Air Travel, especially international travel, may seem daunting for anyone travelling with babies and young children, but with some advance preparation and planning, it can go very well. Read my Flying Baby Tips to see how!
I’ve traveled with my kids since they were babies… often alone… even on overseas travel. Along the way I learned how to fly with kids.Will you need help? What are the car seat regulations? What about food? Diapers? How do I handle a screaming baby? And what do you do when your chocolate covered toddler decides to wipe his hands on the nice lady wearing a white pant suit?
Here are some simple tips for booking flights, dealing with the boarding, and then what to do on the plane.
Baby Flying Tips
Do Babies Need a Passport?
For International Travel, be sure that you have passports or visas as needed. Even babies need a passport for air travel.
Getting a passport takes time, make an appointment and get the forms filled out well in advance of your trip.
The passports are good for five years (after age 17 they are good for 10.) And don’t worry, when you apply for the next one, you get the old one back. I love having their baby passports.
Consent Travel Form Minors
If you are an adult traveling alone with a child, you must carry a Parental Consent to Travel Form. All children traveling with only one adult must have notarized authorization to do so in order to prevent problems entering or leaving a foreign country.
There are three different forms, depending on whether the second parent is alive, but not traveling with you, deceased or if you are a guardian. These are the forms I use when traveling alone with the kids. Notice that there are 3 different versions, depending on who is traveling with the child.
Make sure you get these forms filled out and notarized in advance. (Take my word for it… if it’s Sunday, and the kid is flying Monday morning, it’s a little tricky finding a notary). Note- In the 4 times I’ve had to have this form, I have not been asked to present it. HOWEVER….. wouldn’t you hate to be 5000 miles away from home, stuck in a foreign city’s airport when some immigration agent demands to see it?
Lightweight Baby Stroller
Don’t struggle carrying your baby and all of your gear through the airport. A lightweight stroller makes travel SOOOO much easier. You can check it as you board the plane, and it will be there for you as you step off. I promise, it will make life so much easier!
Check out this great selection of top-quality lightweight strollers from My Babies Planet
Baby Seat on Airplane
When booking a flight, be aware that any child over age 2 requires their own seat. Under age 2, a child can be considered a lap-child, so you don’t have to purchase their seat.
In case of emergency, your child will be in more danger on your lap than in a proper seat. There are harnesses that secure baby to your seat belt. I’ve never tried them, but they look like a good way to keep baby strapped and on your lap. But, do you really want to hold a baby on your lap for hours? If you are just doing a short hop, or have a calm baby, holding your infant on your lap is not a problem. 10 hours to Germany, and you will be climbing the walls… and begging to sit on the wing.
Your child’s car seat can be brought on board and strapped into the plane’s seat. Kids feel more comfortable in their familiar seat, and you won’t have to worry about the seat getting lost or damaged in the baggage maze.
Find Child Airplane Harnesses Here
In a perfect world, Airplane seat belts would have shoulder straps for children… in a really perfect world, you child will sit as still as these kids…
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Car Seat Covers
If you check the Car Seat, it’s good to have a Cover. Once the seat goes onto the rollerband, it passes through lots of hands, and gets tossed around. Why not keep it clean, and keep the straps secure in a seat cover?
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If you DO bring your Baby’s seat onto the plane… be sure to buckle it in properly!
Baby Bassinet on Plane
A Great place for Baby on a Plane!!
Some planes have special bassinets that attach to the bulkhead in the front rows of certain sections. The bassinet offers a crib like space for your baby to lie down flat, or sit and play. You must ask for these when booking your seat.
A bassinet does make the space crowded for you though. Notice my mom doing the food/baby juggle while eating.
Notice how happy my son looks….
Feeding Baby on a Plane
According to TSA and Homeland Security, passengers traveling with babies and small children can bring larger quantities of breast milk or baby formula in their carry-on luggage. Bring EXTRA… then pack a little more unmixed formula (never know when you will hit delays, and I guarantee they won’t have your brand on board).
Here is the Ruling from the Homeland Security Website-
Medications, baby formula and food, and breast milk are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding three ounces and are not required to be in the zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint. Officers may need to open these items to conduct additional screening.
The flight attendants can help you warm your bottles…. just catch him/her at a quiet time. You can also get an on-the-go bottle warmer that will heat the bottle in a special holder.
If you are nursing, go right ahead. And don’t let anyone shame you into trying to do it in the bathroom!
For young toddlers, bring baby foods packaged in plastic containers. Don’t forget the snacks.
If your child is eating regular foods, it’s a good idea to order a child meal for each child when booking your flight. Confirm this when you confirm your reservations. (It probably wouldn’t hurt to triple check when it comes time to check in.) The child’s meal is geared toward young palates, often has more fresh fruit, and it comes out before all of the other food. This makes it easier to feed the kids before you have to deal with your own meal.
Formula and Snack Containers that Seal are Best
Avoid spilled snacks!!
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Should I PreBoard?
When you are traveling with children, you are generally allowed to pre-board. Decide whether that works for you. Some kids need a little more run-around-the-terminal time before getting on the plane, let them. With reserved seats, you shouldn’t have a problem getting your space. Your fellow passengers will appreciate it if your child is worn out before getting on the plane.
If you like the idea of getting on first and claiming space in the overhead bins, then pre-board.
While you are staking out space on board, grab a few extra pillows and blankets for comfort. It is possible to make a nest on the floor in your row for children who want to stretch out a bit.
Children Sleeping on a Plane
Will your baby sleep on a plane? Mine did… I even managed to have my Children sleeping on a plane. (No, I did not knock anyone out) The babies would sleep in my arms, the bassinet, or in their own baby carrier seat…
As for the Children? I have 2 tips….
1. I make a nest on the floor Between the rows (on the floor, where feet go) with blankets and pillows. They Can stretch out and SLEEP!
2. I make the kids comfortable in their pajamas and tuck a load of pillows around to keep them comfortable. You can change them into real clothes before landing.
note- These tips are better on overseas trips going TO Europe, because you fly over night… coming back to America, they will be awake.
Airplane Ear Pressure Relief
To make the flight more comfortable for yourself and your fellow passengers, there are a few special items you can pack in your bag. Earplanes are like earplugs that adjust with the changing pressure of the airplane. They work very well on babies and small children.
Having a bottle for babies, or small lollipops for children handy will help too (bring extra lollipops to hand out to fellow passengers if necessary… but don’t get caught up in packing goodie bags for other people!). I love Dum Dums… they are small and come in 1000 or so flavors.
Favorite snacks in small baggies are fun treats throughout the trip.
Changing a Baby Diaper on a Plane
Always pack more diapers and wipes than you think you need.
Then pack some more.
There is no great way to change a baby on a plane; you are just going to have to do your best.
I used to use the the floor space near the exit, or close to the galley. Today the bathrooms have pull down changing shelves. It looks like it could be as fun as putting on pantyhose in the back seat of a car. (By the way, if you want to use the floor space… do it in the BACK of the plane! NO ONE is allowed to congregate near the pilot… not even/or especially… stinky babies)
Do not throw the diaper into the airplane toilet! And DO NOT hand the flight attendant your dirty diaper (unless you really want bad service for the rest of your journey). Use the trash can. For bonus points, use disposal bags that keep the aroma inside. And remember, no liquids or creams over 3.4 oz so carry the travel sized butt cream.
Do put an extra set of clothes or two in your bag for the kids (you can toss in an extra shirt for yourself). Accidents happen, and they usually happen when you are thousands of feet in the air and miles from home.
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How to Entertain a Toddler on a Plane
Make Flying a Fun Experience… and keep them mostly in their seats.
Pack a few new toys or books in your carry-on luggage.
For toddlers or small children, wrap each in some sort of fun paper to make it extra special, even something as simple as a new toy car can be exciting if it comes wrapped.
Small toys and figurines, puzzle books, or coloring books with new crayons are all winners. Remember though, one at a time is better to keep the interest level high, and the clutter level low.
Coloring Books and Tablets that can be wiped away are great… no mess.
And for Baby? Keep Toys on a Chain
High Interest, Low Noise Toys are Best
I use a snap link plastic chain from Discovery Toys. All toys can easily be attached, this way, if they fall, you can pull them back up.
Bring along toys that have lots of interesting things to look at, and new things to do. Keep it fun, keep it exciting. Don’t bring noisy toys that make lots of music or siren sounds. Your fellow travelers will appreciate it.
Colors, textures… something fun and new… but also a familiar favorite.
Believe me, digging around on the ground for an elusive rattle while juggling a baby is NOT fun.
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And If Your Baby Schmears Chocolate on the Lady in White?
What do You Do When Things Go Wrong?
First of all, apologize (you can inwardly curse the foolish person for wearing white while traveling, but keep that tucked inside).
Get out the wet wipes, clean up the kid (don’t wipe the lady, trust me, it only makes it worse!)
Apologize again…. then let it go.
Your baby might cry, whine, fuss, poop, throw cheerios or do any of those things that babies sometimes do.
Be prepared with treats, wipes, and entertainment. Then…. breathe.Ignore the awful people with their awful insults.
(It’s hard, but as grown-ups they should be more in control of themselves than a 6 month old who doesn’t understand why his ears hurt).
Eventually, you will arrive at your destination, and those people will vanish. You will never have to see them again…. and you will have a really funny story about the lady with chocolate schmears all over her jacket.
Final Tips for Flying with Babies and Toddlers
Last thoughts on Travel with Kids
-Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
-Get a cart and keep it as long as possible… then switch to a stroller.
-Speaking of Strollers? a lightweight stroller that collapses small is best. Cars in the rest of the world do NOT have the space your mini van or SUV have. (I actually had to remove the wheels from my travel stroller to fit it into my cousin’s car… no joke)
-Don’t overload yourself with too much baggage everything you pack has to be carried. (Again, cars in Europe are smaller…)
-Condense what you need for the flight into one bag, and check everything else. (Juggling multiple bags is a recipe for disaster)
-Try to avoid having to change planes, direct flights are rough, but changing planes is a pain.
Remember, traveling is stressful for everyone, especially the littlest ones… they are being taken from the unfamiliar to a strange loud place where they have to sit still. Be compassionate. This is not the time to break your baby of the pacifier habit! And certainly triple-check to make sure the toddler’s favorite stuffed animal is along.
Eventually Your Kids Will Grow Up…
Traveling with Kids is is not a problem if you are organized. Plan ahead to make the trip as easy as possible, hours on a plane with a baby or child (or both) is taxing enough; don’t add extra layers of difficulty. When done right, travel with kids can even be fun!