Traveling on an airplane with a baby could be nerve-wracking for most parents. Some preparation in advance can help have a smoother trip not only the parents; everyone else on the plane will be grateful. It is generally not recommended that newborn babies travel by plane unnecessarily. Air travel increases the risk of newborns catching infectious diseases. Premature infants, infants with chronic heart or lung disease, or infants with symptoms of upper or lower respiratory tract disease may experience problems due to changes in the oxygen level of cabin air. Parents should consult with their child’s pediatrician before traveling by air.
If there is a measles outbreak or you plan to travel somewhere where there is a measles outbreak, your pediatrician may recommend an extra dose of measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine for your baby.
1. Should I sit my baby on my lap?
If possible, no. It might be cheaper but there are potential risks. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not require a ticket for children under 2 years of age, but this implies that your baby must travel on your lap. If there is turbulence or worse, you may have difficulty protecting your baby in your arms. If you do not purchase a ticket for your child, ask the airline to use an empty seat. If the airline’s policy allows you to do so, avoid traveling during busiest periods so you have a better chance of finding an empty seat next to yours.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that the safest way for your baby to travel on an airplane is in a car seat, an FAA-approved car seat or one that has an airplane harness designed for the child’s age and size installed with the airplane seat belt. Booster seats should not be used on airplanes.
Car seats, booster seats and strollers generally do not count as baggage, but airline policies vary; check with your airline before traveling. In most cases they can be checked at the departure gate, where there is less risk of damage and no charge. If your infant has an assigned individual seat, bring his or her car seat.
2. Sleep options for long flights
Buckling your baby into his or her car seat or child restraint system is the safest option. However, there are also other options to help your baby sleep comfortably, especially on extremely long trips.
Airline bassinets or cribs. Some airlines have cribs or bassinets available for bulkhead seating, behind the galley/galley or bathroom or another cabin. Most airlines usually do not charge specifically for bassinets, as they don’t take up seat space; other will charge more for the extra legroom associated with the seat in front of one. In some dedicated cabins, they can be assembled in the seat compartment for use in bulkhead seats.
Most airline bassinets are for infants under 6 months and under 20 pounds (9 kg) and not yet able to sit up on their own. These cribs or bassinets are also called bassinets or bassinet baskets. Check with your airline when making reservations.
Sleeper seats. For an additional cost, some international airlines allow you to book three seats in a row with locking seat extenders, creating an “air or sky couch” or a sleeping seat large enough for both adult and child.
Inflatable seat extensions. Sometimes airlines allow you to bring your own inflatable, individual seat extender product so your baby can sleep in them lying down. These are rather new products, and not all airlines allow their use, so check ahead of time. Your child will need a seat of his or her own to use.
3. Which airplane seat to choose?
Try to look for the row of the plane that has the most space, such as bulkhead or divider seats. Emergency exit seats should not be used, for safety reasons. Choose a seat near the window, if possible. Aisle seating can be dangerous for infants during beverage service. Hot beverages passed to passengers can spill and cause burns, and infants’ arms and legs can get stuck or caught in serving carts. Aisle seats are also at risk of objects or luggage falling from overhead containers.
4. Can I take my baby’s food in my hand luggage?
In our hand luggage we should pack the essentials for the trip to go smoothly and to be prepared for any unforeseen event. Therefore, we should take their favorite toys, stories, water, a healthy snack, a couple of jars, diapers or change of clothes, among others. But what if I need to take milk for my little one?
The liquids regulations allow you to carry in your hand luggage the drinks and food for your little one. You are allowed to carry baby milk, powdered milk, sterilized water and food. It is not necessary to carry them in a transparent bag, but they must be prepared for a possible inspection when passing through airport security.