After Your Baby Is BornHealth & Beauty

Flying With A Baby? Here’s What I’ve Learned While Preparing For My Baby’s First Airplane Ride (…An International Flight To Canada!)

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By Candida

Flying with a baby soon? Me too! In just over a month, I will be boarding a plane and traveling with my baby to my home and native land — Canada, eh.

My baby and I will be flying to Canada next month. See how we're getting ready for the trip and some tips I've learned to help with baby's first airplane ride.

I am so excited to make the trip. And yet I’m terrified at the same time — because it will be just baby and I.

Leaving the house with my baby can be a daunting task at times. Not to mention flying on a plane for the first time with him… and flying internationally with connections and layovers on top of that!

I thought I would share my preliminary international travel plans with baby — and then write a follow-up article after our trip, as well.

Hopefully, other new moms can benefit from the things I’ve learned so far about flying with a baby. And I’m sure I will learn a lot during our trip and have even more tips to share afterwards!


My Baby’s First Plane Ride

I’m a Canadian citizen who lives in East Tennessee and works from home.

My parents still live in my rural hometown, in northern Alberta Canada.

This trip to Canada with my baby is going to entail:

  • International flight travel
  • Flight connections
  • Layovers
  • Early morning departures
  • A 4-hour car ride after arriving into Canada to reach my parents’ home

We will be traveling to Canada in early May when the weather is nicer. June or July would be my preference, but the flight tickets double or triple in the summer months.

Unfortunately, my husband will not be making the trip, so it will just be baby and I navigating the flights together — but we will have help getting to and from the airports.


Important Considerations When Flying With A Baby

This is my plan for my baby’s first airplane ride on an international trip:


#1 – Flight Info

Babies fly free and are allowed to sit on your lap until the age of 2.

I would love to buy baby his own seat — so I don’t have to carry him for 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 hour intervals during our 2 connecting flights. But it is simply not in the budget.

Connecting flights were a huge factor when I was planning this trip. I looked for the fewest number of connections, since there is no direct flight option. I managed to get our flights with only 1 stop (approximately 2-1/2 hours layover) and a simple connection each way.

I wanted the layover to be short — yet not too short. I figured this would be an ideal time to let baby crawl/walk around and enjoy a different change of scenery after the first flight of the trip each way. Plus, it would give me a break from holding him the whole flight.

Flight times were another important consideration. (I also had to factor in being there 2 hours early for international departure times.)

I managed to get some decent departure and arrival times — which of course always look good on paper, but we’ll see how they play out in real time.

I found the best flight using Google search. I simply typed in my departure city to arrival city and Google gave me the best estimated flights from various carriers with price variations on a calendar. I was able play around with the dates and look for ideal flight times and prices.

I paid for the “seat selection option” and chose an aisle seat at the back of the plane. I might get lucky and score an empty middle seat next to me — if the plane isn’t full. But at least with an aisle seat, I can get up more easily with baby if necessary.

I will also rent a CARES harness in the event that I do score an extra seat on the plane. It would be nice to securely strap my baby in and not have to keep him from trying to wander. The CARES harness is lightweight, compact, and will easily fit in my personal bag.


#2 – Passports

Everyone, including babies must have a passport for any international flight.

Luckily, my baby already has his passport and mine is up to date — so we are ready for international travel.

TIP: Don’t forget to bring your baby’s birth certificate — to prove they are under 2, so they can fly in your lap for free!


#3 – Travel Car Seat

I have discovered in my research that bulky items like travel car seats can be checked for free when flying with a baby/toddler.

I will definitely need a car seat once we land in Canada — because we will have a 4-hour car ride to our destination after landing. We will also more than likely do some sightseeing and visit friends & family, so a lightweight travel car seat is a must!

Whether you’re checking a car seat through baggage or at the gate, there is always a risk of the car seat getting lost or damaged. I am simply not willing to haul another item through the airport with a small toddler — so I will be checking the car seat at baggage check-in.

I will have help getting to the check-in counter and at baggage claim — so I plan to pack the car seat in a large duffel bag and check it at baggage claim. I’ll use the extra space inside the duffel bag to pack additional baby items that I won’t need for the flight itself — such as extra diapers and wipes!

I’m also considering buying a less expensive and smaller car seat than our current Britax Marathon car seat — so I won’t have to stress about any possible damage due to handling or loss. The Cosco Scenera Next convertible car seat is compact and FAA approved and will be useful on future flights, should we decide to purchase baby’s own plane seat.

I thought about checking the car seat at gate check and getting a car seat dolly to tote baby securely in his car seat through the airports. But I’ve decided against it at this point — because it’s highly unlikely that I will score an extra middle seat for all 4 flights, so it would just be one more item to lug through the airports and gate check.

My baby travels amazingly well in his car seat, and I believe he would be a dreamboat jetsetter if he could sit in his car seat on the plane. We will certainly consider purchasing his own seat after this inaugural flight, but we simply wanted to save the money on an extra seat and see how he handles flying first.


#4 – Travel Stroller

Check with your airline first, but the baby stroller is another item which usually flies for free when you’re flying with a baby.

I plan to check an umbrella stroller, in addition to the travel car seat.

A lightweight travel stroller is another item which is inexpensive, easy to replace if damaged/lost, and will be wonderful to have if we are going on any sightseeing adventures.


#5 – Baby-Friendly Luggage

I found a convenient carry-on suitcase that looks like it would be great for moms with only 2 hands who are traveling solo with a baby… like me!

The Mountain Buggy Bagrider works as a rolling, carry-on suitcase and a travel seat for your baby. (There’s an easy-to-attach cushioned seat liner with harness to tote baby while sitting on the luggage.)

The back of the seat has an elasticated mesh pocket for easy to access storage — which will hold our passports, my phone, baby toy, etc.

I’ve decided to order this bag rider carry-on for the trip. I think it will be the most ideal way to board and exit the plane — as well as make our connections through the airports easier.

Since the suitcase is my carry-on and it also provides a harnessed baby seat on top of the bag, I will strap my baby onto the carry-on suitcase to board the flight. That means I won’t have to carry him in the line!

Instead, I will stroll with the suitcase and baby in tow until I get on the plane from the jetway to my seat. Once I’m at my seat, I will unhook baby, place him in the seat and then stow away the carry-on. I will place my personal bag under the seat in front of me and put baby on my lap.


#6 – Baby Carrier For Hands-Free Babywearing

I am packing my Ergo 360 baby carrier as backup. I plan to wear baby on my front or my back as I navigate the airports, should he not be agreeable to the Mountain Buggy Bagrider.

You always need both hands at the check-in counter and through security screening — so I want to make sure that I will have options.

I learned that TSA allows you to wear your baby through the security check. I will remove baby from the carrier once we arrive at our gate, and leave room for the carrier in my carry-on bag.

The carrier might be a good option to keep baby contained on my lap on the plane too — but I really have no idea.


#7 – Personal Bag

Most airlines allow you 1 carry-on item, a personal bag, and a diaper bag — but check with your airline to make sure.

This is what I plan to pack inside my personal bag:

  • Diaper wipes
  • Changing pad
  • Baby snacks (TSA will let you bring dry good snacks through security)
  • Munchkin no-spill snack cup (My baby is a great self feeder, and food is always a great distraction — he tends to eat whatever I put in there!)
  • Nuby no-spill sippy cup
  • iPad with pre-loaded education videos for baby entertainment
  • CARES baby harness (mentioned above)
  • Small toys that my baby has never seen before (for extra distraction backup)
  • Airplane tickets
  • Passports
  • Baby’s birth certificate
  • Cash (for easy access)
  • Change of clothes for baby
  • Extra top & leggings for me (in the event of messy air sickness)
  • Diapers (1 diaper for every hour of travel — plus extra diapers, in case of delays)

We practice Elimination Communication, so I probably won’t even need that many diapers. But I’ve never travelled with my baby on a plane before — so I’m not sure how our EC plan will work with all the extra activity and cramped spaces involved. I would rather be safe!


#8 – Breast Milk

TSA will let mothers fly with unlimited quantities of breast milk.

My baby, however, does not take a bottle. Although he is still breastfeeding, he does self feed — so I plan to nurse him on the plane or in the airport, as needed.

I will already be packing enough other stuff, so having the “built-in equipment” necessary for feeding baby is definitely a plus!

I will also pack a scarf/wrap for a modesty cover and a travel neck pillow.


#9 – Letter Of Authorization Form

Any child crossing the U.S./Canada border without both parents present must have this form authorizing the child to leave the country with the responsible adult.


The Next Step…

My ticket is booked and my initial plan to make flying with a baby easier has been researched, sifted, sorted. All we can do now is wait to pack our bags and see how the plan plays out in the real world.

I will definitely write a follow-up article once we complete the trip and relive the adventure!

UPDATE: Here’s what it was really like flying solo with a 14-month-old.


More Tips For Baby’s First Plane Ride

In addition to the links I’ve included above, here are some other resources to help you plan in advance when flying with a baby: