How To Fly With A Baby Or Toddler

You might think that nothing could possibly be better than taking your baby on a long road trip, but you would be wrong. The pinnacle of parenting is taking your little cherub on an airplane – the longer the better. Oh, the sweet pleasures you can experience as you walk down the aisle and see the thinly disguised looks of horror as you carry your baby towards them. It truly is as amusing as it sounds.

The wife and I have, to date, taken 14 flights with one or two bundles of joy. These are not some short two-hour flights either but have been both cross country AND across the Atlantic (from the west coast).

Hands down, flying with tiny children is the best thing ever. From unstopping wiggling and climbing to projectile vomiting to listening to the unceasing music that emanates from their obviously strong lungs. Really, who wants to watch in-flight entertainment anyway? Not this dad, that’s for sure. Quality father and child time is really what a long flight comes down to.

However, if this doesn’t sound like something you would be into, I have a few tips.

When Booking Your Seats

Children can fly as a lap baby until they are two years old. This doesn’t mean they are free as you still need to pay taxes and fees, just not the seat. If possible, book the aisle and window seat of the same row. The ecstatic soul who is placed in the middle of mom and dad will graciously beg the flight attendant for ANY other seat on the plane.
Many of the larger aircraft have a few seats along the bulkhead that are able to have a bassinet attached. Make sure to grab these if at all possible. Plus, these seats have the most legroom and you will get them without having to spend extra money. See, the baby is already saving you tons of cash.

Another good place to grab a seat is in the back next to the toilets. The constant back and forth of other passengers will provide an unending source of entertainment for your tot. Often there will be a few people waiting for the toilet occupant to leave. Use these people, whether they like it or not, to play games like peek-a-boo with the baby. Plus, you will only be an arm’s length away when you need to change his diaper.

Remember to never book an emergency row as no one under the age of 15 can sit there. Before this rule was put into place there were no fewer than 824 jumpers or attempted jumpers in aviation history. After an investigation, FAA authorities confirmed that almost anyone would seriously think about opening the hatch to jump out after trying to quiet a screaming baby for an hour with no success.

A Sleepy Baby

While you or I might just have a few shots a fire water before boarding if we want to sleep, you can’t do this with a baby like our grandparents could (Damn laws ruining things – it wasn’t called the golden age of flying for nothing). Instead, I suggest you let the little ones run wild in the terminal. Let them get as much of their energy out before you get on that plane.

While you are able to board first because of the baby, try boarding last. Load one parent up with all the gear while the other continues to let Jr. wear himself out.

While you may be used to expecting to sleep on a long flight, forget about it with a baby. Oh, if you are lucky you might get a few minutes, but it won’t be enough if you are tired. So ensure that you are well-rested before the journey. Traveling is tiring enough WITHOUT a baby.

Take-Off and Landings

I’m sure we have all experienced the uncomfortable pressure that can build up just behind our ears and jaw while gaining or losing altitude. Your little tyke is no different. As adults, we can quietly stretch our jaws to let out that pressure but our baby is a heathen that will scream to his or her pagan gods for relief.

To stop your child from summoning Cthulhu (Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!), I suggest you feed them during take-off and landing. Breast or bottle, it doesn’t matter. The sucking action is what relieves the pressure buildup. If they are not hungry (when does that happen?), you can give them a pacifier.

If you are going to bottle feed I think it is better to have it all in bottles before you leave the house, especially formula. Security is not any quicker when you are trying to bring a white, powdery substance on board. TSA rules state that formula, breast milk, and juice for infants or toddlers is not limited by the 3.4oz rule. Just inform an officer at the security checkpoint that you have these things.


Be Ready For The Mess

I know that babies are naturally very sanitary tiny humans, but something about a plane just takes that right away from them. It might be the air sickness, who knows, but something liquidy and disgusting is guaranteed to come out of your babies mouth on a plane.

You, as at least 50% responsible for the existence of the child and therefore the mess it has spewed forth, must come prepared for all situations. Bring multiple plastic bags, wipes, strong napkins or paper towels, a few outfits, and plenty of diapers.

Remember that you are in a confined space with your baby and it will use this to its advantage. You will get at least some sort of disgusting substance on your from one of the orifices of your child. You might consider wearing a light windbreaker or even one of those newfangled hydrophobic clothing items to make wiping yourself down a cinch.

ProTip: The airsickness bag can be used to close up anything with a foul odor.


Channel Your Inner Santa

Let’s face it, all babies have an attention deficit hyperactivity problem. I looked it up on WebMD and this is listed as typical behaviors:

  • Fidgeting or constant movement
  • Wandering
  • Talking too much
  • Difficulty participating in quiet activities
  • Sounds like babies to me.

So to keep them occupied you need to come prepared with an assortment of items.

Have one new toy for them to play with for every 20 or 30 minutes of flight. It doesn’t have to be big, just new. To further increase the lifespan of the trinket, wrap it up like it is Christmas up in there. Your child will delight in the unwrapping and it will buy you a few more precious minutes of an occupied baby.

If your baby likes books, bring a couple. Make sure that the art has plenty of things for you to point out. Babies love to watch you point out different things and name them. “Apple. Apple. An apple is red.” Dumb babies don’t even know what an apple is. Might as well spend this time trying to make them less ignorant.

If you have a toddler, try to bring a few things for them to use to draw. Just watch them as they can quickly color something that is not supposed to be colored.

If you happen to run out of toys, time to use whatever is at your disposal. Grab the airsickness bag and make it a hand puppet. Just be sure that it hasn’t been used yet. Other things that I have found to entertain babies are the crinkly pretzel packet and showing him the in-flight magazine. It doesn’t work long for me, but you can try to get an infant to watch the kids channel of the entertainment system.

I don’t let tiny humans have my phone or iPad, but if there is any time that I would give those things to him it would be on a plane journey. Whatever brings me temporary peace and less wiggling.

If All Else Fails

Hold him up towards those around you and see if anyone takes the bait. If they don’t right away, just hold him there until an uncomfortable situation develops. Someone will inevitably force themselves to smile at the child. Bingo! Now just say something like “Look who wants to play with you!”

We are all in this flying metal tube together and if they want a quiet baby they are going to have to put in a little work to get it.

I hope you are now more prepared for the wonderful and very memorable experience of flying with an infant or toddler. In 30 years you will look back with longing because, as they say, ‘time heals all wounds.’

If you found this article useful or have another tip to add, let me know in a comment below.


  1. Mr Defined Sight

    Good stuff, DD! We haven’t flown with our toddler yet. Not sure how he would handle that. He did surprisingly well in a long car ride last summer however. I would think a few hours on a plane wouldn’t be too bad but I don’t think I would be brave enough for a long international flight!
    Mr Defined Sight recently posted…Embrace Stress, Care Less & Win in LifeMy Profile

    1. MrDD

      Aww, don’t be scared 😀

  2. Nigel William

    What can be done to give comfort to a toddler with claustrophobia?
    Nigel William recently posted…Camping with kids: infants, toddlers, pre-teens & teens | Hacks & tips for families to make your trip safer & easierMy Profile

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