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        1. Le Scoop
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        baby with hand on a plane window

        Family Travel

        How To Fly With A Baby Without Losing It

        You can get a baby who’s under a year old on and off a flight and to your destination and stay sane, whether the journey is eight hours or two. Here’s how.

        Written By
        Elyse Moody

        Traveling with a new baby is hard enough when you can load their gear into your car. Prepping for their first flight feels can bring back memories of packing for your semester abroad. You don’t want to bring too much and look insane; you will have to carry everything at some point, and besides, airlines charge for oversize baggage. On the other hand, no matter how organized you try to be, it’s practically impossible not to forget something you need.

        Rest assured, you will learn from the experience. But you can also learn from mine before you set out. As a former travel reporter and editor, I gleaned lots of helpful tips and tricks from covering the industry, like which seats are the best for babies. And as a new mom, I’ve taken my infant daughter on two major flights—to Ireland when she was four months old and to Orlando when she was six months old—and learned plenty more useful things the hard way.

        THE SEATS

        1. Don’t book one for your baby. You can hold your babe in your lap until they are two years old. Children under two travel free on domestic flights and typically for 10 percent of the base fare on international flights. If you book a seat for your baby, you’ll want to bring an FAA-approved car seat on board—an unwieldy and potentially unsuccessful gambit if your baby doesn’t want to sit in it. All in all, it’s simplest to check your car seat at check-in; if you need it for your stroller, you can check both at the gate.

        Crucial note: Your baby’s information does need to be on your ticket. You have to add your infant separately after booking your ticket on some airlines, like Delta. Otherwise it can cause you a delay at the airport. Be sure your little one is on your reservation.

        2. Select your seats in advance if you can. This is especially key if you’re flying with a partner, to make sure you sit together. (You don’t want to be left trying to pull the diaper bag out from under the seat and hold the baby on your lap while they’re watching a movie across the aisle.) If no seats in the same row are available without an extra fee, look carefully at the ones available for an upgrade. If plenty of those are open, you might consider waiting until it’s time to check in to select a seat. It’s a bit of a gamble, but you’ll likely be able to book them later on without a charge.

        3. Look for an empty row of three seats and book the window and aisle—not two seats together. If no one books the middle seat, your trio will have it open for extra space. If someone does book it, I guarantee they’ll be happy to swap places with one of you.

        4. Consider booking the bulkhead seats—the ones at the front of the cabin that face a partition. It feels airier not to have a seat in front of you; you’ll be closer to the bathroom too. On longer flights, the bulkhead is clutch because it can be equipped with a bassinet for babies under two. The bassinet may be built into the bulkhead or snap onto the wall. There’s no extra charge for it; you just have to request or book it in advance. Delta, United, and Virgin are among the airlines that have bassinets and let you request them in advance; unfortunately, they don’t guarantee bassinet availability. Hawaiian, Lufthansa, Qantas, Qatar, and others allow you to reserve a bassinet in advance. Our babe slept soundly all the way to Shannon, Ireland, in one of United’s bassinets. For more details or to check your airline’s policy, visit’s airline bassinet guide


        5. Check as much of it as you can—curbside, if possible. The flexibility a carry-on bag gives you is so freeing, I know. You can walk straight past baggage claim and out of the airport, and in case of an overbooked flight you can volunteer to take a later one and get a voucher for future travels. I used to be that person. Try to travel that light with a baby, though, and you’ll just make your life harder. Once you hand off your family luggage, you’ll have fewer things to carry and worry about keeping up with. I’d argue that feeling is very freeing too. If you have the option, hand it off curbside. Curbside valet services charge gratuity only, no extra fee, and they can even save you money. For instance, the curbside guys at Orlando let us know that we’d get charged an overweight bag fee by the airline if we didn’t redistribute our stuff among our bags. We had a chance to do that without knowing we were causing a major holdup inside at the ticket counter or panicking and just paying the fee—which would’ve been more than twice the tip we left him. Conveniences like tracking on the airline’s app and Apple AirTags make lost baggage less likely these days too. Just keep the essentials (diapering and feeding supplies; a couple changes of clothes) on you.

        6. Invest in a large, hard-sided check bag that glides on all four wheels. Soft-sided luggage is said to last longer, but a hard-sided bag will better protect all of your delicate baby items, like bottles, formula, cleaning supplies, and more from getting crushed. You can also hold two back to back and push them with one hand, which is a major advantage over two-wheeled bags. I chose the Arlo Skye x Dusen Dusen hard-sided luggage because you can’t miss its lemon yellow on the baggage carousel; this also makes me think it’s less likely to get lost. I fit a Dock-a-Tot stuffed with two weeks’ worth of diapers and her feeding supplies in one side and all of her clothes in the other.

        7. Check your car seat with your luggage. Many manufacturers offer protective cases that include a travel warranty to cover any damage to the seat that might happen in transit. That made us feel confident about checking our UppaBaby Mesa seat, which has made it through two flights with nary a scratch.

        8. Pay for your check bags in advance. This may save you valuable time and money at the airport, especially if you’re flying on a low-cost carrier like Spirit or JetBlue. Airlines increase the price per bag as your departure time grows closer. It’s most expensive to pay for checked bags when you get to the airport for your flight. If you’re weighing the cost of one flight or seat versus another, consider the check bag policy. A business class ticket might include a check bag for each person and other perks, like advance seat selection and extra space. Depending on your destination and timing, the ticket might be comparable to what you’d pay for an economy class ticket plus baggage and seat selection fees. Some airlines even charge for carry-on items.

        FYI: Airlines don’t count car seats toward your check bag allotment or charge for them, but they may require you to check in with the ticket agent because it’s a “special item.” You might find yourself in a long line with dog and cat owners, skiers, and golfers whose bags are also considered “special items” like we did—so give yourself a little extra time.


        9. Bring one that rolls smoothly and, ideally, can charge your phone. It gives you something to prop your diaper bag or pump bag on and frees up your hands a little. My Arlo Skye carry-on has a USB port so I can charge my phone without hauling the babe around the airport looking for a charger.

        10. Scale down your stroller if possible. A travel stroller seems like a no-brainer—but babes under six months old shouldn’t ride in most of them, since they haven’t developed the proper neck strength to hold themselves up. I wracked my brain trying to decide if it was worth it to bring our entire travel system, stroller, car seat, and all. Ideally, you would want something like the Babyzen Yoyo2, a lightweight stroller that fits in most overhead bins and can be used from birth with the right accessories. Another option is a reclining car seat that snaps into a stroller frame. That way, you can check two pieces at the gate instead of three. Peg Perego, Britax, Cybex, and Maxi-Cosi all make car seats that can lie flat. For babies over three months, the UppaBaby Minu is an option; the latest version has an adapter that lets it accommodate the Mesa carseat too.

        11. Pack feeding supplies in spillproof containers—and bring extra. I didn’t know about the holy grail of spillproof containers for breastfeeding moms until after I spilled 8 ounces of breastmilk on all the extra clothes and diapers in my babe’s diaper bag on the way to Ireland. It’s the Ceres Chill, a spillproof thermos you can pump directly into and that keeps breastmilk a stable, cool temperature for up to 20 hours—a total game changer. Packing bottles in zip-top plastic or reusable silicone bags is another great option. We brought extra to pack used bottles and bibs, etc.; now I bring even more. I also put sanitizing wipes for my breast pump (another game changing product) in a baggie, to ensure they don’t dry out.

        It helps to have a backup system, too. We had an SOS situation where we realized we didn’t have any nipple collars for our Dr. Brown’s bottles. A good samaritan saw me panicking and loaned us one. (Thank you again, you angel.) After I calmed down, I realized that the Enfamil nipple for the two-ounce bottles of formula I keep in the bottom of our diaper bag in case of an emergency would’ve fit, too.

        12. Bring a Boppy. Or your feeding support pillow of choice. We like using a SnuggleMe or Boppy to cushion the armrests and give our arms a break. To save space, you can borrow this brilliant idea from a fellow mom on LifeHacker: bring only the pillow cover and stuffing it with airplane pillows instead; there’s also an inflatable travel version of the My Brest Friend pillow. Think of it as a bigger version of your neck support pillow. A soft-sided baby carrier like is a good hands-free option too. So far, the Ergobaby Embrace Knit is my favorite because its design is so simple. I don’t have to reread the manual to figure out how to put it on.