Remember those carefree days when you were single with no infant in tow and you would board a flight – then you would see it.
A baby! Oh crap, you think, there goes my peaceful flight.
Time has passed – you’ve matured, grown up, and got your own baby…that you want to take on a flight. Now you’ve turned into one of those people who goes flying with baby and you’re worried.
How are you going to cope with flying with a baby?
My top tips for flying with baby
Step 1: Booking a flight with your infant
- Consider the pros and cons when deciding to fly with a full service verses low-cost carrier.
- If you choose a low-cost carrier remember to book everything before you travel including luggage allowance and food as you will pay extra at the airport.
- No matter which airline you travel remember to pre-book special meals, bassinets, and assistance required at the airport. It is too late to organise once you get there.
- Book all the family together. If your travel arrangements have been made separately contact the airline directly to inform them you are a group travelling together.
- If you have a young baby under 6 months request a bassinet.
- However there is no guarantee that you will receive the bassinet.
- Choose a flight time that best matches in with sleep/nap times.
- Note down all reference numbers.
- Consider whether to use a car seat for the flight. This must be pre-booked and you will have to purchase a seat for the car seat.
- If you are a sole parent travelling and/or have long distances to cover during transit request an assistance cart to help. This must be done prior to travel.
- Infant fares are generally 10% of a full adult airfare. This fare only entitles you to 1 or 2 pieces of baby luggage (pram/porta cot/car seat etc) check with the individual airlines website as to your exact allowances. This fare does not entitle you to a seat for your child nor does it guarantee that you will be given a bassinet. It might be worth the cost of purchasing a seat for the guarantee of more space and more luggage allowance.
Step 2: Getting to the airport with baby
Start by asking yourself a few questions.
- How are you getting to the airport; at home and at your destination?
- Own car,
- Car rental,
- Limo (often provide child restraints),
- Public transport,
- Airport shuttle bus,
- A lift from friends or family
Remember to consider how much luggage you have and the legality of child restraints.
- Consider the parking options available if you are getting a lift or using your own car.
- Short term parking if you are getting dropped off or picked up.
- Long term parking if you plan to leave your car at the airport for the duration of your trip.
- Think about how much luggage you also have to transport to the airport.
- Taxis usually run on gas and the gas tank uses up the boot space.
- A limo has more boot space and will arrive to collect you at the requested time – no waiting in line for a taxi.
- Your own car could be a good option, but look at the parking costs.
- Don’t forget to consider getting from the parked car to the airport. What options are provided at the airports you are using. Most airports now have their own websites. The websites will give you information on:
- Parking options,
- A fee calculator,
- Transfers available,
- Information on other services available.
- Remember each airport is different in what they provide.
Step 3: What to pack for hand luggage when flying with a baby
Before packing you hand carry bag for the baby check out the airport websites and what services they provide, also double-check the allowance for your airline. Then pack these essentials for your infant.
- Nappies, wipes (lots and for all ages), disposable change mats, nappy sacks, spare clothes (for all ages).
- Consider a lightweight stroller for your trip that can be stored in the cabin luggage. Check with the individual airline whether this permitted. If not a baby carrier (eg Ergo or Baby Bjorn) may offer a better way to get about and leave your hands free.
- Water, milk, formula, dummies, and snacks your baby likes.
- There is only limited space in the cabin crew areas so don’t expect cabin crew to keep bottles or food cold.
- Gifts that are wrapped
- These only need to be cheap small items eg. small cars, dolls, reading book. Don’t choose items with too many pieces or that are too noisy (remember other passengers).
- Gift wrapping adds to the fun and in very small children is another item to play with and keep them occupied.
- Get you E-tablet/iPad loaded up with your baby’s favourite TV shows – there’s nothing like Peppa Pig or In the Night Garden to diffuse a situation 😉
- If you are taking any medication for your baby (including teething relief) ensure you have under 100ml (3.3floz) bottles and all in a clear plastic zip lock bag.
- The comfort toy!!
- This is much-needed to help them sleep and offers comfort when they anxious.
- Be prepared for delays and take extras of everything.
Step 4: Check-in at the airport with a baby
Hopefully you or travel agent did all the right things with your flight booking and requests.
- Use the Internet check-in the night before if possible.
- This will allow for a better choice in seating.
- The bulkhead (which is where you will find the bassinets) is a popular choice as it allows young children to sit on the floor to play whilst not annoying those in front. However usually the armrests of these seats cannot be raised for your child to sleep across the seat. Sleeping on the floor of the aircraft is usually not allowed for safety reasons.
- Be aware that some airlines don’t allow you to check-in children online. This happened to me once and I only discovered after I had checked ourselves in and couldn’t check-in my son, but in saying that the airline had pre-allocated our seats and ensured we were all sitting together.
- Allow plenty of time at the airport.
- When passing through security declare all baby food and drinks. You should not have a problem with taking sterilised water or pureed baby food through.
- Keep your stroller until boarding if possible, if not ask if a loan stroller is available. Or have your baby carrier ready to go.
- When checking in your pram fold down or disconnect all the protruding parts (this reduces the chance of damage). Pack the pram into a large plastic bag (take large tough garbage bags or purchase a pram bag from a baby supply store) – the luggage hold can get quite dirty.
- Go to the bathroom and change nappies before boarding.
- If it is feeding time try to hold out until you are on-board for take off.
Step 5: Boarding the plane with baby
When you hear the pre-boarding call for your flight it is time to head to the boarding gate.
- If you have taken your stroller through to the departures lounge then this is the time to hand it over to staff so they can load it in the luggage hold. If possible before handing your pram over wrap it in your garbage bag with a luggage tag on the outside of the bag.
- If it’s a small umbrella style you may be able to take it on board, but don’t assume – double-check with staff as you don’t want it to miss the flight.
- Either take advantage of early boarding to get yourselves sorted before everyone else boards. Or else board last to reduce the amount of time on board. You know your baby best and will be the best judge of what to do.
- Before stowing your hand luggage ensure everyone has a book or activity, headphones, bottle/food, a dummy (pacifier) and the essential comfort toy are all in the seat pocket before take off. You can’t get these out of the overhead locker during your assent and sometimes the cabin crew start service as soon as the seat belt sign is switched off.
- Ask for pillows and blankets – don’t wait until later there may not be any left.
Step 6 During the flight with a baby
- Feed your baby during take off and landing. Descent starts approximately 30 minutes prior to arrival time.
- This can be milk, water, small snack.
- Or a dummy/pacifier.
- This helps the ears with popping. The reason many baby cry during the flight is because they are in pain from the change in air pressure.
- Remember cabin crew have an entire aircraft to look after, they will usually offer assistance once they have got the aircraft “fed, watered and comfortable”. Remember your baby is your responsibility! Don’t ask for assistance during take off, service or landing.
- Make sure everyone drinks plenty of water. Flying is dehydrating.
- Don’t rely on on-board activities and in-flight entertainment.
- Bring out the comfort toy as soon as your baby gets anxious or board.
- Try to stagger the introduction of your gifts of toys and books.
- or bring out the E-Tablet/iPad
- Try to explain to your child that his seat is his area, not anywhere else. Continue to gently remind your baby through out the flight, this will not only help to keep your baby contained but also encourage fellow passengers to be more sympathetic as they will be able to hear you are trying without shouting after the fact.
- If you are on a night flight, change your baby nappy and pop them into their pyjamas to encourage routine and sleep.
- Always use the toilets to change your baby’s nappy. Ask the flight attendant which one has a change table. NEVER change your baby at your seat – it is just disgusting for those around you.
- Be wary of the arm rests. If you put the arm rest up for more room ensure little fingers are out-of-the-way before putting it back down. Or if you are seated next to a stranger and the arm rest is up ask them to advise you they are putting it down due to safety for your baby.
- Also ask the person in front of you to advise when they are going to recline their seat so that they don’t hit your baby that is on your lap. Do not expect the person not to recline their seat – just to allow you time to prepare, all that you are concerned about is your baby’s safety.
- Once your baby nods off to sleep fill in all paperwork required for arrivals.
Step 7: Arriving at your destination with your baby
When your flight arrives there always seems to be much pushing and shoving to be the first to get off the flight. Try not to rush. Take your time and gather everything up whilst keeping your baby safe.
Once you get off the plane:
- Your pram may be waiting for you as you exit the aircraft or it may not – what you are told at check-in does not necessarily apply on arrival. You may very well not receive it until you collect all your luggage.
- Make use of your baby carrier to go through the arrivals lounge, duty-free and customs.
- Collect a luggage trolley before going to the luggage carousels.
- You probably will find that even if you were last off the plane the luggage has only just started to be unloaded.
- If you checked in any baby gear (pram/porta cot/car seat etc) these items will most likely be available from the oversized luggage collection area.
- As you pass through quarantine declare any foods necessary.
And you’ve arrived!
Ahh, flying with a baby wasn’t that bad, was it? Now off you go and enjoy that family holiday.
Do you have any tips for flying with baby?
Please share them in the comments.
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