So you’ve taken the leap and decided to take a trip and are wondering how to go about flying with a baby. Well, lucky for you, we have flown with our baby many, many times. Jet lag, baby crying non-stop, poo explosions…
Whatever it may be, flying with a baby can be scary and off-putting, but two baby gap years and countless flights with a baby and a toddler later, we’ve learnt a bit about travelling with a baby along the way. The more prepared you are the smoother the flight will go so here we are to share with you our top tips for flying with a baby.
FLYING WITH A BABY
Booking a Flight for Travel with Your Baby
Choosing Your Flight
So you have chosen your destination, what next? As a starting point I like to use skyscanner to search for competitive airfares. You can expect to pay approximately 10% of the adult fare for children under the age of 2. Making it all the more reason to get as much travel in early! On some of the low budget airlines when they have sales the infant fee comes out to almost as much as an extra seat so do your research – it may be worth purchasing the extra ticket.
Choosing Your Seats
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. Next we come to packing. Aim to bring as little as possible through the airport. 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!
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 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 nappy 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. You can find official guidelines for the UK here or for the USA here. If you want more information make sure to check out our articles about flying with formula or breastfeeding while travelling.
Bringing Your Buggy
Some airlines may suggest checking in your buggy. It may be useful to have a bjorn (or other sling or carrier) to take your baby through the airport. 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. 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. 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 stroller are great, light weight, easy folding options for your next trip.
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. 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.
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. Some of our favorite toys to bring along when flying with a baby include fidget cubes, Baby Einstein toys, small puppet books, and finger puppets. 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 stroller, a 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. 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.
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 will need to be on your lap for take off, landing, and whenever the seat belt sign is on. On European flights you will be given a seat belt extension to securely fasten your baby to your seat belt. 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 rules are rules! 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. Nursing on board can be a little challenging, particularly with a slightly bigger baby. I have found mastering the jockey position useful for flights (baby straddles your knee). I found there is less room for your arms when cradling baby to nurse. 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.
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