For some new parents, the arrival of a new family member means hanging up their coats and putting travel on hold. But why let the explorer in you die when you can take your little one along with you and show them the world.
There are a lot of misconceptions about flying with infants; one of the biggest ones being that it’s bad for them! As long as you take all the necessary precautions, this does not have to be the case.
However, being completely prepared does come with knowing the answers to a few important questions, like “Exactly when is it safe to travel with a newborn baby?”, “Can a 2-month-old baby travel on a plane?”, “When can a baby travel on a plane and what about a newborn’s immune system?”.
This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about flying with a baby, from rules and restrictions to quick tips, so keep reading!
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When Can a Baby Travel by Plane
- Rules for Traveling With Newborns on Planes
- Is It Safe for My Baby To Fly on an Airplane?
- Preparing To Fly With Your Baby
- Safety Tips for Newborns
- Birth Complications and Flying With a Newborn
- Air Travel Checklist for Babies
- Other Baby Travel Tips
- Pin It For Later!
Rules for Traveling With Newborns on Planes
Even though TSA itself does not impose any restrictions on when a baby can travel in a plane, different airline services have their own policies when it comes to infant air travel.
For instance, while United Airlines does not allow infants younger than 7 days old to fly, others such as Delta Airlines allow newborns younger than a week old to fly as long as they have a letter from a physician that clears them for travel.
To answer when can a baby travel by plane, here’s a list of other airline policies:
Jet Blue – “Infants between three and 14 days old must also have, in the form of a letter, their doctor’s approval to travel.”
American Airlines – “We welcome infants as young as 2 days old, but infants less than 7 days old require a ‘Passenger Medical’ form to be completed before your flight.”
Southwest – “A medical release for travel is required for any infant under 14 days old.”
Alaska Airlines – “While there is no minimum age for infants traveling with us, check with your doctor if you’re unsure your infant should be traveling via plane.”
Air Canada – “An infant as young as 7 days can travel on an Air Canada flight.”
WestJet – “If you plan to travel with an infant less than 8 days old, WestJet requires an approval letter from a physician that gives your newborn permission to fly.”
British Airways – “Newborn babies must be at least 48 hours old and have been born without any complications before they can travel with us. If you plan to fly soon after your baby’s birth, please check with your treating doctor it’s safe for both you and your baby to travel.”
Frontier Airlines – “Frontier Airlines allows infants from seven days old up to the child’s second birthday to fly free of charge in an adult’s lap.”
While this is a small sampling of airline answers to the question of when can a baby travel on a plane, you can easily find the answer for other airlines by searching [airline name] + [traveling with baby]
Babies under the age of two are not required to sit in their own seats, but you are required to buy them their own ticket. An extra fee is charged by most airlines for babies traveling with their parents internationally, so keep that in mind.
If you want to place your baby in their own seat, you will have to bring an airplane harness device or another type of CRS (Child Restraint System) that is approved by the FAA, like a car seat.
If you plan on traveling internationally with your baby, you’ll need to get your baby a passport.
For children under the age of 16, parents (or guardians) have to go to a passport acceptance facility in person along with their child and apply for the passport.
While domestic travel does not require a passport, it’s a good idea to carry your baby’s birth certificate with you in case you are questioned at security. If only one of the parents is accompanying the baby during travel, be sure to have a letter of consent from the other parent with you as well.
Since there’s no official form for this, you’ll need to find a template online (search “letter of consent to travel with one parent” and include your country)
Is It Safe for My Baby To Fly on an Airplane?
Flying with your newborn may be allowed by your airline, but this doesn’t mean it’s always ideal! Flights are often crowded, and too many people in a small, confined space make it easy for your baby to pick up germs that can make them sick.
While the air in airplanes is constantly purified, transportation services and the airport itself can expose your baby to infections.
If you’re asking when is it safe to travel with a newborn baby, most pediatricians recommend that the safest time to travel for a baby is after their primary immunization series at around 3 to 6 months.
This is because newborns’ immune systems prior to their vaccinations are still weak, making them extra susceptible to falling ill. So, while a 2-month-old baby can travel on a plane, it is not advisable.
Air travel should be avoided altogether if your baby is sick unless you get approval from your physician. However, if travel is absolutely necessary, make it a point to choose direct flights or destinations with shorter flights. This will eliminate having to walk through too many busy airports when changing flights.
Preparing To Fly With Your Baby
For starters, travel light. Hauling loads of diapers, lotions, and toys with your hand luggage will only add to your stress when you run into trouble, so carry only the most necessary baby travel essentials.
Before leaving for the airport, make sure you have all the necessary documents too, including your baby’s birth certificate, passport (in case of international travel), and consent letters from their guardian and pediatrician.
Feeding your baby right before the flight will help keep them full and content during the flight. However, long flights can still tire little ones out and cause dehydration, so if your baby is breastfed let them feed as much as necessary and for formula fed, make sure you have enough with you in case of delays.
The TSA 3-1-1 rule only applies to liquids, aerosols, and gels; not breastmilk, formula, and juice, so feel free to carry as much as you need to keep your baby hydrated and happy.
Airlines typically allow parents with babies to board their flight before other passengers to skip the rush. This is a good option if you’ll need more time to get settled (i.e. install your travel car seat).
Other times you might want to wait until other passengers have boarded before you board with your baby. This helps avoid the noise and hassle of crowds entering the flight, finding their seats, and stowing away their bags, minimizing the disturbance caused to your little one.
If you have another pair of hands to help out during your flight, have them board the flight first to prep your seats and settle down with the bags. This way, you can just walk in and head straight to your seats without worrying about anything else.
Infants can benefit from sucking on a pacifier or baby bottle during takeoff to keep their middle ear in balance. The sucking helps to equalize any differences in air pressure during take-off, just like how chewing gum helps adults. Gel teethers and pacifiers are allowed in-flight too, so don’t be afraid to throw them in your backpack diaper bag.
When flying with a baby, swaddle blankets are a lifesaver. They double as a blanket (or travel play mat) for laying your baby down and for extra warmth for your baby on the airplane.
Baby carriers for travel are especially useful for carrying your baby around, as TSA often allows parents to carry their babies through metal detectors in the carrier.
It’s also a good idea to pack a variety of different clothing options and layers to keep your baby cozy during a flight as temperatures can be unpredictable. Having extra clothes on hand will also ensure they stay clean and dry all throughout, despite multiple feedings, messes, and accidents.
Safety Tips for Newborns
Make sure you feed your baby often during long flights to keep them hydrated.
Some airlines will provide you with an airplane bassinet upon request for your baby’s comfort so check with your carrier to see if one is available. If you use one, a CoziGo bassinet cover is an excellent way to keep people from coming too close to your baby.
Remember to carry a lot of baby wipes. Germs thrive in public places like airports and planes, so make it a point to wipe down all the areas you expect will come in contact with your baby.
Between messy feeding sessions and diaper changes in tight spots, baby wipes are sure to quickly become your best friend. Take the time to arrange your essentials in the most accessible way too. Digging through your bag to find a baby wipe during a blowout is not the most ideal scenario on a crowded flight, so pack logically!
You should also expect a lot of noise as well, from both passengers and the flight engines. For delicate and sensitive baby ears, try a pair of noise-canceling headphones.
If you’re purchasing a ticket for your baby, avoid choosing an aisle seat, and place them on a middle or window seat instead. This will help avoid constant contact with passengers and attendants that pass by. Also remember to place your baby in their car seat rear-facing, and not facing forward.
Attendants can be of great assistance during a flight with a baby. Whether it be for your own needs or to help figure out your baby’s restraint system, being friendly and kind to your flight attendants can really help make your experience a lot easier.
Birth Complications and Flying With a Newborn
If your baby had a premature birth and has health issues, particularly heart or respiratory troubles, the change in air pressure and oxygen levels within the flight may be a cause for concern so make sure you consult your pediatrician before you choose to fly.
Aside from premature babies, babies who have had chronic lung problems or feeding issues must avoid air travel as much as possible. If traveling with your baby is absolutely necessary, consult your pediatrician before you make your travel plans and ensure that your baby is healthy enough to make the trip.
While your baby’s well-being is important, it is equally important for the mother to keep an eye on her health as well. If yours was a caesarean delivery, make sure you wait till after you get cleared for travel by your doctor at your 6-week post-natal check-up.
Long flights involve sitting in one spot for long periods of time, which, for new moms, brings with it the risk of developing blood clots in their legs. Make sure you maintain an adequate fluid intake, take frequent walks, and stretch whenever you can to avoid any serious complications.
Air Travel Checklist for Babies
When you’re flying with your baby, you are bound to run into hiccups – even quite literally! The best way to handle this is to be prepared for every situation you can think of with a travel checklist for babies.
Get our full Travel Checklist for Babies here.
Baby wipes just have to be the first thing on your list. From disinfecting seats to helping you clean yourself and the baby up after a feeding session, you can never have too many of these handy wipes.
Diapers are next on the list, and that goes without saying. However, to avoid overpacking, you will need to determine how many diapers to pack in your carry-on and not just carry the lot of them that you’ve planned to bring for your whole trip.
The number of diapers you carry with you will depend on the duration of your flight (plus a few extra). Bring with you a portable changing pad to make diaper changes cleaner in those small airplane toilets.
Milk and baby food are a must, so if your baby is breastfed, remember to pump and store away a little extra for the trip. Don’t worry about container sizes or the amount of liquid, because formula, breastmilk, and juice are exempt from rules that apply to general liquids. Keep your baby hydrated and full is key.
Clothes and comfy blankets come next when packing your baby’s travel bag. Make sure you are prepared for the worst-case scenario with enough changes of clothes for the flight. A blanket will help keep them warm. Make sure it’s comfy and easy to use to wrap up and carry your baby during the trip.
Teethers and pacifiers are another must-add on your list as they work as excellent distractions! While you don’t need many of them, a few of their favorites can sure help to keep your baby occupied during long, boring flights. You can also throw in a couple of baby travel toys for good measure but remember to only bring with you what’s necessary.
Medicines (as prescribed by your pediatrician) need to be on your list because your baby falls ill during the trip, you want to be prepared. Essentials usually include medicines such as Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen, but remember to consult your doctor for directions on dosage and administration.
Passengers are allowed to bring with them their own restraint system or car seat for their babies as long as it adheres to the guidelines set by FAA. Although this requires you to buy a separate ticket for the baby, it helps keep them extra safe during your flight, which is what matters the most.
Many parents choose to fly with a baby stroller. Small airplane travel strollers can also be brought onboard, making it easier for you to maneuver airport crowds upon landing. When your baby isn’t using it, your stroller can also double as a baggage carrier. It’s also an option to check in your stroller at the gate if you wish.
Other Baby Travel Tips
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This post was written & edited by:
Celine is the owner of Baby Can Travel. Not only does she have years of experience traveling with babies & toddlers, but she's been helping new parents travel with their babies and toddlers for over a decade. In addition to writing on her baby travel blog, she has contributed to articles about traveling with a baby with the Washington Post, the Lonely Planet magazine and Pregnancy & Newborn magazine.
Celine also writes about family travel on the site FamilyCanTravel.com, which she co-owns with her husband. Being from the Canadian Rockies, she shares her passion about her home and travel to Banff National Park and area on their site TravelBanffCanada.com.