The ultimate guide to flying with a baby
You google, you google and you google more and this trip somehow just seems more daunting the more you search for information! For our trip to Canada from Cyprus, I had lots of questions as a new mamma of a then 4 month old baby. So this is all my information for you! If you want to read all about our journeys you can do but this is as simple as I can get it. Its all the things I think might help you travel with a baby up until about 8 months old.
It can be a little daunting – just the idea of a baby on a flight, with lots of people and what if they scream or cry or throw up or explode all over the nice travelling clothes. Well… I can tell you it isn’t too bad and even if it isn’t the best experience, it is an adventure or a story to look back on.
Booking Flights with lap infants
Picking airlines to fly with young babies
Ultimately you will want the airline that works best for your route and the time you want to fly but some things to check:
- Price for flying with babies – there is usually a fee involved even if a baby is flying on your lap, but it could range from 0,10 euros up to full child/adult price even if they are sitting on your lap.
- Can you book a seat for a baby – not always! On our first flight, we had booked a seat for Jacob on the phone with BlueAir – later on they told us this wasn’t a service they offered and had made a mistake. Airlines like WestJet (for Canada flights) and easyJet (for Cyprus to UK flights) were amazing!!
- what is included in your allowance with the airline? Some airlines will let you check a car seat and pram free of charge for infants like easyJet. Other airlines may only allow you to check one item (like BlueAir gave us a suitcase or a pram or a car seat) and some may allow you an extra nappy/diaper bag as well as your hand luggage allowance. Both WestJet and Easyjet were great airlines for flying with babies.
- Where do we get our flight deals? We use Jacks flight club for finding amazing deals from UK airports and have snagged some amazing savings with him. Its an email signup and free (there is a premium but the free version is also great) and well worth keeping an eye on and our main flight search go to is Skyscanner
The best time to fly with a baby
Here is the thing. We did a variety of flights at different times of the day and a lot of research had told us to fly around the babies schedule and night time was a good time to fly as the baby will sleep. This might be true for younger babies but I can honestly say I hated our night flight the most with Jacob at 4 / 5 months old. (I could imagine this advice working for a slightly older child). We were all super tired, our 8 hour flight ended up taking 13 hours, it was hot, Jacob was overtired, grumpy and kept getting woken up by small things going on so actually none of us slept at all. When we finally got back he didn’t care we hadn’t slept the entire flight as it’s then his day time so we then had no sleep ourselves and an overtired baby to contend with!! The other thing with night flights is they are dark and quieter than day flights so other people are also tired and trying to sleep and will be much less tolerant with a baby crying.
On the other hand I loved the day flights. Early morning, lunch time and even early evening were fine. We were all fresh and ready to go so we were much calmer and much more patient with ourselves and in turn Jacob. He also napped during the flight which is a more realistic goal than sleeping throughout. It was all in all just much more enjoyable on day flights and there were lots of things for him to look at. So plan around your baby but I haven’t heard anyone with toddlers or younger babies say they have enjoyed it recently.
Surviving the airport
with an infant
How early should I get to the airport?
You know airlines say get there 2 hours before, get there 3 hours before! Ever noticed how everything just takes so much longer with an infant – well travelling is no exception. Prams/car seats need to be dropped off at oversize/special luggage which takes more time in itself. Even if you are taking your pram to the plane, you still have to get through screening and that takes time for them to check the pram and the baby and you. You will also need extra time if they have to check the food/liquids for the baby. By the time you have done that and changed a nappy, fed the baby you will be at the gate fighting with the wheels of the pram trying to get it to all fit in your specialized pram bag. 😉 Oh and that pram bag is invaluable. Baby has a special blanket but you’re all out of baggage space / weight? Stuff it in with your pram! We never had anyone look twice at how much baby stuff we had in out pram. It’s a pain at security but worth it compared to going on an extended trip without the bits that make you and your little one’s life that little bit easier.
To buy a stroller/car seat bag or not
Did I not make that clear? YES!!! do it!!! haha. You need something to put it in, even if it is just a thin protection bag. I used a fleece blanket and a thinner layer pram bag for one of the flights, it worked fine for the car seats and the pram and using blankets to pad them out meant they were a bit more protected. On the next trip we did, I bought a proper padded car seat bag as car seats are expensive for one, second, you don’t want them exposed to rain /snow/dirt or being damaged. I guess alternatively, you could get them wrapped at the airport possibly as an alternative. The thinner ones survived but just about… the padded bag has survived a few flights and is doing great, I am happy with that one. Don’t forget you can also shove in a few bits (i added some jackets/blankets for extra padding.
Taking a stroller/pram through security
If you are not taking the stroller/car seat through security to the plane then most of the airports/airlines told us once we had them tagged up at luggage drop-off to take them at excess / oversize baggage. Make sure you have your name and phone number on the pram as well as the luggage bag just in case it gets lost.
You will often pick them up from oversize luggage at the other end. At Larnaca airport the oversize luggage is usually as you come down the steps after passport control to the right and there is a door quite close to the end, I have always found it to be a pile there when we have picked up oversize luggage /prams/car seat or even our dog sausage.
If you are taking the pram to the plane (check with your airline) you will more often than not just drop it off before you get on the plane. Just ask when you are boarding where you will leave it. Most airlines we found had an area just as you got off the plane where the prams would be left for you to pick up after you get off the plane but some airports definitely dropped them at oversize baggage with the other items.
When you are going through security we found some airports asked for the pram to go on the conveyor belt (we were not asked to remove the wheels) but I have seen it in the past so maybe just take a quick look at how your wheels come off. At Gatwick airport, we just had to take Jacob out and they did a search on his pram and then handed it back once we were cleared through the sensors.
If I travelled again, I would definitely aim to take the pram to the gate, it’s more fun for the baby, its easier on your back and arms and you have your hands free right up to the gate.
Baby Food and Liquids at airports
I will go into more detail about this in another post, but most of the airports we went through were fine with sizes and liquids and foods as long as they were for a baby, this included pouches, juices, flasks of boiled water, jars of food and ready-made milk / formula. You will need to get it out at security and they will basically swab everything individually. It was all fine, just takes a bit of time. This process will vary airport to airport and some were quite quick with it all and others took forever. This is part of why we say get their that extra hour early.
I have heard horror stories of airport security opening up ready made’s and thus ruining them. This has not been our experience but it did make us look up backup plans. See what stores are in the terminal. It was not uncommon for there to be a store that would sell either ready mades or formula 🙂 We also never had a coffee shop deny us some boiled water to mix a bottle with when we’ve needed it.
Getting stressed at security
Just try to have everything that needs to come out in one place, there is nothing worse than trying to get your shoes off, hunting through your bags for bottles, liquids or electronics all whilst balancing a baby. Be strict with where you put old bottles too. I remember being so good with everything and getting my bags searched because I had chucked an empty baby bottle in the wrong bag.
On Board the plane with a baby
Smile and stay calm
You just cannot control everything so just go with it. Smile as you board the plane (extra-smiles) for guests sitting around you. It’s sort of like an apology and acknowledgement in one smile to everyone around. You know what’s really hard, getting mad at someone who has previously been nice and acknowledged you.
Let me tell you – most people are much more understanding than you would think. Of course there will be the odd few people, but on all of our flights, I can say that most people were amazing. I had one lady tap on my shoulder before we took off and said “hay, don’t worry if your little one cries, I have grandchildren” and another guy next to us said “I have a 4 year old at home, I have walked in your shoes”. Jacob played peek-a-boo with him whilst he tried to sleep under his hat, he even had a cuddle with another couple at a point.
Your baby will pick up on your feelings, so stay calm. Don’t worry you will have a few moments of panic and you will get hot and sweaty at times but it will be fine.
Stay ahead of the game
The thing with babies is we do tend to know what they need. Sleep, food, nappies, toys/playtime and you will generally know what they need next before they need it. For example, we knew if Jacob fell asleep he would probably be hungry when he woke up and his naps were a max 45 minutes so we would make sure his bottle was ready for when he woke up. This way he didn’t get a chance to get into a crying fury for food. Dummies were also quite big on our list. We used a dummy sterilizer for our trip and we had a stock of them just in case. We also had his favorite song (which instantly stopped him crying, and still does!) and a few items that helped.
Where do you change a baby on a plane
This was much easier than I thought actually, there are certain toilets that have changing tables and they are clearly marked. I always changed Jacob before we got on the plane but when you go in the toilet basically the changing table folds down in front of you over the toilet. I had a changing wallet/mat that made it super easy and I just preferred him laying on something I knew was clean. It’s tight but it’s fine. I always took nappy bags with us where ever we went (not as common as you may think) but it was really handy for soiled clothes or nappies to keep them contained in smaller areas.
You know your child’s nappy movements better than anyone, i liked to leave 1 nappy per hour of our journey and then some. So on a 5 hour flight, I would pack at least 11. (3 for the airport, 5 for the plane and 3 for after). But after one of our flights that was due to take 8 hours took 13… I might just pack more next time haha.
Tomme Tippie Flask
I actually really like the Tommy Tippie brand. I bought this flask originally for hot water at night times, but it became something I couldn’t live without on our trip. It is basically just a flask with a lid. BUT… my reasons why i love this is because you can use the flask for hot water for formula etc, you can then use the lid for heating bottles if needed or you can also use the lid part as a sterilizer with Milton tablets – So essentially i have everything i needed in one flask and did i tell you the water stays HOT for a long time, mine used to stay really hot for well over 10 hours. Bear in mind this isn’t small – it is bulky but for me so worth it!
You have probably heard me talk about Milton tablets before. They are one of those “my mum said she used to use these” products and I have to say I love them for traveling. I used two sets, one is the big ones mentioned here and the other i used for dummies (they are smaller). I didnt want to be lugging my stelizer accross the world, its bulky and just so unescersairy. These little beauties are just tablets, I would sterelize a pot and then add my tablet and cold water sterelize everything for Jacob – bottles, dummies, formula pots. You name it – it went in the milton pot. 😉 Also – super handy just to have in your bag as an emergency.
Dummy clip cleaner and Sterilizer.
I am on the fence a little bit on this one – I wanted to be able to clean Jacobs dummies as we were on the road and it was really handy, you put the Milton tablet in and it is used to clean the dummy and sterilize it within (i think 10 / 15 minutes) so it is ready for reusing and it has a clip to clip it to your back pack or pram which is handy. I used it a lot traveling so it was still a great purchase for me, but not being able to get the smaller tablets in Cyprus I haven’t used it much since being back.
Having the extra seat is magical!
I am tall, john is super tall and my son was tall… Seats are small!!! Having the extra seat just gave us a bit more space to maneuver. Jacob could lay flay flat if he fell asleep and we had a bit more space for toys/bottles etc.
How many toys should I bring
Not many, we got given a baby “iPad” which was all new and shiny for Jacob on his flight. He had this, a non noisy vibrating teddy, a small light that changed colours and a teddy blanket. Maybe baby number 2 will be different but Jacob really wasn’t interested in that much a young age and the “something new” toy was perfect. Don’t forget everything you have with you is a toy, water bottles, packets, paper, bags, windows! You name it they will play with it.
Take off and Landing
This is the worst time really, its loud, its new and they don’t know how to equalize their ears. We combated this problem a few ways – We had noise-reducing ear muffs (these were great up until about 8 months, there is no way I would be able to keep them on him now at 13 months – but I would still try). These were magic!! Between these and his dummy, most of the time he was asleep on take-off and landing from the movement and the subtle murmur. Sucking on something also helped, so either a bottle or dummy. Window seats are quite good as there is something generally for children to look at but he was quite small so he slept most of the time.
Seat belts for children on the plane
The staff will give you a seat belt for the baby and a life vest to keep with you. The belt is easy to use, it basically straps around the baby and gets looped to your own seat belt.
Just a note, on some airlines they wont actually give you a belt for the baby, they will tell you how to hold the little one for takeoff and landing. However, most of the European airlines we traveled on have given us seat belts like the ones Jacob is wearing.
How do you eat with an infant on your lap?
Good question!!! haha. Well, hopefully, you will travel with someone and you can swap and eat one after the other. Some airlines asked if we wanted to keep the food until one of us had eaten or he had fallen asleep which was really handy. You just do it with great difficulty…. open your hoodie and do it up after to cover any food splattering stains from the journey. Just kidding! I would suggest bringing a few things of your own that you can eat easily especially if you are flying solo – something like sandwiches, fruit, snacks so you can nibble when your little one is sleeping.
Best hack for infants flying on laps?
My husband John said he would never fly without taking a thick blanket. we didnt pack it as part of our luggage we just put it under jacob and it made a really good hamoc. John would take the window seat and then basically wrap the blanket around his legs making the middle part a hamoc for the baby to sleep / catch droped items etc. He also said it saved his legs from being so rigid all the time to hold Jacob up.
What should a baby wear on the plane
My philosophy was you cant stop germs happening, but I can keep as much of him covered as possible. Fancy outfits are great, they are super cute but just more to deal with getting on and off in a cramped space and more chances of the legs riding up, socks and shoes falling off etc. I aim for an all in one – sometimes with a pair of tracksuit trousers over the top. This way his feet, legs, belly and arms are in it and his hands I made sure were the all in ones with built-in mittens so I could use those when needed. For layers, we had a vest if he was super hot or his sleeping bag for warmth and a thick blanket for johns lap also doubled up as blanket. I took 2 / 3 extra changing items in case of an emergency and one spare top/leggings for me and a spare top for john.
Our ultimate travel items for traveling with babies
I spent a lot of time researching the smallest, easiest and best ways to travel on a lot of flights with Jacob. Heads up, the next links are all the purchases i personally made and I have made them affiliate links for you on Amazon.co.uk. If you purchase anything, you wont pay any more but we will get a small commission – which helps keep the lights on and allows us to keep blogging. 😉
Travel disposable bibs were an amazing purchase and not something i would get for every day use but for traveling they are amazing.
Ear Muff Noise Reducers are ultimately the best purchase i have made! We used them on every single flight just for takeoff and landing mainly (i didn’t leave them on in flight as i didn’t see the need and little ones ears are so soft) but Jacob was so content on all of the take offs and landings. Plus…. look at them – super cute right? I have also used these since for music events and loud parties when we have been out. We used these from 4 months old to about 8 months for flying. I haven’t traveled with Jacob since so I am not so sure he would keep them on at 13 months but I would still try. 😉 These are not earphones they are just noise reducers.
Dummy Clips – I love material dummy clips that i can wash easily. I particularly like these ones from Amazon. I would never travel without a dummy clip on any flights. We took 8 dummies with us on a 2 month trip – 7 made it back so only 1 casualty…. They have also been well worn since too 😉
The Ultimate travel Carry-On
I spent a lot of time ‘umming and ‘arring about the best cabin bag to take with us. I knew I wanted my hands free and I knew I didn’t want a roll on for this trip. We were doing a lot of short stays so I wanted something easy to pack. This purchase was bit more expensive than I would have normally paid for a “backpack” but I have to say it was one of our best purchases and we use it a lot for here too when we go away for weekends.
They open up like a suitcase so fitting everything in was really easy. They are also a little more square so packing cubes fit nicely. They have padded straps and the clips on the side help tighten it up so its a bit smaller. They have a pocket at the front (zipper) and then another section that fully opens up for flatter things like chargers, phones, wires, passports, iPad etc. So everything was nicely split up.
In general I am not a super organised packer, I have always been a solo traveler so I am used to just packing for myself. Ive always loved my travel wallet for my paperwork and passport but I had never considered packing cubes until this trip. Doing lots of short stays i knew we would be packing / unpacking and I wanted to make the trip as stress free as possible. I bought 3 sets of packing cubes, coral colour for me, purple for John and powder blue for Jacob. WHY? WHY? WHY? DID I NOT THINK OF THIS BEFORE…. It was perfect, every time john wanted something for Jacob there wasnt a huge pile of everyones clothes, he knew just to look in certain bags for different things. My life was blissful – my clothes were not creased and we actually packed less this way.
Each set came with 5 bags, A large, medium and small zipper one and then a flat large, medium and small zipper flat pouch. For jacob i used the cubes:
Large – his jumpers and jeans went in this one
Medium – his tshirts / baby grows and vests
Small – I used this to hold his toys for the plane and his ear muffs so i could just grab it out
Large – I packed his spare outfits for the plane in this one so i knew what to grab in case of emergencies
Medium – I think i had this one spare and in the small on i put socks etc in. 😉
Only thing i didnt like was the wording on the pounches but hay they were cheap and really effective. 😉
Dealing with teething when flying
This was a huge concern of mine, being a first time mum i had no idea about these things and Jacob was only just starting to teeth before we flew. I made a couple of quick purchases based on friends recommendations. This teething mitt was great for flying as it didn’t go flying on to the next passenger or worse the floor! We also made sure we had pouches of Calpol with us, teething granuals and gel as well as a few plastic teethers that were easy to sterilize (if you use the figure of 8 teething rings you can also attach them to the dummy clips. 😉 We never traveled without our good friend the “gripe water” for colic. 🙂
Foldable travel bag
This is something i have come to love in everyday life. Its great to just pop in your bag – its a shopping bag, its an everyday bag BUT for this circumstance it was a flight bag. One of our flights had a one bag only policy (probably blue air :?) which lets be honest… thats insane!!!! So, i had one of these little bags in my main cabin bag and then when we got onboard i put the things we needed (formula, flask, nappies, toys etc) in to this bag and put it under the seat.
Nimble Milk Buster Travel Size
This was something I had heard about and gave it a try – it was perfect, it really does busy milk easily! It will be a must purchase for our next trip!
JL Car seat bag and Gate Check pram bag
The Gate check grey bag was the first one we bought which we used for our pram set (car seat, bulky pram travel system). Don’t get me wrong it did the trick, it survived 5 flights so not bad for the price but was definately ripped and taped up on the way home. It kept everything compact and dry and our pram set was bulky and heavy. I think if i traveled again, we would invest in a better quality padded bag.
The car seat bag i bought to bring our son’s second stage Maxi Cosi Pearl and family fix base from England to Cyprus and I am very very happy with it. It fits the car seat and base easily and has room for blankets / padding at the front. We have used it for our maxi cosi pebble and base as well as there is plenty of space in this bag. It will do the trick for future trips and is really well madde.