Your first flight with a baby or toddler may seem daunting but if you prepare well it shouldn't be a problem. See below for Kinder Travel Guide's Top tips on preparing for a flight with a baby or toddler.
1. Check the Airline’s Minimum Age Guidelines
Every airline has its own minimum age for flying and this ranges from two days to 14 days old. For premature babies this is usually counted from their due date and not the day they were born. Some airlines may also insist that new-borns and their mothers have a doctor’s note to say they are fit to fly before allowing them to board. Check the guidelines for your airline here or if in doubt give them a call as each airline has specific rules.
2. Make a Booking
Generally children under 2 fly free of charge. This assumes that the baby will travel on your lap. Babies are required to have a ticket and airlines usually charge a small booking fee.
3. Decide Whether Or Not To Purchase A Seat For Your Child
You can purchase a full ticket for your baby or toddler and have them sit in a car seat next to you which would is a great option for keeping your hands free. This is expensive however and if you are travelling with your child’s car seat and there happens to be a free seat next to you, ask your airline representative if you can take the seat on-board to use it in flight.
4. Check With Your Airline If There Are Bassinets For Babies Available On-board
These are usually available on long haul flights where a small crib is attached to the bulkhead, at the front of the cabin. Generally, bassinets are suitable for babies aged 10 months or younger and weigh less than 10 kilos. Airlines can make exceptions for older babies that do not weigh a lot. The great thing about bassinets is that you can keep your hands free while your child gets some rest and the leg room in these seats tends to be excellent.
5. Try To Schedule Your Flight For When Your Baby Sleeps
Flying with a sleeping baby is so much easier than flying with a baby who wants to bounce, walk, crawl, sing, chat, and play for the entire flight. Try to book flights leaving around bedtime or, if it’s a short flight, around naptime, and hope they will get some sleep.
6. Decide On Where You Will Sit
This may depend on the length of flight and age of your baby. Window seats can allow a little more privacy if you are breastfeeding. If you are travelling with a husband/wife/partner/friend you could book an aisle seat for one or both of you, especially for those with more mobile babies. This option also makes getting out to use the changing facilities easier. Another idea for a longer flight is for couples to not sit together; instead, get two aisle seats far apart on the plane and agree to swap the baby minding every hour. Each person gets breaks to sleep/read/eat/watch TV and you are not on co-baby-minding duty for the entire flight. It’s also great and refreshing for the baby to see you each time you switch and can make the flight more interesting for them.
7. Confirm Your Airline’s Policies
For luggage allowances – check how many additional baby items (car seat, travel cot etc) you can bring and if there is a luggage allowance for the baby. Generally speaking unless you have booked a specific seat for the baby the airlines will not offer a luggage allowance, although a changing bag is normally permitted. If you have booked a seat and are planning on using a car seat check that it will fit into the airlines seats. Click here
for more information on airline policies.
8. Get Your Baby a Passport Well in Advance
Children are generally no longer included on their parents’ passports. This is intended to make international travel more secure for children and reduce the risk of kidnapping and child trafficking. Be aware that getting a passport can take a few weeks (especially during peak times), so it is best to book your flights well in advance or to wait until you have the passport. For information on applying for an Irish Passport see https://www.dfa.ie/passports-citizenship/how-to-apply-for-a-passport/
and for a UK Passport see https://www.gov.uk/get-a-child-passport
9. Pack Strategically
Imagine yourself at the airport and going through security. Can you manage it all? Pack your carry-on with a change of clothes for the baby and for you and more nappies than you think you’ll need. Put a small bag within the bag that can stay at your feet with those things you think you might be accessing often: blanket, distractions, snacks or bottles. Wear a backpack Your hands will be free in the airport and it will be easier to access during the flight. Fill it with all the snacks, toys and changing items that you want to have on hand, so you won’t end up rooting through your suitcase for a pack of raisins. If your child is old enough, consider letting him or her carry a mini backpack of their own.
10. Dress Strategically
Both you and the baby. For the baby dress them in a babygro or clothing which is easy to put on/take off. Going through security you will have to take off any coats, belts, boots so wear clothing and shoes that are easy to remove, comfortable for using the bathroom with one hand and breastfeeding if necessary.
11. For Long Haul Flights Have a Sleep Routine in Place That Both You and Your Partner Know
The more you both in sync about what happens next, what to try when the baby seems overtired, etc., the better. Also getting the baby to sleep in an unfamiliar setting is easier if you can pull out familiar sleep associations–like songs or a book.
12. Stock Up on Distractions (For an Older Baby or Toddler)
Depending on his/her age, this might mean small toys to unwrap one by one, a tablet/computer with videos loaded, board books, crayons, stickers, finger foods, etc. If you’re planning on watching videos, bring child-appropriate headphones and an audio cable splitter so you can listen along. Bring a bottle, soother or other snack for take off just in case your little one’s ears pop.
13. Read Books About Travel or Airports
During the days leading up to your holiday read books and talk about what to expect, for example Airport Usbourne Sticker Book by Felicity Brooks, Going on a Plane by Anne Civardi, Airplane Flight by Susanna Hill.
See Flying with a Baby
for more information on getting through the airport, airport security and distractions for the flight.