Tips for Flying with a Baby or Toddler

Estimated read time: 4 minutes

Whether it's your first time or you're a seasoned veteran, traveling with your child can bring on a lot of anxiety. The last thing you want is to have the trip to and from the airport overshadow your entire vacation, so whether you are flying to Ireland to explore a new country or heading to the in-laws for the holidays, here are some ways you can make your trip more enjoyable.

You can hope for the best, just make sure you are prepared for the worst when it comes to going through TSA.

Book a Direct Flight

Keeping a minimum number of connections isn't just about the hassle of getting on and off your next flight. For babies and young children, the taking off and landing portions of a flight can scare them. At the very least they may be upset because of the pressure in their ears, a feeling they aren't familiar with and don't know how to handle.

Sometimes it's not possible to get a direct flight to your destination. In these cases, try to schedule a connection that gives you more time in between the flights. A good rule of thumb would be a two hour layover. This should give you time to relax a bit, maybe change a diaper, and grab a snack before taking off again.

Charge Your Tech

Between charging stations and portable chargers you can keep stashed in your carry-on, you should always keep a full charge before your flight. Even though you can probably watch TV or read the in-flight magazine or book you brought along, your toddler won't exactly have those distractions. An iPad, portable DVD player, or your phone can keep them occupied until you arrive.

Be Careful with Your Carry-On Choices

When it was just you, getting away with packing just the necessities was not that hard. When you add a baby to the equation, you just never know where the dice will land. Be sure to pack extra diapers, snacks, and toys in your carry-on.

Yes, that means you're going to have a much heavier diaper bag than you really want to have to carry, but that is better than the risk of not having an extra shirt to change your son or daughter into after they somehow squirt an entire juice box on themselves.

Prepare for a Bad TSA Experience

You can hope for the best, just make sure you are prepared for the worst when it comes to going through TSA. When you're packing bottles of milk and baby food, you might have to go through the ordeal of a TSA search.

Also, remember if you bring a stroller, baby carrier, booster seat, etc., those will also need to be screened by X-ray. If the item is too big, a TSA officer might have to physically/visually inspect it. An extra 20-30 minutes should be a good cushion for you to set aside for this part of your trip.

Get Comfortable With a Gate-Check

Once you've made it through TSA, your next stop should be straight to the gate to receive your gate-check tickets. Use these for your car seats, stroller, or both. If you are considering what to gate-check versus a regular checked item, do what you feel would work best for you.

You may want to fly with the car seats. Just remember that means you'll have to take it through security, as well. If that doesn't sound appealing, check your car seats in and gate-check your stroller.

Invest in Leg Room

Getting an upgraded seat that has extra legroom will make it much more comfortable for you to hold your lap child. The extra ground space will also come in handy when placing your diaper bag down. Use a travel credit card to pay for your tickets with extra leg space so you get a little more rewards back.

Buy a Ticket for The Baby if You Can

This one goes along with investing in leg room. If you can afford it, purchase a separate seat for your child. It will give your family the chance to spread out on the plane and relax more. You don't have to buy a ticket for children up to two years old, but it's probably in your best interest to go ahead and get one.

Safety is another reason for this. According to the Federal Aviation Administration's website, the safest place for your baby is in a government-approved child safety restraint system (CRS) or device. During unexpected turbulence, your arms will not always be able to hold your child securely. The safety belt on the airplane seat is the safer option.

Dress Comfortably

Yes, it is very tempting to dress up your baby that cute new outfit your mother bought for her. With the changing temperatures that you may experience on the plane, going from your frigid town, to the humid south, you need to think comfort first.

Clothing should be easy to change and worn in layers when possible. This will help with changes in the temperature when you're on the plane. Speaking of which, make sure you bring your own baby blanket as you probably won't want to use one from the plane.

Pack Any Medications

Over-the-counter and prescription medicines should all be packed in your carry-on bag. You never know what you might end up needing while in flight. Dramamine for Kids or infant ibuprofen can help with sore little ears.

Since you're going to have to take them through security, make sure you keep all their original packaging. This will make them easy for TSA officers to identify. TSA also has exemptions for liquid medications, so you shouldn't have to remove them from their packaging in the first place.