Embarking on the journey back home with your newly adopted child is an extraordinary moment, filled with excitement, anticipation, but no doubt with a hint of nervousness, too.

To make the journey go as smoothly as possible, it’s important that you are fully prepared, from ensuring that you have all the paperwork the child needs to fly and packing essential items for the flight, to choosing the right seat on the plane and communicating with the airline.

1. Make Sure All Paperwork is in Order

The first and most important step when flying with a child you have just adopted is to gather all the necessary documents and paperwork related to the adoption.

These may include adoption decrees, certificates, or court orders.

If you are flying internationally, your newly adopted child will also need proper identification and travel authorization.

A passport is always required to fly internationally, regardless of age, though if you are flying with an adopted newborn you should wait to fly.

2. Pack Essential Items

Packing the right items is crucial to ensure the comfort and well-being of the child during your journey.

Perhaps they have never been on a plane before. Even if they have, they are just about to start a new life that can be scary and overwhelming.

So you’ll want to make sure that you bring:

  • Comfort items: Familiar items that provide comfort and a sense of security, such as favorite toys, stuffed animals, or blankets.
  • Snacks and drinks: You can always buy snack and drinks at the airport or onboard the plane, but having snacks and drinks that are readily available can be a good idea.
  • Medications: If your child takes any medications, ensure that you have enough for the duration of the flight. Make sure that you keep the medications in their original packaging and pack them in your carry-on bag.

3. Choose the Right Flight and Seat

When flying with a newly adopted child, choosing the right seat and flight can play a big role in ensuring a comfortable and stress-free journey.

Flights with layovers can be more tiring and overwhelming for both you and the kid, especially if they have trouble adjusting to new environments.

So, if possible, it’s better to opt for a direct flight. A red-eye flight could be a good idea if you think they’ll be able to sleep on the plane, too.

When selecting a seat, consider a bassinet or bulkhead seating if you are traveling with an infant, or a window or aisle seat depending on the child’s preference.

A window seat can provide a nice view and keep them distracted, whereas an aisle seat provides easy access to the restroom and an easy way for them to stretch their legs.

4. Communicate With the Airline

From before you depart for the airport to at check-in desk and on the flight, it would be a good idea to speak with the airline and inform them of your child’s adoption status and specific requirements they may have.

You might be asked to provide documentation, such as adoption papers or legal guardianship, so you definitely want to plan ahead for this.

The same goes for asking about clarification about visas if you are flying internationally, and any other regulations you might need to meet.

Additionally, if your adopted child has any special needs or requires specific accommodations during the flight, it would be best to discuss these with the airline beforehand, whether this be priority boarding, assistance with baggage, or seating arrangements.

5. Let Them Know What to Expect

Before the flight, it would be a good idea to have a conversation about the upcoming flight, including what they can expect.

If they have never flown before, airport security can be a daunting and intimidating prospect. So take the time to explain the various procedures they may have to undergo, such as bag screening, and walking through airport scanners and metal detectors.

Providing emotional support and reassurance throughout the journey is key, which can be done through comforting words, hugs, and packing comfort items, like a favorite toy, like slime, or blanket to establish a sense of familiarity.

6. Arrival and Post-Flight Considerations

Landing at your destination with an adopted child marks the beginning of a new, exciting chapter for both you and them.

But it can be difficult to adjust to a new environment and time zone (if applicable), especially as it’s likely they will be experiencing a range of emotions.

This is why you should try your best to create a calm and welcoming space and atmosphere as soon as the plane lands, giving them time to explore and get used to their surroundings at their own pace.

Also aim to meet their immediate needs, such as getting something to eat, and resting.

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).