I never thought I’d be an expert at traveling with infants, but I think I’m nearer to becoming one. Before Sydney reaches her first birthday, she will have traveled almost 20,000 miles. By the time she is one: 35,000 miles. That is equal to about 1.5 times around the world and more hours than this sleep-deprived mom cares to count.

Thankfully, most (not all) of these hours in the plane have been pretty good. That means I’ve been prepared, she’s been content, and, I think, the people around us felt okay about sharing the plane with us.

Here are some been-there-done-that tips to make flying with an infant a little easier for you.

  1. Make a list of what you need. You need a lot to travel with a wee one. It’s nearly impossible to remember all those things so make a list at least a week before. You don’t want to be on the road and realize you forgot an essential. A few things on my list: changing pad, wipes, Ziplocs for dirty clothes, blankets, snacks, hats, toys and books.
  2. Pick flight times/layovers with feeding and nap times in mind. Travel will be much easier if you stick with your baby’s schedule. If you can, get take-off and landing times around their feeds. The change in air pressure can really aggravate their ears. Plan on feeding at the beginning and end of a flight to help them “pop” their ears. If they take a binkie, which Sydney doesn’t, we have heard that helps too.
  3. Ask or pay for an extra seat. Even if you think you’re going to hold your baby the entire flight, it’s worthwhile to have an extra seat. If you don’t want or can’t pay for it in advance, be sure to ask at the gate if there are any extra seats. The agents will often put a hold on a seat for you if there is one available. If your car seat is approved for flight (look for an FAA-approved sticker) you can install it in the seat and let your little one slumber peacefully. 
  4. Pack fewer toys. It’s good to pack a few favorites and a new toy or two, but don’t feel compelled to bring the whole toy chest. Chances are, your little one will be entertained by the emergency card in the seat packet and the tray table. I suggest wiping them down first. We wipe down everything with Wet Wipes. Sure, building their immunity is important but having a sick baby while traveling isn’t. ☺
  5. Bring a Baby Bjorn baby carrier. This is a must! It is a lifesaver for traveling. I once had a travel day that started with checking out of our hotel room early and not flying until that night. I kept Sydney in there for about seven hours only taking her out for changes and a little play time.  She was three or four months old so she didn’t mind, and it kept my hands free to get things done. I would even keep her in it when we ate dinner and just put a napkin over her head while she slept and I ate. Security will make you take your little one out when you go through the x-ray machines so try get through security before he/she falls asleep. When Sydney was still tiny I would keep her in her carrier and sleep with her in it on the plane or just have her on my chest and walk the aisle with her during the flight. She always had a smile for fellow passengers
  6. Divide and conquer the boarding process. They let parents with little ones board early, but don’t feel like you have to go that route. What works best for us is to have one of us board first. They stow away the bags and wipe down the seats. Then the one holding Sydney comes on later.  
  7. Take your time. Traveling with wee ones isn’t a race so there’s no need to feel rushed. Let the business travelers zip around you. If your little one is entertained watching the luggage cart revolve, let her.

  8. Bring spare clothes. Babies are messy. There’s a fair chance that they’re going to make a mess of themselves or you. We always bring spare clothes for her and us. We have had plenty of blowout diapers on the flights. Be prepared to have to throw out her clothes if things get really bad! And, stash a Ziploc in your changing bag so you can lock away a poo-saturated onesie if it’s a keeper!

Despite all these tips, your little one may not be a perfect angel on the flight. That’s okay. Babies cry. Most passengers understand this, so don’t worry about what others are thinking about you. Just be there 100 percent for your baby.