How to Manage Flying With a Baby on Your Lap
Flying alone or with your significant other is pretty easy because you only have yourselves to worry about. Flying with a baby is a whole different ball game... and we’re about to give you the inside scoop on how to do it. With our guidelines and tips below, you’ll master the basics of flying with a baby on your lap.
Firstly, how safe is flying with a baby on your lap?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) makes it pretty clear that they don’t advocate flying with a baby on your lap. The safest place on an aircraft for all passengers, including babies, is in their own seat (usually using a car seat or government-approved restraint system). So yes, there is a risk when flying with a baby on your lap. If you have the budget for it, opt for getting your baby his or her own seat. For extra safety, bring your own car seat or purchase the government-approved CARES Child Aviation Restraint System.
Age Limits for Babies on your Lap During an Airplane Flight
✓ Airline restrictions vary on how early can a baby fly, but most allow two-week old babies or older
✓ If you need to fly with your baby earlier than this age range, it’s best to bring a certificate/note from your child’s pediatrician
✓ Until the age of two years old, babies are allowed to fly for free domestically (with some discounts internationally)
Tips on How to Manage Flying with a Baby on your Lap:
So you’ve made your choice and decided to take a flight with your baby on your lap. Here are our best tips on how to make it through the flight (with both mommy and baby happy):
1. Don’t fly during the baby’s ‘witching’ hours!
The witching hour is described as the fussy period that almost all babies go through. It tends to happen around the same time every day and most frequently occurs in the late afternoon and evening hours. Many mommies say their babies witching hour window is 3pm - 7pm each day. Therefore, try to book only early morning or late night flights otherwise you might have a crying baby for the whole flight!
2. Choose the “right” seat
If you want freedom (or maybe just want to avoid the passengers giving you the look), choose the back seats! It might not be the most quiet nor most luxurious seat, but it does give you ample space and privacy since not many passengers want this location.
✓ The Front of the Plane Seats - Good for moms with infants below a year old or babies who fit in a bassinet. There’s enough leg space and you can rest while the baby is napping in the cot! Con: Armrest cannot be lifted so if the baby’s sleeping, only one parent can carry him or her.
✓ The Middle - Good for moms with older lap infants (especially those who can’t sleep when it’s noisy). But it’s very hard to move around or go for bathroom breaks.
✓ The Back of the Plane Seats - Our fave! Not the most luxurious but can give mom and her lap infant enough space to move --- you can even snag an empty seat most of the time. Plus, you’re close to the bathroom (very helpful during a diaper explosion).
3. Bring proof of your baby’s age
If you’re flying domestically, a baby under 2 years old should technically be free (for most airlines). However, you will still be required to present proof for the baby’s age with their birth certificate or passport. If you’re traveling internationally, you might have to pay for a fee, usually 10% of the ticket rate and taxes. To be on the safe side, bring proof of the baby’s age whether it’s a domestic or international flight. You wouldn't want to miss your flight just because you can’t prove your baby’s age!
4. Check-in bulky baby items
This question can be answered differently for every family, depending on if you’re flying with the baby on your lap or if you decide to pay for a seat (and use your carseat). If you’re flying with a lap infant, always check in your car seat, stroller and main luggage (basically all your bulky items) when you arrive at the airport. Or you can also opt to gate check your stroller (very helpful if your boarding gate is far). Just be aware that some airlines require claiming a name tag for gate-checked strollers!
5. Wear your baby through the airport!
There are many pros to wearing your baby! It lets the baby stay close to you so there’s less chance of fussiness and crying. You also have both hands available (push stroller with one hand and hold hands with your other toddler). Additionally, passing through airport security is easier --- you won’t need to remove your baby from the carrier (most of the time). Nothing beats the original Baby Bjorn carrier for wearing your baby (a mommy favorite!)
What else should I wear?
Our Recommended Airport Outfit for Mom and Baby:
✓ For mom - Invest in a shirt that's specifically made to allow for easy breastfeeding without flashing a nipple. We also love this breastfeeding cover that turns into a scarf when not in use! Leggings or comfy sweats are also a must! As well as comfy sneakers for all the standing you’ll be doing throughout the day.
**Always bring a change of clothes! You never know when they’ll spit up on you (and your whole outfit).
✓ For the baby - You can never go wrong with onesies (they come in endless cute designs). Choose an outfit that has an easy-snap open bottom (for quick diaper emergencies).
6. Use a backpack as your diaper bag!
You need both hands as much as possible. Shoulder bags can easily slip off when picking up luggage and is just another pain to worry about. We love this backpack diaper bag from Mancro! It’s very roomy and has lots of additional pockets (the sleek & simple design is a winner too). Pack bottles of water, formula/liquid formula, pacifiers, nappies, wipes, towels, extra clothes (3 to 4 sets), many bibs (if your baby drools), an extra shirt (or two) for mom, favorite toys and a sound book or toy.
7. Sip, sip, sip!
During takeoff and landing, it’s important for the baby to sip or suck on milk to prevent the air pressure from hurting their ears. Of course though, if they are already sleeping… Do not wake them up! You can also bring your own sippy cups --- make sure they’re leak proof.
8. Bring stickers, favorite toys & games to play
The attention span of kids is minimal to say the least. It’s important to bring as many entertaining items to keep them distracted, without bringing your entire living room. An affordable yet effective strategy is stickers! Try these Meegoo Puffy Stickers which may keep them distracted for awhile. Something about stickers keep little kids so fascinated! Other entertainment options are toy cars, legos, coloring books, crayons, clay and animal figures. Keep these games stored in a clear packing cube inside your backpack. Easy access and easy organization!
9. Download entertaining shows (plus comfy headphones)
It’s not the most ideal entertainment option for mommy but you gotta do what you gotta do! Fill up your tablet or laptop with your baby’s favorite shows, whether that’s Paw Patrol, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse or Shimmer & Shine. Games and apps can also keep little hands busy and entertained. Don’t forget to pack comfy headphones for your baby (unless you want to keep hearing Wheels on the Bus all throughout the flight). For smaller babies, Mpow Kids Headphones is our recommended brand!
10. Organize with clear packing cubes
When you’re flying with a baby on your lap, moving quick is a must! That’s why clear packing cubes are your best sidekick (you’re a super mom after all). Need to change nappies in a jiffy, not to mention a small airplane bathroom? Just grab the cube with all your diaper-changing essentials. Is the baby making a fuss because he’s hungry? Grab the cube with all your snacks with easy access.
Different Size Packing Cubes for Your Baby’s Needs:
✓ Extra small cube for small toys and knick knacks to keep your lap child entertained. It can also hold small snacks --- because who wants a hangry baby?
✓ Small cube for extra outfit changes --- don’t forget to pack your adorable onesies, some socks and lots of bibs!
✓ Medium cube for your baby’s bathroom paraphernalia! Remember to pack diapers, wipes and a changing pad.
11. Locate your baby’s bathroom
Most large airplanes have at least one bathroom with a changing table. Before the plane takes off, ask the flight attendant where this bathroom is. If you’re seated near this bathroom, you’re in luck! No changing table in the bathrooms? We’ll still make it work. While you’re in the tiny bathroom, try changing the baby while you’re sitting on the toilet bowl --- with the lid closed!
12. Pack a first aid kit for baby emergencies
Babies are prone to developing gassy stomachs (their intestinal system is still immature). It’s usually the cause of intense crying or fussiness! Make sure you pack a DIY first aid kit with this clear bag for your baby. Bring along some gas relief drops like this one from Little Remedies. Don’t forget teething ointment and fever reducer pads --- both of which work wonders for these common baby emergencies.
13. A little bribe never hurt anyone
Bring treats for your surrounding airplane friends. You’ll feel a lot less stressed knowing you have some goodies to pass out if the baby starts having a fit. Some simple ideas include:
✓ Chocolates (because who doesn’t love a few Hershey Kisses?)
✓ Ear plugs (when the crying gets too loud, you can hand out your goodie bags to neighbors)
✓ Gift cards (Starbucks, Krispy Kreme, etc.) - this will go a long way
✓ Mints / Candies - add other goodies to the bag that you would enjoy receiving on a plane.
Some passengers might not even accept the gifts. Just the thought that you cared enough about their experience on the flight will go a long way.
Our favorite Mommy products to bring when flying with a baby
Want to make airplane travel with your baby even easier? Real moms helped us put together their favorite airplane baby products below:
✓ Disposable diaper trash bags
We like this Munchkin Arm & Hammer Diaper Bag Dispenser. You wouldn’t want the whole airplane bathroom smelling like a poopy diaper, right? You can even use this disposable diaper trash bag for soiled clothes (vomit attack or poop explosion scenarios)!
✓ Snack ball/container
This adorable snack ball/container can help avoid your baby’s favorite snacks from being crushed into pieces. Fill it with rice krispies or grain puffs before boarding your flight. It also doubles as a toy (shake, shake for a rattle sound).
✓ Pacifier clip (and wipes)
Don’t let your baby throw their pacifier on the airport floor! That’s just another thing you need to worry about cleaning. Easily clip their pacifier to their shirt and have no more hassles when they decide to spit it out. We also recommend pacifier wipes --- when you got no time to wash your baby’s nookie!
✓ Toxic-free hand sanitizer spray
A must when traveling! Too many germs around your precious baby. Get a toxic free, yummy smelling one while you’re at it. We love the Honest Hand Sanitizer Grapefruit Grove!
✓ Wet bag (that’s actually cute)
Why does everything get wet when you have a baby? This Whale Wet Bag is a lifesaver when traveling and just too cute. Just throw everything in, zip it closed and throw it in your carry on. No worries about your bag smelling like pee!
✓ Clear packing cubes
These packing organizers will help you separate your bag into sections for amazing suitcase organization. Use the larger cubes for organizing your checked suitcase and the smaller cubes for organizing your carry-on bag. They are unique because of their see-through design, so you’ll know where everything is. Order a few small sizes for organizing the baby bag. Check out this video to see how our friend XOLivi organized her diaper bag!
✓ Portable snacks and treats
✓ Car seat stroller
Yup, we can’t help but gush over this GoGo Kidz Carseat Stroller. It converts your normal car seat into a stroller (no need for packing a buggy anymore). And it’s cute!
✓ Nursing pillow
A long flight with a baby on your lap means lots of nursing (for breastfeeding moms). Make it easier on yourself by bringing your own travel nursing pillow. It makes a huge difference --- acting as a cushion for your baby’s head while also protecting your arms from soreness.
✓ Portable potty seat training cover
Is your lap infant potty trained yet? Good job, mom! You’ll want to purchase a portable potty seat training cover before your flight. This will help protect your baby’s bum from germs (this one from Gimars is non-slip too) and will make them feel more comfortable at your travel destination!
Decided to pay for a baby seat instead? Here are some options to consider!
If you decide you want to pay the extra bucks to buy a seat for your baby, there are lots of benefits to this option. It’s considered the safer option, plus you’ll have more space for yourself (and the baby). Here are a few ways to do this:
▻ THE OBVIOUS: Buy your child a seat on the plane next to you. But this only works for babies who are old enough to sit by themselves (one year old and above). If your child is younger than one years old and you want to buy them their own seat, consider two options:
▻ Option 1: Buy a CARES Seat Belt and use this to strap your baby into the regular seat (this works well with older babies or toddlers). Check in your stroller at the gate! You can push your baby all the way through security and only check the stroller in at the gate. Make sure to bring a wrap or baby carrier for the plane after you check the stroller in.
▻ Option 2 (Our Recommendation): Bring your own car seat! Attach the car seat to a GoGo Kidz Carseat Stroller for easy walk through the airport and attach your seatbelt into their airplane seat.
• Some moms like this option better than the CARES seat belt because their babies are used to their own car seat and sleep better on the plane.
• Important: Make sure your car seat is TSA Approved like this lightweight one from Cosco! Also invest in a travel bag for your stroller --- we like this one from Uppababy because it has insurance in case your stroller gets damaged during the flight.
Flying with your baby alone can be scary, but with these tips you are good to go! Before the flight, take deep breaths and make sure you are extra organized. If the flight with your baby does not go according to the plan, you’ll be less frustrated and more prepared.
If you need help packing, remember that clear packing cubes are your best side kick. When you’re moving as fast as you do, our see-through cubes can keep up with your mommy duties. Bring all the baby’s favorite items and don’t forget about yourself!
Here’s an Awesome Printable Packing List for Flying with a Baby. Download now and check off all the important items you may have forgot about!
Have a safe flight! You can do this.