How to Survive Flying with Baby

Flying with a young child is an experience that, eventually, many of us parents must face.  If you have never done this before, however, you can’t really understand how radically different an airplane ride with your baby or toddler will be. I have two children of my own, and feel like I have learned the hard way what to do and what not to do. Following these 10 Do’s and Don’ts will help to make your journey much less stressful:


1. DON’T schedule a flight during “the witching hour.”

When my children were about 1 and 4 I decided that flying at the end of the day would be a good idea because the flight was cheaper, and the children would be tired and just might fall asleep. Years later I am still haunted by that experience. Learn from the mistake made by many well-intentioned parents: splurge on a non-stop flight during the time your child is naturally the most pleasant, REGARDLESS OF THE PRICE. Trust me.

2. DON’T board early.

While it is recommended that you get to the airport earlier than usual, don’t rush to get on the plane.  Hang out by the gate and let your toddler work off some energy. Make sure to do a last minute diaper change in the airport bathroom, as there will be much more room to spread out.

3. DO make nice with the flight attendants.

Make the airline staff part of your village. You will need as many allies as possible when spills happen and other travelers complain. If you are traveling alone with children, swallow your pride entirely and ask the first flight attendant who smiles at your child if he or she could check in with you regularly.

4. DO pack lots and lots of wipes.

Wipes are amazingly handy on a flight. You really cannot have too many of them.

5. DO be generous with the snacks.

A full baby is a happy baby. You only make this mistake once.

6. DO NOT underestimating the importance of extra plastic bags.

Make sure to shove a few in the diaper bag. You will need at least one bag to corral all the garbage baby generates in the seats. It is a nice courtesy to fellow travelers to be able to use a plastic bag to contain diaper smells. 

7. DO put extra clothing in the diaper bag.

Between diaper leaks and spilled drinks, the chances that something will spill on you or your child is very high. An extra pair of baby clothes takes up no space at all, so why not just pack one?

8. DON’t throw all of your gear into one large, deep, carry-on bag.

Trying to find a small pacifier in a big, overstuffed bag while the baby is screaming bloody murder in a confined space is extremely stressful. Instead, organize the contents of your baby bag in a series of kits: one with all the supplies you need for changing diapers, another with snacks for the baby, a third with toys, etc. That way, when you have to shimmy into the bathroom to change a diaper, all you have to do is carry the baby and a zippered plastic bag of changing necessities.

9. DON’T allow a book or magazine for yourself to take up space in the diaper bag.

Sorry mom, but for the next few years, flying will not be about you catching up on the latest celebrity gossip. The quicker you realize this fact, the happier everyone will be.

10. DO look back to make sure you have everything as you exit the plane.

You never want to leave a cherished blanket behind as you step off the plane into an unfamiliar city. If possible, let your spouse exit with the baby while you double check the seat back pockets, floor, and seats.