ittle girl with suitcase travel in the airport; Courtesy of NadyaEugene/Shutterstock
Infants: 0-2 • Little Kids: 3-6

Traveling With Infants and Toddlers: Everything You Need to Know 2020

See recent posts by Terry Ward

Preparing for your first trip with an infant or toddler? We know how stressful it can be and are here to help with all the answers to your most common (and less common) questions, from how to gate check a car seat to whether or not you should travel if your child has an ear infection.

In This Article:

Prepping for Travel With Your Infant or Toddler

Global Entry for Infants

Infants need to have an application filled out to be eligible for Global Entry (even if the parent already has it). You’ll also be required to pay the $100 application fee. An “interview” for your infant is required, but it’s just a formality where you have to present them in person at a Global Entry enrollment center, available at many airports.

Can a 2 month old baby travel on a plane? 

Yes, two months is old enough for healthy babies to travel on a plane. Some airlines, like Southwest, may require medical releases for babies under 14 days, while others put the cut off at a week old. If you’re traveling with an infant shortly after their birth, bring along hand sanitizer and be sure to frequently wash your hands.

When can you travel with a baby?

Some airlines don’t specify the age at which a baby is allowed onboard with you, while others require the baby is at least a week old (American Airlines) or even two weeks old (Southwest) before flying without a medical release. If you’re flying with an especially young newborn, it’s best to call the airline before you book to check its particular requirements.

What kind of ID does a child need to fly?

Most U.S. airlines make a blanket claim somewhere on their websites that youth passengers “may” be required to present an ID (birth certificate) to travel. But the truth is, you’re highly unlikely to be asked for any sort of ID for infants and toddlers. Once they get around toddler age, however, you may be required to provide proof of age if they’re flying as a lap baby and look close to age 2.

Before You Travel With Your Infant or Toddler

Can babies travel without a passport? 

Babies can travel without a passport domestically, but require a passport to travel internationally. Here’s everything you need to know about getting your child their first passport.

Packing For Travel With Your Infant or Toddler

What should my baby wear for travel?

Rompers with snap crotches are your best bet so you don’t have to deal with layers when you’re trying to change in a cramped car, public bathroom, airplane, or any public space. If you’re using cloth diapers at home, now is the time for a break. It’ll be a real treat to throw away the diapers! There are several eco-friendly disposable options available.

What should I pack when traveling with a baby? 

From diapers and wipes to use in transit (you can always buy more in your destination—in most locations, at least), to sippy cups, travel snacks, strollers, car seats and much more, there are several items to pack when traveling with a baby or toddler; here’s a handy list to get you started.

Also, be sure to spread all of baby’s belongings/necessities among all your checked luggage. If your luggage gets lost, you don’t want it to be the one bag in which you packed all of baby’s gear.

You might also consider having your diaperswipes and other essentials shipped to your destination free of charge via Amazon Prime. This eliminates the need to pack, lug around, and pay for extra bags (and then worry about said bags getting lost in transit).

Can I get baby earplugs for flying? 

Cotton balls work in a pinch, but noise-cancelling headphones for babies are more effective and often more comfortable for your little one.

Can I gate check a car seat? 

Yes, it’s free of charge on all U.S airlines to bring along and check a car seat—and you can choose to check it when you first check in for your flight as part of your checked baggage, or wait until you’re at the gate to check the car seat.

How can I protect my car seat when flying? 

Airport baggage facilities and airplane cargo holds aren’t the cleanest places on earth. It’s best to wrap your car seat in an oversized garbage bag, then tape it up for protection to keep it clean. Or better yet, buy a sturdier, purpose-made car seat bag to keep it under wraps and clean in transit.

What kind of stroller can I take on a plane? 

Airlines’ rules differ when it comes to weight limits and size allowances for strollers that can be gate checked versus those that need to go under the plane with the checked luggage. So if you’re traveling with a particularly large stroller, call the airline in advance to check weight allowances. Collapsible umbrella strollers are reliable options for bringing all the way to the gate, and some strollers are even small enough to board the plane with, push down the aisle and stow in the overhead bin (Babyzen Yoyo, for example).

What is the best stroller for travel? 

The best stroller for travel is the one that meets airline size requirements and works best for your family. Here are our top picks:

What is the best carry-on luggage for toddlers? 

Toddlers who can’t yet roll their own pint-sized carry-on bags are best off traveling with a kids’ backpack for stashing a change of clothes, favorite toys and the like.

How do I know if my car seat FAA approved? 

Car seats that are approved by the FAA for travel have an official sticker on them—usually on one of their sides—that airline crew will ask to see before allowing your car seat inside an airplane’s cabin with you. If it doesn’t have the required sticker as proof, you may be forced to check your car seat under the airplane with the checked luggage.

What are the must-have items for traveling with a baby? 

Once you get the essentials like diapers and wipes out of the way, there are some other must-have items for traveling with baby that can make life easier for everyone—from portable high chairs to folding changing stations that can make light work out of your dirty work.

At the Airport with Your Infant or Toddler

Can I bring water for baby formula on a plane? 

Yes. Any reasonable amount of water you bring through security for the purpose of making formula for your baby on a plane is subject to a separate security check and will be screened separately from your other carry-on luggage (the same applies to juices, milk, and the like). After security, any water (or other liquids) you purchase in the airport can be brought on the plane with no additional screening.

Flying With Your Infant or Toddler: Entertainment, Snacks and More

What are the best airplane games for toddlers? 

The best games for toddlers keep them engaged by being interactive and, if possible, surprising, too. Some favorites that come to mind are Wikki Stix and matching games.

What are the best airplane books for toddlers? 

Books are an excellent way to keep toddlers entertained in-flight, but you’ll want them to be small and as lightweight as possible if you’re lugging them through airports. These are some of our favorite travel-inspired books for kids, including some good airplane books for toddlers.

What are the best airplane toys for toddlers? 

Airplane toys for toddlers don’t need to be fancy. Think stickers, magnets, Playdoughand the like. Basically, if it’s small enough to travel with and they’d enjoy it on land, you can bet it will be a hit at 30,000 feet. Flying with an infant? These are our picks for airplane toys for babies.

What are some relaxing airplane videos for kids?

Videos with animals playing and landscape scenes are good ways to keep kids mellow during screen time. For toddlers, videos of trains rolling through a landscape or flowers blooming—YouTube is a gold mine for this kind of thing—might be just the relaxing trick to help them wind down.The key is knowing what they like, and making sure your tablet or laptop has the good stuff downloaded before your lose your Wi-Fi connection (or have to pay for it in-flight).

Can my child fly with an ear infection? 

Any adult who’s flown with an ear infection knows just how painful the change in altitude (and ensuing sinus pressure) can be when you fly. If your child develops an ear infection before a trip, it’s best to check with your doctor to see if postponing your trip might be the best option.

Even if your baby doesn’t have an infection, it’s always a good idea to visit the pediatrician for a standard check-up before a trip—especially since infants are more vulnerable to germs than adults. Plus, if you’re traveling outside of the country, it’s important to have baby’s vaccines up-to-date. Stock up on vitamin D, diaper cream, and any other samples the doctor may have.

Train Travel With Your Infant or Toddler

Do children travel free on trains?

Rules on train travel for infants and toddlers vary by country, but in general, you can expect your infant or toddler to travel for free with a paying adult. 

Car Travel With Your Infant or Toddler

Can I take a road trip with my baby?

Yes, it can be done! Check out 7 Ways to Survive a Road Trip With A Baby for a complete guide on long drives with little ones.

What are the best audiobooks for family road trips? 

There are plenty of options for all ages; check out our favorite audio books for family road trips.

What are some good road trip games for kids? 

Nothing keeps the “Are we there yet?” line at bay like a good old- fashioned road trip game, so we’ve rounded up the best road trip games for families to challenge all the backseat drivers in your brood.

What are some fun things to do on a long car ride? 

Long car rides can bring on the boredom, no doubt. So be sure to plan scheduled road trip stops that everyone can look forward to—and, whatever you do, don’t forget the snacks. When folks get restless, a road trip game can be just the trick to help make another hour tick by.

How can I travel with a baby in a taxi?

It’s always safest to have a car seat along when traveling with your baby in a taxi, even if many places (such as New York City) don’t require car seats to be used during taxi rides. Ultimately, it’s the call of the parents whether they bring their car seat and base along for a taxi ride or choose to forgo it. In some cities, ride share companies provide cars with car seats, so it’s worth researching options at your destination ahead of your trip.

At Your Destination With Your Infant or Toddler

How can I childproof my hotel room or vacation rental? 

Get yourself some painter’s tape! Painter’s tape is easily removable and can be added to any surface for baby proofing a room. Cover electrical outlets, tape up loose wires and secure any drawers or areas that you don’t want baby to explore. Binder clips are best for securing baby’s blanket to the stroller for wind and sun protection, as well as privacy while napping. For more tips, check out How to Make your Own Childproofing Kit.

What to Pack for Your Next Trip

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