Baby’s First Flight


I’m just going to run a scenario by you.

You’re heading across town to visit friends. Everyone loads into the car, safely buckled in. You sit down, fasten your seatbelt, and your husband hands you your baby, whom you hold on your lap for the drive.

“I would never do that (I can hear you yelling through your computer), it’s not safe!”

And while you wouldn’t hold an infant or toddler on your lap for a 15-minute drive, most parents think nothing of holding a child on their lap for hours in an airplane, which travels over 500 miles per hour and miles above the ground.

Safety Tips and Travel Tricks for Baby's First Flight
Brenna’s first flight. Comfy and safe in her car seat.

Now, before anyone gets angry at me, I’m not here to preach. I know it is completely legal to hold your child on your lap until the age of two. As a frequent traveler, I’m aware that flying is expensive and it is nice to cut costs when you can. I also know that flying is safer than driving and, from personal experience, how difficult it is to put a car seat into an airplane seat.

That said, I have also experienced severe turbulence which had items falling from overhead bins and loss of altitude which had the plane I was on drop a couple thousand feet in mere seconds. I’ve not yet had a severe loss of cabin pressure that necessitated putting on a mask—which I can’t imagine doing with a child on my lap.

So please know that when I speak on this topic, I have my facts as well as years of experience traveling with children.

Safety Tips for Flying with Babies and Toddlers

My daughters began traveling at a very young age and both had their passports at six months, with stamps in them by their first birthdays. And with flying so very uncomfortable when you have a seat to yourself, I couldn’t imagine a flight with a child on my lap.

Tip #1: Get Your Child a Seat and Use a Car Seat

I recommend this first as it is the safest option for everyone. Also, your child is used to his/her car seat, which can make a new situation less frightening. Take advantage of early boarding to get the seat ready, leaving the other parent in the gate area to let your child run around (optional, but great if your child has a lot of energy).

Also of note—seats for children on flights are usually discounted. Booking online may not show this discount, so be sure to contact a travel agent, if only for a quote.

Tip #2: If You Choose to Fly with a Lap Child, Invest in (or Borrow) a Flight Vest

We all think we could hold on to our child no matter what. But instinct in emergency situations isn’t always what we would wish it to be. The Baby B’Air Flight Vest is affordable, fits comfortably on your child, and attaches to your seat belt, holding your child on your lap. Available in infant (up to 6 months) and toddler (6 months – 2 years) sizes.

Tip #3: Safety Beyond the Lap Belt

Even with the lap belt securely fastened, I just didn’t feel like my girls were secure. Heck, I don’t feel secure. So I purchased the CARES Safety System for both of my girls. It changes the lap belt to a five-point harness, is easy to use, and weighs less than one pound, so it’s not annoying to bring along. It’s also the only FAA approved child flying safety device.

Other Handy Tips for Flying with Babies and Toddlers

Just a few more tips I’ve learned through trial and error.

Checking the Car Seat

Some airlines will check your car seat for free, others charge for it. Find out beforehand from the airline website, or inquire via Twitter or Facebook. Be sure to cover your car seat with something—box it, put it in a plastic bag. It will help protect it from damage and random spills.

Gate Checking Your Stroller

For the love of all, use the smallest, cheapest stroller you can. We all know that things get banged up in the cargo hold of airplanes and the last thing you want is your Rolls Royce stroller to be ruined or lost (our stroller was unloaded at an airport where some passengers got off the airplane and others stayed on for the remainder of the flight. By the time we arrived at our final destination, our stroller was gone.) I recommend covering this also (umbrella strollers may even fit in a collapsible chair tote!).

Entertainment and Snacks

Be prepared for fussing or flight delays with favorite treats and quiet toys. Remember, you can not bring liquids through security check points—though breast milk, formula, and juice are allowed. See the TSA website for information on this.

Extra Clothes and Diapers

Flight delays happen. So do diaper blow outs. It’s best to err on the side of caution with a couple outfits and two days’ worth of diapers.

Preparing for baby’s first flight can be nerve wracking, but with a bit of preparation you’ll be able to enjoy the flight, safely.

How old was your child when he/she experienced his/her first flight? Do you have any tips for new traveling families?



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