Are you taking your baby on a plane for the first time and feeling a bit terrified? You’re not alone in that, I’ve been there too! Read on for tips for flying with babies and toddlers and how to make the experience much easier and less stressful! Plus there’s a free baby travel checklist for you to be even more organised before you travel.
My experience of taking a baby on a plane
When my daughter was three months’ old, we travelled long haul from Australia to the UK. We flew with Qantas and I was pretty terrified at the thought of travelling overseas with a baby 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!
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Luckily I had friends who shared their much-needed advice and helped me prepare – mentally as much as anything.
I had two main fears. Firstly, that my baby would scream and be in pain from the discomfort flying can cause to their ears. Secondly, I would be judged by other passengers for disrupting their journey.
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 said they didn’t realise a baby was on the plane. Phew!
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Since then I’ve flown long and short-haul countless times and thought I would share my top 12 tips for flying with a baby or toddlers:
12 Flying with Babies Tips
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 in flight 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.
Without the bassinet seat, flying with an infant on lap can be difficult if you’re long haul. Make the most of any offers of help from the air stewards or who you’re travelling with baby on plane with if they offer to hold your baby.
Be aware that these seats have hard sides rather than armrests 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 newborn baby.
Also, bear in mind that there is often no guarantee that you will get the airplane 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 an infant!
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. Plus, they were probably worried about how to fly with a baby before they boarded too.
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 grrr. That’s one side of flying with children, that sucks!
If you are anxious about airplane travel with baby, it’s completely understandable. All you can do is prepare as much in advance and arm yourself with these tips.
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. You do not need any specialist baby travel stroller although if you are looking for one, read my GB Pockit review.
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 an infant on a plane, it was brilliant to have it with us until we boarded.
Travelling with toddlers on long haul flights can be easier if they are bigger and can carry their own bag!
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
One of my best tips 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 travel 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.
Check too what your airplane car seat rules are – does their policy allow a car seat on plane? It’s worth reading your airline’s full policy on flying with a baby rules to make sure you don’t get any surprises when you check in.
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! Check your policy to see what baby food on the plane is possible.
Hope you’re enjoying these tips for travelling with a toddler on a plane!
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
One of my other tips for traveling with a toddler who is crawling and walking is that 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 and traveling with a 1 year old was different. 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 travel with kids! 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. Another of my tips for flying with a toddler is to 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 traveling with 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.
Tips for Flying with Babies Summary
This list for travelling with baby on a plane 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 plane for the first time will help you. Traveling with a newborn can make new parents anxious and I hope this helps you get organised.
Don’t forget to grab my FREE baby essentials list, if you’re wondering what do kids need to fly – I have you covered! It’s here in my FREE Resource Library:
Whether you’re traveling internationally with a baby or long haul, I wish you well. Let me know if you have any tips for traveling with an infant?
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Disclosure: this post on my best tips for flying with babies and toddlers contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Great list. We’ve done the trip from Australia to Canada and are doing it again in 4 weeks. To add to the list… bring an extra set of clothes for yourself… feeding solids can be messy without the luxury of a high chair. Purée carrot on your lap is not a good look when you wait for your ride at the airport ????
That is a VERY good tip – it needs adding to the list! Good luck with your journey :) x
A year ago we flew with our (then) 18 month old on what ended up being an 18 hour flight.. I totally agree with everything on this list!
For toddlers, although they may not fit in the bassinet we found it beneficial to still try and get the bulk-head seats if you can. They have that little bit of extra leg room which makes juggling and entertaining a toddler just slightly easier!
The iPad was our life-saver, loaded with new games and movies!
I also wrapped up a whole heap of little toys – a combination of toys that were already hers and an assortment of super cheap “junk” toys (like the ones that go in party bags)… Any time she was starting to get restless I would pull one out for her to unwrap and then play with.
I was so nervous about the flight as my daughter is very energetic and I was just imagining doing laps of the plane for the entire flight, but I was super prepared and it actually ended up being a great flight, despite being on the plane an extra 4 hours thanks to bad weather when we went to land.
These tips are genius! I love the idea wrapping up toys to take – that would be a lifesaver at times I bet and keep them so happy and entertained :)
Hello! We are flying from Sydney to Europe in June with our then 5, 3 & 1 year olds…would you recommend a long layover (say, a couple of days) on our mid-way stop in Dubai in order to adjust the kids better to the different time zones and ease in more smoothly, or do you think just getting it over with in one shot is the best way to go? I have different friends who have flown with kids highly recommend both, so I don’t know which to do! Hanks! N
Personally I prefer to get it out of the way as quickly as possible because 1) the journey is done and 2) the kids (and you!) will get over any jet lag quicker at the other end. Although I have friends too who prefer to do it and adjust gradually. I always think there is no guarantee that any of you will get a decent sleep on the layover so it might be time ‘wasted’ – I hope that makes sense :)
We recently flew Australia to London with a walking 11 mth old and purposefully chose a 12 hour layover in dubai. We booked the hotel in the airport and would highly recommend this. We were met as we disembarked the plane, rushed through security and checked in quickly. We didnt sleep more than 2 hours but just having the chance to lay flat, walk around, all have a shower etc etc was priceless and we felt fully refreshed and ready.to go for the next leg of the journey.
If in doubt about how the flight would go I would recommend this just to give urself a chance to recover (if it has been terrible!) Or relax and prepare for.the next leg if all.went well.
That’s such a good tip – I have a few friends who do this and swear by it too :)
I am flying from Australia to Turkey next week solo with my 5 month son. Our trip over was a nightmare! He wouldn’t breastfed! He is going through the no breastfeeding in public stage! I had to express and try fed him with bottle, that was still challenging. Thankfully my husband was with me. This time I’m alone… Two flights, 7hr and 11hr! Wish me luck! Any tips on breastfeeding in public and on plane? I’m expressing some milk to take with me this time too but would prefer to breastfed as I’ll have to pump anyway.
Ah that must have been hard :( Have you tried using a nursing cover just so he isn’t distracted by other people around him? Although mine hated the cover and would fight it off! It might be worth a go. Good luck though! :)
Recently flew Melbourne to the UK with my 2 year 3 month old daughter. The saviour was taking an airline approved carseat (they have a yellow sticker) and having her lots of episodes of her favourite program downloaded onto an ipad. She was secure in her 5 point harness and could comfortably sleep.
Oh that’s brilliant and such good advice, thank you :)
this is very helpful for me cause I will be travelling with my bub on June.He will be 9 months on that time. I am very worried and scared cause I’ll be travelling alone. our departure time is early morning thenwe have stop over.I’ll be travelling for 10hours.Im just worried if bub will be able to take the long hours of travel.I’m really scared.
Ah I felt the same – although in my experience, the younger the baby, the easier it can be on them :)
It is indeed a very useful article. Writer didn’t kept any stone unturned and described everything in simple, lively language. It has enlightened us and will us making upcoming trips a meaningful and less stressful one. Thank you.
Great post thank you! I flew solo from Australia to the UK with my 12m old son. He wasn’t walking but was an enthusiastic crawler and was almost too big for the bassinet. First thing to mention although the bassinet can be a great plus if there is the slightest turbulence which results in the seat belt sign being turned on then you must remove your baby from the bassinet (sleeping or not) and strap them to you with the infant seatbelt. This is terrible if you have your little one finally settled and fast asleep as it of course wakes them up and even worse if you have to repeat it multiple times on a long flight.
I took 2 new books and a couple of soft toys but all my son wanted to do was crawl and it’s not allowed, I was told numerous times on different flights that due to the risk of injury due to turbulence babies cannot be sat or crawling on he floor even by your feet if you are in a front row (inconvenient but makes sense).
A big win was using a handful of the mini paper cups from the toilets these were used to stack up, knock down and finally rip to shreds and throw away!
Walking around with him was his favourite entertainment however beware little hands can reach all sorts of buttons and switches that are on the walls of the plane especially around the galley areas. My son almost stopped the movie for the whole plane which would have resulted in it having to be started from the beginning almost half way in (we wouldn’t have been too popular if I hadn’t have pulled his little hand away at the last second!).
Another win was a tip from a friend a plastic bag filled with a load of hankies ties together I bought them at random charity shops he loved pulling them out one by one and when done I simply shoved them back in and we started again. Men’s ties will do the same thing as will a box of cheap tissues that you can throw away when done.
The mini nappy bag as previously suggested is definitely required pop in a travel size hand sanitizer and deodorant for you as if your little one is a wriggler it can get pretty sweaty trying to change a poo explosion in such a small space!
I have found all airlines so far have allowed pre boiled water in bottles, baby formula in the tin and in typos ware, baby biscuits, raisins and snacks on board I just make sure any opened food is not then taken off the plane at our destination.
Finally these days almost all airlines offer noise cancelling headphones even in economy so there’s no need for grumpy passengers if they can’t stand the noise of your little one struggling then they have multiple TV or music channels or even meditation channels these days to listen to; your screaming Angel could just be mere background noise if they use them.
These are wonderful tips, thank you :) You’re completely right about how annoying it is to have to remove them in turbulence – as right as it is of course :) You’d just rather not disturb them when they’re finally settled!
We’ve flown qantas and the bassinet had a “seatbelt” (looked like cargo netting not over the top)so we didn’t have to take our sleeping baby out. I think it depends on the airline / type of plane
Ah yes I remember the same now. Wondered why I couldn’t remember ever having to remove bub on my uk trip. Qantas flight too.
super helpful…I am terrified of flying with my LO..this helps! thanks!
Thank you! I hope all goes ok when you do fly – if it helps, it’s never as bad as I psych myself up for! x
Such fabulous advice, I have never flown with a baby or a toddler, but if we had plans this post would help so much. Thanks for linking up to #TheList x
Thanks so much! We’ll be flying long haul with 2 babies at some point, I’ll have to re-read these tips myself then! :)
Ahhh! flying with kids – we’ve done quite a bit of it in Reuben’s lifetime and by far the worst was when he was 18months – he didn’t have his own seat yet and he absolutely hated being strapped in! Much easier once he had his own seat, the last flight at 2 years was a dream!
Great tips and thanks for linking up to #TheList and for you support in 2014!! Happy New Year xx
I can absolutely imagine – so much easier when they’re tinier and can’t really move! I’m not looking forward to our next long haul lol :) Thanks Hannah!
i havent flown my husband has though with our toddler, I had to drive back as I was 39 weeks pregnant at the time. He dad not realise about the stroller and was stuck at a airport with a 15 month old and no stroller! I think babies on a plane are easier than toddlers anyday lol
Thanks for joinin in with Sunday round up!
Oh wow just driving at 39 weeks would be tough though! Aww your husband must have had a lot of ‘fun’!! :)