Let me guess, you’ve typed flying with a baby (or something to that affect) into Google and have wound up here looking for all the tips and tricks to make your next trip as smooth running and painless as possible.
I can feel the sense of anxiety and excitement seeping through this screen! I’ll start off by telling you flying with a baby is not that bad, I promise! Any problems you encounter is nothing you haven’t dealt with at home.
I apply the acronym HALT, to everything and work through that systematically, whether I’m at home or on a flight with a baby.
HALT stands for hungry, angry, lonely and tiredness. So as long as you have something with you when flying with a baby to sort those four things out you are winning. I’ll cover everything in this article to help you.
I’ve taken two family gap years with both of my children during maternity leave. In simpler terms, I’ve flown with my little ones hundreds of times.
Taking a baby on a plane can be scary and off-putting, I know that’s how most parents feel. The countless flights with a baby and toddler later – we’ve learnt a bit about baby travel. The more prepared you are, the smoother the flight will be.
I am so excited to share my top tips for flying with a baby with you and hope it will seem easier and more doable by the time you get to the end of this page.
I cover EVERYTHING! How to get ‘flight tickets for baby’ and ‘when can babies fly’. Not to mention best travel gear for flying with little ones and the actual ‘how to’ travel with a baby on a plane. If you have a newborn this post might be better for you.
FLYING WITH A BABY TRAVEL TIPS
Booking a Flight When Traveling With A Baby
Choosing Your Flight
So you have chosen your destination so how to book baby on a flight? As a starting point I like to use skyscanner to search for competitive airfares.
A lot of people have asked me, do babies fly free internationally? You can expect to pay approximately 10% of the adult fare for an infant air fare or those under 2. Making it all the more reason to get as much fly long haul whilst they are young!
‘Babies fly free’ is a common misconception On shorter flights or budget airlines, the infant fee can sometimes be as much as a seat, so do your research – it may be worth purchasing the extra ticket rather than flying with a baby on your lap.
Choosing Your Seats For the Best Airplane Travel With Baby
When flying with a baby, I suggest requesting the front row bulk head seats at the time of booking, especially for long haul flights with a baby. With these seats you can request a bassinet for your baby to use in-flight.
You may be able to do this yourself online. If not, you should try to contact the airline to make a request as early as possible. On packed flights with many babies these seats may be claimed long before the flight.
The bulk head seats are situated immediately behind a cabin divider. A fold down bench allows for the bassinet or cradle to be attached when the seat-belt sign is off.
The airline that provides the bassinet or cradle may have different polices on their use. This may relate to age, weight or height of baby.
It is important to check individual airline policies before booking. Equally if you are a nursing mother, you may prefer a window seat for privacy purposes.
I know my baby often gets distracted at feed times and I end up exposed! Some people (mainly Americans) like to buy an extra seat for their babies.
They bring a car seat on the plane and install it because they feel this is a safer option.
If you choose to do this make sure to check that your car seat fits within the dimensions of the airplanes seats.
Preparing for Flying With a Baby
The first thing we do after booking our tickets is purchase travel insurance. This is so important, especially when you travel with small children, we like World Nomads.
You may be concerned about dealing with baby jet lag, I have an entire post on that here.
Next we come to packing. Aim to bring as little as possible through the airport. If you need help figuring out how to pack light, you can check out our best packing tips here.
The less you carry around, the less you have to worry about at security. Of course don’t cut down too much and forget to bring these essentials for a smooth baby flight!
Whenever you fly it’s important to make sure you bring along all your important documents. This includes a valid passport and visa for everyone flying the baby not excluded.
Printing your tickets in advance and having them handy can save time at the airport.
It’s also important to note that if you are flying alone with a child that does not share your last name you may need to bring additional documentation.
Some countries will want to see a birth certificate (or adoption certificate). We gave the kids my last name as their middle names so that the link between us is clear.
Packing carefully for your flight is extremely important. There is nothing worse than having to tear into an overweight bag at check-in when you have a baby with you.
Preventing this is easily done. Purchasing a luggage scale is pretty affordable especially when you consider the alternative costs of your overweight baggage.
Carry On Baggage
Depending on the airline you fly with and it’s luggage restrictions, you may want to combine your nappy bag with other carry on essentials.
If so make sure to organize the bag really well into sections so you know exactly where to find everything you need.
Make sure your nappies and wipes are always accessible (and well stocked!) and make sure to carry a change of clothes in case baby has an accident.
We really like the Idaho Jones diaper bag.
This nappy bag has many sections to keep your things organized and makes it easy to stick your hand in a pull out whatever you need without having to dig.
It is also a backpack which means one less thing to drag around! Food and drinks for babies do not have a millilitre limit at security.
They may test the bottles but it is absolutely fine to bring expressed milk, formula or whatever baby may need.
Some people like to print out the government’s guidelines stating this to be true just in case they run into an uninformed security agent.
Baby Travel Stroller Airplane Advice
We have found a wrap cloth style carrier to be great for flying with a baby. You don’t have to take it off completely just to take baby out. This is my top tip for traveling with a baby.
It’s kind of like a jumper so it’s better than having to taking everything off and back on again.
Since my babies were around 4-5 months old, I started using the i-angel carrier. It has lasted right through the toddler stage too. If you want you can also check out this article comparing the best baby carriers on the market.
Alternatively you can take the buggy to the door of the plane. If you are looking for a good travel buggy we like the Mountain Buggy Nano stroller but we also have heard great things about the GB Pockit stroller.
Both strollers are great, light weight, easy folding options for your next trip. We have a full post comparing all the best travel strollers on the market here.
Keeping Your Baby Happy on the Plane
When taking a long haul flight I like to have baby in her pyjamas. This serves two purposes; it keeps them comfortable and, hopefully, mentally prepares them for a nice long sleep.
If your baby has a favorite cuddly this will help them feel comfortable by making the area seem more familiar and safe.
We also like to bring along a CoziGo to cover the bassinet to block out light and distractions. It’s one of the best baby travel items.
You can see our full review of the Cozigo here. If however you did not manage to get the airline’s bassinet this SkyBaby Travel Mattress is a fantastic option for keeping baby comfortable and cozy on the plane.
I just love how it opens up to check on baby and can easily be zipped up again to continue with the all important sleep!
While they are awake your number one priority will be heading off any crying. To keep them occupied make sure to bring plenty of toys to keep your child entertained. Books and small toys are great for this.
The best thing is to bring toys that your baby has never seen before as these will keep them busy and entertained longer.
I also like to bring a tiny torch to shine on things and we got hours of entertainment out of that. If all else fails we find that the cups on the aeroplane and a napkin can provide endless fun!
At the Airport with a Baby
Check-in With a Baby
Check-in queues can be long and arduous unless you are flying business or first class. Sometimes airline staff spot those flying with a baby and will allow them to check-in using the business class desk as long as there are no other customers waiting.
Most airlines will allow you to check-in a baby travel stroller, a travel baby car seat and in some cases a travel cot. You may prefer to take the buggy to the door of the plane and most airlines will allow this. The airline staff will take the buggy to the stowaway as you board.
In some cases it may be available as you disembark or it may come out on the luggage belt. If at this point you haven’t secured a bulk head seat you should ask the person checking you in if there are any extra seats on the plane.
On an emptier flight they might have mercy on you and give you a row with an empty seat so that your little one has room to move around or lay down and sleep.
Your very own travel baby seat is a win, especially when you haven’t paid for it!
So you have checked in, what next?
Getting Past Security With a Baby
Going Through Security
Next up is security. Ensure you have all of your liquids (including baby’s liquid food and drink) in a transparent zip-lock bag.
Some airports have family specific queues that you will see signs for or be directed into by the staff. Sometimes you will notice there is a secret security lane that airport staff use.
Similar to check-in, if the staff spot you with little ones, they will sometimes invite you to use the ‘hustle and bustle’ free lane.
If you have baby in a bjorn some airports will expect you to take your baby out when passing through security.
If you are travelling alone this can make it difficult but having a wrap style carrier can really make things easier. Also, don’t hesitate to ask others for help!
Reach out to airport security or other travelers – learning to ask for help when you need it (before the situation devolves) is key. Check out our top ten tips for travelling as a solo parent here.
Once you get through security some airports will have a parent room, where you can change nappies, heat food and I have even seen private rooms for nursing mothers.
Some of these will even have sectioned off areas with cribs where you can have some quiet time. I can not say I have seen this in all airports but it is worth checking out the facilities.
You can find out ahead of time on the airport’s website whether they have a one and if so where it is located. Check out some of the services offered at Heathrow here.
Boarding – Gate Check
When it is time to board, airline staff are keen to have young families board first.
Sometimes this may be inconvenient, particularly if your little one is quite active. It may be best to board last if possible to reduce the time in a confined space.
On Board the Flight with a Baby
Take Off and Landing
If your little one is under the age of 2, they probably wont be in their own seat and will need to be a lap child for take off, landing, and whenever the seat belt sign is on.
There is no such a thing as an infant airplane seat, unless of course you take your car seat onboard.
Flying with an infant on your lap is not so bad. It’s the toddler stage that is so much harder. On European flights you will be given a seat belt extension to securely fasten your baby to your seat belt.
I find more and more parents are choosing to buy a seat for baby and install their car safety seat.
This will be provided by cabin crew. Having to fasten your baby’s seat belt when you have just got your little one to sleep in their bassinet can be heartbreaking. However flying with a baby rules are there to maintain child safety!
The only time they will ask you to take baby out of the bassinet is when there is turbulence. If you do not have a bulk head seat, baby must be on your lap for the duration of the flight.
Remember, when flying with a baby, the pressure may build up in their ears during ascent and descent.
Having your baby nurse or giving them a bottle or dummy will help. The swallow mechanism will relieve the pressure. If you are flying with baby alone, make sure to ask for help.
Cabin crew may be willing to hold your baby for bathroom trips and meal times.
Keeping Baby Hydrated
Ensure you keep yourself and your baby well hydrated. The low humidity can be quite dehydrating.
This is of particular importance if you are nursing and especially on a long flight with baby. If you need food or milk heated, cabin crew will be happy to help.
Keeping Baby Occupied
If your baby is agitated or upset, taking them for a walk up and down the aisle can help distract.
Very often flight attendants will also allow you to set your baby down in the back part of the plane where there is a little more room for them to move around.
Make sure to have your toys on hand (see list above in the preparing for ‘flying with a baby section’).
If you need to change a nappy all planes have a changing table that folds down in the bathroom. Older planes can be quite cramped so only bring what you need to the bathroom. If your little one is asleep, sit back, relax and have a wine!
Transit and Arrivals When Flying with a Baby
Complete your arrivals card in advance. The best time to do it is while your child sleeps on the plane, if you can manage it. Make sure to declare baby food if necessary. Once you land some airports provide courtesy buggies for transit.
Be aware that there are often additional security checks during an airport transit.
If you are in transit and have some spare time it is an ideal opportunity to give your little one a freshen-up. I am sure they feel sticky after flying, just like us!
If you’ve checked and the airport you will be arriving in does not have a parents room then just throw a blanket down on the floor in an appropriate place and let them have a little stretch and a kick before the next flight.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL WITH BABY
- Does flying harm baby?
Many people ask me is flying with a baby safe? Babies may not know how to equalise ear pressure which of course poses the question can flying damage a baby’s ears?
It’s important to give them a drink or let them feed on take off and landing, this allows the ears equalize to the new pressure.
Being in a closed space with many other people may expose baby to viruses, coughs and colds. When you air travel with baby, a natural probiotic could be. a good option to help protect them on a flight.
- Best things to have when flying with a baby?
My number one piece of equipment is the baby carrier by far. I always say it’s the most important thing when people ask me what you need when flying with a baby.
It allows me to be hands free in the airport and it’s helped many times with getting my baby to sleep on a flight.
The second most important thing is a well stocked nappy bag with changes of clothes, baby analgesia, diapers and wet wipes, as well as a few toys.
- What can you bring when flying with a baby?
This question predominantly relates to fluids. You can bring formula, baby food or breastmilk for your baby above the 100ml allowance that applies to everyone else. It may be tested separately at security when flying with a baby.
- How to pack for flying with a baby?
The best piece of advice I can give you is, don’t over do it. I bring one day bag on board, no matter how long the journey is. I get everything into my Idaho Jones bag, with all of the pockets, it’s an ideal bag for flying with a baby.
You need to be relatively hands-free, so having baby on the front in a carrier, and your day bag on the back is the best set-up on how to pack for flying with baby.
5. How young can a baby fly?
Many people ask me, when can I start flying with baby? The simple answer is as soon as you have a passport for your little one you can start flying!! No need to worry about how old does a baby have to be to fly!
6. When flying with a baby, do they need ID?
Yes, your baby needs to have a passport to fly.
7. What to wear when flying with a baby?
I usually wear loose fitting comfortable clothing. Consider the security line, you don’t want to have to strip things off when flying with a baby. I never have a belt or heeled shoes or a big jacket.
I generally don’t have to take off anything going through security if I am wearing soft soled shoes.
Always bring a spare set of clothes for you. Something thin and easy to pack, like leggings and a spare long sleeve t-shirt. That way you can get them in your day bag. You never know what baby will throw on you
8. How to make flying with a baby easier?
Don’t bring too much things with you, have sleep aids, snacks and activities to keep your little one happy. Ask to be sat next to any spare seats at check-in.
Also ask for the bulkhead seats so you can use the extra leg room space, as well as the crib, as long as baby is not too heavy. That’s how to fly with a baby in a nutshell!
You might also like:
- Dealing with Jet Lag in Babies, Toddlers and Kids
- The best all inclusive family resorts around the world
- Flying with a toddler
- Backpacking with a baby
- Camping with a baby
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