Children & Adolescents Clinic

 Home Parent's Guide

Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0

Traveling with a Baby: Air Travel

Children under the age of 2 years travel free on most airlines, but this means that they may have to sit on your lap if the plane is full. When you make your reservations, try to avoid a full flight.


  • There are FAA-approved child restraints. Check on this when purchasing your car seat. It is best to let the airline know ahead of time that you will bring a child restraint.
  • If possible, reserve a bulkhead seat (just behind the bulkhead that separates coach and first class), since it has the most room. Ask the airline if they have bassinets that attach to the bulkhead wall.
  • If you can, schedule your flight to avoid the busiest times of day at airports (8 to 10 AM, 4 to 7 PM).
  • Give yourself plenty of time--arrive at the airport and check in early so that you can get the baby settled before others board the plane.
  • If you are traveling by yourself and won't be met at your destination, a portable stroller is a lifesaver. You can generally fold it up and take it on board with you.
  • If you have to change planes, be sure to schedule additional time for the connection.
  • For takeoff and landing, put the seat belt just around you and hold your baby on your lap or put it in a front carrier. Don't place the seat belt around the baby.
  • Remember that your baby's ears may plug up or hurt on takeoff or landing due to the change in cabin air pressure. Swallowing helps equalize the air pressure: you can help keep your baby's ears clear by nursing or feeding when the plane is climbing and descending.
  • Diapering can be a hassle on the plane. Try to double-diaper or use ultra-absorbent disposable diapers just before you board the plane, and then change in the airport bathroom after the flight arrives. (If you do change diapers on the plane and are using disposable diapers, you can use an airsickness bag to dispose of them.)
  • The flight attendants can warm food and bottles for you. Be sure to also bring small snacks your baby can nibble on and play with: Cheerios, bagels, etc.
  • Be sure to clean up your seat area before you deplane.
  • Given all the equipment you have to carry when you travel with a baby, it is easiest to let other passengers deplane before you.
  • Car rental agencies generally have infant seats available with their cars. You need, however, to reserve the seat when you reserve the car. It is also wise to call ahead to the local agency where you will pick up the car to confirm that the car seat is available.

Written by Kate Capage.
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems