The prospect of taking a baby on a plane for the first time can be terrifying but if you’re well prepared, travelling with an infant can be a great time to travel.
There’s a lot to consider, not least the worry that your little one will start screaming blue murder as soon as you take off.
In this guide, we will share our top tips together with family travel expert, Tots founder and mum of 3, Wendy Shand to clue you up on everything you need to know for a successful and much less stressful flight with a baby.
How Soon Can I Fly with a Baby?
Can I fly whilst pregnant?
As a general rule, always discuss travelling by air when pregnant with your midwife or GP before making any decisions. If you feel well and have discussed it with your GP there’s no reason why you can’t travel. Ensure you are covered by your travel insurance company so you know you are protected should you need to be. Here are the most important things you need to know from the NHS:
- Most women prefer not to travel within the first 15 weeks of pregnancy because of the level of nausea and exhaustion during these early stages
- Most airlines allow travel up to 36 weeks or 32 weeks if you are pregnant with twins or ‘tuplets
- However, after the 28th week of your pregnancy you will need a medical letter from your midwife or GP to present to the airline that deems you safe to travel (there may be a cost involved with this)
- You may also be asked to produce a doctors letter to prove you are under 28 weeks pregnant (check with your airline).
Always check with your airline before you book, as each company has varying restrictions – View airline policies
What is the safest baby age to travel?
There are no standard regulations about the minimum age a baby can fly although age restrictions do vary between airlines. It ranges from a minimum of 2 days old to 2 weeks old.
If you’ve had a Caesarean section you may not be allowed to fly until getting the all clear from a GP at the six week postnatal check-up. In any event, always check with your GP and airline before you travel.
What do doctors say?
Some doctors will encourage you to wait until baby is at least six weeks old – babies are still developing their immune systems before this time and need time to adjust to their new surroundings, so it can be unwise to fly.
The best age to travel with a young baby is between 3-9 months. This is a sweet spot before they start to crawl and get heavier! By this point your baby will have also developed a more stable sleep cycle and stronger immune system.
If your baby does fall ill just as you’re due to travel you should always consult your GP who will be able to advise you on the best course of action. Worst case scenario is they recommend that you postpone your flight until your baby is well enough to travel with you.
You should also seek medical advice if you’re planning to embark on a long-haul flight with a baby under three months old. It’s important to keep babies well hydrated when flying for particularly long periods of time.
Don’t forget about yourself
Another factor to consider is whether YOU are ready to fly with your infant. Air travel with a baby does require a lot of organisation, effort and focus, so make sure you’re feeling up to the task! Give yourself time to rest and adjust to having this new special little person in your life.
What Documents do I Need When Travelling With a Baby?
What documentation does baby need?
Just like you, babies of all ages will need their own passport. This means getting a perfect picture of baby which can be a challenge – to say the least! Luckily, we’ve put together a guide to help you take a perfect baby passport photo.
Be sure to apply for baby’s passport well in advance of your holiday, especially in peak season when demand for passports can be high.
If you’re travelling to a visa destination, remember that your baby will need the relevant visa too.
- Airline tickets
- Accommodation details
- Car hire docs
- European Health Insurance card
- Family contacts/important contacts
- ID & money cards
- Travel cheques/currency
- Medication prescriptions
Airline Seats & Booking
Where do infants sit on a plane?
There are two methods of travel for infants under 2 years old:
Method 1: Infant fare
Infant fare is a charge that all airlines have available as standard for infants under 2. It allows for one baby to sit on your lap during a flight rather than take up a seat. You will be provided an infant belt like this one that attaches to your own belt for take-off and landing. There are often discounts for domestic flights and price differences for long haul flights for infant fare.
Method 2: Booking an adult seat
Booking an airplane seat for your baby as if they were an adult is the second option. This provides you with full adult baggage allowance which is very useful and of course an easier experience if you are carrying your baby in a travel seat.
Can I travel on my own with a baby?
Some airlines will not allow you to travel alone if you have two or more babies under six months of age so, if you have newborn twins and intend on travelling solo, you must check you are able to do so in advance. If you are able to travel alone, read our top tips for flying alone with children.
How to book seats
Some airlines will allow you to reserve seats in advance. Other airlines will only allow you to reserve seats when you check in so, as soon as you are able to do so, reserve online immediately so you can bag the best options for your family.
Make your airline aware that you’re travelling with a newborn
If you haven’t booked a ticket for your baby and are going to travel with him/her on your lap it is worth asking whether the seat next to you can be left free if the flight isn’t full – airlines are often happy to do this. If you are unable to get a suitable seat, it is worth asking again when you get to the airport, just in case there has been a cancellation.
Booking seats before baby is born
If you’re booking your flight before your little one is born, you may not be able to arrange a ticket in advance when booking online, so you will need to call the airline to do this. You may also need to arrange other details nearer the time, once you have more information.
The best seats for air travel with a baby
Aim to choose an aisle seat near the front of the plane or if the aircraft has a bulkhead seat (usually long haul) try and book one if possible. A bulkhead (B) seat is a row without any seats in front. This will allow you to have plenty of space and will give you the mobility to get up and walk around if you need to, plus you can board and leave the plane much easier. You won’t be able to book the seats next to the emergency exit when you travel with an infant.
Some parents do prefer to sit near the bathrooms at the back, but noise levels can be higher towards the rear of the plane, this might be useful depending on how your baby responds to noise, take this into consideration.
If there are two of you travelling with a baby and you are booking an extra seat (not infant fare), try and book:
- One seat by the window
- One seat central for baby in a travel seat
- One seat by the aisle
- Give you freedom for both adults to assist with baby duties and take the load off each other if you seat baby in the middle
- Allow you to control the light through the window
- Give you more privacy for breastfeeding
- Give you easier access to the aisle and overhead storage for more baby things
- (perhaps above all) It will give you plenty of space!
Long haul vs short haul
On short haul flights, you can usually carry your baby on your lap as standard. Staff will show you how to fit an extension seat belt, to keep you both safe. For long haul flights however, you can book a bassinet space, with a small cot/baby seat. These are only suitable for babies who aren’t yet mobile, but it does depend on the weight of your baby – usually babies can use these until they are about 9/10 months old.
If you require one of these, inform your airline as soon as possible as they are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Some airlines do offer child seats but as these are subject to availability you may wish to bring your own providing it meets FAA requirements. You can attach this using a lap belt – the cabin crew will be able to assist you if required.
What to Expect From Airlines When Travelling With a Baby
Generally, you are permitted one piece of hand luggage and one piece of hold luggage. With some airlines, infant fare (travelling with baby on your lap) will permit additional luggage allowance shown above.
If, however your baby has their own ticket and seat, they will have a standard adult passenger luggage allowance which you can use for lots of equipment.
You will be permitted to take a pushchair or travel system all the way through the airport to the plane door but do be sure to get a luggage tag for it at check in if it is large.
Larger pushchairs/travel systems will be put in the hold but sometimes if there is space it can be kept in the cabin if it is foldable and light weight so you can pick it up from the tarmac as soon as you disembark.
What can I take on a plane for my baby?
There are restrictions for baby equipment for example, you will not be permitted to have more than 100ml of liquids such as baby cream or lotion. If you do take some, it needs to be placed in a clear bag to carry through security with all other liquids you may have and must not be more than 100ml. However, there are no restrictions for baby food and milk. You may be asked to taste the liquid as you go through security.
Note: Most airlines will place pushchairs in the hold rather than in hand luggage (depending on how big they are), here’s a list to help:
Baby luggage restrictions
Most airlines keep a secret stash of emergency nappies and baby food on flights which may come in handy should you need them!
Airport security with a baby
All passengers must pass through security, including babies of all ages. However, you will be with your little one at all times, so don’t worry about being separated.
All your carry-on baggage must go through the X-ray machine, including pushchairs (which must be collapsed) and any other big luggage you have with you. This means you will need to take your baby out of their pushchair, even if they are asleep.
You may also be required to remove shoes, coats, hats and belts, and you may be asked to taste any baby’s milk or food you’re taking with you. This does take time, so make sure you leave enough to get through all of these procedures.
Express/family lanes through security
Express lanes are almost always available through airport security. They are designed to enable passengers to pass through security far quicker which gives you much more time in the departures area to do all the things you need to do. You can usually pre book online and the cost ranges anywhere between £3-£13 per person and is definately worth considering.
Airport facilities for babies
Most UK airports have a Boots in the departure lounge that sell everything you’d need for the journey from baby wipes, nappies, Calpol, ready mixed formula or baby food so you can buy this once you’ve been through security. This means you don’t have to battle through security with absolutely everything for your journey. It also gives you the chance to re-stock if you think you need extra supplies.
At some airport Boots, it’s possible to pre-order baby essentials (and any other holiday essentials) so you can simply collect your order once you’re through security. This is good to know if you’re worrying about how much to take with you.
Airline facilities for babies
It can be tricky to change and feed your baby on board a flight. Most airlines do provide changing tables in the toilets, although it can be a tight squeeze so try not to bring a massive changing bag.
Many airlines will be able to heat bottles and baby food, but don’t take this as a given. If you anticipate it being a problem, contact your airline in advance and see if they can provide you with some assistance.
What essentials should I pack for air travel with an infant?
- Backpack/Rusksack rather than changing bag
- Wet wipes
- Anti-bacterial wipes
- Sterilised dummies
- Toys from home & maybe a new one
- Spare change of clothes for you & baby
- Baby spoon & bibs
- Baby sheets/blankets from home
- Nappy sacks
- Wash bag
- Enough food for the journey
- Milk formula
- Sleep suits
- Cooler clothing for baby
- Warm clothes for baby (night time)
- Basic first aid kit
- Baby rash creams
- Baby wash
- Plug adapters
Important Questions to Ask Your Airline Before you Fly
Every airline policy is different with different rules, regulations and pre-boarding information. Check our infant fare graphic above and then to be doubly sure that you are comfortable with your journey, we recommend asking these questions:
- Is there a seat discount for an infant under 2? (This is a question to ask if you do not want your baby on your lap for the journey)
- Do you need proof of my child’s age or identity? If so what do you need?
- Do you allow pre-boarding for families with small children? Will there be an announcement?
- Does a car seat count as a carry on or is it additional?
- What is the maximum weight of a pushchair I can bring aboard?
- Are there baby changing facilities on the aircraft (some short haul flights actually don’t).
- Do you have facilities to warm a bottle onboard?
- Can my significant other get security clearance to help me to the departure gate if I need it?
- Do you offer any family assistance with getting through terminals to make connecting flights?
- Do all of the rows have extra oxygen masks? (Not a nice question but it will give you peace of mind – If you are travelling with an infant on your lap without their own seat ensure there is a mask)
- Are there any spare seats/cancellations on the flight? (If you have only paid infant fare to have your baby on your lap, there may be a spare seat that you can use)
- Is it possible to have a bulkhead row seat? (Bulkhead seats have a lot more room to standup and move around)
Over to you, we’d love to hear your experiences flying with an infant, comment below!