Flying with small children/infants isn’t quite as terrifying as you might think. People do it all the time. If you consider how many “bad experience” posts you see online and compare that to how many of the thousands of flights where babies fly with no problems then the chances are you are going to be ok.
Here are a few tips that I have compiled after flying with my infant son who is now almost 2.
1. Don’t wait until they’re too old
I first took my baby on a long haul flight at age 6 months. He was fine at this age just being held by me. When he got closer to age 1 he became more restless as he wanted to explore. I spoke to a number of people who wanted to wait until their baby was 1 before they flew anywhere but from my experience this might put some people off.
2. Book a bassinet
If your baby is below 10Kgs and short enough you may be able to get a bassinet. You have the advantage of being at the front of a set if seats and your baby can be placed in the bassinet for sleeping. I have had flights where my baby slept and flights where he didn’t. Its is worth having though. The only down side is that you may not be able to get out your in flight entertainment as the bassinet is too close. Ah but you will have peace. You can always take it in turns with a partner if they are less obstructed by the bassinet.
3. Reserve your seats as soon as possible
Just because you are travelling with an infant, don’t expect to get seated together. If flying short haul, get your seats as soon as check in opens (usually 2 days before the flight) if you want the best chance of sitting with your partner/other children.
If you are flying long haul you should be able to either reserve your seats online or ring up and reserve them well in advance of the flight.
4. Book an Isle seat
I had a baby who was a dream. He rarely cried and would happily sleep on me. However, on a flight, particularly a long haul flight you will find yourself getting up more often than you might normally. Booking an isle seat helps not to disturb the unfortunate person who booked the seat next to you.
5. Check your baggage allowance
Most airlines will allow you to take 2 baby related items per infant traveller. I usually take a pushchair and a car seat plush a change bag. I check the car seat and take the pushchair to the gate. Don’t worry if you have a travel system style pushchair. They ask at check in how many parts it breaks into so you can be given the right number of tags to track all the parts. Some airlines even give you big bags to wrap the pushchair in at the gate to keep it protected.
6. Keep hydrated
This is especially important if you are breastfeeding. It is easy to get dehydrated on a plane without feeding a baby. You should keep topped up on fluids… and I don’t mean alcohol.
7. Pre clear in Ireland (if going to the U.S. from the UK/Europe.
This can be stressful if you have booked a short connection but being able to walk off the plane in the U.S. as if you have just taken a domestic flight is a wonderful feeling. By the time the flight has ended you just want to get to your destination…not spend hours queueing to answer a series of questions with your baby in tow.
8. Don’t expect preferential treatment
You may be allowed to board first to get settled but this isn’t guaranteed. What you need to remember is: you have an allocated seat and the plane should take off on time regardless of when you get on the plane.
9. Take plenty of snacks/formula/baby food.
I was paranoid about taking milk and drinks for my baby on the plane but most of the time they are quite accommodating regarding baby food and formula/breastmilk. I have heard that you should only take what your baby will be able to consume on the flight in hand luggage though. If in doubt, call your airline and check. I have taken weaning food/mush and milk on planes and have been accommodated every time.
10. Find out if your pushchair will be delivered to the arrival gate or oversized baggage.
This will depend on both the airport and the airline. You can ask as you board and hand over your pushchair (if you took it to the gate) or ask at the check in desk. Some airlines have buggy’s for you to use if you have a connecting flight. When we connected in Dubai Emirates had pushchairs for this purpose. I would only expect this at large airports though.