The Ultimate Guide To Flying With A Baby: Tips For A Smooth And Stress-Free Journey

Is this your first time flying with a baby? That first flight with your little one can seem a bit of a challenge; however, with a bit of forward planning, flying with a baby can be a breeze (or at least, much easier to manage than you feared!).

We’ll take you through our top-flight tips for air travel with infants.

Booking the flight

The first main question is often “Is my baby old enough to fly?” In the UK, doctors recommend waiting until the baby is more than two weeks old, so in most cases the answer to that question will be a yes!

If you can, book an evening flight so you have a better chance of your baby sleeping on the plane. Does your journey involve a transfer? Choose an option with plenty of time between flights: you’ll definitely thank yourself for this later.

Reserve seats, including one for your baby. You’ll be a lot more comfortable. Contact the individual airline to ask about child seats. Most are happy for you to use your baby’s usual travel system; however it’s always a good idea to check in advance and some can even loan you a carrycot or similar.

Preparing to fly with a baby

Remember that your baby will need a passport and that this can often take a while to process. Here’s the information from about applying for a child’s passport.

Pack your usual nappy bag, making sure you have enough eco nappies, spare clothes and expressed or formula milk for the journey. If your little one is weaned, you’ll need some of their favourite baby food and snacks as well as milk and water (you’re allowed to pack all the food and drink you need for the journey in your hand luggage). 

Pop in plenty of empty bags for used nappies and dirty clothes, as there won’t be anywhere to dispose of them. A portable changing mat is also a good idea.

What other baby travel essentials do you need in your hand luggage? Special baby earplugs can reduce any scary loud noises as well as reducing cabin pressure on their ears. A combination of (small) favourite toys and new toys should help to keep your young passenger entertained.

Plan your baby’s travelling outfit. A vest and sleepsuit is easy for quick changes as well as being comfy for baby. Layers are good, as the temperature on the plane and in the airport can fluctuate.

Bag packed, it’s time to check in online, cutting down on queuing and unnecessary waits.

Baby-friendly airport tips

Going to an airport with a baby can actually be fun, especially if they’re a bit older and love looking at the world around them. Airport shops, with their bright displays and lights, are often popular spots. A big bonus of flying with a young family is that you’re often among the first onto the plane…

Pushchairs and car seats generally don’t count towards your luggage allowance, although check with your airline in advance (there may be weight and dimension restrictions). You can often check in your pushchair at the gate, which means you can push your passenger around the airport. You may find it easier to pop your baby in their sling or papoose, although bear in mind that you’ll have to take it off at security.

Feed and change your baby before the flight (you might have a low-maintenance journey if baby is comfy and fed and it’s just short-haul).

And the number one flying tip for parents? Never be afraid to ask for help, at any stage of the journey.

Tips for a comfortable flight with your baby

The big advantage of early boarding is that you get to make yourself and your baby as comfy as possible before take-off. Get the child seat securely fastened (you may need help from the cabin crew with this) and find out where you can change a nappy if the need arises.

In-flight entertainment and distraction techniques

How you handle entertainment depends on the length of your flight and the age of your baby! A domestic flight with a newborn may involve nothing more taxing than a sleepy feed and a cuddle. 

A longer flight, especially with an older baby, may involve singing, stories and several feeds. Baby books make brilliant in-flight entertainment for your little one, and yes, downloading a favourite show or music to your tablet before the flight can be a real lifesaver.

Cabin pressure and baby’s ears

Just like you, your baby may experience flight ear pressure. However, unlike you, it’s not a case of sucking a boiled sweet and remembering that the feeling will go soon. You can get special earplugs for babies, which can help relieve the pressure. 

If your baby uses a soother, pop it in for take-off and landing. Feeding your baby can help, as it’s a winning combination of comfort and sucking. Because your baby will need to be fastened in during take-off and landing, bottle feeding is easier than breastfeeding (add “express milk” to your pre-flight to-do list).

Coping with in-flight challenges

Turbulence, up-the-back poos, spilt milk… The cabin crew will have seen it all and are there to help. The main challenge you’ll probably come across is your baby grizzling or crying. Stay calm, accept any help, and use your usual comfort and distraction techniques. Ignore any tutters (happily, most people are pretty sympathetic).

And after you land…

Suddenly, you’re back in the world of security and baggage. Pop your baby back in their sling or papoose before going off in search of your pushchair and suitcase. If there’s time, pause for a cuppa and a cuddle (and a comfortable nappy change) before heading off on the next stage of your journey. 

Whether you’re going on holiday or travelling to see family abroad, the benefits always outweigh the challenges of flying with a baby. With a bit of forward planning and research, you can enjoy a smooth journey together. Soon you’ll be flying with a toddler, and that’s a whole new adventure…!