Air Travel With Baby…
Tips And Advice For Flying With Your Little One
If the thought of air travel with baby fills you with trepidation, read through these useful guidelines for a fuss-free flight!
How early can baby fly?
Generally, it’s best to wait until your baby is at least 2 weeks old before you consider travelling by air.
This is not because flying poses a greater danger for a younger baby, but because by 2 weeks both
you and he will have recovered sufficiently from the birth and have overcome any early difficulties,
such as problems with breastfeeding.
It’s always a good idea to seek specific advice from your doctor first, however, and to check with the airline you’re flying with that they have no lower age limit.
Before you go
Contact your airline
When planning air travel with baby, telephone your airline or visit their website to find out what
facilities they offer for parents of young children.
- See if you can pre-book a sky cot/bassinet and the maximum age/weight that it will accommodate.
Some airlines will not allow you to pre-book and you may not know whether or not one is available until you check in.
- If possible, see if you can fly on a larger aircraft, which will have better facilities for baby.
- Consider booking an extra seat for air travel with baby –
if not, you will be expected to sit with an infant under 2 years of age on your lap.
Depending on the length of your flight, this can be very hard work, particularly with an older baby.
- If you do book an extra seat, think about taking a car seat on board for your baby to sit in.
Certain car seats are FAA approved for air travel with baby, so this is something to check when buying one.
- If possible, choose where on the aircraft you would like to sit.
Opinions vary on the ideal seating position when flying with baby –
some parents prefer to be at the rear of the aircraft, nearer to the changing facilities, whereas others prefer the bulkhead position.
This is where the sky cots are situated and there is generally more leg-room.
- The sky cot is usually attached to the screen – bear in mind that this can be very noisy.
We attempted to use a sky cot for one of our children – because it was bolted to the screen,
he was constantly disturbed by thuds and bangs from the other side.
Also, a light was situated right above it – needless to say, he didn’t get much sleep!
- Make sure you pre-book your seats to ensure that you are seated next to whoever you are travelling with.
If not, you may find yourself at the opposite end of the plane to your partner (not that they’ll be complaining)!
- Read the rules about flying with baby food and milk
Make sure you are adequately insured
Air travel with baby can be unpredictable and certain conditions may prevent him flying – ear infections and notifiable diseases such as measles, for example.
Assemble and pack your baby first aid kit
(many items, such as scissors and tweezers, will not be allowed in the cabin of the plane and should not be packed in your hand luggage).
See our main
travelling with baby
page for more travel essentials!
Carefully check your baggage allowance – air travel with baby obviously requires extra luggage and you don’t want any nasty surprises at the airport!
Air Travel With Baby – At The Airport
Always allow yourself plenty of time at the airport when travelling with your baby –
remember that everything will take longer and you may have last minute nappy/diaper or clothing changes to contend with!
Some airports offer fast-track customs or immigration points for families with very young children –
definitely worth looking out for!
- Use a stroller (pushchair). A lightweight stroller is worth its weight in gold at the airport –
baby has somewhere to sit, or to sleep if necessary!
You are usually allowed to keep your stroller with you right up until you reach the departure gate
and it is often returned to you from the hold as soon as you leave the aircraft.
- A baby sling/carrier can be really useful, as it leaves your hands free for carrying other things!
For air travel with baby, I often bring my stroller AND sling, so I always have something in which to carry him.
- If you have booked an extra seat for your baby and plan to bring your car seat,
consider getting some clip-on wheels for it.
These make life so much easier, as you can wheel baby around in the airport, then simply dismantle the wheels and board the aircraft without disturbing him.
The Baby Trend Snap N Go EX Universal Infant Car Seat Carrier
( advertisement US only) is ideal and very lightweight.
If you have not booked an extra seat for baby, ask if the flight is full.
If not – and if you are lucky – the airline assistant may keep the seat beside you empty, or offer a seat next to a vacant seat.
That extra room can make all the difference!
Air Travel With Baby – On Board The Aircraft
That elusive empty seat …
If you haven’t booked an extra seat and the seat beside you is occupied, ask a member of the cabin crew
if there are any spaces on board and whether it might be possible to move next to an empty seat.
In our experience, other passengers can be quite helpful and may offer to move themselves,
to give you that extra room.
Perhaps they just don’t want to spend 10 hours sitting next to a baby on an aeroplane (though I can’t imagine why not!).
Baby’s seat belt
If you do not have a car seat, you will be given a mini seat belt for your baby – this goes around him,
then attaches to your seat belt.
The Baby BAir Flight Vest
The Infant Flight Vest Travel Harness (US only) is an excellent accessory for safe air travel with baby and secures your infant to your lap belt.
This protects him against turbulence and keeps him safely on your lap during the flight – plus it’s comfortable for you both.
The changes in pressure on take-off and landing can cause ear pain, so breastfeed your baby or offer a bottle at these times to encourage sucking. You may also like to try the Baby Banz Hearing Protector Earmuffs (advertisement) , which are also useful in particularly noisy environments.
This has never been a problem for any of our children, though –
in fact, my ears seem to hurt more than theirs!
Beware of existing ear infections, however – flying can increase the pain quite significantly and air travel with baby should really be avoided in this situation.
- Change your baby’s nappy immediately before the flight – if you are lucky, he may not need changing again until you arrive.
- Instead of hauling all your hand luggage to the bathroom with you every time baby’s nappy needs changing, pack yourself separate little “changing bags” – just put one nappy and a few wipes into individual nappy sacks so you have all you need for each change.
- Dispose of the soiled nappy in the bins provided – don’t try giving it to the flight attendants. Remember, they handle the passengers’ food and don’t want to be handling dirty nappies too!
- Baby changing tables are generally located in the toilet cubicles – folding down the table in a small area whilst holding your baby can be difficult! Ask a member of the cabin crew to prepare the table for you – not all will oblige, but some will!
Feeding tips for air travel with baby
See our main travelling with baby
page for tips on feeding your baby during your journey.
- Remember that there is no microwave in the aeroplane galley,
so warming baby’s food may take some time. Always ask for any food or milk to be heated well in advance of when you think you’ll need it –
and be sure to check that it isn’t too hot when it’s returned to you.
- Use your baby’s own bowl and utensils as there may not be anything suitable
for baby’s use on board the aircraft.
- Disposable, or wipe-clean soft plastic bibs (advertisement) are GREAT
for air travel with baby. A good tip is to dress your baby in light layers –
not only does this help you cope with fluctuating temperatures, but you can simply remove a layer if he soils his clothing at meal times.
- Make sure you bring spare clothing for yourself too –
our baby son was once sick on me during a flight and I had to sit in my newly decorated clothes for almost 2 hours!
Passing the time
- With any luck, your baby may sleep for a good part of the flight –
if, like ours, his cot is positioned under a light, try screening it off with his sheet/blanket as much as possible.
- Sprinkle a drop of lavender oil on the blanket – it has a calming effect and may help him sleep a little better.
- Don’t fill your hand luggage with too many toys –
in our experience, babies love to play with day-to-day objects that they’re not usually allowed to have!
- Try giving him an empty plastic cup and a spoon – strangely enough, that combination has kept a couple of
our babies happy for ages!
Unopened, shiny crisp/chip packets can also provide hours of fun – just be sure to supervise your baby carefully.
Alternatively, visit our travel toys page for an extra special toy for the journey!
- Finger foods
will help keep baby occupied if he’s ready for them.
Dry foods like rice cakes or pre-toasted fingers of bread are best for air travel with baby as they won’t make too much mess!
- Make sure you offer your baby plenty of drinks throughout the flight as air travel can be quite dehydrating.
- If possible, walk around with your little one in the aisles – not only is it good for you to stretch your legs, but a sea of new faces may keep your baby entertained for a while too!
There’s no doubt about it, though, long distance air travel with baby can have its trying moments –
older babies, especially, can grow restless and fretful.
Occasionally, your worst nightmare may come true and your little one may cry inconsolably … and noisily!
This isn’t much fun when you’re cooped up in a relatively small area with a group of strangers waiting
for you to somehow “stop that baby crying”!
If this happens to you, then put on your thickest skin and ignore any nasty looks or –
worse still – comments.
Most people will sympathise with you – we’ve almost all been in this position –
but you may come across one of those less tolerant people and their unhelpful remarks!
Stay calm, bite your tongue and count the minutes until you touch down at your destination!
One thing that can make air travel with baby a little easier is knowing more about the facilities available in the aircraft.
So we strongly recommend you visit SeatGuru –
a site that provides in-depth information for many airlines from around the world.