Tips for Surviving a Flight with an Infant

Let’s face it, flying can be stressful.  There are so many variables that are beyond your control.  Will there be traffic on the way to the airport?  How long will it take me to get through security?  What if my flight gets delayed, or worse, cancelled?  On top of that let’s throw in an unpredictable, completely dependent infant for good fun.  Excited for your next flight yet?

At just sixteen months old my son has already been on four round trip flights.  Here are some tips I’ve gathered that have helped us survive and will hopefully help you survive your next flight with an infant, too.

  1. Have proper documentation

Airlines allow infants under the age of 2 to fly in your lap for free on domestic flights.  You will often hear this referred to as a “lap baby” or an “infant in arms”.  Some airlines allow you to add your child online after you purchase your tickets.  However, other airlines do not allow you to add your infant until you arrive at the airport, which means waiting in your airline’s ticketing line to add your child.  These airlines will require proof that your child is under the age of 2 in order to add your child to your ticket.  This proof can come in the form of your child’s birth certificate or a passport.  Be sure to keep those in an easily accessible area.  Even if you were able to add your infant to your ticket prior to arriving at the airport be sure to have the proof with you just in case!

  1. Don’t be afraid to take your stroller

We typically always fly with our son’s stroller.  It makes navigating through the airport so much easier, provides some storage so we aren’t carrying all of our bags, and is free to gate check!  This is also convenient in case you get to your gate with a lot of extra time and want to take your little one for a walk around the airport to keep them entertained.  Keep in mind though that you do need to fold up your stroller to go on the belt through security.  If you prefer to wear your child though, security will not ask you to take your child out of their harness, wrap, etc. to go through the metal detectors.

  1. Wait to board your flight

Most airlines will offer some type of family boarding to allow families traveling with small children extra time to board the flight and get situated before takeoff.  In a lot of situations though this just means that you now have more time to keep your squirming infant closed off in a confined space.  If your seat was already assigned, no one is going to take it, so why rush to get on the plane and just sit there with your child?  Use this time instead to allow them some extra time to get some energy out or do a quick diaper change.  There have been times when my husband has gotten on the plane with our boarding group to go ahead and get our overhead luggage taken care of while I’ve waited a few extra minutes before boarding.  If your flight has open seating, I highly recommend boarding during family time.  That way you can guarantee seats with whoever you are traveling with.  Additional tip: if you are on a flight with open seating, and you know the flight isn’t full, go ahead and plop your little one in the seat beside you.  Just be sure to place your infant in your lap during takeoff and landing.

  1. Bring snacks and entertainment

What makes you feel better?  Snacks.  What makes your infant feel better and help ward off some boredom?  Snacks.  Bring them and keep them in a handy place during the flight.  Also, grab some milk, juice, or water before you board the flight for your infant.  Drinking during takeoff and landing can help their ears adjust to the change in pressure, which can be really irritating for them.  There are TSA guidelines for what you can bring with you in your carryon through security.  Here is a link to the TSA site’s section on Traveling with Children:

Another great idea is to bring along a portable DVD player or tablet to help entertain your child during the flight.  Recently we purchased a portable DVD player with a battery life.  This worked great on our flight and helped our son (and us) pass the time more easily.  We also purchased some headphones that are much more comfortable for our son to wear (and look super cute too).  Bonus: some airlines offer free inflight entertainment on domestic flights when applicable now!

  1. Relax

This is probably the hardest one.  No one particularly wants to travel with a child that is irritable, fussy, crying, or just simply restless.  If your child does start doing any of these things during the flight it is easy to become flustered over the situation.  The good news is once the plane takes off it is loud, which will help drown out the sound for others if your child does become fussy.  Even if it doesn’t, most everyone travels with headphones while on a flight.  You will have plenty of empathy from other parents because we have all been there at one point in time.  Plus, you are on vacation, so don’t let these moments start or end your trip with a bad taste in your mouth while you are trying to soothe your child.  Just remember that any noise your child makes is magnified ten-fold in your eyes.  So just relax, grab some snacks, and remember they are only little once.


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