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 along the way about travelling with a baby along the way. So here we are to share with you our top tips for flying with a baby.
Flying with a baby
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Booking a flight for travel with a baby
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!
When taking a baby on a plane, I suggest requesting the front row bulk head seats at the time of booking, especially for long haul flights with a baby. You may be able to do this yourself online. If not, it is advisable to contact the airline to make a request. The bulk head seats are situated immediately behind a cabin divider. A fold down bench allows for a bassinet or cradle to be attached when the seat-belt sign is off. The airline provide the bassinet or cradle and 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!
Preparing for taking a baby on a plane
Aim to bring as little as possible through the airport. Less to carry around, less to worry about at security.
- First and foremost, make sure baby and whoever else is flying with baby have a valid passport and visa if required.
- Print any tickets in advance.
- Make sure your luggage does not exceed your weight limit. There is nothing worse than tearing into your bag at check-in when you have a baby with you.
- You may want to combine your nappy bag with other essentials, particularly for budget airlines that can be militant on having one piece of hand luggage. Make sure your nappy supplies are well stocked up, taking into consideration any possible delays.
- Food and drinks for baby do not have a millilitre limit at security. It is absolutely fine to bring expressed milk or whatever baby may need in reasonable quantities.
- Some airlines may suggest checking in your buggy. It may be useful to have a bjorn (sling) to take baby through the airport. Alternatively you can take the buggy to the door of the plane.
- When taking a long haul flight, I like to have baby in her pyjamas, comfy and hopefully mentally prepared for a nice sleep!
- Bring plenty of toys to keep baby entertained. Books and small toys are great. Some new little toys may keep your little one entertained for longer.
At the airport 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. Many airlines will allow you to check-in a buggy, a car seat and in some cases a travel cot. You may prefer to take the buggy to the door of the plane, 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. So you have checked in, what next?
- You will need to pass through security. Ensure to have all of your liquids (including baby’s liquid food and drink) in a transparent zip-lock bag. Sometimes you will notice there is a secret security lane that airport staff use. Similar to check-in, if staff spot you with little ones, they will invite you to use the ‘hustle and bustle’ free lane.
- If you have baby in a bjorn some airports expect you to take baby out passing through security. If you are travelling alone this can make it difficult.
- Some airports have a parent room, where you can change nappies, heat food and I have seen private rooms for nursing mothers. I can not say I have seen this in all airports but it is worth checking out the facilities.
- 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 to reduce the time in a confined space.
On board a flight with a baby
- If your little one is under the age of 2, they will need to be securely fastened to your seat belt using an extension. This will be provided by cabin crew.
- You will be expected to put this on whenever the seat belt sign is on during the flight. This can be heartbreaking when you have just got your little one to sleep in their bassinet. 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, your pressure may build up in their ear during ascent and descent. Having a little drink or a dummy to hand 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 hold baby for bathroom trips and meal times.
Keeping baby hydrated during the flight
- Ensure to keep yourself and 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.
- If baby is agitated or upset, taking them for a walk up and down the aisle can help distract. Make sure to have your toys to hand.
- 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 travelling with baby
- Complete your arrivals card in advance.
- Make sure to declare baby food if necessary.
- Some airports provide courtesy buggies for transit.
- 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!
- 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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