Compared to the rest of the passengers, babies have it easy at the airport. The TSA’s liquids rules don’t apply to milk, juice or baby food, and the airlines don’t charge fees for checking some of the most common baby-related products. In fact, no common baby products are outright banned on flights. If only occupying a fussy baby during a cross-country flight were as simple as going through security with one.
The TSA allows parents traveling with babies to pack in their carry-ons as much of the liquids and food that a baby requires, and all other typical baby gear can be either brought into the cabin, gate-checked or placed in checked bags.
Bringing Baby Food on Planes
Normally, the TSA enforces strict guidelines with regard to liquids, gels and aerosols. Each passenger is allowed to pack only a limited amount of these substances in a carry-on bag. Those rules don’t apply to formula, milk, juice or water for babies. Parents traveling with infants can pack these liquids in carry-on bags in whatever quantity they need. Ice packs and similar cooling packs are also allowed through the checkpoint, even if they’re partially thawed. Security agents still need to screen these items, and you may be asked to remove them from a carry-on bag at the TSA checkpoint.
The bottom line is that TSA agents are generally quite accommodating to the food and drink needs of the smallest travelers. Baby food is allowed in carry-on bags in “reasonable quantities,” which basically means that’s it fine to pack as much baby food as your child could possibly need during the trip. Not only are classic baby food jars allowed, but flying with baby food pouches is fine too.
Bringing Strollers and Car Seats
Would it be easier to check the stroller at the ticket counter and go through security with one fewer thing to maneuver? Or does it make more sense to take the stroller right up to the plane? Airlines generally allow passengers to do either at no cost. Check the stroller at the ticket desk and pick it up at the baggage carousel at your final destination, or ask a gate agent to gate-check the stroller at the beginning of each flight and pick it up on the jet bridge at the end. Each airline has slightly different stroller rules, so check yours before leaving home.
If you plan to hold or wear the baby for the duration of the flight, the airline’s gate agents should be happy to gate-check the car seat. If the baby has a separate plane ticket, place the car seat right in the plane seat.
Bringing Other Baby Gear
The TSA and major airlines don’t ban any common baby gear on planes. Stash a breast pump in your purse or fill a carry-on with nothing but diapers, and TSA agents won’t blink an eye. Keep in mind that liquid, gel and aerosol restrictions do apply to products other than baby food. Anything that can be sprayed, smeared or pumped – think diaper cream, sunscreen and shampoo – should be in containers of 3.4 ounces or smaller, and all those containers must fit into a single 1-quart bag. Wipes, both for diapering and cleaning, aren’t restricted.
Babies need a lot of stuff, so it’s helpful that many airlines don’t count a diaper bag toward a passenger’s carry-on allowance. Pack twice as many diapering supplies as you expect to use during the flight plus a change of clothes for both you and the baby. Stash a few plastic grocery bags in the diaper bag for wrapping up dirty diapers or keeping dirty clothes separate from clean stuff. Pack disinfecting wipes to clean the seat-back tray, bathroom changing table and other germy surfaces before baby touches them. Breastfeeding moms may choose to pack a scarf or small blanket for privacy during nursing sessions.
Parents who are comfortable giving baby a little screen time may want to download infant-friendly apps on their tablets or phones. Colorful, interactive games are great for distracting a crabby baby during a long flight. Make sure apps are downloaded and working before boarding the plane.