My husband and I have families on opposite sides of the country so we fly a lot. I've flown with H at 5, 7, 14, 17, 25, 30 and 33 months. Once by myself, once with a layover, once with a delay and several times with an hour car ride afterward. So here are my best tips on flying with babies:
1. Strollers and Car Seats are FREE! You can check them on for free or bring them to the plane with you. I recommend checking the car seat and bringing the stroller. You do have to take your child out of the stroller for security, and shove it in the scanner though. We usually end up using the stroller to hold our luggage while H entertains himself by pushing the stroller slowly around the terminal.
2. Bring normal baby food, drinks and medicines through SECURITY: There are limits on gels and liquids for adults, but baby stuff is different. Bring your full bottles, squeezy pouches and gas drops. Put them in a big ziploc bag beforehand to pull out at security time, and they will pass through just fine. Hand bottles or sippy cups to a security guard because they are tested manually. (I just have one so we're not sitting in line forever.)
3. Borrow or buy when you ARRIVE: I've found that packing a million diapers, food for a week and loading the pack n play just ain't happening! Call up your friends and relatives to see if you can borrow their baby stuff when you get there so you don't have to lug it around. When you arrive, stop by the grocery store and pick up food and diapers for the week. Just pack the stuff you need to use at the airport and plane ride.
4. Bring lots of NEW TOYS: such as stickers, books, dollar store stuff, window clings, a small photo album, etc. Follow this link for an Airplane BINGO printable I created for my toddler. You can also make travel notebooks and other DIY activities, like I posted here.
5. Pack tons of SNACKS: Try to bring ones that cause the least mess. Also drinks with straws spray under pressure on an airplane. To avoid spraying your neighbor, loosen the lid when not in use.
6. Bring something for junior to suck on: such as a pacifier, bottle or lollipops. Helps with the altitude changes. Use during takeoff and landing.
7. Don't forget NAPTIME stuff: Whatever helps baby sleep at home needs to be with you--paci, blanket, teddy. When H was under a year, he always fell asleep for the takeoff because I had to hold him and because of the pressure during takeoff to lean against me. You have to pay for their own seat when they turn two. That's when the descent put him to sleep--only about 20 minutes of naptime...
8. Prepare for POTTY TIME: Change his diaper before and after getting on the plane. I only change a diaper on the plane if it's a poopy one. H doesn't get rashes from pee and it's a pain to change a diaper in that coffin of a bathroom (which they do have changing table trays--but you're crammed in there!).
9. Take a WALK: At the airport, try your best to avoid using the stuff you brought for junior. Get up and walk around until it's boarding time. Look in stores, look out windows.
10. Bring MOVIES: Bring the favorites. H loved Baby Einstein, but when he got older it was Nemo and Cars. We used a portable DVD player, but because of the crowded conditions, he could reach the buttons and would open and close the case...leaving us both frustrated. On our 3rd trip, we caved and bought a Kindle. If you are willing to spend the money, I think the Kindle is the way to go because it has a built in kid feature called Free Time, which has activities from baby through elementary school. If you pay $5 a month you have unlimited access to their entire library.
Free Time is password protected so junior can't access your books and email. You can buy movies and load them to his account too. I LOVE the Kindle. It changed travel for us--because when you've use up all your toys and snacks and junior is either crying or bored and banging the plastic tray against the person's seat in front of you, you need something to keep him still for another hour and a half!
When H was little he slept most of the time and I really only needed bottles and blankets. When he became more mobile around age one, that's when I really had to start entertaining him with toys, snacks and movies. Even though it costs a lot for a ticket when they turn two, after our last flight, we decided it was SO worth it. H loved his own little space to play and finally fell asleep with his body laying across his chair and head on my lap.
And nothing is better than a sleeping baby on an airplane!