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Airplane Travel with a New Baby

Tip #1?

DON’T give everyone within three rows of your seat a package containing ear plugs and gummy bears!

When did that become a thing? Apologizing in advance for a baby’s behavior, as if parents had any control whatsoever over a baby’s behavior? I think that people forget that they were once babies too! I get the sentiment and it’s nice, but being a new parent is stressful enough without worrying about what your seatmates think, in the seemingly never ending nail biter that is the long haul flight with a new baby.

Seriously though, there are tips you can follow to make your airplane travel with a new baby a little more comfortable and a lot easier. Whether the crank in the next aisle agrees isn’t your problem.

First things first: can baby fly?

Most airlines don’t have hard and fast rules about what age a baby needs to be to fly. Your best bet is to have a conversation with baby’s pediatrician about your trip plans. The bottom line for baby is germs. A newborn is still building up their immune system and won’t be able to fight off a heavy dose of airborne germs very easily. In addition, if they haven’t had at least their first round of vaccinations yet, they are even more susceptible.

Does baby need a passport?

If you’re travelling within the country, the technical answer is no but some airlines want proof of the baby’s age, particularly if you’re not buying a seat for them and want to carry them on your lap for the duration. Make sure you have at least their birth certificate with you.

International flights require passports and possibly visas, just as they would for an adult passenger, whether or not they have their own seat. Passport applications can take up to 6 weeks to process and getting a photo of a fussy baby that will be accepted at the passport application office might take even longer! Okay, not really, but it might feel like it!

When in doubt, check out this US State Department site for easy to follow information about travel.

What gear will baby need for the flight?

The diaper bag is a good start: what you would normally carry on a car trip is your starting point.

  • If you formula feed, you need enough formula to get you through the flight, with the possibilities of delays. If they are already eating solids like jar baby food, bring it. The airlines don’t stock it.
  • More diapers than you think you will need.
  • Changes of clothes in case of blow outs or vomiting are essential.
  • A few toys to distract baby.
  • An extra soother or two.
  • Burp clothes and a blanket.

You’ll also need your FAA approved car seat, if baby has their own seat, which they likely will need for long haul or international flights. Some airplanes do have baby bassinets but you aren’t guaranteed to get a seat with access to one, so it’s best to be prepared. Check with your airline as to the rules and regulations regarding seats and car seats.

An umbrella or small stroller is a great idea: most airlines will let you take these all the way up the jetway, making maneuvering with baby a lot easier; after that, it will be checked and returned to you when you disembark.

A baby sling is a great option too, both to get around with baby but also mid-flight, if they get fussy. They might be more comfortable being carried that way as you walk the aisles, calming them down.

What gear will parents need for the flight?

The best advice I ever received, and followed, was to wear several layers of t-shirts and pack some empty zip lock bags in my carry on luggage. My daughter spat up on me an hour into her first flight and all I had to do was hand her to the poor unfortunate guy sitting next to me and strip off a layer. No spectacular maneuvering to change in the tiny bathroom and no smelling like throw up for six hours!

Beyond that, parents should pack what they would normally pack for themselves: paperwork, medications, valuables and something to read, on the off chance that baby goes off to sleep and you can catch a few winks too!

Packing for your destination

Depending on where you’re going, whether it’s to visit family in the frigid Northwest over the holidays or a sun soaked vacation in Hawaii, you need to do a little advance planning.

  • Formula fed babies should not have their brands of food changed without warning so if you’re going somewhere that might not have your brand, make sure you bring enough with you or ship some to your destination, in advance.
  • Diapers are bulky to pack so again, if you are going somewhere that might not stock your favorite brands, ship some in advance.
  • Make sure to pack enough clothes for the expected weather and consider packing a little handwashing detergent, in case you need to clean a few items yourself.

Now that you’re all packed and ready to go, just make sure of one more thing: have a great time!

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