How I survived flying with a baby

Sunday, July 28, 2013
So Monica from Love You Mucho asked for advice on how to fly with a baby from my post about Grey's and my trip to Philly that I wrote a few weeks ago. First of all... Monica... good luck, girl!! Hope your husband is going with you.. Haha ;)

So, flying by myself cross country... Yeah, it totally sucked - not gonna lie!! It would've definitely been a lot easier if there were a +1. But I survived!! and you can too!! Here are some of my tips and bits and pieces of what I've gathered online...

Before you buy your tickets

Try to pick longish layovers like at least an hour to give you time to freshen up, feed or change the baby, and eat. I had one hour layovers and I thought it was the perfect time. Bring filling snacks with you in case you don't have time to buy food and they don't have meals on the plane. I had to buy a meal on one flight because I didn't have time. The cheapskate in me cringed... So I ate everything including the packaging.

Plan your outfit! Make sure it's comfortable and wear shoes that you can slip on and off easily when you go through security. I wore leggings, an over-sized t-shirt, a nursing cami underneath for extra coverage when I'd be nursing Grey on the plane, and comfy flat shoes.

What to pack in your carry-on

Have one carry-on like a backpack and pack your cute diaper bag in your suitcase (BIG one! You're going to come home with more stuff than you went there with.. Promise.) It was easier to have both my hands free instead of using our usual messenger diaper bag.

Pack a little more in your bag than you usually double - you just never know!

  • Diapers - 6 regular-size diapers + 4 one-size-bigger diapers
    I just brought enough diapers for the way there and then bought a small pack when I got to my parents'. And the one-size-bigger diapers? Use them over your baby's regular diapers to prevent blow-outs on the plane. It didn't work one time.. But it was still an extra precaution..
  • Toys
    I packed some toys for Grey to "play" with but he doesn't really play with them - just puts them in his mouth and then forgets 'em two seconds later..
  • Bibs and burp cloths
    He goes through them FAST.
  • Small blanket
    It gets chilly on the plane!
  • Travel changing pad
    We have this one and love it.
  • Full pack of wipes
    So you don't have to buy any at your destination for a little while!
  • Extra baby clothes - 2 onesiespants, socks, hoodie 
    It gets cold on the plane so make sure to bring extra layers!
  • Nursing cover
    Unless you're the kind to stick it to the man. Mad props..
  • Plastic baggies 
    For the disposal of stinky diapers on the plane and dirty clothes.
  • Snacks
    For you, mama! You may not have time in between flights to grab food!
  • Extra shirt
    Tip:  NOT WHITE.

Whether to bring the carseat and/or stroller

My parents didn't have any baby stuff so I had to bring his carseat, base, and stroller. You should ask friends or family at your destination if you could borrow a carseat. You'll want a stroller (preferably a small one like an umbrella stroller) at the airport. You'll find out later.. Luckily, we had a Snap and Go Graco Travel System so it wasn't as bulky compared to a separate carseat and stroller.

*If you DO have the travel system or something similar, pack the carseat base in your suitcase when you get to the airport so you don't have to lug it around. My sweet husband told me AFTER we came back from our trip that I didn't even need the base.. -_- So if you DO have the travel system, be sure to know how to buckle the carseat in the car before leaving!

It depends on the airline you choose but usually they let you check carseats and strollers at the gate for free. Do your research online first before checking anything at the gate!! I checked both with Delta and it worked fine for me (e.g., no visible dents, nothing broken that I'm aware of...)

If you don't have a small, lightweight stroller, they are SO cheap! Consider buying one at your destination. I was thinking about that because at Target they're like $20! And then you can leave it at your parents' house. We might do that next time..

Carrying your baby through the airport

I repeat.... CARRY YOUR BABY IN THE AIRPORT!! Moby, Ergo, whatever's comfortable!

If you're taking a carseat and/or stroller with you and want to gate check instead of checking it as a luggage (more prone to accidents and getting banged around), you'll have to put it through the x-ray machine. So smaller is better! It's so much easier to collapse them and put it on the x-ray belt when you're not worrying about where to put your baby. Also, the TSA agents let you walk through the security thing together and then they'll either pat you down or wipe your hands so it's not as big of a deal as you'd think.

Once you get through security, you can continue to carry your baby or place him/her in the stroller. I decided to carry Grey and walk him around to try to wear him out from the new surroundings. The stroller is helpful when you have to change their diapers! Bathroom floors are gross..

When you get to your gate, get a pink tag at the desk for your carseat and/or stroller. Once they start calling your flight, you can take them to the gate for them to check. When you get off the plane, they should already be there waiting for you!

I've read different accounts of whether you should get on first when they call families or to get on last to not have to wait in a stuffy plane for longer than you need to. I chose the former. That way I'd have time to get settled and ask the flight attendants for an extra seat (see below..) and give the stinkeye back to anyone who gave me one. WHAT.

An extra seat for the baby

If you're not planning on buying a seat for your baby, ask a flight attendant (or more because a couple were snobby to me and didn't care to listen) to let you know if there will be two seats open. I had the middle seat for all four of my flights, but for two of them I got an extra seat for asking!!! It's SO much easier with an extra seat so you can have your hands free and your baby can sleep next to you comfortably as well.

Takeoff and landing

During takeoff and landing, you can't have your baby strapped to you. You have to have the carrier unbuckled or undone. Once you're up in the air, you can buckle your baby back to you if you wish. I kept mine unbuckled for all flights so I can jump him up and down when he started to get fussy. I read online that some people preferred their baby wrapped/buckled to them so the babies can sleep and nurse better.

I didn't nurse Grey when we went up or down. A few times he slept; the other times, it didn't seem to phase him. I think it depends on the baby. I did read that if you do plan on nursing during takeoff, wait until the plane starts to accelerate and not when you're at the tarmac because you could be waiting for up to a half an hour and then when the babe's done, you'll be lifting off. And then what??

I did try to distract him when I noticed him noticing the air pressure was changing like with toys, lifting him up above the seats for him to get a different view, positioning him towards a window..

Being one of THOSE people..

When Grey cried, I tried to bounce him up and down and raise him up above the seats so he can see. He was bored and needed his nap and usually gets very ornery before the latter... We usually let him cry it out at home, but on the plane it's a nightmare. He likes to be pat on the back kinda hard like we're trying to burp him so I did that a lot. I also had a pacifier for Grey but he doesn't take it - just chews on that helped for like 5 seconds.

I downloaded some baby apps on my [Android] phone for Grey like a baby rattle, balloon game, firework game, and an aquarium. I'm sure there are similar for iOS. He loved the baby rattle the best because the objects move and there are bright colors. Also, the camera app is great! He liked to look at himself. Selfies galore!!

In the end, you can't worry about what other people think because it stresses you out and then the baby feeds off that energy and is stressed out too. Ah, the circle of life..

When you meet your seatmates, it doesn't hurt to talk and be friendly!! I apologized in advance for his crying and they all understood. I'm not usually a talker with strangers but I made myself be friendly with people and they seemed to tolerate Grey pretty well. Some even played with and talked to him!

And......that's all I've got. I hope this helped a little bit, Monica!! If you guys have any tips of your own, please share them in the comments!


  1. Flying with a little baby is much easier than flying with a one-year-old we've found! My son is right in the middle of the ages where he is not quite a baby, not quite a toddler.....and keeping him occupied is quite a task. Luckily the times we've flown my husband and I have both been along. Nice job on tackling this alone!!

    1. yeah, some of the tips i read online about flying with toddlers.. man, and i thought traveling with a baby was hard!!

  2. your baby is absolutely the cutest <3<3

  3. I've flown internationally with a baby and this is covers the basics.

    Another way to help with the take off and landing, is with snacks if the baby already eats Cheerios or things like that, or a bottle with water. The bottle is the best for such cases, of course, it has to be small otherwise they'll ask you to dump it, or you can ask the flight attendant for water to put in the bottle before take off, and they'll give you some.

    Ultimately, although this advice is great, you have to wing it and see what will work with your baby, right? :)


    Ana Paula

    1. totally! every baby is different.

  4. Good tips. I've flown by myself when my baby was 5 months old and about 14 months old. I've also flown with my husband and believe it or's easier by myself. ONLY because my baby had no options of where to go - they were freaked out by strangers and stayed pretty close to mama. Was so thankful for that while I was busy taking care of luggage or going through security! When there were two of us if she'd get fussy, she'd just move to the other parent and never calm down enough to take a nap!

  5. Aww Grey is so cute! I've never flown before, much less flown with a baby, but this is a great post for mommy's and mommy's to be! (:

  6. These are such great tips, thanks for writing them all out, I'm sure they're going to come in handy when I cross this milestone one day!


  7. Sooo, after reading all are like my HERO, Elaine. I can't believe you survived! What a rockstar momma...

  8. Elaine, thank you so much for writing this post! It has been so helpful as I prepare for our first flight. I really appreciate you taking the time to write such a thorough post!


  9. I'm glad you had a great trip and a relatively uneventful flight. Sometimes a lack of excitement is good, yeah?

    I'm so sad to hear that that adorable little squishy baby of yours has to cry himself to sleep at home, though. Perhaps you should travel more often!

  10. I'm still honing my small child travel skills, but I have gotten it down to four days worth of stuff into my jansport backpack for my daughter and I. I don't pack toys because the stuff on the plane is FASCINATING, and I buy food on the plane or the airport because I'm a sucker but it keeps my load light. We took our first big international flight at 3 months. We went through the whole changing for bedtime routine just before boarding. I think keeping that little routine in place helped her fall asleep on time. Finally, meh, if a baby cries. That's what they do. I'm not going to stress.