Going on a family holiday? Read on for tips for flying with babies and toddlers and how to make the experience much easier and less stressful.
When my daughter was 3 months’ old, we traveled long haul from Australia to the UK.
I was pretty terrified at the thought of it beforehand. I’d been on so many flights pre-motherhood where I’ve heard babies scream the entire journey. Or seen parents pacing the aisles looking pale, wide-eyed and frazzled only 30 minutes into the journey. Flying with kids didn’t seem much fun!
Luckily I had friends who shared their much-needed advice and helped me prepare – mentally as much as anything.
I had 2 main fears. Firstly, that my baby would scream and be in pain from the discomfort flying can cause to their ears. Secondly, that I would be judged by other passengers for disrupting their journey.
Of course I now know better than to be tooooo overly concerned by other people’s potential judgments but having been the judger myself in the past, I knew what the potential was. I know better now – now at the very least I offer other parents sympathetic smiles or pretend I can’t hear the commotion of another child having a tantrum so as to make them feel less paranoid! How times have changed.
I prepared and prepared and prepared for the flight and I’ll detail how in the tips below. The flight went so much better than I expected and we even had passengers pass us when they disembarked and say they didn’t realise a baby was on the plane. Phew!
Since then I’ve flown long and short haul countless times and thought I would share my top 12 tips for flying with babies and toddlers (no particular order):
12 Tips for Flying with Babies and Toddlers
1. Get a Bassinet Seat
For babies under a year old, I’d recommend booking seats (long haul flights) at the front with the bassinets. Now my baby hated the bassinet and refused to sleep longer than 20 minutes at a time in it but it was great to be right next to the toilets for changing her and having all of the extra legroom to store the nappy bag etc.
Be aware that these seats have hard sides rather than arm rests as the tray table is stored there so they are not quite as comfortable as normal seats but hey, you’re not really going to be ‘comfortable’ at all when flying with a baby. Also bear in mind that there is often no guarantee that you will get the bassinet seats as they seem to be allocated to the youngest babies first. Book them in advance but get to the airport earlier than you normally would to try and reserve them again.
2. Check what you can take on board
Check with your airline in advance of flying whether or not you can take water in baby bottles if you have a formula fed baby. By the time my baby was on formula I didn’t check this and assumed that I couldn’t take water on which actually resulted in me having to mix her formula with bottled water – not at all ideal. As far as I know, most airlines will allow you to take water in the baby bottles so you can then mix the formula in as and when you need it. They will expect you to take a sip from each bottle when you go through security so overfill your bottles slightly so that there’s still the adequate amount left in for the baby.
3. Take a ‘Mini’ changing bag
This is one of my favourite tips for flying with a baby! Take a plastic bag with you on board in your nappy bag so that when you go to change nappies in the teeny, tiny toilet, you can take only the essentials in with you – a nappy, packet of wipes, change mat etc rather than taking in the whole bulky bag. You can hang this on the hook on the back of the toilet door and reach in for what you need easily.
We also included a spare set of PJs in this bag as my baby decided 10 minutes before landing that she would poop-splode.
4. Don’t stress it!
It might reassure you (or not) to know what your child will likely not be the only one on board so even if your angel is sleeping like well, a baby, others likely will not. For the first and last time in your life, you will welcome the noise from other people’s children to potentially drown out your own. You will never welcome them kicking the back of your chair though grr.
5. Plan how you’ll carry your baby
Check your airlines’ policy for taking a pram/stroller. We flew with Etihad first time round and they were great in letting us keep our stroller until the moment we boarded, then having it waiting for us at the doors to the plane when we disembarked at our final destination.
We could have also chosen to have it back at each destination along the way but we had a sling with us to carry her in so didn’t feel it necessary. With the amount of stuff you have to cart with you when traveling with kids, it was brilliant to have it with us until we boarded.
6. Invest in a sling or baby carrier!
I’m a huge advocate of slings and my baby loved being in hers. For flying, it was great to pop her in it when I was trying to get her to sleep and stretching my legs on the plane. It was also brilliant to put her in when I was boarding and disembarking as it freed up my hands to carry bags etc.
Of course do not ever fall asleep yourself with the baby in the sling – hand them over to your partner when it’s your turn to get some shut eye.
7. Check your taxi has a car seat
A great tip for traveling with a baby to and from the airport by taxi is to double check when you make the booking that they will provide a car seat if you’re not taking your own. Also make sure that it is the correct size for your baby and which way it will face. A couple of times we’ve had issues when the taxi arrived with a front-facing car seat when my baby was too young and this has caused stress and delays to our journey.
8. Check what you can take for free!
Check how many items you can check in for free with your booking. With most of ours we’ve been able to check in 2 for free such as a stroller, travel cot, car seat etc. We’ve always chosen the travel cot and stroller. I’ve cheekily used the travel cot case as extra baggage, stuffing as many toys and clothes in as possible!
9. Have plenty of snacks
Make sure to take more than enough drinks, snacks, food, wipes and nappies on board. Factor in the potential to be delayed. We were delayed traveling from Switzerland back to the UK. We had already checked in our main bags with the spare nappies and wipes in. With it being the end of the holiday, we had no extra money either to buy more.
Don’t be afraid to ask the airline for help. EasyJet provided us with vouchers to by extra supplies in the pharmacy thankfully. Despite being delayed for 4 hours, my baby had another poop-splosion moments before we boarded!
10. Feed on take off and landing
Probably the most obvious one but worth a mention anyway. Try to feed your baby on take off and landing as them sucking will definitely help their little ears to equalise the pressure. I would add to this though not to start the feed too early – hold out for as long as you can (without them being uncomfortable of course) as the first time I did this, my baby had finished her breastfeed when we were still chugging down the runway! Luckily it didn’t bother her but it may have done.
11. Bring entertainment
For toddlers who are crawling and walking, they won’t be as interested in sitting on your lap as babies are. I would say that the younger the baby, the ‘easier’ it is to travel with them. When we flew to Switzerland, my baby was walking. She had no interest in sitting still on our laps at all really. I was so jealous of the parents who held up iPads for their little ones! If you have the money, this is probably a great investment.
Otherwise we took in in turns to stay at the back of the plane with her. She could have a little run around there. Albeit in a cramped space. Also take a few new books that they haven’t seen before as this will encourage them to keep still.
12. Forget the routine and focus on just surviving the flight!
I spent a lot of time trying to ‘time’ when my baby would sleep on-board to help alleviate the jet lag at the other end of the journey. In actual fact, she really had very little interest in sleep. Once she saw the excitement of traveling on a plane, with a lot of other people, and children. Not to mention the flashing lights, and noise. Really it just turned into survival and I’d go with that from now on.
Yes, of course try and encourage sleep where you can. If you have a partner with you, take it in turns. You both get a little sleep yourselves too. When you land, you won’t be quite as frazzled as you might have been.
This list is clearly not exhaustive and I could probably add at least another 50 to it! These are my best ones though so far and I hope they help you a little.
I hope these tips on taking a baby on a place for the first time will help you.
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What are your best tips for flying with babies and toddlers?