Tips for Travelling with a Baby Under 1 Year Old on a Plane

During my 13-months of maternity leave, I took full advantage of the children fly free under two policy and travelled with my daughter to six different countries across three continents. Together we boarded 21 flights, one helicopter, and covered upwards of 5,000 kilometres by car. We’ve encountered some naysayers who question if we’re doing too much with our baby – but turns out babies are surprisingly adaptable, as long as you’re willing to be flexible and plan.

Travel to: Europe

Travelling with a baby will never be the same as your pre-baby travel heydays, but the experience is still oh-so-worth-it. Our now 15-month old daughter is a fearless, people-loving, adventure seeker, and I can’t help but wonder if this is due in part to our travels.

These are the essential tips from our experience with a few real-life scenarios in between.

Travelling by plane with a baby: Everything you need to know

Getting through airport security

First things first: airports. You can’t get off the ground without navigating airport security but getting around the airport can be a pain. 

The first time I travelled alone I made the mistake of strapping Amelie in the travel stroller and was a bit perplexed when I got to the front of the security line and the attendant told me the stroller needed to go on the belt and through the x-ray machine.

Hmmm… So, how do I hold the baby and collapse the stroller at the same time? And if I somehow manage to do that, how do I get it onto the belt? You may have a kind attendant who will offer you a helping hand, but if your baby is already strapped to your chest in a carrier, getting the stroller collapsed and through the machine is a piece-of-cake. 

I also found the baby carrier extremely helpful when I was travelling solo and had to get myself, baby, two carry-ons, luggage, the car seat and stroller out of the airport. This is how I managed with my super mom organizational powers: baby in a carrier, backpack on my back, car seat on the stroller, baby carry-on hanging from stroller handles. From here, I pulled my wheeled duffel bag with one hand and pushed the stroller with the other.

Baby carriers are also very practical for getting around as you sightsee and give the baby a better perspective of the world from up higher. My carriers of choice for travel are the ErgoBaby 360 and Marsupi.

Should I travel with a stroller?

If you’re a frequent traveller, investing in a decent quality travel stroller is a must. You will avoid beating up your everyday stroller, and if it is fully collapsible, you can usually gate check the stroller so it can be used during layovers. Having our stroller to hang our carry-ons from and set Amelie in gave our tired bodies a nice break – especially during long layovers. 

There are travel strollers that are so lightweight and collapsible, you can bring them on board and store them in the overhead compartment. We didn’t opt for this option as we wanted something a bit more substantial.

We like this lightweight stroller.

Which seat should I book on the plane?

The safest way to fly with a baby is to book them a separate seat and secure them safely in their FAA approved car seat. If you’re constrained by budget, or simply don’t want to fork out the dough for another seat, your child flies free under two if they sit on your lap. We opted for the free version (which still includes a negligible fee).

Whenever there is an empty seat on a flight, the airline is likely to put that seat next to a family travelling with a baby. If you haven’t booked a separate seat for your baby, make sure to ask when you check in because if there is an empty seat they may assign you that seat free of charge. 

We ended up with an extra seat on half of our flights. It was amazing to have extra space to set the baby, toys, food, and do the occasional sneaky diaper change when we didn’t have the energy to lug the baby and bag to the tiny bathroom changing table. It’s worth noting that most airplanes have at least one toilet with a mini changing table that pulls over the toilet. It’s not luxurious, but it gets the job done.


Book a bulkhead seat with a bassinet

On a long-haul flight, make sure to book a bulkhead seat with a bassinet. If your baby exceeds the bassinet size or age limit, still book a bulkhead seat which gives you extra legroom space where your baby can chill. It was a huge relief not having to hold her 10-hours straight. We called the airline a few days prior to departure to inquire about bulkhead seats and were reassigned free of charge.

Isle versus window seat: which is the best?

If you’re on a shorter flight without bulkhead rows, I preferred sitting next to the window before Amelie was mobile. This way there was less distraction, I found it more comfortable to breastfeed, and there was a higher chance of her napping and staying asleep.

If you have a mobile baby who isn’t likely to nap, an aisle seat may be your better option if you want to let them move about and roam free. On one overseas flight, we witnessed a baby party congregating in an isle. Unfortunate for Amelie, she wasn’t able to attend the party because she couldn’t crawl yet.

What time of the day should I fly with a baby? Short flight vs. long haul

If you’re on a shorter flight and can manage to book a flight around the time your baby naps, by all means, go that route! If you’re flying redeye, book a flight that coincides with bedtime.

On a few short flights, I was lucky enough to get Amelie to fall asleep during takeoff and sleep almost the entire duration of the flight. Keep in mind napping habits and timing changes frequently, and may do a complete 360° between when you book and actually fly.

If you have a long overseas flight, you have a few options: fly during the day and hope baby will get some naps in, or fly overnight and hope your baby will sleep through. Our preference is flying during the day, but this is absolutely a personal decision and will depend on your baby.

Jet lag

The more time zones you cross, the longer it typically takes your body to adjust from jet lag. From our experience, flying east to west and during the day was much more pleasant.

Unlike adults, you can’t give your baby a strong cup of coffee to power through the day. What you can do though is book your flights close to nap or bedtime as previously mentioned. Once you arrive, try to go to bed early the first few nights when your baby goes down. This way you’re alert if baby wakes up, and hopefully, you can catch up on a few extra z’s. Another way to encourage a good night’s sleep is by wearing your child out. Play hard before bedtime if they’re still full of travel energy.

Airplane tray germs

During our first flights, I was semi-mortified about the germ-ridden airplane tray stats I read. Dirtier than public toilets!? On those first flights I did a serious tray wipe down with Amelie’s baby wipes, but to be honest, by flight three or four, I fell out of this routine, and (knock on wood), Amelie never got sick due to airplane tray germs. Who knows, maybe they made her tiny immune system stronger.

But if you remain worried about germy trays, just pack these wet wipes (safe for babies).

Packing for a flight with a baby: Everything you need to know

These are the essential packing tips for your long haul or domestic flight.

Use two carry-ons

Almost all airlines allow a second piece of hand luggage at no charge for a baby (but do double check the policy for your particular airline). I pack a backpack for myself which I put in the overhead compartment, and put the baby’s diaper bag under the seat in front of me with all the items I may possibly need in-flight.

It’s important that you travel with all of your necessities, but don’t overdo it. Lugging around extra carry-ons and a baby, especially if you’re travelling solo, can take its toll on your back.


I once heard that packing a new toy that your baby hasn’t seen before is a good idea so the newness will hold their short-attention-span longer. While my baby wasn’t into her cool new wooden alligator or worm (she chucked them immediately on the floor), maybe you will have better luck! Invest in a nifty suction toy that can suction to your tray or screen (pure genius!) so your baby can’t throw it on the floor.

Suction toys like this one will be appreciated by everyone close to you and your baby!

Food and beverages: snacks, snacks, and more snacks

I’ve heard many moms worry that their baby food or formula won’t be allowed on the plane because of the stringent no-liquids rule. Although I never bought formula onboard, on every flight I was able to bring snacks, baby food, and a bottle of water without a problem. I even bring my own large water bottle explaining that my baby drinks TONS of water if I’m ever questioned. You will be asked to put all baby food and drinks in the bin to be examined separately, so do have them readily available.

Once your baby is eating solids, having plenty of snacks on hand provides a good deal of in-flight entertainment to pass the time. I don’t go anywhere without my Ubbi no-spill snack container. I also pack a catch-all silicone bib to reduce the amount of food that ends up on the floor.

Keep things neat and tidy on board with a waterproof bib.

Videos and entertainment

I know many of us are trying to limit screen time. But sometimes emergency measures are necessary on a long flight with a restless baby. There’s no harm in having some preloaded videos to occupy your little one for a short time.

When all else fails, we show Amelie videos of herself and it always without fail turns her frown upside down. She loves herself, that’s for sure.

Extra diapers

You never know when a flight could be cancelled, perhaps you miss a flight, or maybe the entire airport shuts down due to stormy conditions (as was our case on a trip home from Morocco). There’s also the unlucky chance that your baby comes down with a case of the runs. This happened the first time I flew with Amelie solo, and it lasted the entire two week trip in the UK.

You will never regret packing extra diapers. They take up some space, but very little weight. I like to pack twice as many as I think I’d actually use for a day of travel. I pack half in Amelie’s diaper bag and the other half in the bottom of my backpack for an emergency stash. I’ve never had to use them all, but have come close!

Find your favourite brand of diapers (ours are Huggies) and stick to them.

Extra clothes

Since there’s no way to predict when a baby might have a spit up, having an extra change of clothes is a must. I would’ve loved to have an extra shirt for myself the one time I was at a gallery and Amelie’s blowout filled her entire right leg, and while I carefully tried to remove her tights, she kicked me in the chest and left and nice poop footprint. Since that incident, I pack an extra t-shirt for myself too.


Make sure you have a small stash of baby meds, homeopaths, rash ointment, etc., in case something unexpected goes down while travelling. It’s nice to have remedies you’re familiar and comfortable with so you don’t have to waste time and energy trying to find something similar in an unfamiliar place where language could be a barrier.

Checked luggage

I attempt to pack as light as possible and haven’t been entirely successful, but I have gotten better. I did manage to pack all my belongings and baby’s belongings in one large duffel suitcase for most trips. Your baby does not need as many clothes as you’d think. If they go through several outfits a day, there are usually opportunities to wash clothes. 

If you forget something essential, chances are, you’ll be able to find a replacement wherever you are travelling. Now that Amazon has taken over the world, the chances that they service wherever you’re travelling to is high. So take advantage of the modern world, free up some luggage space and have your favourite diapers and wipes shipped to your travel destination.

Worth packing: travel cribs that transform into backpacks.

Taking off and landing

My biggest worry about flying with a baby was ear pressure pain that could happen during takeoff and landing. Your best defence against this is having them suck on something, whether that be breastfeeding, giving them a bottle, or a pacifier. I attempted to breastfeed during takeoff and landing on every flight. Oftentimes nursing combined with the noise and movement of takeoff put her to sleep.

Even if it was only a cat nap, having some moments to sit and relax gave me the boost of confidence I needed to believe that “I can actually manage this travelling with a baby thing”. On one flight, I even managed to read a few pages of my book. Talk about mom accomplishments!

Most important lessons for flying with a baby

If you’ve missed all of the above advice, these are the final two most valuable pieces of knowledge!

Don’t be shy – ask for help!

More often than not, we experienced extra-special treatment while travelling with our baby, and even more so on the six flights, I did solo without my partner. From my experience, parents travelling solo with a baby are basically treated like royalty. We often got bumped up in check-in lines, offered better seats and received loads of warm smiles.

Not to mention you get to board first, even before your first class travel buddies. Long bathroom line with a dirty baby? Don’t be afraid to march up to first class and ask to use their toilet. Nobody is going to tell you no. Stuck in the window seat and realize you forgot something your baby needs in the overhead compartment? Ask a flight attendant to kindly retrieve it for you.

Be flexible, as anything can happen

For better or worse, anything can happen while you travel – blowouts, cancelled flights, lost luggage, you name it, it’s happened. But don’t let these unforeseeable events discourage you from travelling with a baby. I’m a type A planner and if there is anything I’ve learned from becoming a mother, is the importance of being flexible and more relaxed because change is the only constant with a baby.

Maybe your baby isn’t an easy traveller, or maybe flying is going to be the most exciting thing they’ve ever done. Amelie absolutely marvelled at all the attention she got in airports and onboard. Try to enjoy the ride – even the “dreaded” flight, because regardless, once you reach your destination, you’re surely going to build unforgettable memories with your baby.

Share your best travel tips below for travelling with children below! 

Travelling with more little ones? Make those pesky long journeys more entertaining for them by signing up for Amazon Household – digital content and entertainment all of you can enjoy.

Allison is originally from the US and relocated to Austria in 2013 for true love. She works in performance marketing at TourRadar, and on her down-time, tries to improve her German skills. Allison loves long runs, yoga, tennis, playing the piano, going to concerts, and travelling every opportunity she gets.

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