Our first experience flying with a baby was a 7-hour flight from London to Abu Dhabi. Roman was just 9 months old at the time of his first flight. Although I had been on a ridiculous amount of planes myself, I had never flown with a child. I had so many questions about flying with him and read lots of guides in lead up to the flight.
Like me back then, you may have just booked your first family holiday abroad. You are now thinking about how you will possibly survive the plane journey. Whether it is a 2-hour flight or a 14-hour flight, we are sharing our top tips when flying with a baby. What to pack to make the journey easier and things you may not know airlines offer families.
As your baby grows into a toddler the goalposts change. For tips for toddlers check out our Flying with a toddler post here.
Pre-book your seats for free
Did you know that most major long haul airlines allow you to pre-book your seats for free when you are flying with a baby?
On all the long haul flights we have been on with Roman straight after making our booking, sometimes even during, we have been allowed to pre-book our seats. There is an icon that points out seats designed specifically for travellers with infants. They are always at the front of the sections. These seats have extra legroom and allow you to request a bassinet or bouncer.
You do not have to sit here, but if you are travelling on a long flight the bassinet can come in handy. The only downside to these seats is that the armrests don’t go up. If you are lucky enough to have an empty seat on a normal row, you can lift the armrest to create a bed. I would advise the row back if this is the case. The back has the kitchen space behind if you need to do some bouncing.
Infants don’t have meals included
However, most long haul airlines are very accommodating if you are polite to the crew. Be prepared with plenty of food, snacks and milk to last the flight. However, most long haul airlines also have a little area in the fridge full of spare infant formula, baby pouches (Ella’s kitchen etc.) and snacks that if you ask they will give to you. They will also store anything you need refrigerated for you; milk, food and any medicines.
Infant Extra Baggage Allowance
Check your airline’s policy first as each airline differs. But, you should normally be allowed 2 extra pieces of travel luggage, normally a pushchair, car seat or travel cot. We have always taken a travel stroller with us as extra baggage, you can choose to keep it until boarding the plane or check it in at check-in and use a carrier.
If you do want to take your stroller to the plane door (or you may have one that fits overhead so ignore this). Let them know at check-in, that they will stick a tag on it and you will hand it in outside the plane. If you have connecting flights you won’t generally see the stroller again until you claim your baggage at the final destination – The extra baggage also sometimes comes out at a different luggage belt to the normal suitcases. Check at the baggage claim when you arrive at the destination to avoid confusion.
Don’t stress about your baby crying
Especially if you are on a long haul flight. Most people have headphones on and can’t actually hear you. The first time Roman cried on a flight I was so flappy that I was actually making the situation worse. Your child’s cry is worst to you as it’s a trigger sound. If you are in seats in the infant section, most of the surrounding passengers are also families, you are all in the same boat so no one cares!
Pack a separate hand luggage bag
Pack a separate hand luggage bag just for the baby. Keep this bag stored underneath the seat in front of you if you are in a normal row. This allows you to easily grab the bag when needed without having to get up.
Things to pack in the bag –
- Spare sets of clothes – in case of accidents
- Nappies and wipes – grab and go
- Favourite comforter or blanket – for settling down
- A baby carrier – It saves your arms from going dead if sleeping on you
- Age-appropriate toys – Playdough, stickers, colouring etc.
- Food, snacks and milk – put things in the plane fridge if needed
- Emergency snacks – there is a time to be healthy and a time sweets are needed
- Tablet – I’m happy to use a tablet when needed, loaded with cocomelon
My top tip is don’t peak too early! But if you can see a red flag of boredom creeping up you will always have something new to keep them occupied. I just visit our local pound store and fill a basket up with at least 1 or 2 new toys for every hour.
Baby Changing Facilities
Before flying with a baby you probably never even noticed the onboard baby change. Those tiny toilets are actually a full-on baby changing facility with a pull-down changing table behind the toilets, all you need is your normal change bits. It’s very cramped but a life saviour.