Flying With a Baby, or Toddler - What to Expect

Planning Your Trip

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.

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.

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.

Check with your airline if there are bassinets for babies available

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.

Baby bassinetTry and schedule your flight for when the 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.

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.

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.

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 for a UK Passport see

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.

Dress strategically

Dressing Strategically is important for both you and the baby. For the baby dress them in a baby grow 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.

For long haul flight 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.

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.

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 Usborne Sticker Book by Felicity Brooks, Going on a Plane by Anne Ciardi, Airplane Flight by Susanna Hill.

Getting Through the Airport


Be Prepared for your hands to be full when travelling with children so before you start out on your journey, make sure you carry all your travel documents in one easily reached place and ensure that your hand baggage meets security requirements before you leave home and work out whether you need to carry strollers to the aircraft or pack them in your checked-in baggage. Remember to keep everything that your baby needs on the flight in your carry-on luggage, ensuring that it is always to hand.

Allow Time

You may be familiar with the airport that you are travelling through but it will take you longer to get around the airport if you are travelling with children, so leave plenty of time to allow for this.

Getting Through Security

All carry-on baggage, including children’s bags and child-related equipment that will fit through the x-ray machine must go through the x-ray machine i.e. prams, buggies, baby carriers, car and booster seats etc. Follow the following tips to get through security as easily as possible:

  • When you arrive at the screening point, collapse or fold your pram or stroller and place it on the x-ray belt for inspection.
  • Items that are in the pockets, baskets, or trays attached to the prams/buggy must be removed and placed on the x-ray belt separately for inspection.
  • If any of your child-related equipment does not fit through the x-ray machine, security officers will visually and physically inspect it.
  • Medications, baby formula, milk and are allowed if essential for use during the trip.
  • If your child cannot walk yet, you will carry your child through the metal detector and security staff may wish to inspect both you and your baby with a wand or carry out  a physical inspection. Please note that metal detectors are considered safe for babies however, if you would be more comfortable with a physical inspection, let the security staff know.
  • If your child can walk without your assistance, you and your child can walk through the metal detector separately

    Baby Changing and Family Friendly Facilities 

Most airports will now have baby changing facilities located throughout the terminal(s). Some airports even have will have children’s play areas. There are usually plenty of baby and toddler friendly cafes and restaurants also which offer kids meals and high chairs. Many airports in the UK and Ireland now have Boots Chemists in the departures area, after security. Some of these offer a click and collect service so that you can purchase holiday essentials online such as nappies, premade formula and then collect them from Boots once you have passed through check in and security. This will make maneuvering through airport security easier.

Boarding the Plane

If you are flying with another adult delay boarding for as long as you can If you are flying with another adult, allow them to go ahead with other pre-boarding families set up your overhead space and put what you need at your feet. If you are using a car-seat get it set up. One of you waits with baby/child at the gate. The flight attendants will generally see you and double-check: “would you like to board?” Don’t be tempted! Stay off until the last possible minute–just be sure to stay close to the gate. Even once you’re in the gangway, bounce, walk around or play until they really need you to board. There’s no reason to spend any more time entertaining the baby in your tiny little row, or trying to keep him asleep, than necessary.

Introduce yourself and your baby to the flight attendant especially if you’re traveling alone. They may be a useful spare set of hands or can hold your baby while you go to the toilet, eat some food etc.

Double check that you have everything you need for the baby at your feet in case inflight turbulence  prevents you from opening overhead lockers.

Get set up If you are using a car seat, tuck a blanket underneath the seat and connect it to the pocket of the seat in front. This can save you from continuously fishing for every toy that gets thrown overboard.

Feed during take-off and landing Babies don’t know how to pop their ears, so it’s helpful to offer a bottle/breast/soother when the plane takes off and just as the plane begins to descend (which is when you’ll notice your own ears popping), to help ease the ear pressure. If you are breastfeeding don’t start too early: planes can taxi for what feels like an eternity. For older kids use lollipops or jellies, natural ones if you want to avoid sugar.

Getting your baby to sleep Your baby will have to be on your lap and attached to your belt using the infant loop belt during takeoff and landing. The  SkyBaby mattress works with the infant loop belt and allows your baby to lie across your knee with wrap around ‘wings’ to keep them snug. It rolls up pretty neatly and so easy to bring with you. If your baby is used to sleeping in a sling you should also consider wearing one for the flight. It will keep your hands free and allow the baby to sleep in a familiar position.

Distractions During the Flight

Surprise your child with a new book, especially one with lots of colours and or new objects to look at or more interactive books which involve the reader lifting flaps etc. eg. Richard Scarry or for older children activity cards.

Stickers can keep a toddler entertained for ages. Take along a couple of sticker books and let them stick to their hearts content. Another idea is to take a roll of washi tape. It is compact, lightweight and one roll provides entertainment for a long time.

Wrap up cheap toys individually, or even some of their own toys and let them unwrap them one by one.

Scroll through family photos on your phone Babies typically love looking at personal photos or videos of themselves. Talk about all of them with your baby but also talk about what you will be doing on your holiday.

Ask the flight attendants for a plastic cup with ice and straws This can be very entertaining for toddlers.

Snacks Bring a box of raisins or the end of crusty baguette or a lollipop or any snack that is both easy from baby/child to hold themselves and also takes a long time to eat

Bring a toy car or plane with doors that open They will be entertained finding the doors, opening and closing them and flying/driving them around.

Play favorite videos on your laptop, or apps on a tablet if you have one. If you’re planning on watching videos, bring child-appropriate headphones and a splitter so you can listen along.

Chat with other passengers You might be surprised by how friendly most people are on planes. Go on an “adventure” down the aisle and find chatty passengers – typically grandparents –  to have conversations with.

Drawing, felt boards and Etch a Sketch The best crayons are ones that won’t roll away or in shapes (Crayola have triangular crayons) paper, stick on placemats or colouring books. Felt boards or a  mini etch a sketch can go a long way in keeping a toddler entertained.

For further information on airline policies click here.