Travel with Kids: Flying With a Baby

I have travelled by air many times with each of my babies from when they were very young. In fact, by the time she was six months old AJ had travelled alone with me on four interstate work trips. So I have had good cause to learn to pack a lean, mean, on board machine! And by that I mean a carry on bag with everything we will need that doesn’t weigh a tonne. And to make it easy to remember exactly what I need I have a nifty little acronym that I use when packing our cabin bag – let me introduce the

S.P.I.C.E. flying-with-baby packing plan.

Flying With a Baby | Travel with Kids series Childhood 101

S is for SLEEP

First up, consider what will you baby need to sleep comfortably on the plane? Do they have a favorite comforter? Need a dummy or pacifier? Are they still wrapped to sleep or do they sleep in a sleeping bag? These cues for sleep time are just as important on a plane as they are at home…fellow passengers may even argue that they are even more important! Small babies will often sleep a lot during air travel so making sure you have everything they need to  be as comfortable as possible is a number 1 priority for me.

Tip: I cannot tell you how much I love baby wraps when we are travelling,  you will always find at least one large muslin wrap and one flannelette wrap in our carry on bag. I have used them to line an airplane baby bassinet, to wrap a sleeping bub, as a burp cloth, as a nappy change table mat, as a breastfeeding cover and as a play mat on a busy airport floor. The flannelette version takes up a little more room but provides an easy, extra layer of warmth when the plane is cold.

Flying With a Baby | Childhood 101 Travel with Kids Series

P is for PLAY

Once your baby is three or four months old I would suggest taking a few small baby toys on board. Our Alimrose soft rattles, Sophie the Giraffe teething ring, a small set of ring links and a couple of cloth books always flew with us when my babies were small. Although packing space can be tight, I guarantee that taking along a few small toys with make traveling with babies over three months of age just that little bit easier.

Tip: From around six months of age babies can also be entertained with simple everyday items that you will find on the plane, such as a plastic cup and spoon or a game of peekaboo with a paper napkin.


I am not referring to travel insurance (though that can come in very handy when flying with kids of any age), instead I am talking about those very important ‘I’ll probably not need it but just in case’ items. My two top insurance items – a thermometer and baby Panadol (infant paracetamol) –  because there is little more stressful for both mama and baby than a bubba crying in pain for hours on end.

Other emergency, insurance items will be personal to you and your bub. For example, you might pack a spare top for mama if your baby is prone to spitting up, or your baby may require specific medication that you will need to have on board with you.

Tip: I also always take a saline nasal spray which I use with my babies before and during the flight. Just before travelling with Immy for the first time I read that a quick squirt of nasal spray can help to prevent little ones from catching those nasty bugs that circulate through the plane’s air conditioning system. I have absolutely no idea if this is scientifically correct or not but to date it has worked for us.

Flying With a Baby | Travel with Kids Childhood 101

C is for CLEAN

Have you packed everything you will need for nappy change time?

  • Nappies: As a general rule, I think about how many nappy changes my baby is likely to need for the duration of the flight and then double it.
  • Be sure to pack at least two complete changes of clothes for your baby (again, this will be influenced by the duration of your travel)
  • Baby wipes or cloth wipes
  • Nappy sacks
  • Nappy cream
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Change mat

Think about how best to pack your nappy change supplies so that you can quickly and easily grab what you need without having to take the whole nappy bag into the tiny airplane bathroom. I use a zippered, wet bag/nappy change pouch which I pack with just a few nappies (I top it up with more from my larger carry on bag as necessary), baby wipes, nappy sacks and nappy cream. I pack my padded nappy change mat into my carry on alongside the wet bag so that when it comes time for a change I can quickly and easily grab these two items.

Tip: Carefully consider what you dress your baby in. I find that lightweight, long sleeved footed onesies are great as they are comfortable, don’t ride up and are easy to undo at the crotch for nappy changes. Alternatively, a bodysuit with snaps at the crotch and footed leggings work well (no risk of losing socks!)

E is for EAT

Make sure you have any items your baby needs for feeding pre-prepared and ready to go. This may include;

  • Anything you may need to make nursing on board as comfortable as possible
  • Bottles and milk/formula
  • Baby food – pack in individual serves and keep together with other feeding supplies in an insulated lunch bag
  • A small plastic bowl and spoon
  • Bibs
  • Facecloths or wet wipes
  • Water bottle or sippy cup

And don’t forget about yourself – I always travel with a bottle of water and when I am breastfeeding I pack snacks for me as well.

Tip: I personally feel much more comfortable nursing my baby in close proximity to complete strangers when I am wearing a proper breastfeeding tank top. I also keep a muslin wrap handy for covering up as necessary.

Flying With a Baby | Childhood 101 Travel with Kids

So that is my system for working through exactly what I need to pack in my carry on bag when I am flying with a small baby. The only other thing that I absolutely cannot live without – a baby carrier. It’s fabulous for keeping your baby close and your hands free as you navigate busy airports with luggage in tow and I personally have used a stretchy wrap-style carrier (the Caboo by Close Parent) with my newborns and an ErgoBaby carrier once they were a little bigger.

Have you ever flown with a small baby? What were your must-haves for the journey?

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  1. Jo Butler says:

    Just remember that they will make you remove the baby from the baby carrier at security. You will need to put the baby carrier through the scanner. I have found this a total PITA particularly when a baby is sleeping happily in the carrier and trying to get the bags and get back back in carrier, total nightmare. Just something to bear in mind!

    1. Maybe the rules have changed since you last flew with a baby in a carrier, but when I flew with my three month old during Labor Day weekend, they let me keep him in the carrier through security (and let me cut line). They just needed to do a pat down and scan my hands. Easy peasy! (Thank you, advocates, who must have done work to make it easier for moms!)

      1. Jo Butler says:

        You are very lucky, I always had to take it off, every single time! Most recently in Sydney, Hobart and Adelaide airports in Australia. Perhaps I just have one of those faces. LOL

      2. Jo Butler says:

        You are very lucky, I always have to take it off, every single time! Most recently in Sydney, Hobart and Adelaide airports in Australia. Perhaps I just have one of those faces. LOL

        1. I’ve always had to take it off too! 🙁 And once on the plane had to take her out of it for take off and landing so she could be ‘in the baby seat belt’ even though she was FAR more secure in the Ergo! 🙁 Booo!!

  2. Gabrielle @ Littlelock says:

    These are great tips. We have flown a lot with our children on both domestic and international flights. Definitely agree with extra nappies and changes of clothes and lots of snacks.

    I also find new toys and books (or toys and books they haven’t seen for a while) work great. Make sure not to choose toys with small pieces because it can be hard to find them if they are dropped.

  3. I flew with my eldest when he was four months old over to Canada from Australia, so much easier than flying with him when he was one and we only went from the Gold Coast to Sydney. Love the S.P.I.C.E idea

  4. THANK YOU for these fab tips. I love being ‘in control’ as a parent, and I’m feeling rather anxious about an upcoming flight to QLD.

    I know i am going to feel so far out of my comfort zone, and there are SO MANY factors I cannot control.

    These tips are going to be very handy for me 🙂

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