By Dhara Thakar Meghani
What is the minimum age required by most airlines for infants to travel by plane?
A. 14 days
B. 1 month
C. 3 months
Keep reading to find out!
You’ve just received an invite to your favorite cousin’s wedding in Australia – and by your count, your baby will just be 3 months at that point – should you stay home and wait for the recap, or is there a green light to get your little one’s frequent flyer account started? Anticipating airplane journeys and longer road trips can bring on even more sleepless nights for new parents, even those who might have considered themselves to be jet-setting gurus pre-baby. Questions that have never crossed your mind will inevitably surface: How soon is too soon to take an infant on a plane? What are the allowances for bringing liquids (e.g., breastmilk, formula, and medicine) through airport security? Does a young baby still need a passport to travel abroad?
When it comes to a minimum age for flying, many airlines will allow infants on board at 2 weeks of age, but usually require a physician’s release if the infant is any younger[i]. Unless absolutely necessary, it may be safer and less stressful for the entire family to wait just a little longer before heading to the airport. Newborns are still acclimating to the external world, and it can be difficult to predict how they will react to new smells, sounds, temperatures, and altitudes. It is wise to consult with your pediatrician and to rely on your parental instinct when making the decision. Getting a better handle on your baby’s rhythm by observing sleeping and feeding position preferences in the first month can provide parents with useful information and confidence to relieve the natural jitters one feels as they prepare for take-off, landing, and all the miles between.
Luckily, there are firm answers and tips for many of the questions you’re likely to have about the pure logistics of traveling with an infant. Domestic and international airlines, the Transportation Security Administration, and various blogs offer helpful information, checklists, and advice about how to prepare for and make it through the journey on their respective websites. The book Travels with Baby by Sherry Rivoli also provides suggestions for destinations based on your baby’s age among many other travel practicalities that can empower, rather than overwhelm parents.
In light of the fact that so many South Asian Parents are likely to be crossing borders and time zones to visit family and friends, the following are a few pieces of advice that might be especially handy when making those first few trips with your little one in tow:
· All children require a passport to travel internationally, regardless of age. Even if you do not anticipate going abroad during your infant’s early months, it is best to apply for a passport soon after birth so as not to scramble to get it just before a trip.
· When traveling alone with an infant (e.g., not with your spouse or infant’s other legal guardian(s)), keep additional documentation such as a birth certificate and letter from the other caregiver in case customs and immigration officials request them.
· Even lap children (i.e. under the age of 2) require an airplane ticket; on domestic flights, lap children fly for free, while their fare is typically 10% of an adult ticket for international flights.
· If planning to feed your baby formula on the flight and/or at the destination when she has mostly been breastfed, test the formula and bottle beforehand to allow for time to adjust.
· Try to give yourself and your baby a cushion after arriving at your destination – no immediately planned events or spontaneous visitors if you can help it; your bodies will thank you for the down time after a long flight and while dealing with the jet lag. A firm conversation with relatives on the other side prior to your arrival might help!
· If traveling to a place where there’s a chance of bugs and mosquitos, be prepared with a mosquito net that covers the area on which your baby will be sleeping and/or playing, and take along natural insect repellent to apply on your baby’s exposed skin. Keep in mind that the CDC recommends against using any products with the oil of lemon eucalyptus on children under the age of three².
· While in the midst of attempting to pack only the essentials for baby in order to travel light, don’t forget to include some room in that carry-on for yourself for items that will help keep you calm and comfortable (e.g., cozy socks, soothing lotion, relaxing music/headphones, a water bottle to stay hydrated, your favorite snacks).
The new experience of traveling with an infant is bound to be a bit exhilarating and have its fair share of bumps too, no matter how well-prepared one is – perhaps this is a moment where the age-old proverb truly applies, for it is not just the destination, but the journey that matters, too
Dhara Thakar Meghani recognizes that the best source of wisdom often comes from parents who have been there and done that – feel free to share your tips for smoother travel with infants and toddlers below!
¹Be sure to check with the specific airline you plan to travel on in advance regarding age and documentation requirements.