This blog post was updated on July 22, 2021.
Traveling with an infant or toddler by any means has its challenges, but perhaps no other mode of transport is more feared with a little one than the airplane. From the glares of fellow passengers when your baby has a meltdown, to the tricky carry-on situation with car seats and strollers, flying with a baby is a whole different ball game. Whether you’re a new parent about to take a flight with your baby for the first time or you need a refresher course, here’s everything you need to know about flying with a newborn, infant, or toddler.
First things first: if you are traveling with a baby, how little or how much you’ll have to spend on a ticket depends entirely on where you’re going. You’ll need to consult your airline on how old your child must be to board. If you’re going to travel with a true infant of just a couple weeks old, you’ll have to check with the airline carrier for age requirements. But for domestic travel, parents can put away their wallets; a child under the age of two sitting in your lap is free of charge. You will have to mention that you are going to be bringing a baby on board, even if you aren’t buying a seat. For international travel, the fare rules are a bit different. Infants traveling abroad, even if you plan on having them just sit in your lap, are required to have a ticket. These tickets tend to fall into the category of infant fares. And if your little one turns two while you’re on your trip, you’ll have to buy them a ticket for the return flight home regardless if it’s international or domestic.
If you’re traveling long haul with a baby, you might be a bit concerned about holding your little one for that 10-hour flight to Rome. Airlines usually have bassinets available, but they might face a number of limitations. Some will offer them on a first come, first served basis on the day of travel. Others will allow you to reserve a bassinet well before your flight. Some airlines might place restrictions as to how many bassinets are available per flight or where you can sit. Even the type of aircraft can determine if bassinets are allowed or not. If your airline does offer bassinets, you will want to reserve one in advance if you can. Bassinets aren’t always guaranteed so the earlier you make your request, the better. Again, since policies on bassinets vary from airline to airline, you’ll need to check with your specific carrier.
Just as you need identification to board a plane as an adult, a baby will also need a form of I.D. For domestic travel, you can get by with a birth certificate copy. For international travel, you’ll obviously need a passport for your child. While you might not always have to show your little one’s birth certificate copy, it’s always better to have it with you than not.
Airport security can be pretty strenuous on adults so the thought of going through the whole process with a baby can seem absolutely painful. Parents, however, won’t have to part with their young child to get through security. Infants can be carried through the metal detector with a parent or guardian. You will have to take them out of a stroller and run the stroller through the X-ray. In terms of breast milk, formula and juice, you will want to have these items separated from your carry-on to be screened (these items aren’t subject to liquid limits).
Car Seats and Strollers
Most parents want to bring a car seat and a stroller when they travel. However, the thought of lugging these items through the airport doesn’t always sound appealing. Airlines as a whole allow parents to check their car seats and strollers without paying an extra baggage fee. In general, an airline allows one stroller and one car seat per child traveling with you. If you want to keep these items with you, you are also permitted to gate check a stroller or a car seat. If you’re in need of a little extra space in your luggage, you can buy bags to hold your strollers and car seats for air travel and toss in any extra items in those bags that you might need. Should you decide to bring a car seat on the plane for your baby in the event that you bought them a seat, it will need to be labeled clearly that it is approved for air travel.
Traveling with a baby takes a bit more work, but if you know the rules and regulations, you hopefully won’t find yourself crying like your baby on your flight.
Have you flown with an infant or toddler? What other tips would you add to the list?