Flying with a baby under a year can seem like one of the most stressful travel experiences out there—especially if you’ve never done it before. But the truth is, learning how to fly with a baby isn’t hard if you’re prepared with the right gear and know-how. Your carry-on will be your co-pilot on this journey, so make sure it’s stocked with the supplies you need to get through every stage of your journey. Here’s what to pack in your carry-on when you’re flying with a baby.
- Something for baby to suck on. Keep your little one from screaming during takeoff and landing by giving them something to suck on during those potentially painful air pressure adjustments. It’s a good idea to have a few options in case one isn’t appealing to baby—like a baby bottle, a few pacifiers (we love these BPA-free pacifiers), and food pouches (if they’re old enough to take them).
- Snacks. Obviously this tip doesn’t work for babies who haven’t started eating solids yet, but for everyone else, snacks are a nice time-filler that can keep kiddos happy. Opt for food that will keep them busy for a bit, such as cereal or small crackers.
- Disinfecting wipes. Don’t be surprised if baby tries to put everything in their mouth, from the seatbelt to the in-flight magazine. That’s just what babies do. And if they’re not in the everything-in-mouth stage (lucky you!), they’re grabbing everything. That’s why it’s important to clean everything within their grasp with disinfecting wipes as soon as you get on the plane.
- A big scarf or receiving blanket. Opt for something lightweight enough that it won’t take up a lot of space in your bag, but hefty enough to serve as a shade if you need to block out the harsh cabin lights. You can also use this for privacy while breastfeeding, for warmth, as a small pillow, or as a clean place for baby to play on the floor.
- Comfort items. Bring a couple of your baby’s favorite (small) things that remind them of home, whether a little stuffed animal (how cute is this BlaBla cat?), a rattle, or a cloth book. Don’t go overboard here—you don’t need to bring the entire toy chest. Just something familiar to make them feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar place.
- Neck pillow. This is likely to be more for you than the baby, but it’s key if you end up holding the little one for a while (or the entire flight). A good pillow will go a long way toward keeping you comfortable if you are serving as someone else’s pillow.
- Baby Tylenol. All that cabin pressure can do a number on a sensitive babe, so be prepared with something to ease the pain.
- Liquids. Just like you, baby needs to stay hydrated while flying. Keep that formula/breastmilk/water/juice flowing. If they’re using a sippy cup, fill it with water at an airport fountain before boarding the flight and avoid anything but bottled water on the plane.
- Extra onesies. Spills will happen, and who knows what else. Be prepared with a couple of changes of clothes. Long-sleeved onesies with zipper closures will make diaper changes a breeze while keeping baby warm. The goal here is comfort, not looking cute in some elaborate getup.
- Diaper supplies. It probably goes without saying, but make sure you have plenty of diapers and wipes in case of delays (a diaper per hour of your journey is a good rule of thumb), plus a couple of plastic bags for stashing any stinky diapers. The “air sickness” bags also work well for this.
For most babies, a carry-on with these items will keep them happy through a flight, so avoid going overboard when packing. Over-packing is one of the biggest mistakes rookie parents make, and it makes the experience significantly more complicated. That said, if there’s an item you know will help your baby survive their big adventure, don’t hesitate to bring it along.
Most importantly, bring your A game. Your little one will likely take cues from your own attitude, so if you approach your adventure with confidence, they're more likely to do the same.