Life doesn’t pause after you have a child, and there’s a good chance that you’ll want or need to travel with your infant during the first year of their life. But which is the better option—flying or driving?
It’s better to fly with an infant when traveling long distances. If your journey would take a day or more of driving, a flight could be the more convenient option. However, if you’re traveling within the same state, you might want to drive instead.
Still, the final decision is up to you. This guide will compare flying and driving with an infant, helping you select the best option for you and your little one. We’ll also offer helpful tips to help everyone travel in comfort.
Flying vs. Driving With an Infant: A Thorough Comparison, Key Considerations, and Tips
Deciding whether to drive or fly with an infant can be challenging, as both options have advantages and drawbacks.
To help you make the best decision for you and your child, let’s explore both choices in detail and offer tips to make each journey more successful and stress-free!
Flying With an Infant
Flying could be the best choice if you’re planning on traveling a considerable distance. After all, keeping an infant clean, comfortable, and entertained while in the car for several hours or days isn’t easy.
It’s also worth noting that taking a plane—instead of driving—lessens your travel time considerably, especially when traveling long distances (more than 300 miles or 482.8 kilometers).
Although going through airport security and boarding a plane can be stressful for an infant (and adults), you’ll be able to reach your destination faster. This will enable you to enjoy your time away from home more quickly.
Still, take a moment to review a few key considerations before flying with a baby.
Every airline has specific rules and regulations regarding passenger travel. That said, most allow infants older than one week to fly. Some also permit newborns two days old to fly, though they may require additional paperwork.
For example, American Airlines allows babies as young as two days old to travel, but you’ll need to complete a Passenger Medical form before boarding your plane.
Additionally, infants typically don’t qualify for their own seats. As such, you’ll need to carry your little one in your lap throughout your flight.
This can be problematic when traveling alone, as carrying your infant while managing their diaper bag can be stressful. Purchasing two seats along the side of the plane is one of the best ways to handle this situation, as you’ll have an extra seat for keeping your infant’s items within reach.
Before booking a flight to travel with your baby, you’ll want to consider the following:
- Your chosen airline’s specific rules concerning travel with children under the age of two
- How many carry-on diaper bags are allowed per infant
- Challenges that may arise when traveling alone with an infant
- Air pressure differences that can be upsetting for your child
- Whether strollers are allowed on board your chosen flight
Many airlines restrict or prohibit liquid carry-on items, so it’s also wise to invest in travel-sized feeding bottles for your carry-on diaper bag. Most airlines permit 3.4oz (about 100ml) bottles, with larger bottles requiring additional security screening.
Tips for Flying With an Infant
When flying with a baby younger than a year old, you’ll want to ensure you have all your bases covered before leaving home or arriving at the airport. Nevertheless, keeping track of everything can be stressful and challenging, especially if you’re the only adult along for the ride.
Some of the best tips to keep in mind when flying with an infant include the following:
- Call your chosen airline several days (or weeks) before your flight to inquire about any required paperwork or immunizations needed to fly with your baby.
- Prep your child’s formula or breast milk before leaving home to minimize at-airport stress.
- Pack backup items in your diaper bag (extra pacifiers, soft toys, diapers, and change of clothing).
- Ditch the stroller and use a baby carrier to keep your infant close and comfortable.
- Reach out to airline staff for assistance when necessary—remember, they’re there to help.
Driving With an Infant
If you’re traveling to a nearby town or state and your drive is 300 miles (482.8 kilometers) or shorter, driving could be the smarter choice. After all, driving this distance is sometimes faster than flying!
Besides, driving with an infant offers you a greater range of control.
If your little one needs a diaper change, the solution is often as simple as pulling off the road at a gas station or rest area. If they begin to cry or get fussy, the next exit may only be a few miles up the road, offering relief for everyone in the car.
It’s also worth noting that you can pack far more items in a car—free of charge! So if you’d like to bring your baby’s bassinet, stroller, and diaper pail along for the journey, you’ll likely have plenty of space for those items.
Another benefit of driving with an infant (instead of flying) is the freedom of movement. Your baby will be safely strapped into their car seat throughout the journey, so you’ll be free to snack, read, or simply stare out the window without balancing your infant on your lap.
But just like flying, there are some factors to consider before driving with a baby.
Driving with a child could be a breeze, but it could also be stressful. To keep your journey as stress-free and comfortable as possible, you’ll need to consider the following:
- The current condition of your vehicle
- The distance you plan to travel
- The additional passengers you intend to travel with
If your car needs a check-up or oil change, you’ll either want to invest in maintenance before your trip or opt for a flight instead. Experiencing car trouble while you’re miles away from home and caring for an infant isn’t anyone’s idea of a fun time.
Naturally, you’ll also want to consider the distance you intend to travel. Driving with a baby in the backseat almost always takes longer than driving alone. Add a few hours to your estimated travel time to ensure you arrive at your destination on time.
Lastly, you’ll also want to consider your additional passengers. If you have other young children with you, be sure they’re also seated in the appropriate car seats or booster seats and have access to snacks and toys.
Tips for Driving With an Infant
Before you hit the road with your little one in tow, you’ll want to double-check your baby gear and personal belongings. It’s also wise to:
- Have filled baby bottles at the ready in a waterproof bag (if not nursing).
- Check how many rest areas you’ll pass during your journey.
- Install a mirror above your child’s car seat to help you keep an eye on them.
- Ensure your infant’s car seat is undamaged and correctly sized for their weight and size.
- Pack snacks for yourself to limit on-the-road stops.
When choosing between flying and driving with an infant, the best choice depends on the distance you plan to travel.
If you’re traveling a long distance requiring a full day of car travel (or more), a flight could be the better option. However, if you’re traveling a shorter distance, taking the car could be more convenient.
Of course, traveling with an infant can be challenging, no matter which mode of transport you choose. That’s why it’s crucial to come prepared with plenty of snacks, clean feeding bottles, and fresh diapers.