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The Informed Parent

Fast Facts: Infant Air Travel

by Shanna R. Cox, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Jun. 18, 2012

While travel to see friends and family is a wonderful opportunity to share time and make memories, the preparation can often be overwhelming. In this article, let’s look at some practical suggestions and tips to create a plan for your family. To start, let’s break down the trip into before, during, and after the flight, with special emphasis on families traveling with infants.

Before Travel

Where, what, and how? Making the plan….Apply these questions to a pre-made checklist of your child’s needs.

1. Food items. Where will they come from? Common options might be breast milk, formula, snack items, jar foods, and planned dining. Narrow these choices to prepare what you will need to provide these items, and make a checklist to assure you bring them. A sample list for a formula fed infant would include:

  • powdered formula
  • water (remember bottled water must be obtained after going through security if greater than 3 oz.)
  • several bottles, sanitization or preservation needs, with particular attention to quantity and availability of these items
  • bibs
  • wipes
  • burp cloth

2. Clothing items. Where is the family traveling? To a warm or cool climate, or will there be variable temperatures? When in doubt, layering always provided a flexible dress plan.

  • onesies
  • shirts
  • pants
  • sleepers
  • socks, booties, shoes, sandals, water shoes
  • sun protection: hat, sunglasses, appropriate skin covering, swimsuit or snow gear
  • diapers or underwear

3. Sleep. Where will the child sleep? In a pack and play, crib, or bed? What do you need to have available for good sleep hygiene? Decide ahead if the family will keep a schedule similar to home routines, and if so will it be adapted to destination or home time zone? Getting off on the right foot at your destination can set the tone for your time away.

  • swaddling blanket
  • pack and play or crib sheet
  • favorite toy, books
  • sound control (ie. white noise, lullabies or iPad)
  • monitor
  • pacifiers (if used)

4. Keeping clean. Consider everything from possible unplanned accidents to diaper changes, and keeping that clean baby smell all your relatives will love!

  • more wipes
  • multipurpose liquid soap in 3 oz. or less bottle
  • washcloths, disposable towels
  • ziplocks (ideal for diaper containment on the run)
  • lotion
  • diaper cream

5. Entertainment.  Think about a few books, toys, and these days a DVD player, iPod or iPad, and coloring books. It’s all about multiple ways to repetitively distract your child, hopefully with a little development and education thrown in!

6. Health and medications. Always bring any medication in a carry on or diaper bag so there is not a possibility it will be lost or misplaced. This means a parent may have to consolidate bags, bring a cooler bag for an antibiotic, and should plan appropriate downsized versions (3 oz. or less) of standard medications. Remember, these type of medications should be placed in a clear bag that may be easily brought out to go through security, replace, and retrieve from later.

Bonus general medication list. Here is a pediatrician’s standard medication bag to have in preparation for travel:

  • Tylenol suspension
  • ibuprofen suspension
  • Neosporin cream
  • hydrocortisone 1% cream
  • Benadryl suspension

(Consult your physician for appropriate use of these medications, and dosing for your child)

We’ve purposefully left the “How” idea separate. With all of the above preparation, there are multiple ways to consider how each need will be accomplished successfully.

First consider:

  • Will the family bring the items? If so, what will be split for carry on and checked items?
  • Will the family ship some, or all items to their destination?
  • Will the family purchase the items at their destination? If so, where are the stores?
  • Will the family borrow other family members’ gear?

During Travel:

The key is to keep gear to a minimum, be organized, and plan to have all hands available to care for yourself or your child…not battling bags.

  • If a picture ID is available for your child, bring it. Otherwise an item that verifies their name and birth date is required. Even as a lap infant this information is requested by the airline.
  • Does your child have his own seat? If not, respect others’ personal boundaries as flights are often full, and tension can run high.
  • There are generally infant changing tables available in the airplane lavatory…although quite small, they are functional. Ask airline staff where to best deposit dirty, smelly diapers if necessary.
  • Flight duration and airplane size, as well as flight conditions affect your ability to get up and walk around with your child. Know the expectations so you may plan your time in flight.
  • Assure hydration, and frequent hand washing for all family members.
  • Bag dirty items, for easy separation later.

After the Flight:

  • Take a deep breath! Arrival at your destination is a big part of the fun!
  • Use restrooms or convenience stores on the way out of the airport to save time once the family is ready to go to the next leg of travel.
  • Discard used items.



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