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Traveling With an Infant on a Plane

By Amalah


Hi Amy!

I love you! I love your blog! I love your advice! Please help me! 🙂

I am going to be flying to visit my parents next month with my precious, sweet, adorable, munchable baby boy.

Fortunately, I found a direct flight, so we’ll only be in the air for a little over 2 hours. Unfortunately, I’ll be by myself. And I am kind of freaking out about it. He will be 4 months old by then, so I don’t have to worry about packing baby food or anything like that. But! What all do I need to bring on the plane? The car seat is a must because my parents don’t own one. So what do I do with the base? Ask my parents to buy one? That’s kind of a pricey investment for one week of use. Do I bring a stroller? And should I just take the stroller all the way to the gate? And when I think about going through security with him, well, my head just kind of explodes. Any advice for packing formula and bottles? Can I get away with pre-filling the bottles with water before I go through security? Should I bring a carry on for me in addition to the diaper bag? Will I get through security alive? I don’t know! Any wisdom from your experience flying with sweet Ezra would be much appreciated!

Thanks again!

Oh my God, you guys. I take ONE TEENSY TINY LITTLE FLIGHT (one-and-a-half hours! that’s it!) with my baby and I have already gotten at least five questions about flying with a baby this week. If that’s all it takes to become an expert on a topic, I have seriously missed my calling as a Master Sommelier.

So. First. It’s going to be okay. Your flight is short, your baby is young. It’s going to be really okay. Okay?

Lemma run through your questions in order, the best that I can.

1) The car seat.

A four-month-old baby can ride on your lap, if you prefer, and the car seat (and base!) can be checked with your suitcase. (You can buy fabric travel covers online for some models, but really, wrapping it in plastic wrap and packing tape is enough.) And as long as your car seat is something very common in the U.S. and Canada, both the seat AND the base should fit in most airline seats. Google your seat type and “airplane seat” or something similar, and you’ll probably find confirmation from somebody at Yahoo Answers or a message board somewhere. If not, call the airline and ask, but from what I’ve read *most* of the most popular infant seat models will fit in an airplane seat complete with base, perhaps with the armrests up. Opt for a middle and aisle seat, I’d say, just to be sure.

Should the baby ride on your lap or in a carseat in his own seat? I’d say that depends on your baby (and your travel budget). Noah’s infant seat equaled instant nap for him, so I probably would have sprung for a second seat. That thought never even crossed my mind with Ezra, who haaaaaates his carseat and looooooooves to be held, so I knew he’d be happier on my lap. Plus, it’s cheaper, and I am ALL ABOUT using the least amount of “stuff” this time. Stuff sucks. Stuff is heavy, and awkward, and stuff. (Editor: I love The Car Seat Lady. She’s so passionate that she’s famous for stopping cars on the road to help adjust the car seat correctly.)

2) The stroller.

I did not bring one on my trip. I packed a pouch sling in my luggage and carried Ezra through the airport in the Ergo Carrier. If you’re opting to keep him on your lap on the plane and own any sort of baby carrier, I HIGHLY recommend this option, particularly for the ease at security and the lack of waiting for a gate-checked stroller. It was SO EASY, even with a 19-pounder.

You can check a stroller as baggage, or your parents could probably get a very cheap used one online — or find one to borrow from friends. There are probably 1,390,348 strollers currently in circulation for every one baby out there. My in-laws picked most of the basic baby gear up at yard sales back when I was pregnant with Noah, and even though we drive to see them, it is SO NICE knowing they have a serviceable stroller, car seat, crib, booster seat, etc. and we can leave ours at home.

If you decide to buy your baby a ticket and bring the infant carseat, BUY A STROLLER FRAME. The Snap-N-Go or the Graco or Maclaren equivalent. (We had the Maclaren. Loved. It.) Again, you can find these by the dozens on Craigslist if money is tight. Do not bring a big honking travel system stroller deal through security by yourself. You know, the kind that takes two hands to open and close and will be waaaay too wide to fit through the x-ray machine. There is no need to do that to yourself. Get a little frame that folds up umbrella-style that the car seat can snap into. Shove the seat base in the basket underneath but keep NOTHING ELSE down there — you’ll need to remove it all and fold the frame up at security, and that’s the last time you want to be fumbling with stray teething rings and sippy cups and what-have-you.

3) Bottles and formula.

The airline restrictions on fluids/liquids DO NOT apply to baby formula and pumped breastmilk. I’m breastfeeding but supplementing, and brought a bottle on the flight — I filled it with water and brought along a powdered formula dispenser and security didn’t bat an eye, even though they confiscated a small bottle of water from a side pocket of my friend’s carry-on that she didn’t even realize was there.

4) Additional carry-on luggage.

Oh God, no. I had this brief crazy thought the night before my trip that because my suitcase was probably over the airline’s 50-pound limit (and would thus incur an additional charge to check), that I should maybe pack stuff into a small carry-on suitcase, PLUS my regular checked bag AND my diaper bag AND the baby AND…no. I came to my senses and thank goodness. I checked in online, dropped my suitcase off with the curbside guys, and while I had a GENEROUS TIP ready to possibly encourage them to not notice how heavy my bag was…I think there was something about a woman traveling with a baby strapped to her body that made them look away anyway. Streamline, baby. Bring as little as you can through security and onto the plane. Basically: your wallet, milk, change of clothes, diapers…and…maybe more diapers, just to be safe. (I changed way more diapers in the airport than on the plane. I changed zero on the plane.) You very likely aren’t going to use the flight for iPod time, or to read a book, or catch up on your thank-you notes, so really go with the bare minimum.

5) Security.

Again, I really recommend wearing the baby to the airport, and that’s not just the dirty hippie talking. With Ezra in the Ergo, I put my diaper bag in a bin, took off my shoes, then quickly unhooked him, tossed the carrier in the bin with my shoes, and walked through security with him in my arms. I did ask my friend to hold him while I put my shoes on and everything, but if I’d been by myself I easily could have put him back in the carrier first and then retrieved everything else. If you AREN’T doing the lap child option and need to bring more gear through — I promise you aren’t the first woman shoving a Graco Snugride through the x-ray machine and forgetting to put the handle down. Take your time, take deep breaths, tell people behind you to go first, whatever cuts down on that security line PRESSUREPRESSUREPRESSURE.

And on that note, three more tips (man, I am all about the numbered lists today):

1) Pre-board.

Extra time on the airplane may not always be super-ideal for a little one, but getting to board before the crowd and with less pressure from a long line of people generally IS beneficial to a stressed-out solo-mama.

2) Nurse/feed/pacify during take-off and landing.

Whatever you need to do to ensure he’s sucking during prime ear-popping time. I didn’t do the pre-medicating thing, though I did bring teething tablets (Update: FDA has issued a warning on homeopathic teething tablets and gels) just in case of some weird random screaming fit. ANDHEWASFINE.

3) Ask for help.

Here’s the thing: a LOT of people like babies. Some of them even LOVE babies. These people will generally make themselves known to you. Ezra was gushed over by every. single. airport security employee, by gate attendants who let my friend pre-board with me because she was “with the baby,” by random passengers on our plane who stopped in the aisle to smile at him. If you’re suddenly struggling one-handed with a stroller that won’t fold up properly, throw yourself at the mercy of the security line and ask if someone will hold the baby for you. If you need to pour formula into a bottle and your baby keeps whacking it out of your hand, ask your seatmate for help, or a flight attendant. Yes, some people are jerks and hate babies and hate babies on planes and blah blah blah, but I think your chances of sitting next to a person like that are smaller than you think.

And lastly:

4) You (and your baby) will probably never see any of these people again.


Photo by insouciance

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Mouse

    July 30, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    When we traveled by plane with a baby in a rear-facing carseat, we were required to have him in a window seat a minimum of a certain distance from the exit rows–something to do with ease of exiting a row, both in an emergency and just in general. We had one of those covers that turned the carseat into a backpack (also had wheels to be pulled, but they weren’t all that great). I always used my sling to carry him around the airport–last thing off before security, first thing back on.

  • Isabel Kallman @AlphaMom

    Isabel Kallman @AlphaMom

    July 30, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    One thing I would overpack is supplies for the infant in case you get stuck ON the plane or airport.
    This past week, my plane was stuck in the air then had to land elsewhere to refuel and then landed. We were NEVER able to deplane at the other airport.
    The first thing that popped into my mind concern for any parents that didn’t come prepared with extra formula, diapers, snacks, etc for their babies or young children.

  • Christine

    July 30, 2009 at 1:16 pm

    You probably won’t even have to take the carrier off as you walk through the detectors at security – especially if the baby’s asleep, don’t volunteer to if they don’t make you. I just flew to Europe and back with an 8-month-old (and a couple of flights within Europe too), and the most they ever did at security was ask me to let them feel between me and the Ergo’d baby to make sure I’d nothing stashed away there.
    Once, in Frankfurt, after an overnight flight where the baby had just, finally, fallen asleep, the buggerational security guy made me take him off, which of course woke him up. But that was a couple of years ago – they seem to have mellowed even in Germany since then.
    Flight attendants love babies. They’ll be happy to help you.

  • Vanderbilt Wife

    July 30, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Great tips! I wrote a similar article a while back that might have a few more tips for your readers!
    Flying with Baby: Rants and a Few Tips

  • Alli

    July 30, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    I’ve flown solo with one kid several times and once with two kids. I have to reiterate what Amy said- people love babies and they WILL help you. Just ask. I had grandparent types practically drooling waiting for me to ask for their help. (They might have wanted to chomp on Tebow’s thigh, but I think it would have been a fair price to pay.)
    I agree with all the stroller and wearing baby advice too. We did do the stroller in the car seat frame, which helped when I was traveling solo with two kids. I was able to pile the 4 year old’s carry-on in it while wearing Tebow, making it easier to keep up with said 4 year old.
    Traveling with my kids is one of my most favorite things to do. While there might be stressful moments, I find it to be overall enjoyable.

  • Sheri

    July 30, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    This is really good advice. I have a couple of extra comments.
    1. Chances are, you do NOT need to bring along your car seat base. Most of the popular, current car seats will allow you to install the seat by strapping it in with a seatbelt. So as Amalah says, minimize your stuff and leave the base at home (but first confirm that your car seat can be installed without the base – email me if you need help with figuring that out – sheri [at]
    2. You are traveling with a 4-month old? Awesome. That is the BEST age for traveling. Seriously. Babies are totally delicious at that age. Just so you know.
    3. I would suggest that you do take a stroller/car seat frame along with you all the way to the gate, especially if you’re traveling alone. I’ve traveled extensively with my baby, and flown alone on a few occasions. Amalah is right – people will be willing to hold your baby for you. Except the security people, who will look at you like you’ve lost your mind. You may find a good Samaritan on line near you, willing to hold a baby, but most people are in a rush to get it over with. It’s risky if you’ll be completely by yourself. Without having any safe place to put your baby down, you will really struggle to take off your shoes, get everything organized, etc. If you have your car seat snapped into a frame, the car seat is the last thing you put through the x-ray machine, and it’s the first thing you retrieve. The baby is safe and secure while you’re making sure you aren’t forgetting anything.
    4. For a domestic flight, if you haven’t booked your seats yet, try to choose one that isn’t at a peak time. I have never paid for a seat for my baby, and most of the time, the gate agents are happy to block off an empty seat at the airport, and allow me to bring on my car seat at no charge. If the flight is full, you’ll be out of luck though. Paying passengers will trump your Snugride. But you can gate check it on the spot.
    5. There are a lot of horror stories about gate-checking strollers. But I’ve traveled dozens of times with strollers, and I’ve only had 2 get wrecked. Accidents do happen, but the airlines are much more careful than they used to be. A travel bag will help to protect your stroller, but it’s just another thing to carry. Close your eyes, make a wish, and hope your stroller will come out in one piece. Most of the time, they do. I’ve never had a problem gate-checking a car seat, though.
    I hope this helps too – again, great advice here.

  • Liz

    July 30, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Ditto Sheri on the base, you REALLY don’t need it for this limited purpose. Not worth the hassle. And for a 2-hour flight, I would just put baby on my lap rather than in a car seat. A lot of airlines have plastic bags for covering up the car seat to check.
    I have had a Chicco stroller umbrella get manhandled by a certain airline who shall remain nameless: dude, they BROKE THE FRAME. And I have a very funny picture showing the juxtaposition b/w the serious breakage and their own personal “special handling” gate check tag. Thank goodness for my Baby Bjorn!
    Above all, though, for the plane carry on more baby supplies than you think you could possibly need, although don’t go insane: an extra-extra backup outfit, a couple more diapers than normal, an extra (or 2) formula feeding, etc. Babies seem to think airplanes and airports are prime opportunities for mega blowouts/spit ups (hence the need for extra diapers). In that vein, pack each backup outfit in a big ziploc bag: in case baby has blowout/spit up all over initial outfit, the hazmat is nicely contained till you can get to the washing machine.
    Finally, if you think you’ll be going to see your folks a decent amount over the next 2-3 years, and if they’re willing, get them to start scouring Craigslist/yard sales/church consignment sales for inexpensive yet cumbersome for travel baby items, like stroller, pack n play, high chair, car seat.

  • Cobblestone

    July 30, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Gogo Babyz makes an adapter that attaches to most carseats and turns it into something you can pull like a rollerboard suitcase. AWESOME! LOVE IT! It is easy and if you think you’ll be doing much traveling in the next few years it will help a lot.

  • kelly

    July 30, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Lots of good advice here already, so a lot of mine will be a repeat. I flew with my baby for the first time when she was 4 months. Since then we’ve flown with her at 11 months (that one I did alone, with a connection, both flights over 2 hours), 12.5 months, and 14 months. The 4-month trip was by far the easiest.
    Our usual gear: baby carrier (a sling was she was 4 months, now an ergo), stroller (which we gate check), backpack (as diaper bag — easier to carry than a shoulder-style bag). If the baby is in the ergo, the backpack goes in the stroller. If the baby is in the stroller, the backpack is on my back and the ergo goes in the stroller basket.
    The infant seat and stroller frame combination is ideal for travel, and you can gate check them both. Learn how to install your infant seat using a seat belt and leave the base at home.
    In the diaper bag / backpack, pack more diapers than you will possibly need. I use a rule of thumb of one diaper per hour of travel, from door to door, and then I usually throw in an extra one. Pack more formula than you think you’ll need, pre-measured into small ziplocs or a formula dispenser. Bring extra wipes. Bring a spare shirt for each adult travelling, as well as spare clothes for the baby. A quiet toy or two, extra pacifiers, extra ziploc bags, a little first aid kit. I usually put a change pad, travel wipes cases, vaseline tube (add that in after you’ve pased security), and two diapers in a zippered pouch, so that if I have to change the baby on the plane I can just take that kit to the bathroom, rather than the whole backpack.
    I usually approach security with baby in either the stroller (or car seat / stroller frame combo) or the carrier. With either strategy, the baby transport device is the last thing to go on the conveyor belt and the first thing I grab on the other side. Wear slip-off shoes so that you can remove them easily, especially if babywearing. You may have to take off the baby’s shoes as well. While packing, make sure all the liquids and gels are in their proper ziploc bag are easy to access at security. I’ve never been allowed to wear our baby through the scanner, and I’ve had staff ask if they can take a closer look at cups of formula.
    Change the baby’s diaper right before you get on the plane, so hopefully you won’t have to do it on the plane.
    People will help. Airport and airline staff see babies travel all the time, and they are often extremely helpful.
    It’ll be fine. Have fun!

  • MommiePie

    July 30, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    I also just traveled with our 6 month old from CA to Austin with a layover each way. We brought a total of 10 freaking items (including the baby)! Here’s our breakdown:
    We ticketed the baby as a lap passenger.
    Checked luggage:
    Mommy & Daddy suitcase
    Carseat attached to base (we needed the base for the rental car at our destination)
    Jumperoo packed in a box(totally worth the pain in the @$$ for transportation/assembly/disassembly to keep the baby happy on vacation)
    Ice chest filled with homemade baby food and breastmilk
    Gate check:
    Stroller – We have the Chicco travel system which is HUGE, but it’s all we have and it folded up fine with the help of a nice man in a suit and tie behind me and just barely fit through the x-ray machine. Plus our son is 21 lbs so is heavy to wear or carry around the airport. We did have to stand around forever and wait for it after each flight however. I’d say go for the sling/carrier if your back can take it.
    Carry on:
    Baby suitcase (only because we maxed out our checked baggage allowance)
    Diaper bag
    Baby (!)
    I had the pleasure of changing diapers 3 times in the airplane lavatory due to diaper blowouts (I’m guessing it was the air pressure from the plane?) anyway, really glad we packed extra diapers and wipes and changes of clothes in the diaper bag. We also brought the baby einstein dvds and our portable DVD player. That worked out really well keeping baby occupied on the plane when he wasn’t sucking my boobs dry.
    In hindsight, I’d say I would have consolidated my purse/diaper bag, other than that, we were dialed.
    But…really, I second Amy’s tip #4.
    Take your time and enjoy your trip!

    • Cheryl

      August 31, 2014 at 1:59 am

      Did you have to pay additional fees to check pack and play and jumperoo?

  • mtngray

    July 30, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    I flew on my own with my two year-old and my 9 month-old baby a few years ago. I dragged my sit-n-stand stroller all the way to the gate.
    My husband drove me to the airport and got a pass that got him through security so he could help me with the kids. If you can get someone willing to go all the way to the gate with you, that’s awesome!
    I did have to do it all on my own on the way home, though, and it worked out okay. The most challenging part was pushing the stroller and pulling the luggage cart from the car rental place into the terminal to the check-in desk. I got a lot sympathetic “Wow, you are brave/have your hands full!” Yeah, I rocked.
    Getting through security on my own with the big stroller was a bit tough, too. Other than the rude business man who pushed past me to stick his crap on the x-ray belt, I made it just fine, though. I sat my baby on the floor next to me while folding up the stroller and sticking it on the belt. I sat him on the floor again after walking through in order to get my stuff.
    Good luck!

    • rebekah

      November 6, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      Can I board with my Sit and Stand or do I have to check it? Taking a 2 year old and 6 month old alone and want to have access to a stroller when we change planes. Haven’t decided if I will do a double or single stroller. Thanks for your advice!

  • maresi

    July 30, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    I have flown over 20 round trips with my 5 year old and 3 with my 11 month old AND 5 year old, and until this last one I never encountered anyone unwilling to help. In Hartford I was struggling to get everybody’s shoes off, bag on the belt, liquids out of bag, umbrella stroller folded, all while keeping an eye on the 5 year old and holding my rabid raccoon of a baby. I asked the TSA employee who was standing there watching me the whole time, “Hey, can you give me a hand?”
    He started clapping. CLAPPING!!!
    I didn’t make a fuss so that I wouldn’t be quickly escorted to the back for a quick feel-up, but that was so damn rude I was steaming, and I asked “Seriously?!?” He still didn’t help me!
    But like I said, it was only this one time. Usually people are super-helpful.

  • Diana

    July 30, 2009 at 3:03 pm

    Two comments
    1) I used the sling on the plane beause my 3 month old HATES his car seat. But, for traveling alone through the airport, I brought the car seat/snap-n-go stroller along so that I could have my hands truly free at various points. Also, the stroller carries the diaper bag until you get to the gate =).
    2) Southwest airlines has an odd (and really annoying) policy where you have to check in through a separate line if you have a lap baby – and provide a copy of his birth certificate. Call ahead and know the policy of your airline.

  • Daisy

    July 30, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    My Dad is an airline pilot! A super helpful, “Aww cute baby, here can I help you with your stroller?” kind of airline pilot. He’s also been known to call ground control & insist they bring pizza, diapers & formula out to his plane when they just made him sit for 5+ hours, but um, yeah that doesn’t happy very often. (The sitting or the pizza. That said, extra diapers!!) My super helpful Dad of an airline pilot would like to let everyone know that if it is remotely in your budget, please, please bring a baby seat for your little one & put them in it for safety’s sake. He says that lap babies make him cringe because he knows something can happen if he hits unexpected turbulence and so, if he notices a lot of lap babies he’s going to be a LOT more cautious on “turning off the fasten seatbelt sign” kind of thing. As a Mom you are going to feel awful if you hit turbulence and your adorable wee one flies forward and smacks their face on the tray-table latch (and that bruise is going to spoil your vacation photos.) At some point you do have to weigh the “My child hates their car seat and I don’t want them screaming the whole flight” conundrum, but if you think your kid can handle it, a car seat really is the safest way for them to travel. That and it gives you way more “under seat” storage for YOUR stuff!
    That said, perhaps it isn’t in your budget to buy the extra seat. Take the car seat through with you anyway and explain to the gate agent. On an open-seating Southwest flight they have no problem letting you bring that carseat on for your little one if they have extra seats, and other airlines can be just as accommodating if there are extra seats onboard. If there are not, they are happy to let you gate check the carseat, in which case you just get it right back when you land anyway.

  • AJU5's Mom

    July 30, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    We have flown with AJU5 three times – 5 and 11 months as a family and then almost 9 months just her and I. If you are going to take the seat with you and gate check (i.e. hope for an empty seat), ask the people when you check your baggage for a bag for the car seat if you don’t have one. They will give you one in case it does need to be gate checked. We fly Southwest mainly and have been able to get a free seat for her 9 out of 12 times (and those were holiday weekends). One thing people didn’t mention specifically – if you baby takes a pacifier, bring a bunch of them! They will fall on the floor easily – and yeah, the floor is not very sanitary! We had 8 I think on her first flight and went through most of them!

  • yasmara

    July 30, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    As someone else said, extra clothes for baby AND a t-shirt for you. There’s something about changing altitude that makes a lot of babies urp up their milk/formula. I usually also layer myself with a cardigan, t-shirt, & cami so I can have clothing removal options if I get hurled on.
    I also 2nd the advice to see what you can get provided on the other end. Craig’s list or re-selling stores like Once Upon a Child are a cheap source of toys & strollers. If your parents buy a cheap umbrella stroller (preferably used, but you can get cheap new ones too), you may get years of use out of it assuming you visit them more than once in the next 4 years.
    We ended up renting carseats for my boys for a trip to visit my in-laws because it was cheaper than paying for the baggage fees. The rental place delivered the car seats to my in-laws house, helped them get them installed in their car (so they could pick us up at the airport), and then picked up the car seats after we left. It was genius!

  • Susan

    July 30, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    I’ve flown twice with Snackbox, and while it can be challenging, it was not the nightmare I expected. What still amazes me is the difference between TSA agents’ enforcement of “the rules” at various airports – in Denver they are STRICT; in KC, they’re practically carnies just takin’ your ticket to get on the ferris wheel.
    No one has mentioned the breastmilk sniffers yet – maybe only DEN and MCI use them, but both places have asked me to unscrew the lids on bottles of breastmilk/formula so they can wave their sniffing machines over the stuff. In Denver, they asked me to do this after they told me to take the child out of the car seat to go through security, but the seat hadn’t come out the other side yet – umm, hello? How am I supposed to unscrew a bottle AND hold a squirmy 3 month old who was sleeping peacefully in his bucket and is now pissed?
    On his first trip we were able to grab an empty window seat and use the car seat without buying a ticket (on Frontier); four months later he was not into the carseat as much and we nixed it on the return trip (most airlines have big plastic bags to put the seat into if you check it as baggage – and no additional baggage fee). We have not bought a seat for him on our upcoming trip to Hawaii and I seriously doubt there will be any open seats, so yea – 7 hours with a 21 lb lap child!
    Finally – a tip for when you’re traveling with your babydaddy, too – DH got on the plane first and stashed our carryons, etc, while I let the 6 month old get his wiggles out in the waiting area and was one of the last folks to board the plane – much less time for him to be trapped in a confined space.

  • Lar

    July 30, 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Great suggestions, but I’d add two things to your list of things to carry on: (1) lots more wipes than you think you’ll need, because no matter how many you bring you will use them all, and (2) a change of clothes for yourself. Speaking as someone who’s been puked on mid-flight, it’s nice to have a clean shirt just in case.

  • Anonymous

    July 30, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    I second Cobblestone’s recommendation of the GoGo Babyz attachment. Turned our baby’s car seat into it’s own stroller and then was checked at the gate easy as pie. If I’d had a separate seat for the little one, the attachment unhooks easily and goes into the overhead compartment.

  • Melanie

    July 30, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    A lot of times they also let mamas with strollers go through a different security line (like with people in wheelchairs) to relieve the pressure.
    Side note: shortly after 9/11 I traveled with my sister, her 10-month old, my mom, aunt, and grandma. At least one of us got stopped at every security checkpoint! It was frustrating. I don’t think it’s quite as bad these days, though.

  • bethany actually

    July 30, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Number one tip for flying with babies: RELAX. It’s going to be okay, it really, really is. Don’t focus on the people who are annoyed, focus on your baby and doing your best to keep him calm and happy, and then focus on the people who think your baby’s adorable and would like to help you if you need it. Then relax some more. If you’re stressed and uptight, your baby will sense it. If you’re calm and have a sense of humor about the inevitable unpredictability of flying with a baby, your baby will sense that too. Extra diapers, yes; extra formula, that too. Take the car seat if you can and if your baby doesn’t hate it, even if you have not bought a seat they’ll let you use it if there’s an empty seat because it’s much safer. You will have to put the carseat in the window (for safety reasons, so no one has to climb over it in case of emergency) and sit in the middle, but it’s worth it.
    Good luck!

  • txmama

    July 30, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Oh yes, it has to be a window seat for the baby if you have a carseat, and I think you can’t be directly in front of or behind the wing exits. Just fyi!

  • kim

    July 30, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Thanks for this. I’m planning a solo trip with my 2.5 month old (currently 18-week-in-utero) next spring. I’m already freaking out about it.

  • jodifur

    July 30, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    As “the friend” I have to piggyback on Amy and say if I was not there, about a million and half people would have held Ezra. The security people at the airport were drooling over him.
    Also, someone once said to me, everyone needs to remember we were all babies at one time, and it so true. Babies need to fly. You’ll be fine.

  • Nancy

    July 30, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    We’re getting ready to fly for the first time with our newly-two-year-old twins. I’m scared to bits, but am sure it will actually turn out just fine. We’re planning to bring 2 carseats and 2 umbrella strollers to the plane and gate-check the strollers. Wish us luck!

  • cagey (Kelli Oliver George)

    July 30, 2009 at 8:19 pm

    Great advice here and in the comments!
    I have traveled extensively with my kids over the years. And truly, it is FUN. Look at it as FUN and it will be FUN. I see so many parents stress and bring way too much crap on their trips. Then, they are so busy struggling with bags and equipment, they don’t have the patience and time to just focus on their child. Then, their kids is all freaked out because mom and/or dad is freaked out.
    One thing to keep in mind is that there is very little that cannot be purchased in an airport or elsewhere on your trip. I have had to buy diapers, extra clothes, and even a thermometer and Motrin while on trips. But I have taken what 10? 12? trips now and have always packed the very minimum with little problem. And then I am left to sit back and just enjoy watching my kids get so excited about seeing new things.
    Also, you will be surprised with how entertained a child will be with the safety instruction card in the front pocket! 🙂

  • Genevieve

    July 30, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    I first flew with my son when he was three weeks old. 8+ hour trans-atlantic flight. (why yes I was insane, but I am known for this) One thing I did was research what the airline offered in the way of help/stuff for people traveling with babies. The airline I flew with offered what they called a sky-cot. You could reserve bulk-head seating and then you could put your baby in a little moses-basket should they sleep. They also did bottle-warming if you needed that. I flew with him on my lap (I was going to be holding him most of the time anyways since he was nursing a lot) and they gave me a seat-belt for him. The flight attendants were incredibly helpful and one gentleman in particular was super lovely and held him so I could use the toilet. (since my husband was asleep)
    Wipes, extra changes of clothing, baby tylenol, stuff if they are teething and so on are good. Don’t even bother to bring a book on the flight. Maybe a magazine.
    Since that initial trip, we have flown with him a bunch of times. Some trips were better than others. You refine your packing each time.

  • Marnie

    July 30, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    My 8-yr-old daughter’s first flight was at 2 months, and she’s logged something like 100,000 airplane miles since then.
    Other thoughts:
    Your mom will undoubtedly want to do anything and everything she can to “help.” Let her by asking her to buy things you’ll need while you’re there – diapers, baby wash, wipes, formula, food, whatever – it’s so much easier than trying to pack multiple days’ worth of anything.
    That said, make sure you pack a few extra diapers and a couple extra meals of formula just in case the plane is delayed somewhere. Most large airports will have something available, but not all.
    The car seat will need to be in the window seat, and you most likely don’t need the base.
    DO use the stroller to cart your baby and all the “stuff” that goes with the baby. You can gate check it, which means you just drop it at the door immediately before stepping onto the plane, and it’s right there waiting for you to load back up when you get off.
    Most people really are willing to help, though, I noticed that my husband gets far more offers for help when he’s flying alone with AJ than I do. I honestly think there’s some sort of double-standard there, where moms are just *expected* to be able to handle it, but dads are clearly incapable of taking care of children on their own . . . either that, or the women offering to help are simply turned on by a loving, involved dad, in spite of that wedding ring.
    Ahem, I digress.
    Use your mom as much as you can, get help from the flight attendants, and enjoy your baby’s new experience!

  • Kate

    July 30, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    I traveled to Asia with my 5-month-old daughter by myself (my husband followed a week later). The trip took over 30 hours door-to-door and included three plane rides (the longest of which was 15 hours) and two loooooong layovers. It was not easy but obviously, I survived!
    The best advice I can give is DO NOT OVERPACK. On my way out I thought I was so clever, stuffing a big bag full of everything “in case of emergencies.” It turns out that my bag was so overstuffed that I ended up having to fill a reusable grocery bag with the overflow (blanket, stuffed animal, passports and tickets) and I ended up stumbling around with way too much to carry, and the bag was WAY too heavy to hook over the stroller handles. (I didn’t bring a car seat, but I did have a small umbrella stroller and a pouch sling.)
    On my way back, I wizened up and fit everything into ONE TOTE BAG. I brought our passports/documents, diapers*/changing pad, one thin blanket (to spread over the changing pad so my daughter had something to lie on during layovers), a pacifier, the pouch, a burp cloth, and a handful of other necessities. My bag was very light and small enough to fit in the stroller basket. I figured that if we ended up stranded somewhere, I could either beg another parent for extra diapers, etc. or buy some from an airport store. My daughter was content to play with packages of pretzels and plastic cups instead of bulky toys. It really helped that I breastfed my daughter and did not need to pack anything for feeding.
    All that aside, I think this is a great time for you to fly with your baby. We stayed in Asia for a month and it was considerably easier to fly with a five-month-old than a six-month-old because my daughter just got more active and less content to sit still for the hours of flying.
    *We usually use cloth diapers but packed disposables for the flight because they are so much thinner and lighter. I used a diaper cover for extra insurance against blow-outs, which ended up being a smart move.

  • Della

    July 30, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    Just putting in my vote. Traveled solo with my then 4 month old also.
    Base probably not needed – check.
    Extra change of clothes for self – check.
    Extra wipes – check.
    SLIP ON SHOES – Super Check.
    Ask your parents if they have any friends, church members, etc that have a spare pack n play that you can borrow for your visit – CHECK CHECK CHECK. and Checkity CHECK.
    If not buying separate seat for child due to finances – book during off-peak hours to increase chance of having a spare seat which some airlines will allow you to use. (Look up your airline’s policy on this. It’s good to know.)
    My opinion on the stroller: I have a graco travel system; my stroller has a nifty one-hand-fold feature that makes it AWESOME. I brought the car seat and the stroller. I invested in a stroller cover.
    At security, I stepped out to the side (out of line) when I got to the front, and removed the seat and my carry-on and the stroller cover from under the stroller (baby was still buckled into seat, on floor beside me). I folded the stroller, put it through first, then put through my bag and shoes. I removed the baby from the seat, held him as I put the seat through, and then stepped back into line and went through myself while the seat went through.
    I then did all that in reverse: baby into seat, shoes on, stroller unfolded, seat into stroller, bag into stroller and voila! Notice how I did not actually have to ask anyone to hold the baby, and how I have something to hold the baby AND all the junk I’m lugging through the airport.
    Immediately I went to my gate and spoke to the attendant at the check-in desk, telling them I had a stroller I wanted to gate check (and possibly an infant seat, if there was not an extra seat, as I had not paid for one for him). My airline’s rules said I had to do the stroller as boarding began (for first class passengers, etc). When that time approached, I got myself near the side/behind check-in desk. I removed the baby seat and my carry on. I folded the stroller, shoved it into the cover, and shifted it 3 feet over to the check-in desk, and they took care of it.
    Also, when you gate check, they bring the item back into the little offloading ramp IMMEDIATELY outside the plane door. So I waited to be one of the last off the plane, grabbed my stroller, knelt down in that little area. Removed the cover, unfolded it, plopped that seat in there and voila! Again with the I-don’t-have-to-carry-anything! (And honestly my stroller is so easy to open, I probably didn’t have to wait to be last. There were a few people behind me and I had the stroller set up before they caught up to me. The airline guys were impressed.)
    So it might depend on your stroller, but for me it made life a TON easier.

  • Della

    July 30, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    Oh yeah. This is the kind of cover I have:
    Not sure if that’s the exact brand but it looks just like it. It’s not padded or anything – it’s simply to keep the thing clean and unscratched and all the pieces together, and won’t stop it from getting crushed – but it worked for me.

  • Amy-May

    July 31, 2009 at 12:25 am

    Wear clothing (and dress baby) in clothing you consider disposible. DO NOT carry nasty pooped on/puke on clothing around! Throw it away! That almost outgrown onesie, that burp-stained shirt. Those stretchy pants you swore you’d never wear again after post-baby diet…..

  • Lar

    July 31, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    I forgot to mention this in my earlier comment, but 38 years ago my mother-in-law flew from Tulsa, OK to Tehran (yes, THAT Tehran) by herself with a 3-year-old and a 6-week-old. She had an overnight layover in London, and, oh yeah, it was her first time ever to fly.
    Granted, security issues were different then, but I always figured if she could do THAT, I could do one little dinky US flight.

  • Julie

    July 31, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    All good suggestions! Mine to add:
    If your baby takes a pacifier, buy one of those pacifier clips for it. My 14 month old thought it would be more fun to play with the pacifier than use it, and the clip gave me an end to hold onto, so it wasn’t dropping on the floor.
    Also, don’t assume the baby will nurse and go right to sleep just because the flight departs and hour past his usual bedtime. They might need to open and close the tray table a hundred times, first.
    When we’ve flown to Florida w/ our 20 month old (and then again w/ our almost 3 year old and our 11 month old), we’ve rented the big, bulky stuff from a rental place – car seats, pack n play, high chair. It was cheaper than the checked bag cost and we didn’t have to lug it through the airport.
    But mostly, relax! In the overall trip, the flight is just a few hours and you will probably never see those people again. So what if your baby is loud or cries?

  • Claire

    July 31, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    I haven’t read all of the comments, so I apologize if some of this is a repeat. I have flown with my daughter, alone, at 8 weeks, 5 months, and 8 months. It’s totally do-able, and the fear of going alone with a baby is far, far worse than the flight itself!
    Here are my tips:
    1. Check the carseat and base and the front desk with your luggage. The airline will give you a big plastic bag to put it in. Another option is to have your mom buy (and install rear-facing) the costco brand convertible carseat. It’ll work for trips to grandma’s for many years.
    2. Don’t bring a stroller. Just buy a cheap umbrella one when you get there, if you think you’ll need a stroller at all.
    3. Bring an Ergo or something similar. I used the pouch sling when my baby was smaller, and the ergo on the most recent trip. You don’t need to take them out of the carrier at all at security, so you just have to slip off your shoes, toss the diaper bag on, and then walk through.
    4. Make sure you tell them you have a lap baby before your flight (call the airline if you didn’t book online that way). You need a special boarding pass, and can only sit in certain seats on some planes (b/c of needing an extra oxygen mask).
    5. Bring a change of clothes for both of you. And baggies. And a couple extra burp cloths. You’ll need them!
    6. Newer planes have changing tables in the bathrooms, but i’d try to just change diapers in the airport. If you need to go to the bathroom on the plane, you can always have a flight attendant hold the baby. They’ll even put Purel on their hands first.
    7. Nurse a lot, if that’s what you’re doing. But remember to bring some sort of nursing cover. Inevitably you’ll end up next to a middle-aged businessman.
    I think that’s it – hopefully your baby will take a nice nap and you’ll be there before you know it! It really isn’t too bad. And never feel bad if the baby cries – you’ll do everything you can to sooth him, and that’s all you can do! Good luck!

  • amycorinne

    July 31, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    I have flown with my 8 month old three times (12 days old, 5 months old, and last weekend). Here’s my advice:
    – Gate check the stroller and if you’re bringing a car seat but not using it on the plane, gate check that too. It’s much safer for the seat because there are so many opportunities for the car seat to be damaged between check-in and the airplane. You usually do not have to wait long for them to bring you your stroller and/or car seat because it was the last thing put on the plane so first thing off. The infant same and stroller frame were the best when she was still in the infant seat.
    – Definitely bring extra food, formula, diapers, wipes, whatever. We sat on the tarmac in Philadelphia last Sunday for over 3 hours. I used every single bottle of formula and juice in the diaper bag. My husband and I even ate the baby’s stale Cheerios.
    – Speaking of sitting on the tarmac for hours, my baby had a meltdown after about an hour and a half. I got some dirty looks from other passengers, but WHATEVER. I’m sure people don’t want to hear Ali cry, but you know what? I didn’t really feel like listening to the dudes behind me talk about golf for three hours.

  • Spiff

    July 31, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    I have to second what Daisy said about having your infant in a carseat. One of my friends was traveling to Hawaii with her 8-month-old son. She had an extra seat and carseat for him, but took him out for a little while to stretch. The plane hit some unexpected turbulance and his head whacked against the armrest of the seat really hard. He only ended up with a huge bump, but it could have been much worse!
    It is worth it to buy an extra seat!!

  • elizabeth

    July 31, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    I’ve flown 14.5 hr direct flight to Asia with my son when he was 5 months old and that was quite straight forward to my surprise. He mostly ate, sleep, up for 2hrs and did the whole routine again. I recently went to NY (6hrs) with him when he was 11 months and that was HELL. All he
    wanted to do was jump up and down and squirm out of my lap and walk along the aisle. Just make sure what works for you first and your child as every baby/kid & parent is different.
    One thing I discovered that helped alot was prepackaged powered formula that makes 4oz. I’ve found them at Target, Walmart, $11 usd for 16 packets. They were way more convenient than using those bulky 3 or 4 slotted formula dispenser. They come in Enfamil A+ or Similac Omega 3&6 brand and they are skinny light packets. One thing I noticed flying in the US is that if you bring bottled water make sure it’s brand new as security will be less strict if you say it’s for the baby. I’ve gotten away with 500ml unopened water.
    Plus, I always use the Ergo & the Maclaren Quest reclining umbrella stroller with me when I have to fly solo with my son. 80% of ppl love to gush over a baby and will help at an airport. Good luck and enjoy your trip.

  • Kathleen

    July 31, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    Traveled twice now with our 6 mo old. First: baby carrier, yes! We use a bjorn active because DS **hates** the ergo, but you can go right through security with the kid strapped on (in the Family Lane). I can’t imagine shuffling the kiddo along with all else.
    This doesn’t apply to the infant seat, but no one has mentioned the traveling toddler:
    This takes up almost no space to pack (one small strap) and works wonderfully! I would be a little nervous if traveling alone (keep your bag in front of you and use elevators, not escalators, as they say on the box). But then you have your seat with you. (note: even with this, we put kiddo in the carrier for security)
    And I second the comment about bringing your seat to the gate even if you didn’t pay for the second seat. If there’s room (and a window seat), most gate agents will help you out. We fly standby (husband is a pilot), so we’re always at their mercy and have done well so far. They can always gate check items if necessary (and really, gate checked bags go through the same process as other bags, and less of it, so they’re actually slightly *less* likely to be damaged).

  • Lillian

    August 2, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    Wow! Thank you so much for the tips everyone! I have a Chicco travel system, so it is very big and bulky and heavy. I like the idea of just carrying my little man onto the plane. Unfortunatley, buying an extra seat is simply not in our budget at this time. So I will either be carrying him or hoping for a (free) extra seat with the ginormous car seat. I am flying Delta, so I will need to call them to find the answers to some of these travel questions. Thanks so much and I’ll let y’all know how the trip went!

  • Monica

    August 2, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    I flew about 20 times with my daughter before she turned 2. Don’t buy 2 tickets for a 4 month old on a 2 hour flight. Most likely the middle seat will be empty. If not, you can give the flight attendant the car seat and gate check it.
    If you DO buy a second seat, book the window and aisle. The middle seats are the last to go and you just might have the whole row to yourself. If not, there’s no one on the planet that wouldn’t trade a middle seat for an aisle.
    The airlines require you to put the car seat in the window seat OR the middle, if you are the one sitting in the window seat. Basically they don’t want you blocking a stranger from getting in and out. However, if you are a super sneaky evil genius like me, you can just talk to the window passenger a lot before take off and they will assume you are all together until it’s too late to do anything about it.
    Four months is a piece of cake. Just wait until 2.
    (And btw I second the sling.)

  • Chris

    August 4, 2009 at 12:29 pm

    Thanks VERY much for the link to the Car Seat Lady’s website. We are expecting and I just figured out that many of our new parent friends have rear-facing middle seated carseats and was wondering why this was the case. Aha! Good to know.

  • Kimba

    August 4, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    I’ve flown several times with my 8 mth old, and they’ve never asked me to remove him from the sling, which makes everything easier.
    They did once ask me to take off his shoes though. I stood there a minute, trying to figure out if they were serious. They were.

  • KatC

    August 5, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Maggie Mason over at Mightygirl did a good list on travelling with her baby some time in the last year or so. It’s not about travelling alone, but it does have some good tips. She also did one about getting through security, but I can’t seem to find it since her site redesign. It’s worth looking for!

  • Rae

    August 13, 2014 at 6:48 am

    Hi I have a question to ask. My husband and I enjoy travelling abroad and are considering taking what will then be our 2 month old daughter with us. Is it too risky at that age to take them abroad? What’s the general consensus? Also what experiences have you had with a baby that young? Thanks advice would be most helpful. 

  • Carla

    October 16, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    Thank you thank you! Hubby and I are taking our four month old next month from Florida to Pittsburgh and I’ve been googling like CRAZY to figure out what in the heck I need to bring (and NOT bring). Your post helped me so much!

  • Jessica

    April 12, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    Couple of tips:
    1) No need to bring the car seat base if your car seat has the seat belt adapter. The car’s and airplane’s seat belts will slide right through and save you the trouble of lugging the base around with you. The base is super heavy!
    2) Don’t buy a seat for a 4 month old, unless you really want to be able to put them down during the flight. Bring the car seat and when you check in ask the agent if there are any extra seats available. If there is, they can try to move you next to the empty seat. If not, gate check the car seat. The car seat won’t get thrown around the same way it would in the luggage compartment.
    3) When going through security, you must let the tsa agent know that you have formula/breast milk. They’ll make you take it out so it can be scanned separately from your other items. There’s no limit to how much breast milk/formula you can bring on board.
    4) And try to buy whatever you can at your destination (diapers, wipes, formula, baby food, etc). Only bring what you need for the flight and for a few hours later (in car you can’t get to a store right away).