Tips for Adoptive Families Traveling to Korea--Flying with baby


THE TRIP. For most adoptive families, this is the part that we've simultaneously looked forward to and dreaded. Our flight was 14 hours. I considered it my labor. Some women have horror stories in the delivery room. I was prepared for a horror story at 40,000-feet.

Fortunately, it wasn't that bad. We flew Korean Air and I highly recommend it. The flight attendants were amazing, the food was great and we were comfortable. On the return flight, they also were very helpful with Little Man, offering to hold him, bringing him treats, and giving us a special bag of helpful items (box of kleenex, games for LM, and other stuff). Korean Air is also a sky partner with Delta, so if you have a Delta mileage account you can get travel miles for the flight to Korea. It might be worth opening an account before you go because it's a lot of miles!

I've also heard pretty good things about Asiana. Can't say the same about any of the U.S. airline services to Seoul.

As for how to book your flight, you will likely be purchasing your ticket with little notice. Some things to consider:
  • If you are comfortable making travel arrangements on your own, some travel sites offer bargains for last-minute flights. 
  • You might also be able to get tickets/discounts through airline mileage programs. 
  • And also be sure to check if the airline offers any reduced prices for adoption travel or adoption fares.
  • Some adoptive families prefer to use travel agents that are familiar with adoption travel.


Enjoy the trip there. Because it will be a whole other experience when you return home with a little in tow! Here's some things to keep in mind:

Lap Tickets vs. Seats: 

  • If your child is under two years old, you can purchase a lap ticket for them. This is about 10% of the full adult fare. We were able to book the one-way lap ticket at the airport before we left for Korea. But other folks we know were only able to do this in Korea before the return flight. I'd suggest trying beforehand, but if you aren't able to, don't worry. 
  • Be sure to book the ticket with your child's Korean name. That will be the name on all his paperwork is in when you leave Korea.
  • If your child is over two years old, you will have to purchase a separate seat. The extra space is certainly helpful. And there is no doubt that it's safer than lap seats. The adult seat belt on the airplane seat is sort of a challenge to keep kids in though. We have used the CARES airplane seat harness  which is super easy to put into place, and attaches much more securely. It's more like the seat belt that children have in their carseats. Go to the CARES site and find a local retailer or order online. (Word of advice--most of the adopted children I know had never been in a car seat, so any type of seat restraint may be frightening to them.)

Car seats and strollers:

  • We did not travel with either a car seat or stroller. Car seats are not widely used in Korea and typically, you take custody of your child shortly before you leave the country and the primary mode of transit is the subway and/or taxi--neither of which you can use a car seat.
  • We chose not to bring a stroller either. Just too much extra stuff for us to manage. Instead, we used a baby backpack and were thrilled with the choice. Most Korean children are used to being carried like this, and it's great for bonding. We use the ERGO Performance and love it. The great thing about the ERGO carrier is you can have them on your front, back or side, it fits a broad range of adults, and it has a high weight carry limit (45 pounds) which is great for our older children coming from Korea. They do have a steep price, but they are comfortable and worth it!

The flight:

  • Request a bulkhead seat. Korean Air has bassinets that attach onto the bulkhead, which gives you a place to put your sleeping child. Our son was 10-months-old when we brought him home and he barely fit into the bassinet. He only slept in it for about 1 hour, but it did give us a great storage spot to toss toys, bottles, etc. There are limited bulkhead seats, so if you think you'd like this option, you must request it at check in when you are on your return flight.
  • Most airlines will also offer a children's meal option. You should request this at the time you book the child's ticket. Be sure to get this because the food is much more suitable and enticing for children than the adult meals.

What to bring:

  • Most parents are worried they won't be able to keep their child entertained on the flight, but resist the temptation to pack a ton of toys. Less is better! We brought about 5 small things total like a book, a musical (very quiet) book, a squishy ball, a soft activity toy (Manhattan Toys, etc.), and coloring supplies. All of your toys will be new to your child so they will likely keep them interested for quite a while. We also had children's activities loaded onto our iPhones, which we used a few times. 
  • Bring an extra change of clothes for baby, including pajamas
  • your baby carrier (if you are using one)
  • extra copies of paperwork
  • plastic bags (for wet/soiled clothing)
  • wipes, diapers, medications (both you and baby), diaper cream, lotion,
  • teethers, nuks, bottles, sippy cup
  • bibs, kleenex or Boogie wipes

Last bits of advice:

  • Relax. It's easier for your child to remain calm if you are calm.
  • Have a sense of humor. When we got on the flight, we introduced our son to those around us. We explained (jokingly) that they might hear from our son during the flight but to rest assured that we would do everything we could to keep this from happening. We were also prepared to start buying rounds of drinks for folks if he was totally out of control.
  • Check out this super cute idea for passenger gifts. It's really just a way to break the ice and to gain a little empathy when things get challenging.


Top 5 travel tips
ERGO Carriers
CARES airplane seat harness
Entertaining Kids on A Plane
Travel Passenger Gifts
Toddler and Pre-School Activity Bags


  1. Great list!

    EVERYONE says that about Korean Air but our trip wasn't like that at all. They were incredibly unhelpful (to the point of blocking the aisle with their sales-cart and not allowing me to change a stinky diaper until they were done (30min later despite already being in the aisle for a hour at that point). They wouldn't move the card or let me use the forward washroom. We had trouble with our seats thanks to a cranky lady who didn't want us 'blocking her in' and our food was all brought at once, then DH's was taken away because we couldn't' hold 3 meals plus baby and not brought back (we tried to get it back later but couldn't get any attention). I was so disappointed since I had heard such good stories. Perhaps they noticed how good my baby was and decided to make it harder so it was more labor-like? I'm not sure I'll use them again. The passengers around us were great though (besides Ms Crankypants) and had all sorts of smiles and silly faces for our little one.

    Your Ergo advice is awesome, we had a snuggle to bring him home, but bought an Ergo once we were back and LOVE it!

    Those Gifts are a great idea, maybe that would've put us on a better footing!

    1. Oh dear, Elizabeth. So sorry to hear you had a bad experience! You reminded me of something important to keep in mind---everyone's journey is different and while we can make some generalizations, there are no absolutes.


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