Air Travel with Baby

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(with excerpts originally published in 2010)

Although my husband was in a job where he travelled a lot for work, we also found time to leisure travel with our first baby.

We took our first baby to California for ten days, NYC for 4 days, and Cancun Mexico for a week in her first year.

I found it much easier to travel before she could crawl or walk.  She was happier being held in the plane!  Once she was walking, we took a break from air travel with her.

Baby’s Carry-On

I suggest you bring a top-loading bag with baby’s things in it.  A convertible backpack/ duffel-style bag would be good.  Particularly if you can put it in or on the stroller through the airport.  I do not recommend a small carry-on sized suitcase, for example, as these are difficult to open in-flight when you need access to your things.  Squishy, top-loading bags are simply easier to get things out of, especially if the bag is at your feet.  I used a Kate Spade Stevie for some of our trips:



A recommended toy allowance is 1 new toy per hour of flight.  A brand-new toy will capture attention more than one they’re familiar with and you’ll get more time out of it.  We have never needed this many toys, but it’s a good safety net.  At 8 months old, our daughter was quite content to play with things in the plane, such as a plastic cup, barf bag, snack bag (ie pretzels, which she cannot get open).  Even a blanket, napkin or sweater to play peek-a-boo takes up some time.  A friend also mentioned her 2 year old was content for the better part of an hour sticking little tiny stickers all over the seat in front of her!  Try to bring quiet toys as a courtesy to your fellow passengers.  Our best advice for toys is to bring toys that can all be attached to a bottle tether ( $10 CAD).  Why?!  It’s awkward to pick stuff up off the dirty airplane floor when you’re holding your baby… and the tether will keep those toys off the dirty floor.

Screen Shot 2018-05-22 at 9.22.46 AM
Bottle Tether for Toys on Plane

Toy Summary:

  • One new toy per hour of flight
  • Quiet toys
  • Attach all toys to a bottle tether

There’s always the on-board entertainment, too, if your child is so inclined.  There won’t be sound, however, unless your child will wear headphones.

baby plane
SFO to YYZ (3.5 months old)


Always bring more formula and food than you think you will need.  Nothing like being delayed in the airport and wishing you had more infant formula.  I have yet to see formula for sale in any airport shop!  This is something I miss about nursing; I was the food supply so I never worried about running out or scrounging for food if the flight was delayed.

Buy water (or bring your own empty refillable bottle) once you are through security if you need it to mix with powdered formula.  Don’t rely on a flight attendant getting you water prior to takeoff.  Water is also very important if you are nursing; you will never get enough water on board to satisfy a nursing mother’s thirst!  Many moms also nurse or give a bottle during takeoff and landing to help baby clear his/ her ears.

Other stuff to bring:

  • Bring a blanket in case baby wants to nap during the flight.  It can also get cold on the plane and doubles as a nursing cover.
  • Baby wipes.  You always need them; not only for diaper changes but also for little messes, dirty hands etc…  We use hand sanitizer and baby wipes to wipe down everything at our seats- tray tables, seatbelts, entertainment controls, window controls, armrests etc.
  • Bring an adequate supply of diapers– then a couple more again in case of delays.
  • Pacifiers.  Obvious reasons.  Especially important in takeoff and landing if baby isn’t feeding- it’s the next best thing to help keep their ears clear.

If you’re feeling lucky, ask at check-in if there is an empty seat beside you.  It would be nice to have the extra space while juggling baby and all the associated gear.

Pay a little extra for Premium Economy or Plus seats when possible to have extra space, but NOT exit row- you will be moved.  You can’t have a lap baby in the Exit Row.

Travel well-packed!

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