10 Tips to Make Flying With Little Ones Less Stressful This Christmas

Whether you're a seasoned traveler or a first-time flyer, navigating the skies with a baby in tow is no small feat. The worries about finding the best travel bag, unpredictable diaper emergencies, milk storage, and passengers disgruntled by audible meltdowns are completely understandable and, frankly, shared by many. While I can't promise a turbulent-free journey, I can provide you with tips and tricks to make the voyage far less stressful — courtesy of a fellow parent who's been there and done that. (Side note: Babies are going to cry, and more often than not, flight attendants and even fellow passengers are going to be understanding of that.)

Before my son turned 1, we embarked on not one, but two long-haul international flights and a handful of domestic ones. (If only more airlines offered child-free zones, like this one.) The stress and anxiety over how to manage it all was overwhelming on our first go-around, but I can assure you that with the proper planning, it's far more manageable than you think. Each journey presented its unique set of challenges, but we made it through — and you can too. Below are 10 tried-and-true tips for a stress-free flight with a baby.

1. Book a Flight That Works Best With Your Baby's Schedule (If You Can)

The biggest mistake I ever made was booking a red-eye flight. I shared the common thinking that my child would sleep the entire duration of the flight, but what I didn't take into consideration was the novelty of the airplane and all the overstimulation that came with it. The new environment, coupled with pilot announcements, cabin lights, and passenger conversations, could easily keep your little one wide awake and disrupt their sleep schedule and routine. The key is to plan according to your child's needs, whether that's during normal sleep hours or awake windows.

2. Reserve the Bassinet Seats

Did you know most airplanes offer bassinet seats that attach to the bulkhead wall? Available between takeoff and landing, the bassinets are assembled by the flight attendant and provide the perfect hands-free option for baby naps and play. The key is to reserve your seats ahead of time since these rows offer more legroom and are highly sought-after by solo travelers. Get ahead of the game and book for an optimal flight experience with your little one.

3. Get to the Airport Early (and I Mean Early, Early)

Even with everything perfectly packed and the family seemingly ready to go, there are certain scenarios that you simply can't account for (and therefore should account for). When you're mapping out your travel day, account for the extra time needed to arrange bottles, feed your baby, change diapers, change clothes, take the elevator (because of the stroller), and get from point A to point B with countless stops along the way. You'll be a lot less stressed if you're not in a rush.

4. Simplify Your Carry-Ons and Opt For a Mini Crossbody Bag

Minimize the number of heavy carry-ons, and simplify your packing to include only the essentials. Opt for a crossbody bag or fanny pack to keep your passport, ID, boarding pass, wallet, and phone easily accessible. Your diaper bag should carry everything you need for a smooth journey and can conveniently rest on or under the stroller as you move through the airport. While you and your baby are technically allowed your own individual carry-ons, it's a good idea to stick with just one big bag if you can. Keep in mind that you can drop off and pick up your stroller at the gate, and it's separate from your designated carry-on allowance.

5. Pack in Advance and Organize with Packing Cubes

Efficient packing is the foundation of a stress-free travel experience. The last thing you need is to rush out the door and realize you've left behind an essential item. To avoid this, start packing well in advance, systematically checking items off your list to ensure everything is packed correctly. This not only reduces stress but also provides the opportunity to thoughtfully organize your carry-ons. Consider a strategic approach to packing. Personally, I found packing cubes to be a game-changer for flights, as they keep everything easily accessible, preventing the need to dig around for diapers and other necessities.

6. Don't Forget an Extra Outfit For Yourself

While it's instinctive to prioritize your baby's essentials, don't overlook the necessity of an extra outfit for yourself. Every parent knows that unexpected diaper blowouts and spit-up incidents can happen at any time. Be prepared to stay fresh and clean during your journey by including spare clothing in your carry-on for those unforeseen "oops" moments.

7. Read the Milk Storage Policy and Pack Accordingly

Whether you're bringing milk or formula, be sure to pack and plan accordingly. Adhere to your airline's policy on the maximum liquid requirement (generally 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters) and separate the milk quantity into smaller containers. Bring on travel freezer packs to help keep your milk cold. For formula that requires hot water, consider purchasing a water bottle at the airport and asking your flight attendant to boil the water during the flight. This way, you can mix it and blend it with colder water to achieve a drinkable temperature.

8. Invest in a CoziGo (or Something Like it)

This is a completely unendorsed love letter to the CoziGo, a compactible bassinet cover that acts as a black-out shade for your baby and shields them from disruptive airplane lights. The lightweight, foldable cover was a game-changer during my long-haul international flight and led to several hours of uninterrupted sleep. If you're able to invest in a CoziGo or any other bassinet cover, it's well worth it and could actually help you maintain that coveted sleep schedule.

9. Feed or Pacify Your Baby During Takeoff and Landing

For little ears, the immense pressure from takeoff and landing can be extremely uncomfortable and lead to distressing tears. Ease the change in pressure by offering milk or a pacifier to help equalize the pressure and provide comfort throughout these critical moments. Taking this small step can make a significant difference in your baby's comfort and well-being during the flight.

10. Bring Novelty Toys or Activities For Playtime

Is your baby in explorer mode? An airplane isn't exactly ideal for crawling around, so you'll have to be creative when it comes to entertaining, especially for babies approaching toddlerhood. A few of my favorites? Fidget sensory toys, baby activity books, and suction cup toys (great for window seats or trays) were major hits for my child, as were countless budget-friendly items from the dollar aisle. Depending on your flight's duration, packing a few new and exciting items can make all the difference in turning those travel hours into a fun and engaging experience for your baby.