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If you’re preparing to take a flight with your baby for the first time, you’re most likely (and understandably) overwhelmed.
First order of business: Breathe. You’ve totally got this.
In addition to the basics — diapers (lots of them), baby wipes, a few changes of clothes, and either a breastfeeding parent or bottles and milk — there are some key items you’ll want to have with you in your baby bag during your trip.
That’s why we’ve assembled this guide of first flight essentials — and a few nice-to-haves — to make your trip a little less, well, turbulent.
- Best antibacterial wipes: Babyganics Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitizer Wipes
- Best pack of pacifiers: Dr. Brown’s HappyPaci Pacifiers (3-pack)
- Best packable blanket: Simple Joys by Carter’s Flannel Receiving Blankets
- Best travel toy: Morgan Monkey Ears by Lamaze
- Best packable changing pad: Munchkin Portable Diaper Changing Kit
- Best travel-friendly baby-wearing device: Infantino Flip 4-in-1 Convertible Carrier
- Best travel stroller: Bugaboo Ant Baby Stroller
- Best car seat protector bag: J.L. Childress Ultimate Backpack Padded Car Seat Travel Bag
- Best carry-all diaper backpack: UPPAbaby Changing Backpack
- Best baby bottle cooler: nanobebe Breastmilk Baby Bottle Cooler & Travel Bag
- Best travel sound machine: Wavhello™ Soundbub™ Ollie The Owl Bluetooth Speaker and Soother
- Best travel-friendly car seat: Pipa Infant Car Seat & Base
According to Elisa Song, MD, holistic pediatrician, the most important consideration to keep in mind when flying with your baby (aside from making friends with the strangers seated around you) is their developing immune system.
“The immune systems of babies under 3 months of age are much less capable of handling infections than older babies,” she says. “By the time babies are 6 to 9 months of age, their immune systems are starting to make their own antibodies (protection against viruses and bacteria), and are better able to manage infections.”
While it’s safe to fly with a baby of any age, she recommends waiting until your baby is at least 3 months old, which is after they’ve had their first set of immunizations.
To compile this list of travel must-haves for new parents, we reached out to respected pediatricians to best understand the nutritional and medical needs of infants from the newborn phase to over 3 months of age.
We also heavily relied on the opinions of actual parents, as well as combed through real customer reviews, to learn about the products that they considered essential when flying with their young infant.
When selecting products for this list, we narrowed down our top picks using the following criteria:
- airline approval
- $ = under $20
- $$ = $20–$50
- $$$ = $50–$100
- $$$$ = over $100
Best antibacterial wipes
Babyganics Alcohol-Free Hand Sanitizer Wipes
Planes have definitely upped their game in the sanitation department in the last few years.
However, it’s still a good idea to be prepared with your own sanitizing gear to wipe down seat buckles, armrests, seat buttons, tray table tops and bottoms, touchscreens, overhead lights and fans, and anything else your baby may touch.
These alcohol-free hand sanitizing wipes from Babyganics should do the trick.
They’re formulated without the use of harsh chemicals like parabens, sulfates, and phthalates. They kill 99.9 percent of harmful bacteria, and are non-allergenic and hydrating so that you can also use them on baby’s hands.
Traveling during COVID-19
While alcohol-free wipes are generally a good choice for infants, in the time of COVID-19 the
Alcohol wipes can be harsh on babies’ sensitive skin (adults, too), so if using, it’s best to keep an eye out for dry skin or any sign of irritation.
Best pack of pacifiers
Dr. Brown’s HappyPaci Pacifiers (3-pack)
Losing a pacifier can be dramatic on a good day, so when one hits the deck on an airplane, there’s no time to waste looking for it on the floor (and cleaning the pretzel crumbs off of it… ew).
That’s why having a couple of quality pacis on hand is key.
New parents swear by this bottle brand, and its pacifiers feature a similar nipple shape made out of 100 percent silicone. The butterfly-shaped shield curves comfortably around the baby’s face.
Bonus: It comes in a set of three and they’re all dishwasher (top rack) and sterilizer safe.
Best packable blankets
Simple Joys by Carter’s Flannel Receiving Blankets
Planes can get cold, so it doesn’t hurt to bring a lightweight blanket to cover you and your baby while nursing or napping.
“They can help them sleep and not be disturbed by the lights or people milling around,” says Song.
What’s more: Babies under the age of 4 months often prefer to be swaddled, and these flannel blankets just may do the trick.
They come in a pack of seven in all different color schemes. They’re made from 100 percent cotton and are meant to be soft, breathable, and warm for chilly flights.
Best travel toy
Morgan Monkey Ears by Lamaze
A brand new toy can be a great distraction when your little one begins to get restless. The key here is not to introduce it to your baby until you’ve boarded your flight (or while you’re in the airport, if you’re really desperate).
Lamaze has an entire line of brightly colored, infant-safe toys that have plenty of textures and crinkly sounds to explore.
This monkey toy is made for teething, has an interactive design with bright colors to hopefully keep baby’s attention, and features various fabrics meant to improve baby’s tactile development.
The best part? It’s relatively inexpensive so you won’t be too bummed if you forget it on the plane.
Best packable changing pad
Munchkin Portable Diaper Changing Kit
If your diaper bag doesn’t already include one, this compact changing pad from Munchkin is designed for sliding into your carry-on bag for use in the airport bathroom.
Measuring 22.2 inches long by 19.5 inches wide when unfolded, it features expandable mesh pockets to keep all your diapering equipment — like wipes, diaper cream, and as many as four diapers.
It also offers a detachable changing pad so you don’t have to change baby on yucky airport surfaces.
Best travel-friendly baby-wearing device
Infantino Flip 4-in-1 Convertible Carrier
While traveling through the airport, especially going through security and the boarding process, you’re going to need your hands — probably both of them.
That’s where a baby carrier comes in handy.
The Infantino Flip 4-in-1 allows you to wear your baby, keeping them snuggled and secured to your body while you travel.
It’s one of our favorite baby carrier picks that allows you multiple carry positions as baby grows. It’s accommodating for infants weighing 8 to 32 pounds, which should get you through your child’s first year – not just their first flight.
Best travel stroller
Bugaboo Ant Baby Stroller
Renting a stroller at your final destination is always an option. But if you’re planning on flying regularly with your baby, owning a compact travel stroller might be a worthy investment.
This one, from Bugaboo, is designed to carry you through the infant and toddler years, accommodating up to 50 lbs. It’s super lightweight, clocking in at just 15.8 lbs, and folds up easily so that you can use it as a carry-on.
Another more budget-friendly option that parents love for travel is the Colugo Compact Stroller, which folds up for when you have to stow it under the plane. It also has a 5-point harness for safety, and a full-seat recline for when baby gets sleepy.
Best car seat protector bag
J.L. Childress Ultimate Backpack Padded Car Seat Travel Bag
One must-have product that so many new parents forget when they pack for their very first flight with baby is a car seat travel bag.
These handy devices help protect your car seat from damage (remember, it’s going to get tossed into the belly of the plane with a bunch of luggage!).
Since you won’t be able to follow exactly where your car seat goes (or what it bangs into) once you check it in with the rest of your luggage, these handy protector bags give you some peace of mind.
This one is fully padded so that your car seat is hopefully protected should it experience any impact. Plus, the brand’s website offers a free compatibility guide to help ensure it fits your specific car seat (it fits most!).
Want wheels? This alternative option from Chicco comes with wheels and fits other car seats beside the Chicco brand (double-check dimensions).
Best carry-all diaper backpack
UPPAbaby Changing Backpack
There’s a reason a diaper bag is one of the first things people tell you to register for — it packs everything you need to care for your baby on the go.
Whether you’re at the mall or a local restaurant or taking a flight across the country (or world!), you’ll need one of these.
While in the airport, it’s best to have a diaper bag that sits on your back, making it easier to hold your baby and whatever else you’ve got in your hands.
This practical diaper bag from UPPAbaby not only sports a neutral and stylish look, it’s also customizable (since it comes in nine different colors).
It comes with all of the necessary accessories that make diaper changing on the go so much easier — including a changing pad, insulated bottle pockets, water-resistant lining, and stroller attachment straps.
Best baby bottle cooler
nanobebe Breastmilk Baby Bottle Cooler & Travel Bag
If you feed your baby pumped breastmilk (or formula) — you’ll absolutely need to travel with a cooler to store the goods on the go.
This helps keep your milk safe for your baby to drink over periods of time — almost like a portable fridge.
This cooler has an airtight design and three layers of insulated lining that should keep bags and bottles of milk cold for hours. Plus, the strap easily attaches to a diaper bag or your stroller so you don’t have to worry about carrying it separately.
Best travel sound machine
Wavhello™ Soundbub™ Ollie The Owl Bluetooth Speaker and Soother
Sound machines can be bulky, but this one is about the size of your palm.
Don’t let its small stature fool you, though — it has all of the key features of any other sound machine.
This device has the ability to record messages and lullabies from family members, contains over 12 sounds and songs, offers a 120-minute run time, and features a built-in timer for 30-, 60- or 90-minute increments.
It attaches right to your stroller or bag and is rechargeable.
Best travel-friendly car seat
Nuna Pipa Infant Car Seat & Base
Safety should always be top priority when it comes to a car seat, and this one gets stellar reviews. It’s also one of the lighter options on the market, weighing in at only 7.9 lbs., so it’s easier than most to lug around an airport.
Some key features include Nuna’s True Lock safety system that helps ensure proper installation. It also has a European belt path that allows you to install it into a car without a base (a huge plus for times of travel).
Perhaps the best part is that it’s adaptable with most strollers — you just have to purchase the Nuna ring adapter, which is sold separately.
The thought of flying with an infant might be anxiety-inducing at first, but with the right products and the right know-how, you can handle whatever might come your way.
Here are some important tidbits to know to keep your little one safe, comfortable, and, of course, happy.
Buy baby their own seat
Since babies under age 2 fly for free on most airlines in the United States (so long as you’re flying domestic), you might be tempted to save the cost of a ticket by having baby sit on your lap.
Veteran parents agree that you might regret this decision, especially where flight delays are concerned.
Also, when baby has their own seat, you can actually bring their car seat on board and strap them right in, which is much safer, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Review TSA recommendations for milk beforehand
Whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, it’s a good idea to be familiar with Transportation Security Administration (TSA) regulations for carrying such liquids on a plane. The good news is that both breastmilk and formula are exempt from the 3.4-ounces rule.
You’re also allowed to bring ice packs and freezer packs to keep the milk cold. Make sure the TSA agents are aware that you’re carrying milk for your child so that they can screen it properly.
Feed baby before you go on the plane
To avoid having a hangry baby who’s desperate for milk seconds before takeoff, try to nurse or bottle-feed your baby while you’re waiting for the plane to board.
The feeding position is not the safest for takeoff, and you both might be a little uncomfortable if there are unexpected bumps on the way.
When can my baby start flying?
There’s no certain age that your baby has to be in order to fly on an airplane, but most pediatricians agree that the 2 month mark is a reasonable timeframe to ensure that your baby has had time to adjust to the outside world and to rule out any health issues after birth.
The most optimal age is 6 months or older, per the AAP, as this is the time when your child has received many of their vaccines.
Is it safe for my baby to fly?
Yes. It is safe for healthy, full-term infants to fly on an airplane.
Does my baby need their own seat?
It’s up to you whether or not you want baby to sit on your lap or to have his own seat.
Both the AAP and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommend infants have their own seat so you can strap them to a car seat or airplane harness device during the flight.
When flying with your baby, prioritize the essentials to make your life a little easier. With the right tools, your baby’s first flight might even be — dare we say — fun.
For further guidance, be sure to check out our list of additional tips for flying with your little one for the first time. And remember: You’ve got this!