The idea of a long-haul flight with a baby might not sound like heaven but, you would hope, the holiday at the other end will make it all worthwhile.
Whether you’re flying with a baby to visit family or to spend two weeks relaxing on the beach, a flight might be unavoidable. Keep reading to discover our top tips to help you have a stress-free time, when flying with an infant.
Flying with an infant
The idea of a long-haul flight might be daunting and even a short flight can create fear in new parents. However, these things are never as bad as you imagine them to be, so don’t let the worst-case scenarios put you off from flying with an infant.
You might worry about how your baby will cope during the flight and how other passengers will accommodate you. For example, will the person nearby offer compassion or disgruntled tuts if your baby cries? Fortunately, most people are understanding of babies on flights, so try not to let this worry put you off from flying with an infant.
One of the great things about babies is that they’re pretty portable. They won’t miss their friends or creature comforts. As long as you’re there, they’ll probably be perfectly happy.
And remember, it will all be worth it once you reach your destination.
Flying with an infant on lap
One of the positives about taking infants on a flight is that they don’t require their own seat. Instead, they can sit on your lap, and you’ll save some money. Not only is it cheaper but your baby might be happier in your arms than he would be in a car seat.
Some babies hate being strapped into their own seats and would much rather be in your arms. On a flight, they can do just that. For this reason, many parents find their babies are contented on flights; even long-haul international flights can pass without drama. In fact, many parents will tell you flying with a baby is easier than flying with a toddler.
Tips for flying with an infant
There’s no need to put off your dream vacation or delay a visit to your far-away friend. All you need are these helpful tips to help your baby fly like a pro.
#1. Preparation is key
As with everything to do with babies, preparation is essential here. Before taking the flight, find out as much as possible about the airline’s rules and regulations.
Each airline has minimum age guidelines for babies, so make sure you meet the airline’s criteria. Until the age of two years, your child can sit on your lap during flights. The airline will provide an extension seat belt, for safety reasons. In some regions, you can purchase an additional ticket, so your child can sit in an airline-approved child safety seat.
You might be provided with a carrycot for long-haul flights, to allow your baby to sleep on board. Only a limited number of these are available, so you will need to request one at the time of booking.
#2. Pack wisely
Traveling light isn’t a familiar concept when you have a young baby. If you take everything but the kitchen sink with you when you pop into a baby group, you might wonder how on earth you will pack for a holiday.
In short, it won’t be easy. You’ll need to make sure you pack enough without packing too much.
Some airline providers allow a nappy bag as additional hand baggage, although you might have to combine them when flying with other airlines.
Make sure your bag is organized, to allow easy access to things you might need. For example, be sure your nappies and wipes are within easy reach, so you won’t need to rummage through your stuff before each nappy change.
Don’t forget to check the restrictions for carrying liquids. You are usually allowed up to 100ml in liquids, which you must carry in a clear bag. Your liquids include nappy creams, baby lotions, sun lotions and any other liquid products you might be carrying.
The liquid limit does not apply to the milk or food you’ll need to take for your baby. You can carry expressed breast milk, formula (and boiled water in a bottle to make a feed) or other milk for your baby.
Thanks to the air conditioning, your baby will probably drink more than usual during the flight. Your baby might also want to suck for comfort. Make sure you pack extra milk and food to allow for any flight delays.
Some airports offer a reserve and collect service for formula, allowing you to collect formula from the departure lounge before your flight.
#3. Seating arrangements
With a young baby, you’ll want to try to get good seats. If you can choose your seats when you book the flights, do it. If not, be sure to select your seats as soon as you can.
An aisle seat will allow you to move around easily without disturbing other passengers. A bulkhead seat (the row with no seats in front) is a favorite for young families because of the extra leg space it allows.
#4. Board last
Some airlines allow families and others to board first. However, it can sometimes be better to board last, especially if your baby is awake.
Once you’re on the plane, you’re stuck in your seat. You then have to wait for everyone else to board; then there’s the safety demonstration, the safety checks, taxiing and take off. It’s quite a bit of extra time sitting in your seat, especially with a little person with a short attention span.
The less time you’re stationary, the better, to prevent your baby from becoming bored with the surroundings.
#5. Dress to de-stress
It can be hard to work out how to dress on a flight, especially when traveling between two very different climates.
The key to ensuring your baby’s comfort is layered dressing. Thin layers can be easily removed or added, depending on the temperature. Make sure your baby is dressed in comfortable clothes that he can sleep in.
You could also pack a baby sleeping bag to allow your baby to snuggle down and catch 40 winks on the flight. You’ll need to pack some spare clothes, just in case an outfit change is necessary.
Do the same for yourself; wear comfortable, easily removable clothing layers. Spills, vomit and poo explosions are no fun to deal with but they do happen. So make sure you pack a spare outfit for yourself, too.
#6. Inflight entertainment
If you have an older baby who might appreciate some entertainment, bring a selection of toys to keep him busy on the flight. Choose a couple (but no more) of his favorite small toys or teddies from home.
It might also be worth investing in a couple of new items, too. These will hold your baby’s attention for a little longer simply because they’re new and need to be thoroughly investigated –or chewed, depending on how old your baby is.
You can even wrap the new toys for an older baby, to extend the fun. Unwrapping can take a while, so you’ll buy yourself a few extra minutes of peace.
#7. Pack medicine
In the past, it was common practice for parents to medicate their babies deliberately, before flights, for an easy journey. Please don’t do this. You might still hear this advice from well-meaning family members and older friends but it’s terrible advice. You should never give medication to a child who doesn’t need it.
You should carry medicine, however, just in case your child becomes unwell during the flight. Ear infections can appear without much notice, so it’s always worth carrying a sachet or two of pain relief medication – just in case.
#8. Don’t forget the sling
A sling or wrap is a great way to transport your baby around the airport. You’ll have your hands free to drag your suitcase. You’ll also be able to kiss your baby’s head whenever the urge takes you (all the time) and your baby will be happy snuggled up against your chest.
The sling or wrap will also be useful for helping your baby to fall asleep on the plane and you’ll have your hands free to read a book or magazine on the flight.
You could also take a fold-away pushchair, which can be used as far as the gate. The staff will store it for you and then return it at the end of the flight. You’ll need to make sure it has a luggage tag with all your details.
#9. Soothe your baby’s ears
You’re probably familiar with the ear pressure associated with air travel. As you take off or land, the change in cabin pressure can affect your ears, causing them to pop. Unfortunately, this can happen to babies, too, and might leave your little one in distress.
If your baby uses a dummy, sucking on it during takeoff and landing could alleviate the pressure in his ears.
Breastfeeding your baby or giving him a bottle will have the same effect. Try offering your baby a feed at these times.
#10. Feeding and changing your baby
Most airplane toilets have a changing table installed. It might not be the most luxurious but it will save you from getting dirty looks from the other passengers if you try to change a poopy nappy in your seat.
Find out in advance whether the airline will reheat your baby’s milk or food.
Some airlines carry baby food jars that can be preordered for inflight meals. Breastfeeding on a flight should be relatively easy and you might be able to watch an inflight movie while you feed your baby.
#11. Keeping your baby happy
Try not to feel stressed about the flight; your baby will pick up on your mood. Try to stay relaxed. The engine noise might even lull your baby to sleep as soon as the plane takes off.
If not, your baby will have plenty to look at during the flight. If he becomes restless, take him for a walk around the cabin. There might even be a small space where he can explore the floor if the flight attendant says it’s ok.
Traveling with small children is certainly a new adventure. With the right preparation, attitude and support, you might find the joy of traveling outweighs any of your fears.
Frequently asked questions
Do babies under 2 years of age fly free internationally?
Although babies don’t take up a seat of their own when flying, it’s not true that babies fly free internationally. The details differ between airlines but you might find that you must pay the taxes and fees for your baby, and some airlines also charge a percentage of the airfare. You should check with the airline to find out the policies, before booking. It is usually a lot cheaper than the price of an adult fare, however.
How old does a baby have to be to fly internationally?
There is no fixed minimum age at which a baby can fly; this will differ between airlines. Some airlines are happy to take passengers when they are two days old; others have two weeks as the minimum age. If you’re trying to book flights during pregnancy, this can complicate things and you will need to speak to the airline, to ask for advice.
Do babies need ID for domestic flights?
Most babies can get away without a formal ID for a domestic flight. However, if your baby is under two weeks of age, you might need a doctor’s letter to confirm it’s ok to fly. Also, if your baby could pass for a baby under two weeks old, it’s worth carrying an ID, just in case you are questioned about his age while trying to board your flight.
Do baby food pouches count as a liquid when flying?
You will be pleased to hear that baby food pouches do not come under liquid restrictions when you are flying with a baby. You are allowed to carry enough baby food pouches for the duration of the flight. You will need to remove the baby food pouches from your bag for the security checks, though, as they will need to be screened separately.
Where do you change a diaper on a plane?
If you’re preparing to fly with a baby, you might wonder where you’ll change the inevitable dirty diaper during your flight. Don’t worry about your baby pooping onboard the plane; ‘poop happens’, as they say. Ideally, you will change your baby’s diaper on the changing table in the plane toilet. Some aircraft, however, do not have these, so you’ll need to ask a cabin crew member for advice. They might have a quiet section where you can change your baby’s diaper.
How do you bring baby milk on a plane?
Baby milk is exempt from the limitations on liquids in hand luggage. This means you can carry, in your hand luggage, expressed breast milk, pre-made formula milk and water to make up formula. You can take a reasonable amount for your baby to consume during the flight. The only rule is you must separate these items from your hand luggage at security, so they can be screened separately.
If you’re flying with a toddler, check out BellyBelly’s article Flying With A Toddler – 15 Sanity Saving Tips And Ideas.
You should also check out Travelling With A Toddler – 8 Tips For An Enjoyable Holiday.