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A Beginners Guide to Navigating the Airport with Baby

Updated: May 3, 2022

When it's your first time flying with Baby, things can seem a little daunting. Where should I go first? What should I do? When should I get there?

And rightfully so, there are so many little things to make sure you have done before you even get to the plane! For some of us, we need an easy step by step guide of what to expect in order to make things a bit more calm in our minds. And for those that do… this is for you.

Step 1: Arrive to the airport

Seems simple enough… but there are a few things to keep in mind.

With Baby I suggest you arrive at the airport, not your rental car place or the parking garage down the road that needs a shuttle, at least two (2) hours before your domestic flight and three (3) before an international flight.

If you are flying out of a big airport like Chicago, JFK, Denver, Atlanta, LAX, and others like those you may even want to add another hour.

Step 2: Go to Check In Counter for your Airline

If you have already added your child to your reservation, you are not checking any bags, AND you have received a boarding pass for your child then you may skip this step. I should note that a few airlines don’t allow for online check-in when you have a lap infant so you may still need to see the desk attendant even if you do not plan to check any bags.

There are several things that may need to be done here depending on what you were able to do before your flight:

  • Check In

  • Add baby to reservation and/or confirm age (some airlines require you to carry identification of baby’s name and age)

  • Check Bags or Baby Gear

  • Get boarding passes for each person on your reservation

Most airlines allow you to take your car seat and most strollers through security to use in the airport (American Airlines has a size limit for this).

Once you do that, you can head on over to security.

Step 3: Go through Security

If you have TSA PreCheck or CLEAR then you will likely have a short line through security.

You can find a detailed walk through on everything to expect when going through security here.

Step 4: Head to your Gate

Depending on how far in advance you arrived at the airport before your flight, you may have some freedom to explore. I usually like to find my gate first just so I know what to expect and where to go. Then we will take a walk to find some food, drinks, or a shop nearby to explore.

If you are running low on time, just go to the gate.

I suggest getting to your gate at least 15 minutes before boarding begins if you have a stroller or car seat that needs to be gate checked.

Each item that is gate checked will need a “Gate Check Tag.” The gate attendants usually appreciate you arriving before boarding in order to get your tags instead of waiting until boarding to do so.

Depending on the airline and the airport, some airlines allow you to get your tags at the counter at your gate. Others may have a separate desk nearby where you will get your tags instead. This is another reason why it is good to arrive in advance.

Step 5: Board your Plane

Make sure you have boarding passes ready and go ahead and board!

Most airlines have family pre boarding options so you can take your time getting situated down the bridge and onto the plane.

If you are gate checking a stroller and/or car seat, you will do this at the end of the jet bridge right before you get on the plane. You should fold anything that needs to be folded and if you have a bag then pack away anything that should be packed away.

If traveling with a companion, take the baby down the jet bridge in the stroller and do all of the folding and packing at the end just before the plane. One can take the child on board the plane while the other can finish sorting the gate check items.

If traveling alone, have this done before the boarding process begins so you can just leave it and board the plane without having to put the baby down somewhere.

Step 6: Enjoy your Flight!

You made it!! Now it’s time to sit back and not relax while you try to entertain Baby for however long your fight may be. May the odds be ever in your favor. 😝

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