What to pack when flying with baby

traveling with baby

Normally, I would consider myself a fairly light packer. I can fit everything I need in my carry on bag. However, that was before we had a baby. Now, we’re so heavily burdened with luggage, we could use a Sherpa for hire! Isn’t it amazing how one tiny being can exponentially increase the amount of stuff you need?! That’s where I can help. Are you wondering what to pack when flying with baby? We flew a lot while living in Australia this past summer and have the packing list down to a science. Consequently, I’m eager to share our most helpful tips and tricks.

That said, be aware, flying with baby can look a bit comical!

In fact, each time we took our gear on Sydney’s public transit system to walk to the airport (we’re too frugal to take a cab), people would lean out car windows and shout… “Way to make her carry that!” (referring to my car seat bag below) or “You can do it! You’re almost there.” and “What happened to the weight restrictions?”

flying with babyCar Seat Travel Bag (looks way heavier than it is!)

Flying with baby: Your ultimate packing guide

Our flight from Milwaukee, Wis. to Sydney, Australia was Hudson’s first time on a plane and a 17 1/2 flight (you can read more about it here). As a first-time mom, I had zero clue what to bring, what to skip or what TSA would permit. I did plenty of research to prepare, but some things you can only learn from experience. Hopefully, I can save YOU that trouble!


First Steps


  • A baby passport: First of all, it might seem silly, but your mini me needs a passport if you are flying (or cruising) internationally. Get started with this one early, because it takes time and the passport photo is the toughest part!

You can’t be holding your baby, they need to be on a white background (we used a bed sheet) and they must have their eyes open. (Let’s just say I have at least 100 outtakes on my phone’s camera roll!) You can find complete info from the State Department and a link to the necessary forms HERE. Important note: You must apply in person and both parents need to be present, or you will need additional documentation.

  • Order a bassinet: If you are on a long-haul flight, you can call ahead and request a bassinet on most major airlines.

This is a life-saver if you are flying with your baby as a lap child. Let’s be honest, what parent wants to hold a squirming babe for more than 10 hours? Not me! Keep in mind, your child must be under 25 lbs and there are only a few bassinets per aircraft, so make this request early.

  • Car seat assessment: Are you thinking of traveling with your car seat on board? Make sure it’s FAA certified.

Initially, I assumed when we were flying with baby, we would use our car seat, In contrast, we discovered our model was way too big for the plane and wound up checking it instead and flying with Hudson as a lap child. Most airlines allow you to check your car seat free of charge.


Other Considerations


  • A bribe bag for other travelers: Lots of people recommend this. It is NOT necessary!

I firmly believe a warm smile, quick verbal apology (if your child is being vocal or disruptive), and a sense of humor is all you need to placate other travelers. Most understand what you are going through and can empathize with your child. Any one that gets angry at a baby—and shows that anger—doesn’t deserve your time and certainly doesn’t deserve a treat!

  • Get protective bags for your stroller/car seat: These items will get bumped and banged around. Invest in a bag to protect them!

In addition, having a backpack-like bag like this one will make carrying your car seat and other bulky items to and from the airport MUCH easier. We used them for extra storage too, especially our stroller bag. By tucking in items we couldn’t fit in our checked luggage, we were able to avoid additional baggage fees.

how to pack for a flight with baby


The Carry-On


  • Diapers: To begin, a general rule of thumb is one diaper for each hour of transit, plus extras. Consider there is always a chance your flight will be delayed when flying with baby.
  • Wipes
  • Changing pad or disposable changing pads
  • Odor-reducing disposable diaper sacks: Above all, this shows consideration for your fellow travelers. If you end up throwing a stinky diaper in the lavatory trash can, put it in a sealed disposable sack first. You can also use these for wet/dirty clothes.
  • Diaper cream
  • Burp cloths
  • (2) Bibs
  • (4) Pacifiers: Pack extra! You will lose at least 1 (2 in my case) in transit. Babies love to toss them. As a result, I highly recommend a pacifier clip.
  • (3) Blankets: Two to cover baby, one to lay on the floor, so they can play
  • (3) Change of clothes: I packed 2 extra outfits and my husband wound up having to do “emergency laundry” in the airport bathroom. Expect the unexpected! We had our first blow out in months. Then another one!
  • (1) Change of clothes for you: There’s a good chance your outfit will get ruined too.
  • Toys: Purchase 2-3 toys your little one has never seen before the flight. The novelty will keep them entertained.
  • Books: Make sure to have at least one new title to keep their attention.
  • Bottles
  • Breast pump/breast milk storage bags (if necessary): This is the model I traveled with. I found it was quite portable and worked well for our needs.
  • Breast milk/formula/juice: These are exempt from the TSA’s 3.4 oz standard carry-on limit, but will subject you to additional scrutiny at the checkpoint. Pull these items out of your bag and let agents know. They will likely swab the container or ask you to open it. They cannot ask you to taste it. This cooler worked well for our purposes.
  • Snacks: Puffs, cookies, etc. In addition, I highly recommend teething rusks. The chewing action can help relieve ear pressure for you baby if he/she won’t suck a pacifier or bottle.
  • Baby food: When in doubt, pack extra. You never know what might spill or how long your journey will take. Another thing to keep in mind is clean up! Those squeeze packs of food are way more convenient.
  • Infant Tylenol/other medications: I was very worried about Hudson’s ears and wanted Tylenol on hand in case he was suffering from ear pain. Thankfully, his pacifier was enough!
  • Baby harness/carrier: This is a life-saver when walking the airport. We used the Baby Bjorn.
  • Fast table chair: If you eat out a lot, this chair will be very helpful. It can hook onto almost any restaurant table.


Whew… That was a long list! Traveling with a baby is certainly an adventure, but you will probably find it less intimidating than you were expecting. Furthermore, you will be creating lasting memories your family will appreciate for a lifetime! If you have additional questions, don’t hesitate to ask in the comments below.

Happy traveling,

Lindsay

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