Flying with a baby is work! A bit of planning ahead and having the right mindset can make it more manageable. Some flights may go miraculously smoothly while others are a nightmare. If the latter is the case, it will be over soon! Most people are very understanding and kind, but if anyone gets annoyed by your baby's fussing, ignore them. You're all doing your best and will probably never see them again anyway.
Ear popping with swift altitude changes can be painful for babies. Nursing or bottle feeding helps by forcing baby to swallow, and feeding at takeoff can also help baby fall asleep.
If possible, time the flight with a nap. It can be hard to get your baby to fall asleep since you're away from your usual environment, but once they do, it's glorious!
A couple small toys or books that your baby hasn't seen before can keep them distracted for longer periods of time.
Occupying your older baby or toddler with a show can be a lifesaver, if you're okay with screen time; bring them their own headphones and download shows to your phone or tablet ahead of time.
Bring a few cheap toys your baby hasn't seen before to hold their attention longer. Look for quiet & interactive options that fit in your diaper bag, then bring them out one at a time on the plane (be prepared to lose some!)
Sound machine or headphones help block sharp noises: overhead bins being shut, pilot updates, loud drink orders & cans opening, that guy behind you taking 5 minutes to open his Doritos bag
Lightweight muslin blanket to block out light
Pacifier, if your baby uses one, with a pacifier clip so it doesn't get lost or dirty — because it will fall on the ground at least once
Flights often have bad snack options or even run out of food entirely
Foods that travel relatively well: certain fruits (e.g., banana), crackers & cheese, steamed veggies (e.g., carrots, broccoli), teething crackers, Cheerios or similar (pack in a no-spill snack cup)
If you're bottle feeding, it's especially important to bring extra milk or formula in the event of unexpected delays that have you sitting on the runway for hours
Children <2 can travel for free (domestic) or reduced fare (international , ~10% of full fare) on your lap, which can save a lot of money. Some parents book their <2 year old their own seat if fares are low, flight is long, baby is older & harder to contain, or to bring car seat onboard.
Many parents book a bulkhead seat for more foot room, access to the bassinet, and to avoid their child kicking the seat in front of them. Others like having a seat in front for easier diaper bag access.
Usually yes; this is so airlines know who is on the plane and avoid assigning you an exit row seat. To get one, add your infant to your ticket when you book. If you forget, call ahead or do it at the airport check-in.
For domestic flights: the airline may request proof of age (copy of passport, birth certificate, or immunization record all count).
For international flights: your child needs a passport regardless of age.
Bring it through! Liquids for feeding your baby are exempt from TSA's standard 100mL carry-on limit and are screened separately. This includes breastmilk, other milk, formula, water, juice, & purée baby food. It also applies to ice/gel packs for breastmilk & formula.
Option 1. Check at check-in (use a travel cover!) This way you have less stuff to lug around the airport. Use a baby carrier to be hands-free.
Option 2. Gate check (use a travel cover!) Some parents do this because a) they want to use the stroller in the aiport, b) less luggage handling = lower risk of damage or getting lost, c) it allows for the option of bringing car seat onboard if there's an extra empty seat.
Option 3. Bring onboard. This works for strollers that fold small to fit in the overhead bin and for car seats if a) you booked a seat for your child or b) there's an empty seat and a gate agent lets you have it
During the day, aim to be as active as you can and get lots of sunlight
At bedtime, keep your routine as close as possible to how it is at home (e.g., bath, familiar book, sound machine, very dark room, etc.)
(e.g., 7pm at home = 4pm local time)
Add extra nap (cap at 2 hours) to get to later bedtime; consider shifting your schedule earlier for the first few days to meet baby's natural desire for early bedtime & wakeup
(e.g., 7pm at home = 10pm local time)
Try to not let baby sleep past 10am; depending on time difference and how long you're there, you can try shifting schedule later & enjoying later dinners, bedtimes, wakeups