Flying with a Baby: a packing guide

Flying with a baby for the first time can make a new parent break out into a cold sweat. Not only did someone hand you this small person to take care of, but now you’ve decided to get on a plane with it. What were you thinking?! Well, the good news is that flying with a baby isn’t really all that different from taking care of them at home. Yes, you are in a more confined space, but they still need you to love and cuddle them. Breastfeeding or bottle-feeding a baby on a plane can be tricky, but we’ve got a guide for that as well that can help you out. For now, let’s focus on packing. You don’t need to bring the nursery, but you do need a few essentials.

What to carry on?

Less is more when it comes to a carry on bag, but when flying with a baby on board you do need a few essentials to get you through your trip. Think about what items can pull double duty and what you can’t check in your bag without a disaster occurring.

Packing checklist:

  • Change of clothes for baby
  • Change of clothes for parents (at least a top)
  • Baby carrier
  • Diapers (enough to last 1-2 days)
  • Wipes
  • Formula and bottles (if using them- enough for 2 days)
  • Nursing wrap
  • Pacifiers (always have an extra!)
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen for ear pain

NOTE: Do NOT bring Benadryl. It is extremely dangerous to drug a child just to make them sleep. Plus allergy meds make some kids, like my youngest, hyper. Allergy medicine should be used for just that—allergies.


Small toys like blocks, rattles, a mirror and a sensory ball can work wonders on when you are flying with a baby. Every parent hopes that their baby will sleep most of the flight, but that isn’t always the reality. Bringing a few things for your baby to hold is never a bad idea, but you also don’t have to pack the big play mat. Think about simple things your baby already loves, pack a few in a small bag or Tupperware and call it a day. You are enough entertainment for your baby. If you are lucky, you will find a few grandparents sitting around you who insist on holding the baby too. Suddenly your baby is entertainment enough for the entire plane… and not in a bad way.

Check your stroller and car seat?

Checking your car seat and stroller isn’t an easy decision. If you have an infant, you may want that massive stroller system you are used to carrying around with you until you get to the gate. Or you may feel comfortable carrying the baby in your ErgoBaby carrier or the baby carrier of choice so you can have your hands free to deal with other things at the airport. Whatever you pick, you still need to know how to check your gear.

The process is pretty simple to gate check your stroller and car seat. Go up to the gate agent, ask him or her for a tag for your stroller and/or car seat, loop that tag onto your items, and leave them at the bottom of the jet way before you board. Voila! Pick your items up on the jet way as soon as you disembark the plane. If you want to check your items with your checked bags, just let the ticketing agent know. You do not have to pay for these items.

What to check onto the plane?

I am a big fan of getting rid of as much as possible before I get on a plane, or even go through security, especially when I am flying with a baby. I don’t care about the fee. It is worth it. I check all of our clothing, baby food, diapers, pull ups, shoes, toiletries, etc. I always make sure I have our medications in my carry-on bag as well as a change of clothes for everyone. I’ve had luggage delayed and connecting flights missed. It’s not pretty. Think about what you can live without, pack enough diapers and food in your carry on to last you 1-2 days in case your luggage is lost, and pack the rest.

Flying with a baby

Image of baby at window and father and baby via

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3 thoughts on “Flying with a Baby: a packing guide”

  1. Kate

    Awesome guide, Keryn! That checklist really helps & I too am a fan of going as light as possible–we haven’t ever brought a carseat onto the plane…just seems like a big pain, but I know others have had great success with their kids sleeping in them. Might have check out that sensory ball for Georgia–definitely something she would love, and since we’re gearing up for a quick trip down to the Bay Area, it might be the perfect thing!

  2. Gina

    Good list! The most annoying thing about plane travel with a baby so far that I’ve found is lugging the carseat through security and though the airport just to gate check — but I’m too nervous to check it at the counter, worried it might get lost. I have yet to do a layover while flying, but your tip about packing enough diapers and change of clothes in a carry on in case of delays is a good tip to remember!

  3. Jen

    Awesome tips, Keryn. I’m glad to see I’m not the only mom who never traveled with a stroller. 🙂

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