The top tips for flying with a baby.

In Rome with my son aged 3 months.

In Rome with my son aged 3 months.

When I became a mum it didn’t occur to me to stop traveling.  We took our eldest son on his first plane journey when he was aged 7 weeks to meet my beloved grandmother.  We journeyed off on a round the world trip when he was aged 3 months.   Trial and error during our travels has taught us many lessons about flying with a baby.  Here are the best lessons I have learnt on our journeys that I hope will help you with your own plane trips.

(1)  Don’t scrimp.

While we all travel within our financial limitations if you are able to afford it, you are better to prioritise flying to accommodate your baby’s needs.   This means purchasing direct flights on preference over cheaper interrupted ones.  It also means flying at times which allow to you adhere loosely to your child’s normal routine, and using airlines which offer more for travelling families.  A bad plane journey can result in a baby that is over-tired for days making it difficult to function well at your destination.  Avoiding this situation is a good reason for spending a few extra dollars if need be.

If you are a frequent flier, flying with your preferred or partner airlines means that if there is a delay or cancellation you are more like to have your needs catered to.  You may also receive priority check in.

(2)  Beware budget airlines. 

This is not the same as (1), as sometimes budget airlines may offer you the most convenient flying time.  Although the price may be tempting there is the potential for some serious travel stress when flying budget with a baby.  Budget airlines often recoup their money by charging for extras.  This means paying more for child friendly locations in the plane, paying extra to check your stroller and paying more for food.  One friend was slugged a fee of $200 just to check in their portable cot by a budget airline.  If flying with a budget airline you are also more likely to be subjected to flight changes or delays.  If you have a layover they may also require you to collect and then recheck your luggage.  There are also reports from families that budget airlines are more likely to run out of food or entertainment units than standard carriers.

(3)  Arrive at the airport early

When flying with a baby apply the 40 minute rule.  Work out what time you would want to arrive at the airport if you were travelling without children, and then add 40 minutes.  This should give you enough time to manage overflowing nappies, tantrums, clothes changes and any other barrier your baby might manifest as a barrier to you making your flight.

(4)  Purchase, or request an additional seat for older babies.

There are instances when it makes sense to purchase a seat for your under 2 even if you will not be using the recommended child restraint.  Women who are pregnant and into their second or third trimesters will find travelling with a lap child difficult if not impossible.  A seat for your child allows you to limit lap time to take-off, landing and turbulence.   Even if you do not pay for an extra seat you should always request one when you check in if travelling with a lap child.  Requests such as this are often granted if there is room on the plane.

(5)  Request an in-flight bassinet

Many aircraft have a few seats with bassinets in front of them which can be deployed after take off.   Even if your baby does not sleep they may be happy enough to lie in it allowing you to have your in flight meal.  They also give you the opportunity to have your hands free to deal with another child.  Make sure you request the bassinet at booking, and remind the ground staff about your request when you check in.

(6) Take on board your own baby food

Some airlines provide baby and toddler food if it is pre-booked, however you should not count on this being available.  Always be prepared with your own food just in case the age appropriate food is either not provided on your flight, or refused by your baby.

(7) Ask for help

Fellow travelers and in-flight staff usually welcome the opportunity to offer parents flying with a baby a hand.  Ask them if they are happy to hold your baby while you tie your toddler’s shoe laces, wipe up the vomit, or retrieve a run-away toy, whatever the case may be.

(8) Eat before you board.

Feeding yourself if carrying a lap child is no easy feat.  Eat before you board the flight and carry snacks for yourself so that you don’t go hungry.

(9) Pre-seating

There is power in numbers and the last thing you want when flying with a baby or small child is to be separated from your adult flying companion.  Preference airlines which guarantee pre-seating for families to ensure that you are not separated on the flight.

(10) Avoid pre-boarding

Most airlines offer families travelling with small children the opportunity to pre-board prior to other passengers.  I think this actually causes more trouble than it prevents.  Yes you will certainly have plenty of luggage space available but you also increase the time (maybe by half an hour) your baby must be contained in a small space.  We do the opposite – waiting till everyone is on board and boarding last.

(11)  Use an infant carrier or sling.  

A carrier or sling offers you the benefit of having your hands free and may comfort your baby to sleep.  Be aware that some airlines have policies restricting use of infant carriers to boarding and disembarkation of the plane.

(12)  Organize stop-overs on long haul flights.

Hong Kong, Hawaii, Singapore and Bangkok are favourite destinations for stop-overs and present you with the opportunity explore a new destination together.  Spending a night or two at a midway location has the added bonus of helping you all ease into 1 new time zone.

(13)  Try to continue your child’s routine

If taking a long haul flight try to encourage your child to settle and sleep by continuing their regular bedtime routine.  Take along a couple of story books and their pajamas to set the mood for sleep.


Have I missed any important tips?  Please suggest extra ones by leaving a comment.

Join us on Facebook to keep informed of other family travel tips as well as family friendly destinations and attractions.

You may also be interested in reading this advice for breastfeeding while you travel and handling jet lag with small children.

This post is linked to Travel Tips Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walking On Travels.


© Copyright 2013 Danielle, All rights Reserved. Written For: Bubs on the Move

6 thoughts on “The top tips for flying with a baby.

  1. Agree with everything you have said there Dani, one extra thing to consider though, is when you have a child who is old enough to use the inflight entertainment, buy them a set of headphones that fit their smaller heads before you fly. Then buy the little jac that you need to plug the headphones into the seat. These can be found at most electronics and audio shops, or failing that, in most large airport terminals that stock travellers things.
    Most complimentary headsets are only designed for big people and will continually fall off the heads of preschoolers. This causes frustration which leads to… well I don’t need to spell that one out.

    Oh, and a little tip, the kicking the back of the seat in front problem. I tend to think it is a function of little legs feeling uncomfortable in a chair that does not adequately support their smaller stature. Their little legs cannot hang down like our longer ones, because their little thigh bones are not long enough yet. To fix the problem, place a cushion or two behind their back to effectively make the seat of the chair shorter. This, coupled with a short explanation that it is bad manners to kick the seat in front will hopefully help, at least a little.

    • Awesome suggestions Sam. I hadn’t thought of either of these. Are you happy for me to use them in their own “Quick Tip” posts with acknowledgement going to you for suggesting them? Love Dani

  2. Great suggestions Dani. We are thinking of visiting Australia sometime soon but we’re nervous about such a long flight with a young baby. So all the advice we can get is very helpful. Thanks!

    • Hi Joy,
      It is going to be such a long flight from Switzerland, I think the most important thing is that you break the journey up in to manageable blocks.

  3. We also bring a “new” toy for them to play with. Usually this is a toy we took away a couple of months before the trip, so we are not buying a new toy each trip and the kids are still excited to see it.

    Also remember if you bring your car seat on, it must be in the window seat so as not to block anyone. If it is a large plane with two aisles, then car seats can go in the middle of the middle section as well.

    • That is a really good suggstion RE the car seat Jessica. I have never used a car seat on a plane as I haven’t seen it done and am not confident it is possible. Have you used them yourself.?

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