Traveling is stressful enough these days, and flying with a baby or infant increases the stress levels even more. But if you plan you can save yourself a lot of pain and anxiety later.
Many parents are unfamiliar with the different rules when flying or traveling on an airplane with their newborn or older baby. The regulations for airlines do change so it’s best to check with the airline you’re eventually booking with but we try to answer the common questions below.
At what age can my newborn or baby fly by airplane?
Most airlines have a minimum age but are generally fine with letting newborns travel with their parents from a few days old, so after that, it’s really up to you. Most infants are less fragile and more travel-ready from about 3 months.
The airline’s rules can often change, but as of this writing the standard for US airlines on domestic flights is that infants need to be at least 7 days old, but some airlines are double that at 2 weeks old. Some airlines allow younger infants with a doctor’s written permission. Others extend the minimum age up to 14 days or have additional restrictions.
Infants generally make good travel companions, compared to say, older babies or busy toddlers since they generally sleep a lot and are happy so long as they have a warm cozy spot to curl up and sleep.
Most U.S. airlines follow these above policies on domestic flights as well, though it can’t hurt to double-check before you buy your ticket.
Do I need to buy an airplane ticket for my baby?
No, in most cases babies under 2 years of age fly for free on domestic flights and so don’t need their own seat – best to double check this with the airline when booking. International flights will normally be charged for a separate seat for your baby regardless. To not be charged on a domestic flight, airlines will often double-check the baby’s age, so you’ll need some sort of proof of age either when booking or at the airport. This does save you money, but you might want to consider purchasing your child their own seat anyway which will allow you to use an approved car seat for extra safety. Many airlines also offer a discount for kids under 2 years of age, so it may be worth calling them to check.
Do you need a birth certificate to get a baby on a plane?
What to pack when flying with a baby
|This is pretty much a no brainer here. A general rule of thumb is to have enough diapers for every hour you’ll be traveling.|
|Definitely a must. You’ll need plenty of these for keeping us|
|Always good to have a few small baby blankets. They will come in handy for covering your baby, nursing, laying your baby down on for nappy changes and a lot more|
Extra Change of clothing
|If your baby gets diarrhea or there’s a leaking diaper, you’ll be thankful you packed in an extra two or three changes of clothing. We suggest packing in an extra shirt for yourself too in case of spills – you’ll thank us later.|
|A good waterproof and lined diaper bag is a must, to keep all the essentials together as carry-on and things organized. Preferably one with a shoulder strap for easier carrying.|
|Don’t forget this, you never know when an emergency might strike and be able to get advice from someone you know and trust fast is crucial|
|You don’t want your newborn developing a rash while flying, so a good bum or diaper cream is important to apply just like any other time.|
|It seems obvious, but you don’t want to forget this one. From wiping down spills, puke and helping clean up after nappy changes, wipes are going to be your go-to item.|
|Another important item, especially if you’re not breastfeeding so you can express milk and keep in the bottles. Or make up some formula milk.|
|If you’re not breastfeeding then don’t forget to pack in a breast pump if you’re using one. You may be able to pack in a pre-made bottle of expressed of formula milk but they typically won’t be safe to drink beyond a couple hours.|
Formula and water
|A newborn baby needs to be fed fairly often, so if you’re not going to be breastfeeding then you’ll need to bring formula and water along to make up a bottle or two.|
Can flying damage a baby’s ears
It’s possible that flying can cause pain for a baby’s ears, but it should be short-lived. It can also lower their hearing ability, but won’t cause any permanent loss of hearing. The pain is normally caused when the eardrum stretches during pressure changes in the cabin because the air inside the middle ear expands with the air inside the plane. It’s best to give your baby a pacifier, bottle to feed while keeping them upright to help reduce any pain and get their ears to pop – this is especially important during take-off or landing.
Tips for keeping your baby happy during the flight
The general rule of thumb here is: Nurse them, Feed them, diaper change them, soothe them and let them stretch out and kick their legs a bit.
Book the flight during their usual nap time
Most babies have a routine at home, so we suggest trying to book the flight so that it coincides with your baby’s usual nap time to give you a higher chance that they will be more settled and asleep during the flight.
Use a sling carrier for hands-free flying
Because kids under two usually fly for free on most airlines without their own seat, many parents don’t buy them their own seat. Generally, in that case, they will tend to be on your lap, but then we recommend getting a front-facing sling carrier to make things easier for both of you. This will let you carry the baby in different positions that’s most comfortable, while also having the added advantage of keeping your hands free.
Sling carriers also allow the baby to be covered up if needed which means they will be cozier, have less distraction from the overhead light, and unwanted attention from strangers that might want to touch them. The sling also provides a convenient and discreet way to nurse your baby during the flight.
We recommend that you put your baby or newborn into the sling carrier a little while before you get on the plane, and get them to calm down and hopefully fall asleep before boarding. If you’re lucky they will sleep through the whole flight.
Help their ears adjust to the pressure
It’s a good idea to have them sucking on something, either their pacifier, a blanket, by nursing them or feeding them a bottle. The cabin pressure can get to children more than adults because their ear canals are smaller, so a good tip to make sure their ears pop is to give them things that keep them sucking and swallowing.
It’s especially important to give them something to chew or suck on before take-off or landing because the cabin pressure change is the biggest at that time. If they are sleeping during take-off or landing it’s best to leave them, but if they waking and start crying then definitely give them something.
Make sure your baby is kept hydrated
Low humidity can quickly make your baby thirsty as the air dries out during a flight, especially if your breast-feeding. Make sure you keep to your normal bottle or nursing routine and make sure you give them formula or breast milk as often as needed. This is especially true for those long haul flights.
Make sure you bring things like pacifiers, teething rings or anything that helps to soothe them if they are restless. A niggling and crying baby is stressful for you and fellow passengers so make sure you pack in whatever your go-to distraction and soothing technique are at home. Here are the best selling pacifiers and soothers on Amazon to choose from.
Do I need an ID for my baby to fly?
Which seat should I book with a baby?
I suggest booking the bulkhead seats on the airplane, which is normally behind a separator like a wall or a curtain that can be found in different parts of an airline plane. Normal bulkhead locations are in the front of the plane outside of the cockpit or crew area, or the separation between economy and business class seating, or often where they separate the seats from the loos.
There are quite a few advantages to booking the seats behind a bulkhead
- More space in front of you – use this for extra legroom or packing space for baby stuff
- No-one in front of you, so nobody will lower their seat into your space
- Many airlines can provide an onboard travel bassinet that clips into the bulkhead (see our section further down that talks more about airline travel bassinets).
You can also use Seatguru to check the seating maps of different airlines to see where the bulkhead seats are, and you can mouse-over their seating plans to see which bulkhead seats offer extra legroom.
Booking an Airline Travel Bassinet
One of the most important tips for flying with a baby is organizing a built-in airplane baby bassinet. If you can get this baby bassinet sorted, and you’ll save yourself a lot of hassle on the plane trip while flying especially if you’re on a long haul 13 hours or more flight.
What is an Airplane Baby Bassinet?
The airplane baby bassinet (also called a cot, baby basket, carrycot, or cradle) is a tiny bed that connects to the wall of the aircraft that’s designed just for babies. Kids under two get to travel on planes for free without a seat of their own. For most parents, this means holding the kid the entire time and letting them sleep on their chests. This isn’t the most comfortable way to travel if you’re an adult. Especially if you’re on a 12-hour flight.
The airline travel baby bassinet allows you to safely put your baby in their bed so that you can sleep as well and not worry about their safety. This is a great peace of mind for your infant’s safety and frees you up a bit more.
Children that are younger than two years of age can generally fly for free, but they don’t get their own seat. This is great in terms of it costing less, but it also means that you will end up holding your baby or toddler yourself in your seat – not ideal.
This is where being able to reserve a bassinet on the aircraft ahead of time is so important. An airline bassinet or baby cot/crib is a small bed that is connected to the side of the airplane. So give them a call as early before your departure date as you can to inquire if they have one available to ensure you can book it.
Many parents also phone the airlines first before booking tickets, to ensure the airline has a travel bassinet available. Alternatively, you could also purchase a compact portable travel bassinet of your own to take with you. These usually come complete with a diaper bag, changing mat and extra storage pockets built-in.
You can also find a great guide to which airlines have travel bassinets available to book on this site.
Tips for using an airline bassinet
- Take out your TV before the airline crew fits the bassinet in place. You could end up not being able to get the TV out afterward and then have no way to watch a movie during the flight, which would suck.
- Have your baby’s legs point towards the aisle. The reason for this is so that the air stewards are better able to see your babies face, and help keep an eye on them for you – definitely a plus. Many airlines are enforcing this more strictly now.
- Depending on the type of airline bassinet, we recommend that you use the bassinet cover or straps that go over the bassinet to secure your baby when they are in it. Many flights can have unexpected turbulence, and you wouldn’t want your baby being flung out unexpectedly – rather safe than sorry I always say.
Questions to ask airlines (domestic and international)
- Is there a discount for kids less than 2 years old? This if you want to get them their own seat for a domestic flight
- And will you need proof of identity and age.
- Can I get a seat in a bulkhead row?
- Can you provide a travel bassinet and how do I book one? (can only be attached in front of bulkhead seat rows)
- Do you allow for the pre-boarding of passengers or families with small children?
- Can bring my stroller onto the plane and have it stored while onboard?
- Can you offer help in getting through the terminal for connecting flights? How do I organize it?
- Does my car seat count towards my carry on weight? If I cant bring it on the plane would it then count towards my normal baggage weight allowed?
- Do babies keep on the lap get a baggage allowance? (i.e. if they don’t have their own seat)
Extra questions to ask airlines when flying internationally
- What is the cost for babies younger than 2 years of age? International flights require all kids to purchase a ticket.
- Do you offer any discount for kids less than 2 years old
- Can I use my car seat on the flight? If you can’t, can they provide one for you?
- What documentation will I need at the airport (especially important if the child’s last name doesn’t match yours).