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A Guide to Diaper Changes on the Plane

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

If diaper changes were a sport, doing one quickly on a plane would be the world championship.

Between the tiny space, tiny tables, chances of turbulence and more; there is surprisingly a lot to know that can make or break that experience. For that reason, I have decided to compile everything that may help you on your next flight in relation to that dirty job.

Do All Airplanes Have Changing Tables on Board?

Regrettably, no, it's not a guarantee. Whether you'll find changing tables on board depends on various factors like the flight route, the type of plane, and the airline you're flying with. Through my recent research, I've discovered that the only airline that consistently equips every plane with changing tables is JetBlue – kudos to them!

However, for most other airlines, it's a bit of a mixed bag.

When it comes to regional airlines that operate smaller aircraft, finding changing tables in their lavatories is a rare sight. On the other hand, when you're on a cross-country flight, chances are you'll come across at least one changing table on the plane. Although, I must admit, I've encountered a few older planes that don't have changing tables at all.

If your journey takes you across international borders, there's some comfort in knowing that I have yet to find a long-haul jet without a changing table in the lavatory.

As you step on board your flight, it's a good practice to approach the flight attendants and inquire about the availability of changing tables on that specific plane. They can also guide you to the lavatory that's equipped with one. It's worth noting that while most attendants are knowledgeable about this, there might be a rare instance where they are unaware of the absence of changing tables on the plane. So, keeping this in mind, their assistance in locating the changing facilities on board can be incredibly helpful for parents traveling with babies.

Where to Change Baby if There is No Changing Table?

If there is no changing table on board, you can try asking the flight attendant where the best place to change your baby would be. They may suggest on top of the closed toilet seat or another place in a back galley.

When you find yourself without a changing table, whatever you do, don’t change your baby’s diaper on the tray table. It is gross, people eat or do work there. Don’t be this person. And you really shouldn’t change your child’s diaper on the seat either.

If your child is smaller, the best option is to put your changing pad on top of the closed toilet seat and make the change there. If you have a toddler, there likely isn’t enough room to lay the child on the toilet seat, so your best bet will be to do a standing up diaper change on top of the closed toilet lid. That being said, emergencies can happen. If you find yourself in desperate need to change a diaper and unable to wait until you can get to the lavatory, try to discreetly and very quickly change on the seat next to you if there is no one seated there.

If your baby is still relatively small, or if you have a traveling companion with you, you can also try to do a quick lap change for a wet diaper. However, don't change a messy diaper on the seat or in your lap as this could really offend those sitting around you and is highly unsanitary. If one of these scenarios does happen, don't ask a flight attendant to dispose of your baby's diaper. The Food and Drug Administration prohibits attendants from handling garbage of any kind while serving food.

What to Have with You

On the plane, I like to have an easy “Grab & Go” changing kit within my larger diaper bag itself. There just isn't enough space in the lavatory for the entire diaper bag.

In this “kit” I include:

  • Bacterial Wipes - to wipe down the table, door, and any handles baby might be able to reach while on the table

  • Wet Wipes

  • One/Two Diapers - once used I just replace with another diaper from the larger diaper bag

  • Disposable Changing Pad - better for travel days in case of a mess, you can just toss instead of a reusable one that would need to be cleaned. We actually use puppy pee pads. They tend to be more cost effective.

  • Plastic Doggy Bag - I like to bag all diapers on a plane but I ESPECIALLY make sure to use with the smelly ones

  • Change of clothes - Incase of any blowouts... Easy to change while you already have them there.

Tips & Tricks

  • Change baby’s diaper before you board your flight Minimize the number of changes you need to make on any given flight. To do this, make sure to schedule a diaper change in the airport before you board your flight. Airport lavatories have much larger changing stations and more room for you to operate.

  • Bring something to rest their head on for babies that are a little older or taller Because there is such little room on the changing table and in the airplane lavatory, I try to bring a little cushion in the form of a blanket or jacket for Baby’s head in case of any turbulence.

  • Use overnight diapers In order to minimize diaper changes on board flights I have found myself using overnight diapers. If your little one is wet, you can buy yourself a little more time with overnight diapers because they are more absorbent and can hold more liquid. Remember to add a little extra diaper cream pre-flight if your baby is prone to diaper rash. Of course, if your baby has a soiled diaper, you shouldn't wait to do a change. But this trick does help!

  • Plan Baby’s travel day outfit for easy diaper changes I almost exclusively use zipper onesies with the two way zipper. These are by far the easiest and quickest for me to do a diaper change in. A two piece set could also work fine. Basically anything that doesn't require pulling clothes over the baby's head in case of a blow out.

  • Bring something to occupy baby’s hands These bathrooms are not always the cleanest and if you don’t want Baby reaching around and getting the toilet germs on their hands, it is best to bring something that they can hold onto instead. We usually use the diaper or bacterial wipes packet so it doesn't have to necessarily be a toy.

  • Dispose of the diaper properly The last but may even be the most important tip that I can give is to get rid of the diapers in a way that minimizes their impact on your fellow passengers. Disposing of a dirty diaper in the airplane lavatory trash can really stink up the place. For this reason we always travel with “doggy bags” to wrap the diaper first before tossing it in the bin. I also like to ask the flight attendant if there is a preference of where they would like me to toss the diaper. Sometimes they will prefer you to bring the doggy bag to them to toss in another space for a more secure seal on the smell.


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