We know: flying with a baby for the first time is incredibly daunting. But trust us – it’s rarely as bad as you imagine. In fact, it’s often, well, quite good! To make sure your trip gets there, we’ve compiled the best of Babies Who Travel’s flight tips and put them into this one bumper post. Happy travels!
Tip 1: When flying with a baby, always check in early.
Firstly, this is your best chance of securing a bassinet or troubleshooting if your request for one didn’t come through. But it is also a good chance to ask if they can “block out” the seat next to you, or if you are travelling with a friend or family member, the seat between you. Some airlines will do this as a matter of course when they see you travelling with an infant, others will do it if you ask and there’s space available. Having that extra space really makes a difference, although of course, it’s a privilege as you haven’t paid for it. (Under ones tend to travel long haul for free, but the exchange is that they sit on your lap, or hopefully, sleep in that much-prized bassinet. Pricing kicks in when you decide to buy them a seat or they hit two years old – whichever comes first.)
Tip 2: Got a young baby? Move mountains to get a bassinet.
Regardless of their age, if they’re under one, or a small baby, try to move mountains to get them the bassinet. These are provided by almost every airline on long-haul flights, however allocations are done differently according to each airline (although most have a policy that the younger babies get preference). Some allocate bassinets at the time of booking, so make sure your travel agent confirms this has been requested. If you’ve booked online, immediately call the airline and speak to someone to add the request your booking. If it turns out that you don’t get a bassinet, or, worse, that you’re not allocated the bulkhead row (the one where there’s a bit more legroom, which offers some options for your baby to play on the floor) then just keep asking. Ask on check-in. Ask while you’re waiting at the departure gate. Ask the minute you step on board. You get it; just keep asking. Many airlines will then make it happen, even if it involves asking other passengers to move. (Yes, this is very nice of the other passengers, and one time that you should certainly accept the kindness of strangers.)
Tip 3. Only one adult? Baby carrier + rolling backpack = ease at airports.
Unless you know your bub hates them, be sure to take a carrier (like an Ergo). It’s useful in so many situations – for example, if you want to walk up and down the aisle to entertain them or help them to sleep. Baby carriers are also great when you’re walking through the airport – makes it far easier to be hands free (so you can juggle passports/boarding passes and let’s face it, coffee!). Remember that you’ll have to take the baby out of any carrier as you go through security, so try and time that experience for when the baby is awake.
Sue (founder of Babies Who Travel) also loved her rolling backpack for carry-on when her baby was little. It meant she could sometimes roll her luggage, and sometimes put the bag on her bag – super flexible.
Tip 4: Pack spare clothes for the adults in your carry on!
Sounds batty, but after spending a flight in wet jeans thanks to a leaky nappy (better than being vomited on, we guess), Babies Who Travel founder, Sue, never forgot this one again. You also want to pack spare nappies, spare clothes for the baby (extra still if they are a vomiter) and a few toys (but don’t go crazy for babies – save that for when they are older). Ziplock bags are handy to stop things leaking.
Tip 5: Flying with a baby of 0-5 months? Don’t stress. Really!
Sounds unlikely, but mostly, flying with a baby of this age is pretty easy. We know, you’re nervous – that’s totally natural. But chances are, they’ll sleep, a lot. Enjoy! On a short flight, choose either the aisle or the window. For a long flight, the window should still be workable (with older babies we recommend the aisle, as they’re not likely to sit still for long and an aisle makes exploring easier). For more on the aisle vs window debate, see this post. Still nervous? Finish this post (of course!), then explore the rest of this site. You might also like to join our free Facebook group, Kids Who Travel – there’s a wealth of advice in there.
Tip 6: Traveling with a 5-8 month old?Don’t go overboard on toys.
At this age it’s possible you are still in the sweet spot for flying with an infant. Your baby probably still sleeps quite a lot, and if they are eating solids it may be partly or all purees, which you can easily take with you. There are plenty of organic and preservative-free options on the market, meaning that you still get quite good control over what goes in your child’s mouth on a long flight. Babies are also reasonably easily entertained during this stage. But you’d do well to take a couple of favourite toys (we love the Skwish), any special “blankeys”, and if they are used to sleeping in a sleeping bag, take extras in case of leaks.
Tip 7: Crawling bub or early walker? Try these entertainment hacks.
The key when flying with a baby of this age is not to expect you’ll be sitting in your seat much. If you’re prepared to spend a lot of time letting them your baby crawl supervised up and down the aisles it’s actually not too bad. Definitely the best way to keep them happy, and hey, you’re unlikely to get DVT!
While taking a few favourite toys is sensible, it can be smarter to unveil a couple of new ones in flight. Another clever trick which Sue has used successfully is to head to your local two dollar store and buy 5-10 small but “interesting-to-a-small-person” trinkets. Wrap each of them individually, and pull out one by one at strategic points during the flight.
Stuck for ideas? Here are two of our favourites: Various pieces of coloured and sparkly ribbons, tied together with the various colours as one long thread, and those soft balls for scrubbing your body with in the shower. Basically you’re after anything that’s particularly squashy, colourful or has an interesting texture. Probably try and stay away from noisy things, as it’s nice to keep your fellow passengers on side.
Tip 8: Other passengers are your friend. (Ignore those who think otherwise!)
While it’s true no one loves sitting next to a crying baby (including its parents, ha ha), many other passengers on the flight will quite enjoy a chance to goo, ga and generally engage with your baby for five minutes as you stroll down the aisle. It doesn’t sound like much of the solve, until you realise that long haul flights have a lot of passengers on them – you can stretch out that walk down the aisle for about an hour a time in this way. The people who are not interested will be pretty obvious – they’re the ones who aren’t making eye contact and smiling as you follow your crawling or cruising bub at snail’s pace along the skinny aisle. Just leave them be and move on, easy.
Tip 9: Consider a stopover on a long flight.
We know, it’s tempting to push on. But this depends a lot on what support you’ll have at the other end. The baby may be fine (they’ll probably sleep more than you), but a stopover can really help preserve your stamina. We highly recommend them on long haul flights, see our stopover post for more.
Tip 10: No stopovers? Make transit more comfortable.
If you’re not having a stopover, investing in an airport lounge day pass can be a fantastic way to boost your energy levels in transit. Seriously – this is money well spent. Learn more about this option here.