Flying with a Baby or Toddler? Welcome to the Best Tips Online.

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Baby looking out airplane window at airport
Ready… set… Here’s your guide to everything you need to get ready to fly with a baby or todder!

If you’ll be flying with a baby soon (or a toddler or preschooler–or any combination thereof), I’m glad you’re here! For more than 15 years, I’ve helped answer the real questions parents ask when preparing for travel with babies and young children (more about me here.)

This page (written by a human, mother of 3, and travel guidebook author) will lead you to answers and advice about several topics I’ve covered here on and in the Travels with Baby Tips blog.

Now, let’s get ready for your flight!

Here are the major “Flying with a Baby or Toddler” topics covered on this page, divided into three categories: 1. Before You Fly, 2. At the Airport, and 3. On the Airplane.

But first, be sure to pin this to your travel board for future reference!

Pinterest pin for everything you need to know about flying with a baby or toddler

Here are the important things you’ll want to know BEFORE you go — off to make your flight reservation and to the airport.

But first! Have you downloaded your copy of Take-Along Travels with Baby: Hundreds of Tips to Help During Travel with Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler to your phone? You’ll have easy access to my on-the-go, sanity-saving tips when you need them most–after you leave home!

Whether or not you’ll need your child’s birth certificates, a passport, or other travel documents when you fly with your baby or toddler depends on a few things.

  1. Will you be traveling domestically in the U.S. with your baby?
  2. Will you be traveling internationally with your baby?
  3. And will you be traveling internationally with your baby without the other parent?

As a general rule, babies and children flying with at least one parent within the U.S. do not (as of writing) need identification. However, proof of age may be another matter.

  • If your child is riding free on your lap, or for a discounted “child fare” in their own seat on the airplane, proof of age may be required, such as your baby’s birth certificate (a physical certified copy, not a picture of it in your phone) or passport. See more about when and why–and what might be needed in the way of age-verifying I.D. for your baby in “Do infants and babies need I.D. for flights?”
  • For international travel by airplane, your baby will need a passport. For help getting your child’s first passport -– and passport photo (even when he can’t yet support his head), see Chapter 6: The Baby Abroad in Travels with Baby.
  • For international travel with only one parent, you will also need a notarized letter of consent from the other parent or related documentation. See “Will your child need a ‘letter of consent’ or other documents for international travel? (Sample letter included).

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toddler flying on dad's lap in airplane
Chances are your child will end up in your lap at some point in the flight. But would you want a lap child for the duration of your whole flight? Photo: Shelly Rivoli

What’s allowed when–and for how much–when flying with lap children?

Pretty much every commercial airline on the planet will allow you to fly with your infant on your lap up until his second birthday.

For U.S. domestic flights, your lap baby will fly for no extra charge. However, don’t forget to bring proof of age (notarized birth certificate, passport) as mentioned above if your child is traveling for any age-based discount whatsoever. (See “Do infants and babies need I.D. for flights?”for more.)

For international flights, most airlines charge 10% of the adult fare for a lap infant. Some airlines may have their own flat-rate fee for infants depending on the route or government-imposed taxes or fees.

PLEASE NOTE: If your child turns 2 years during your trip, she will be required to have her own airplane seat reservation for the return trip. (Sorry, no free flights for 2-year-olds, not even on their birthdays!)

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Praise for Shelly Rivoli's Travels with Baby ultimate guidebook for parents.

Don’t surprise the airline (or flight crew) with a “bonus baby”!

Whether you’re flying internationally or domestically with your baby, you should let your airline know you will have an infant on your lap. If this isn’t possible through the online booking process, call to confirm.

Why? There can be limits to the number of oxygen masks on a given row of the aircraft, for one. And that can mean a limit to the number of extra passengers seated there. Some airlines may require your baby be issued a special infant ticket or boarding verification document (a baby boarding pass) as well.

Also, only one lap child is allowed per adult passenger (and with good reason!). If you’ll be flying with twins or with two lap-held children of different ages, you’ll need either a second adult along for the ride or to reserve a seat for one of the babies. Take a look at “Flying with twins on separate rows (and why you might want to)”for more details.

And for international travel, you may need to pay separately for the infant fare. American Airlines, for example, has parents pay for lap babies on international flights over the phone (more in this post).

BONUS ALERT! Some overseas carriers and foreign airlines may also have extra amenities (baby food, toddler meals, free diapers!) or better seats for travelers with lap babies and toddlers on laps (see next point on infant bassinets as an example). So it’s a good idea for many reasons to call and confirm your unseated passenger with the airline.

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But is it safe for your baby to fly on a lap?

Author Shelly Rivoli flying with baby son on lap wearing Baby Bair flight safety vest in airplane
Yours truly flying with baby #3 on my lap wearing a Baby B’Air flight safety vest (details in my recommended Car Seat Alternatives for Travel).

Nobody (who could be held responsible) is saying that. Turbulence is the most common risk and likely source of injury to lap-held infants flying in general.

And while some foreign airlines will provide a “belly belt” to attach your baby to your safety belt with during flight, the FAA does not allow U.S. airlines to provide these.

Instead, you can purchase your own flight safety vest for your lap infant or young toddler to use during the cruise portion of your flight. You can read more about these helpful products in my recommended Car Seat Alternatives for Travel.

You can also read more safety tips in my post Tips to Help Keep Your Lap Child Safer in Flight.

But in case of an emergency (landing), you would probably much prefer your baby to be strapped into a protective car seat with a harness. And some airlines feel the same way.

That’s why you might be able to get an infant discount for purchasing an airplane seat for your child under 2 years. (If not shown in online booking options, call the airline to ask.)

For more about flying with a car seat or child restraint system, don’t miss the section below.

Flying with baby – Ten reasons flying with an infant may be easier than you think.

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infant baby sleeping in airplane bassinet provided by airline
Most airplane bassinets are installed on the bulkhead row and can be a great help on overseas flights.

An airplane bassinet (sometimes called a skycot, cot, or bassinet seat) can be a sanity saver on overseas and long haul flights. However, they’re not offered by all airlines or on all long haul flights that an airline may have.

What’s more, even an airline providing bassinets onboard can’t provide them in all seating positions. But if you’ve managed to make it that far in the process of reserving a bassinet for your flight? Wait for it…

There are also age, height, and weight limits for airline bassinets, which can vary by airline, too!

Here are some posts to help you navigate the exciting world of flying long haul with airline bassinets:

smiling baby in car seat on airplane
My daughter, awake and *energized* after sleeping well on a red-eye in her car seat on the airplane. (Whew!) Photo: Shelly Rivoli

This next section helps with all sorts of questions, issues, and advice if you’ll be flying with a car seat for your baby, toddler, or preschooler. But a good place to start is my post: 5 Things You Should Know Before Flying with a Car Seat.

This next section is dedicated just to flying with a car seat also helps you with:

And for help traveling with a car seat BESIDES FLYING, see the MEGA post: How to Travel with a Car Seat (without Losing Your Mind). Now then…

Where can you use a car seat on an airplane?

If you plan to use your child’s car seat on the airplane, he’ll need to have his own airplane seat reservation. In most cases, this will need to be a window seat on a non-emergency row.

On most wide-body aircraft, you may also use a center seat in the middle section, where it would not block other passengers from exiting.

Note: Some airlines will not allow a car seat in first or business class seating. Check with your airline if there’s any question.

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Car Seat Certification Labels and Requirements:

Remember, your child’s car seat needs to be approved for air travel by the Federal Aviation Administration (with the FAA-approval sticker to prove it) if flying in the U.S.

Alternatively most U.S. airlines and airlines serving European travelers will also accept a child safety seat with the European Standards Mark or labeling that verifies it was manufactured under the standards of the United Nations.

Some car seats, such as the travel-friendly Doona infant car seat with fold-out wheels, may have the TUV Rheinland Tested for use in aircraft certification label that shows international approval (shown above).

Certification label for car seats TUV Rheinland Tested for use in aircraft.
The TUV Rheinland Tested for Use in Aircraft certification label for car seats.

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Will your car seat fit in the airplane seat?

But equally important, your child’s car seat also needs to FIT in the airplane seat! Most airlines’ economy seats are around 17″ to 17.5″ wide. However, a car seat rated for use with kids up to 8 years and/or higher height and weight limits may be much wider.

In fact, very few child safety seats measure less than the 17″ wide airlines typically recommend for cabin use. One exception is the Pico WAYB folding car seat for toddlers (see full review here and read customer reviews on Amazon). See more toddler car seat recommendations here (including dimensions) and infant car seat recommendations here.

Extra cup holders and comfy armrests may be the last things you want to squeeze into your row. If these items are removable, you might want to take them off ahead of time so they’ll be out of the way.

Also, a rear-facing car seat that needs to recline for newborns or young infants may not be able to with ever-decreasing legroom and reclining front neighbors. You can avoid this by booking a bulkhead row window seat, but remember seats on those rows often have fixed arm rests that can’t be lifted out of the way if needed.

For more on this topic, see What Can You Do if Your Child’s Car Seat Doesn’t Fit in the Airplane Seat? And be sure to see the tips for installing a car seat on airplanes below in the On the Airplane tips.

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What’s the best way to get a car seat to the ticket counter or the gate?

It’s generally best for your car seat — and for your odds of having it meet you on the other end — to check your car seat at the gate instead of the ticket counter. Sending it through the airport baggage system along with 50 lbs. suitcases could cause damage you might not see.

There are lots of clever ways to help get your car seat through the airport and to your gate. To see which might be best for your child’s current car seat and your travel plans (and logistics!) see Seven Easy Ways to Get Your Car Seat Through the Airport.

A protective car seat travel bag can also be a good investment–and provide extra storage for stashing extra jackets, toys, or blankets you’ll want at your destination. See my recommendations in the Best Car Seat Travel Bags & Carriers.

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The Federal Aviation Administration does not require children to use a car seat on airplanes, but they do strongly recommend it for kids about 4 years and around 40 lbs. and smaller. (If you’re flying with a baby or toddler on your lap see info above.)

So how can you avoid bringing a car seat into the cabin – and still keep your kid safe on the airplane? (And if you’re wondering when kids are big enough to safely fly without a car seat see this post for more.)

Option #1 – For Kids 1 Year+ Flying in Their Own Seats

Kids 1 year and older who weigh 22 lbs. or more AND are flying in their own seat on the airplane, you can use CARES (see my full review here). The CARES flight safety harness creates a 4-point harness with the airplane’s lap belt and is FAA-approved for use in all phases of flight.

Photo of CARES safety harness for kids flying without a car seat
The CARES safety harness for kids flying without a car seat.

TIP: BEWARE of CARES counterfeits and listings of products that show up in searches for CARES and look similar but are NOT CARES. These are not made from the same grade of materials, have not been tested to meet the required standards, and do not have FAA-approval or labeling. The real CARES is made by Kids Fly Safe/AmSafe. 😉

And if you’re not using your child’s car seat in the airplane? See “What’s the best way to get a car seat to check in or to the gate?”

Option #2 – If you want to avoid bringing a car seat to the airport, but need something for your destination

Here are some possible scenarios that might work for you depending on your plans and your child’s age:

Three kids wearing RideSafer travel vests in back seat of car
The RideSafer travel vest can be used by many kids instead of a car seat, but is only for use in vehicles and not airplanes. See my full review of the RideSafer Travel Vest for Children for more details.

As well, you may be able to get transportation to and from the airport from a transfer service that can provide an appropriate car seat for your child.

  • You can read about my recommended Paris airport shuttle providing car seats and boosters in this post.
  • I’ve also included some New York City ride services that can provide car seats and booster seats in this post.
  • If you’re wondering about car seat laws and taxis or rideshare services like Lyft and Uber, see this post

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Ryanair airplane landing at airport
Get tips for flying specific airlines with a baby or toddler below.

These posts will tell you what you need to know when flying with a baby or toddler on these specific airlines:

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Familywalking through airport with stroller and car seat.
It’s much easier to fly with a baby or toddler when you have great gear for travel. Photo: The JL Childress Ultimate Car Seat Backpack included in the Best Car Seat Travel Bags and Carriers.

These pages will show you my travel-friendly baby gear recommendations that are helpful when flying with a baby or toddler. Follow the links to the best lightweight travel strollers, car seat travel bags, stroller accessories, baby travel bed and portable cribs and more.

Baby travel gear by category featuring products hand-picked by me:

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Reviews of individual products I recommend for trips by airplane:

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This section helps with packing details before you head to the airport with your little one(s). For specifics about clearing security with breast milk, formula, baby food, strollers, etc., see the advice in the At the Airport section below.

How to pack liquids for your baby and toddler to use in flight – How to prepare your baby or toddler’s excess liquids for carry-on (milk, formula, medicines, baby food)

Packing your baby’s carry-on Travel Kit – Remember to 3-1-1 your child’s Travel Kit for carry-on

Checking car seats at the gate vs. check in counter – Why you should check car seats at the gate

Tips for packing checked suitcases for your family – Cost-saving tips for families packing checked baggage

Packing a checked suitcase for multiple children – How to pack 1 checked bag for 3 children (Family Travel 411)

Changing diapers on airplanes advice – Simplify diaper changes on airplanes with a handy “diaper purse”

Baggage fees and babies – Navigating airline fees as applied to your family

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When flying with a baby or toddler, plan to arrive at the airport AT LEAST one hour earlier than you might otherwise. You’ll want to allow for surprises like traffic snarls, a diaper blowout, and a bonus growth-spurt feeding.

Plus, unusually long lines in airports are to be expected these days. Also, getting gate-check tags for your stroller or car seat will be faster and easier if you arrive early at your gate.

If you’re hoping to use an airline bassinet on your flight, remember these are usually first-come, first served! (See more about airline bassinets here.)

Have These Documents Ready When Flying with an Infant or Toddler

Whether you’re checking in for a domestic or international flight, have *all* of your necessary travel documents ready for check-in:

  • Domestic flights – Be sure you have your child’s age-verifying document (eg. certified birth certificate or passport) if he’ll be flying free on your lap or for any age-based discount.
  • International flights – Be sure to have your child’s passport in addition to your own and a letter of consent to travel from the absent parent if you’re flying internationally without them.
  • Documents for lap babies and toddlers on any flights be sure to have their boarding verification document if issued with your online ticket purchase or at the check-in counter.

For more details on travel documents and I.D., see the earlier section on Birth Certificates, Passports, and Required Travel Documents.

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This section addresses the policies of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) you are likely to encounter when traveling with babies and young children within the U.S. For the latest rules and policies or additional information you can check online at

Scroll down to see or click to jump to:

1. Screening Babies and Toddlers at Airport Security

Walk-Through Metal Detector – You may carry your baby or toddler in your arms through the walk-through metal detector at security. Toddlers and preschoolers who are old enough to walk through by themselves will need to do so. You can encourage them with open arms — and possibly a sticker — on the other side.

Advanced Imaging Technology and children (AIT) – Kids who are old enough to hold the required position for the AIT scanner for 5 seconds may do so. However, anyone carrying a child should go through the metal detector instead.

What about SHOES? All kids under 12 years old DO NOT need to remove their shoes at U.S. TSA checkpoints.

2. Screening car seats, strollers, and other baby equipment

Basically everything that flies with your child needs to be placed on the X-ray belt at security. That means your car seat, diaper bag, stroller, formula, baby food, etc.

Anything that doesn’t fit through the X-ray scanner will be scanned separately by TSA officers. Some holes for the X-ray belt are impossibly small for car seats!

3. Baby carriers, wraps, and slings at airport security

It can be extremely helpful to wear your child in a baby carrier or sling to help keep your hands free at security.

But be warned that you may be asked to remove your carrier, wrap, or sling before walking through the scanner yourself. This can vary by airport so you may have a different experience on your return trip.

Also, if you do wear your child through the metal detector in a child carrier or sling, you may require some additional screening (eg. hand wand) on the other side.

4, Breast milk, liquid formula, and baby food at airport security

Excess liquids including baby food and a baby bottle prepared for carry-on with baby or toddler
Be sure to clearly present your large size liquids for your child at security. See tips for packing baby food and bottles in your carry on below.

Traveling with breast milk, liquid formula, baby food, puree pouches, ice packs, or other excess liquids for infants and children? When flying with a baby or toddler, you’re allowed larger quantities of these items than the 311 carry-on rules allow.

For tips on how to best pack and present these liquid items at security, see my posts:

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All children 17 years and younger may accompany a parent enrolled in TSA PreCheck or CLEAR through security without having their own account.

For TSA PreCheck, it’s important to make sure you are both on the same ticket reservation so that the PreCheck indicator is shown on your child’s boarding pass. It will be stamped there automatically if you have made your reservation together.

However, your spouse, any adult children, or other relatives 18 years and older will need to have their own CLEAR or TSA PreCheck account in order to join you in these expedited lanes at the airport.

Find more help for clearing security in the Travels with Baby guidebooks:

Travels with Baby: The Ultimate Guide for Planning Travel with Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler Countdown to Takeoff, At the Airport and On the Plane, Special Situations, and The Baby Abroad.

Take-Along Travels with Baby: Hundreds of Tips to Help During Travel with Your Baby, Toddler, and PreschoolerIncludes a Pre-flight Checklist, Airport Security Ready List, Preparing Liquids for Carry-on, What to Double-check at Check-In, and more.


If you’re just starting to think through using a car seat on airplanes, look at Everything You Need to Know About Using Car Seats on Airplanes. That is the section to read BEFORE YOU GO! 😉

Once you’re on the plane, tips from these posts may still be helpful:

And be sure to see the wide-ranging topics covered in Sanity-Saving Tips for Your Flight below.

baby crying in airplane most likely caused by pressure and pain in the ears
Fear not! There are many ways to help a baby’s ears adjust during flights.

Preventing ear pain and pressure for babies and toddlers

Let’s start with one of the most common questions parents ask before flying with a baby or toddler. “How can I help my baby’s ears adjust when flying on an airplane?”

Many well-meaning people will tell you to simply give your baby a bottle or breastfeed during takeoff, or hand your toddler his sippy cup. And yes, do that if you can!

But we parents know it isn’t always that simple or straightforward. Sometimes your flight was delayed, your baby already fed, or your exhausted child is finally blissfully asleep as your airplane leaves the runway… (BTW, you don’t need to sweat ears adjusting during takeoff too much. It’s actually more important during the descent!)

I have loads of tips for helping to prevent ear pain and relieve ear pressure for babies and young children in the two-part post: How to Avoid Ear Pain in Flight – Tips to Help Babies and Children.

More sanity-saving tips for your flight:

Find more tips and advice for time spent at the airport and on the airplane with little ones in the books:

Travels with Baby: The Ultimate Guide… Chapter 15 – Planning Your In-Flight Entertainment, Preparing Toddlers and Preschoolers for the Flight, Chapter 16 – Clearing Security with Small Children and a Small Mountain of Gear, The Great Pre-Boarding Debate, Chapter 17 – Flying Solo with Baby.

Take-Along Travels with Baby: Hundreds of Tips… Breastfeeding on Airplanes, Ear Pressure/Pain and Relief, Soothing Fussy Babies in Flight, Managing Toddlers on Aircraft…, Entertainment to Go

Safe travels,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning Travels with Baby guidebooks and Hiking with Kids Southern California: 45 Great Hikes for Families

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