It’s never easy to take a baby on a plane and I’ve had a lot of bad experiences flying with a baby over the past 10 years of being a parent. I’ll share some tips for flying with a baby that I have learned.
My husband and I both looked at each other with exhaustion in our eyes, is she really going to give us a problem? That was my first thought when the words that every parent traveling with an infant does not want to hear from a TSA agent, “Excuse me. Is this your bin?”
We had just traveled from, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Singapore, then laying over in Tokyo, Japan. Before and we had just landed in Seattle to get our final connection home. The 34-hour trip is already long, but it felt even longer because we had our 6-month-old baby with us, and we were all exhausted.
We just cleared immigration and customs, but after that, you need to go back through security on international flights when returning to the USA.
At the time, our baby needed to take liquid prescription medication for her acid reflux. It needs to stay refrigerated or chilled for it to work effectively. We had called TSA 2 weeks before our departure to make sure that the medicine and the freezer gel packs would be okay. They assured us that it would not be a problem and that TSA tries to accommodate medical needs for everyone and for infants.
TSA Security Screening
One of my best tips for flying with a baby is to make security as easy as possible. We didn’t have any issues at any of our security screenings on our departure going through multiple international screenings and going through the other countries. We always made sure to pull everything that is liquid out of the bag and put them in the bin.
By the time we arrived in Seattle, the freezer gel packs were no longer frozen but they were still chilled since we had kept them and the medicine in a small insulated bag.
The TSA worker pulls them out of the bag, examines the prescription medicine and then proceeds to tells us that gel packs are not allowed and that she would need to confiscate them. “Nooooooo!!!!!”
The exhaustion and jet lag had kicked in, we clearly were not at our best or sharpest. My husband and I both said, “yes they are!” We checked with TSA prior to our trip and the assured us that they are good. The TSA worker stated, that since they are no longer frozen, they are no longer allowed.
“Are you kidding me,” I replied, “it’s because we’ve been flying for 34 hours”. How do you expect us to keep them frozen for that long? It took us, what felt like 30 minutes of pleading with the TSA agent before we asked to talk to a superior.
We ended up having to get a TSA manager to come to see us. We were short on time as our connection was super short. Our anxiety and stress levels were increasing by the second.
The baby started to get anxious, she was ready to move on and not be held. She just wanted to move around and be somewhere different. In less than 10 seconds of examining the gel packs, the manager said they are fine and to have a nice trip.
Really??? Why was that so difficult?
We’ve done our homework on flying with a baby rules so you don’t need to. We know that traveling is and can be stressful, let’s take the stress out and make traveling with kids enjoyable.
You can take freezer gel packs on the plane if they are being used to keep medicine or breast milk for a baby cool. I highly recommend this brand of freezer packs on Amazon. They are great, I used them when we went on the plane and I use them all the time in my kids’ lunch boxes.
Also to keep things cool, you should place your frozen gel packs in an insulated bag. This is the perfect size to pack with flying with a baby. It is small and compact and it is TSA approved!
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Before you book your tickets
To avoid a situation like the one we had in the Seattle airport, consider getting TSA Pre-Check before you go. This is a screening and background check completed by the TSA before you get to the airport. Once completed, it is good for 5 years.
If you have TSA Pre-Check, you go in a separate (and much shorter) line than everyone else. Pre-flight screening is much easier. You do not need to remove your shoes, laptops, or liquids when going through security.
For more information and how to apply, check out Always 5 Star’s post all about TSA Pre-Check. This is by far one of the best tips for flying with a baby.
How old does my baby need to be to fly?
You might be wondering how old does my baby need to be for them to fly. How soon can a baby fly after they are born?
Well, there are no standard regulations on the baby’s age. Technically at two-days old, you could fly. Most airlines recommend a minimum of two-weeks old, and most doctors and pediatricians recommend waiting until the baby is at least two months old. Flying with a two-month-old baby can still have its challenges but as long as the baby is healthy you should be fine.
As a parent, you have to decide what is best for you and your baby. Try to consider all the factors. Such as, is your baby healthy? Has then been a recent outbreak of any illness in your area? How will I keep my baby safe while traveling?
These are all questions to consider when thinking about taking your baby on a plane the first time. There are not really any flying with a baby rules for how old your baby needs to be to fly on a plane.
International travel age restrictions
How young can a baby fly internationally? There is not an age restriction to fly internationally with a baby. Just like domestically, there are not really any age restrictions or flying with a baby rules on how young is too young.
But there are requirements for proper documents and documentation. If you are traveling to Mexico with a baby from the United States you will need a passport or passport card for your baby.
If you are traveling alone and not with the other parent you will need a parent consent form. Traveling to Europe with the baby would require a Passport. This would go for almost all countries. All of our kids have had infant photos in their passports and in a couple of years, they don’t look like their baby pictures, but it still allows us to travel.
Baby Travel Schedules
Naptime, snack time, meals, playtime, etc… These are all things that all of our babies need and do each day. Why don’t the airlines ever consult us on our schedules? Wouldn’t that be nice? But they don’t.
Remember you still have a choice in when you leave. You are in control of your schedule and what time will work best for you and your baby. Don’t just take the cheapest flight because it is the cheapest.
The exception would be if it is a significant amount of savings, but in our experience, there are usually a couple of options throughout the day and the difference might vary by only about $25. Consider this your parent sanity tax :). Believe us, the “parent sanity tax” is sometimes worth more than the $25.
For example, take a look at the google flight search below, from New York to Orlando. The cost of the flights is only about $20 -$30 difference but check the times. If you don’t want to arrive at 10:00 pm at night with your kids and lug them to the hotel, then check-in and get to the room. It might be closer to mid-night before you get them in bed. This might even mess up your plans for the next day’s schedule.
What time of day to fly with a baby
Depending on the duration of your flight, we’ve recommended that it is better to try and book a flight that is during your baby’s normal nap or sleep time.
We recommend this because if you give your baby a bottle (or nurse them) during taking off they will most likely fall asleep while it’s quiet. Then if it is their regular sleep time, they may sleep for a few hours.
Unless your baby is a sensitive sleeper then you might want to avoid nap time. Try to find the time that you feel will work best for your baby, but also find the time that works best for when you are more patient and you are not as tired.
If you are well-rested and alert, you will be in a better mental state to stay calm even if your baby isn’t. This alone can be a great comfort and calming on your baby. When you stay calm the baby senses that everything is ok even though their whole world is upside down.
How early should I arrive for a flight with a baby?
As a mom, I know that everything with a baby takes extra time. So I always give myself plenty of time before a flight. I would suggest you arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight.
Remember, you may need extra time to get through security so 2 hours should give you enough time that you don’t feel rushed.
Also, I always suggest feeding your baby while the plane is taking off. But if you need to feed your baby before you board the plane, give yourself enough time. When babies are little, they can take 30-45 minutes just to nurse. If this is the case with your baby, arrive at the airport early so you have enough time to feed the baby without any stress.
Pro tip~ give yourself extra time for everything! Arrive at the airport with plenty of time for diaper changes and feedings!
Flying with a baby rules
Baby formula, breastmilk, and juice are all permitted by TSA for infants and toddlers in reasonable amounts. You will be required to remove this from your carry-on bag at the screening. Make sure to put all in a ziplock baggie for easy removal from your carry-on, and it gives added protection if they were to leak.
****Let the TSA agent know that you are carrying liquids that exceed 3.4 ounces prior to screening and that all the liquids are for the baby.***
What if they want to test the milk or juice? This could happen. Sometimes TSA tests baby formula or milk to make sure it is truly just milk.
Most TSA officers will ask you if they can open the bottle or if you would like to open it. You are allowed to open it and assist in their testing. This way you control how much and lessen any contamination.
If you do NOT want the milk or juice tested. TSA can take additional steps to clear it. This could include being patted-down and a thorough inspection of all your contents in your carry-on. Our carry-on has been inspected multiple times because we have liquids for our kids in it. But it is usually fairly fast and straight forward.
If you need to reference their website, here is the TSA link with all of this information. Bookmark this on your phone so you can get to it quickly to show them the proper rules.
Ice Packs for food and medicine
As you read our story above, you will know that ice packs, freezer packs and gel packs are all acceptable to take on a flight. Ice packs, freezer packs, and frozen gel packs can be used if they are required to keep food, formula, breastmilk, and/or medicine cool.
If the pack is frozen you might be able to walk through without any additional screening. If it becomes partially frozen, slushy or soft during your travels, TSA may need to do an additional screening.
Stay calm and allow them to check everything, and know what is acceptable. Save the link above to help you in case you encounter a situation like ours.
Additional Information for flying with children with special needs
When traveling with children or babies with special needs you are entitled to extra benefits. These can be either short-term medical situations or long-term physical or mental conditions.
Many mental health challenges could qualify for TSA Cares assistance. Make sure to take advantage of TSA Cares. This is a great service offered by TSA that will make your airport experience much better.
You can call TSA Cares Hotline 72 hours before your trip at (855) 787-2227 and they will answer any questions you have about policies, procedures, etc. They can also arrange for an “assistant” to meet you at security to help you through the line. This is great if you are traveling alone with your children.
If your child has anxiety around crowds or standing in long lines, they will do their best to help avoid the crowds for you and your child. This may even mean taking you to the front of the security line if possible.
Here is the link to the TSA Cares website.
TSA cares may help with single parents traveling alone with a baby as well. This is a great tip for flying with a baby 🙂
Other tips for flying with a baby and what to do in the airport
Now you have made it through security and you have time before your flight. There are so many great things to do in an airport to entertain a baby. I usually run out of time before I run out of things to do.
The best thing to do with a baby at the airport is to walk around. Babies are completely entertained if you just walk up and down the hallways of an airport. There is always a lot of noise and action in an airport and all of my children have been happy just sitting in their strollers and watching.
Also, another great tip for flying with a baby is to check the airport’s map. They may have a baby room or even a playroom for toddlers and kids. The baby’s rooms usually have a quiet and private place to nurse or feed your baby. They also provide a clean place to change a diaper before the flight.
Pro-tip~ Always change your baby’s diaper right before you board the plane.
Wrap up on tips for flying with a baby
In the end, be prepared before you go and your travel experience will be so much better! Getting through security may not be the best part of your trip. But if you did your research and go prepared you will be able to get through without too many hiccups, delay, or additional stress.
Remember to stay calm no matter what happens. The worst thing you can do is get anxious or upset when going through security. Ask for help from another agent if you are being mistreated.
Find out what to do if your baby starts to cry on the airplane and how to book the baby bassinet on the airplane. Click here!
Leave us a comment below that has helped you get through security easier when traveling with your kid(s).