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Adopting A Baby: Tips for Your First Flight (Part Two)

Posted by on December 5, 2012

(If you missed part one of this post, you can find it here .)

Pardon me interrupting your “baby-moon” but traveling with an infant is an entirely different experience! (By the way, be sure to enjoy reading a book or magazine on the way out. You will not be reading on the plane for, oh, about another six years…) Here are my best tips for surviving once you have your sweet baby in your arms.

Where to Stay

Where you stay often will depend on how long you are planning to be there. In both our adoptions, we did not have a long stay – our first, we picked up at 2 in the afternoon and left at 7 the next morning! We stayed right next to the airport, which was definitely handy – when travelling with an infant, I usually double the time I think it will take me to get ready and to the plane. In addition to proximity, it was nice to have a hotel with a good restaurant, my husband and I enjoyed “one last dinner alone” the night before, and actually went there the next night as well – you will be surprised at how well little babies do in restaurants, and we could hardly wait to show our baby off. We also told the hotel in both instances that we were travelling for an adoption, and received very nice upgrades. After all the waiting, it was fun when people made a fuss over us!

room service baby


If your stay will be extended, either because of interstate paperwork or because your baby is still in the NICU, a hotel with a kitchenette and laundry facilities might work better for you. Hotels that cater to extended business travel have those amenities, plus a “living area” so you don’t feel like you are spending the days in your bedroom. Or so one spouse can get some sleep while the other feeds the baby. Just saying.

Do a little research in advance on your location – is it near the hospital? Baby superstore? Drugstore? Are there restaurants in walking distance? And perhaps more importantly, do they have a coffee shop? Little comfort things can make a big difference.

What To Carry On

It is amazing how much stuff one small baby can have! To me, the most important part of traveling with babies (and anyone, for that matter) is how you divide stuff between your suitcase and your carry on. Most parents have had some time to figure out what they absolutely positively must have with them at all times with baby, so packing is a bit easier to figure out. You and your baby will be figuring that out (ahem) on the fly!

Of course, you have read the previous post and have a backpack instead of your diaper bag for a carry on, so that your hands can be free to snuggle your little one. Some people transfer their purse items to the backpack and put the empty purse in a suitcase, I never did because I feel naked without a purse, but it is something you might consider. And your baby is in a comfy one piece outfit, snuggled up in a nice soft blanket, inside your baby carrier.

In the backpack, you will want to have:

-Copy of our adoption travel documents, letting the airlines know that you have custody of the baby. I’ve never been asked for these, but you want to have them handy (and not checked through) if it comes up.

-Gallon zip lock bag for baby liquids – bottles of formula (if using premade), bottle of water (if using powdered formula), wipes, infant fever reducer. (Once I get through security, I reorganize and put the bottles in a separate gallon zip lock, and put a few diapers and a thin receiving blanket in a zip lock with the wipes. That way, for feeding you only have to grab on bag, same for diaper change).

-Small zip lock bag with your personal liquid items.

-Extra outfit for baby – in case of spit up, messy diaper, etc. or if you are delayed.

-Extra soft blanket for baby (see above)

-Extra shirt for you and your spouse (see above)

-Nightgown for baby – in case you are stuck overnight somewhere without luggage.

-Diapers and wipes – here, I pack enough for an overnight delay, just in case. You can find diapers at airports, but I have never found infant sizes.

-Formula – I liked travelling with powdered formula, as it is less bulky. Our formula came in cans as well as in pre-measured pouches, I carried both. Enough pouches for the trip assuming no delays, plus a small sized can at the bottom of the backpack just in case.

-Two bottles – you can wash the one you are not using.

-Two or more inexpensive receiving blankets – use for a burp cloth, changing pad, and to clean up any messy situations.

-Scented plastic diaper bags – they come in small rolls, easy to toss in your bag.

-Small toy soft toy or two

-Small book to read (babies don’t care how many times you read the same story)

-Snack for mom and dad – who may forget to eat at the regular times : )

That should get you through your flight, and even through a delay with a minimum of inconvenience.

And finally . . . Put your Baby in an Upright and Locked Position!

travel with kids

Well, not really. Keep them on your lap [or in their car seat]. Although ours were little enough that they could sit on the tray. There really are just a few practical tips for flying with babies. Keep a bottle ready – and use it during takeoff and landing, when changes in cabin pressure can hurt little ears. Rubbing right behind your baby’s ears can also help relieve pressure. (Editor’s note: As I mentioned in my post, Infants on the Plane, most newborns do not have any problem with pressure equalization. Have the bottle nearby, but wait for the baby to give clues of discomfort. No need to wake the baby.) Also, unless it is a diaper “emergency,” I try and avoid changing a wet diaper on the plane. Diapers are pretty absorbent these days, and your precious one will not suffer if he or she is in a wet diaper for an hour or two, as long as it is not in danger of leaking. It is hard enough to fit one person in a plane restroom, and not all of them have a pull down changing table.

Books can be a lifesaver. I don’t know about other parents, but I felt a little like “Well, hello Baby, I’m your Mommy! …. Sssoooo, whassup?” When you start to feel silly making faces, playing peek-a-boo, and giving them kisses, a book is the way to go.

And… that’s it, really. Although and it seems terrifying to be responsible for this tiny, miraculous human being,, most babies are pretty happy unless they are hungry, wet, or lonely. So to keep your baby happy on a plane – as well as when you get home – feed them, change them, and most importantly, give them lots and lots of love.



Jane Hutchinson Castanias is an adoptive mother of two daughters. Formerly an attorney in Dallas, Texas, she now focuses on her family and adoption related causes. She serves on the Board of Directors of RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, and on the National Capital Area Gladney Family Association Board. She is a frequent speaker on infertility and adoption topics.




Have you adopted an infant and then flown home soon after? Do you have any tips you’d like to add? We’d love to hear your story! Comment below or on our Facebook page! You can follow Cloud Surfing Kids on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.)


5 Responses to Adopting A Baby: Tips for Your First Flight (Part Two)

  1. Sharon R.C. D.

    It’s NOT true that babies need to suck on something for take-off and landing. This is a common myth and leads to misinformed parents unnecessarily waking up their children during those times. As a Flight Attendant for 13 years, and a parent who has taken my own three children on countless flights, we have never done this and they have never, ever had problems. Hate seeing children cry because of being woken up! Also, a newly adopted baby has seen the doctor recently. If his or her ears are healthy, s/he will not have any problems. Please remove this tip and make parents’ lives easier!!

    For adopting parents, do they have the option of purchasing a seat so that their new arrival can fly safely? This article assumes that adoptees have to fly as lap babies. Do parents have the option of buying a one-way seat for an under-two?

    Be sure to remind parents to NEVER check a car seat as luggage. Bring it over in the original packaging and try to use it on board on the way back. Checked car seats get bashed around and lost by the airlines all the time. Even a car seat that looks “fine” could have damage and not protect a child in a car crash later on because of mistreatment. Not worth the risk! Gate-check if you are flying with a lap baby and can’t get an extra seat.

    I also used powdered formula but it was easier using the bottles with disposable liners. Before flying, I would premeasure the powder into each liner, roll it up and put a whole bunch in a ziplock bag. That means no bottle washing on the plane! Only the ring and nipple. Much easier than fiddly individual packets!

    Hope that helps!

    • Cloud Surfing Mom

      Thank you for the suggestions, Sharon! This was a guest post written by one experienced with adoption. As I agree with your recommendations and have said the same thing in several other posts, I did edit this one to include my take on the bottle and seat issue. I would imagine that although it is possible to buy a one-way ticket for the baby, since many adoptions fall through at the last minute it might be cost prohibitive to do either in advance or last minute.

    • Beth Henry

      Thank you for the suggestions, Sharon! This was a guest post written by one experienced with adoption. As I agree with your recommendations and have said the same thing in several other posts, I did edit this one to include my take on the bottle and seat issue. I would imagine that although it is possible to buy a one-way ticket for the baby, since many adoptions fall through at the last minute it might be cost prohibitive to do either in advance or last minute.

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