booking ahead, paying extra for seat assignments, and priority boarding can help ensure that your family sits together on flights. 

A child safety restraint or device is more secure than holding a baby in your lap when flying.

Every year, families embark on vacations with their kids, including small children who may be taking their first trip or airplane ride. If you’re among them, these 10 tips can help make that first trip something to remember, instead of one you’d rather forget. 

1. Take a Practice Trip Before Planning a Trip with Baby

“Every child becomes inflexible and anxious when taken out of their comfort zone,” says Dawn Barclay, author of Traveling Different: Vacation Strategies for Parents of the Anxious, the Inflexible, and the Neurodiverse. Even neurotypical children benefit from testing the waters before the big day. Barclay recommends “mini-experiences” like taking a short car trip before a longer one, or an overnight stay with friends and relatives before an expensive hotel stay, to help tip off parents to any possible issues and triggers ahead of time.

In addition, it’s a good idea to talk to your pediatrician before your first family vacation, says airline passenger advocate William J. McGee. Your pediatrician knows your baby and can separate real advice from old wives’ tales and give you tips that will keep your baby comfortable aboard the plane.

2. Book Flights with Baby in Mind

Consider booking nonstop or direct flights, when possible, as this can prevent the hassles of having to change planes with a baby in tow. Another idea is to choose an overnight, or “red-eye,” flight if you can, because your baby may be more likely to sleep through it.

When planning to travel with a baby, it pays to book flights over the phone, instead of online. Even if you’re not buying a ticket for the baby because you plan to hold them on your lap, tell the agent you’re flying with an infant. They will be able to tell you anything you need to know, like how to check a stroller, as well as any available accommodations. For example, some airlines provide bassinets for babies on long flights, but you’ll have to reserve them in advance, and availability can depend on the type of airplane and route. 

3. Plan to Pay Extra for Your Family to Sit Together

If you want to make sure the family sits together on board, you may need to budget some extra money for the fare. Many airlines now charge extra if you want to choose your seats, and airplanes are flying full more often than not, warns McGee, author of Attention All Passengers: The Airlines’ Dangerous Descent – and How to Reclaim Our Skies. So don’t expect an empty middle seat for your baby and don’t leave it to the kindness of the passenger next to you to voluntarily switch seats.

4. Consider Priority Boarding 

Think about paying extra for priority boarding passes, especially if you’re flying on a low-cost carrier that doesn’t assign seats before boarding. Being among the first on board can increase your chances that you’ll all get to sit together and that your carry-on bags will be within reach – it’s helpful to have easy access to bottles, diapers, toys, or an extra binky while in flight.

5. Prepare to Use a Child Safety Restraint System

Though some airlines allow a child under 2 years old be held on a person’s lap during a flight, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommends using a government-approved child safety restraint system or device instead.1 Federal regulations require all children over 2 years old to have their own seat. You will need to book and pay for another seat for the baby, but it’s worth it, says McGee. Parents may think they can hold their baby securely during turbulence, but “unless you’re from the planet Krypton, you cannot hold on to that child,” he says – and the FAA agrees.2

6. Know TSA Rules and Guidelines 

Any air traveler should be familiar with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)’s 3-1-1 liquids rule, which permits each passenger to pack one quart-sized resealable bag of liquids, gels, and aerosols in their carry-on, as long as each item’s container is 3.4 ounces or smaller.3

The good news for parents is that the TSA has modified rules for carrying formula, breast milk, and baby food in carry-on bags.4 Unlike the standard 3-1-1 liquids rule, these items are permitted in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces and do not need to fit into a quart-sized bag. They will, however, need to be removed from your bag for separate screening. McGee recommends printing out the guidelines on the TSA website and carrying them in the diaper bag, in case you hit a snag at the security checkpoint.

TSA PreCheck® members, however, do not need to remove liquids from their carry-on, nor do they have to take off their shoes, belts, or remove personal electronic devices for screening – making it an effective time-saver for traveling families. And, children 12 and under do not need their own TSA PreCheck membership.

7. Pack More Baby Supplies than You Think You’ll Need

“Pack for comfort and bring whatever is necessary to keep the child occupied and well fed,” Barclay advises. Carry plenty of diapers, baby food, and formula – more than you think you’ll need, in case of delays or other flight hiccups. If you’re traveling during off-hours, through a low-traffic airport, or during weather emergencies, you may not find open stores in the terminal where you can pick up any missing supplies. 

8. Familiarize Yourself with Airport Layouts and Locations of Family-Friendly Facilities 

Before you leave on your trip, study your origin and destination airports. Make note, too, of any connection terminals where you’ll be changing planes. McGee notes that most airports have maps on their websites that mark facilities like nursing mother lounges or activity rooms for older children. He also notes that airports near popular family-travel destinations, such as Orlando, Florida, tend to be equipped with child-friendly facilities that are useful for traveling families. And if curbside check-in is available, use it to lighten your load.

9. Carry Your Baby’s Birth Certificate Just in Case

Children under 18 typically don’t need to show ID to travel domestically in the U.S., but it doesn’t hurt to carry a birth certificate or some other proof of age for younger children when you set out for the airport.5 If you’re flying internationally, your baby will need a passport.

10. Bring a Car Seat for Car Travel

Don’t forget a child safety seat for any car travel you undertake after you arrive at your destination. Rental companies can’t always guarantee that they’ll have a car seat for you, says McGee, who faced that issue when his now-adult son was a baby.

The Takeaway

Before you even set out for the airport, keep in mind that traveling with a baby can be a smoother process if you make arrangements in advance. By planning ahead, packing properly, and departing with the right mindset, traveling with a baby may be more manageable than you might expect.

Mercedes Cardona

Mercedes Cardona is a New York-based editorial consultant. She’s a former editor at Crain Communications, The Associated Press, and The Economist Group.


All Credit Intel content is written by freelance authors and commissioned and paid for by American Express. 

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