When it comes to flying with your baby for the very first time, there are always so many questions that you need answering. When you’re used to only having to look after yourself on a flight it comes as quite a shock to realise that you’ve now got way, way more to think about than what to pack in your own hand luggage. Wave goodbye to your moisturising travel face mask, cashmere wrap and cooling face spray (not that I used those anyway, but I always thought I might do someday).
Flying successfully with a baby can seem like a minefield. With all of the security measures at airports, knowing how to fly with baby formula or baby food, if they need a passport or if they need their own seat booking on a plane, etc etc. remains a complete mystery to most of us before the moment we have to do it ourselves!
I thought a post listing the most common questions I had before flying with Coco for the first time might be helpful for anyone experiencing the “ermagaad, HOW do I fly with a baby?!” conundrum.
How do infants travel on airplanes?
This can depend on the airline, how long the flight is and how far in advance you book so make sure you know these handy facts!
1. If your baby is less than six months old, they will still need a ticket even though they may be sitting on your lap for the entire journey. Many parents prefer to buy a seat as some people and experts advise that it’s safer for the baby to be strapped in securely during unexpected turbulence or a hard landing, however this is up to you as the parent.
- You can book an infant their own seat on a plane (next to yours) as long as they are sat in an approved car seat (approved for use in aircraft by the FAA) which fits into the aircraft securely. This can make the journey a lot more comfortable for you if it’s long haul, especially if there is any turbulence.
- Infants are usually categorised by airlines as children under 2 years old. Once they are older than this, they are classed as a child and will need their own seat. Until they are 2 you usually have the option of having them sit on your knee.
- If your baby sits on your knee whilst travelling, the airline staff will give you a special extended seat belt to clip onto your own that will fasten around your child to stop them sliding around during takeoff and landing.
- During takeoff and landing, if your child is on your knee with an extended seat belt, airline staff usually insist they are facing forward with their back to you. Keep this in mind if your baby has fallen asleep and you need to gently wake them up before landing to move them around.
- If your child becomes 2 years old whilst travelling - book your ticket over the phone and inform the airline. They will probably just charge for an infant's fare for the whole journey but you should always check.
- If you’re flying long haul, you can ask the airline if they have travel cots available. On most international flights there will be an area on the plane where they provide bassinets that your baby can sleep in. These are usually limited in number though so try and ask as early as possible.
Top Travel Tip: If it’s just you and your baby or toddler, you may want to book an aisle seat so you can easily get to and from the loo, or let your toddler stretch their legs and walk around without having to squeeze past another passenger.
Are infants free on flights?
This can also depend on the airline but generally, tickets for infants are either free or a percentage of the price of an adult ticket. Here’s what we know...
- If you want to get a seat for your baby, the price of the ticket will be usually be modified to a child’s price ticket (a child is usually classified as being under two years old) and will be a percentage of an adult's ticket.
- If you want to get a seat for your baby, the price of the ticket will usually be more than if you’re planning to have your child on your knee for the duration of the journey.
- A baby is only allowed to sit on your knee during a flight if they’re under two years old, otherwise you will need to reserve them a seat (see points 1,2 and 3 above).
- Some airlines do allow children under the age of two to fly for free if they’re going to be sat on your knee.
Is it safe to travel or fly with a newborn baby/How old does a baby have to be to fly?
Generally, yes. Every airline is different when it comes to setting age limits for passengers so you should always check with whichever airline before you book if your baby is less than a few weeks old.
- The minimum age for travelling on a plane can range from anywhere in between two and fourteen days.
- There may be exceptions to this rule if there were complications during the birth or if your baby was delivered by cesarean section. You may need a doctor's note to get clearance to travel on the flight so always check.
- The safest way to fly with a newborn is to book a separate seat for your infant where they will be able to sit in an approved car safety seat.
How do I fly with baby formula?
Making sure your baby isn’t hungry on flights is super important to parents but don’t worry. Flying with baby formula isn’t a problem!
- You can fly with as much powdered baby formula as you like so you can make your own formula up on the plane.
- Usually flight attendants will warm up baby bottles for you but it’s worth checking this before you fly.
- If sterilising bottles on the flight will be difficult, you could consider taking single use bottles and teats just for the flight.
- You can take pre-prepared milk, sterilised water and cartons of ready made baby formula on flights. Airport security may ask you to open and taste the contents.
Can you take baby food on plane?
- Yes, you can take baby food on a plane. There’s no limit, just take as much as you think you’ll need for the flight in your hand luggage.
- If the baby food containers are over 4 ounces, they may be opened by airport security so it’s a good idea to keep them small if you can.
What can you take in hand luggage on a plane?
If you’re travelling with an infant, you’re allowed to take certain things in your hand luggage to ensure they’re comfortable during the flight. You also have extra allowances on top of your usual hand luggage allowances for safety car seats.
- You must take their approved car safety seat if your baby isn’t going to be sitting on your lap.
- You can take an unlimited supply of baby formula powder in your hand luggage. You can also take as many ready made baby formula in pre-prepared bottles or cartons as you think your baby will need on the flight.
- You can also take baby food but it’s better to pack the smaller pots (under 4oz) if possible as there’s less risk of them being opened by airport security.
- You must check in baby strollers and can not take them as hand luggage on a flight, however, you can take them through security and hand them over before boarding your flight, where airport staff will then put it in the hold for you. You can collect it from the baggage carousel when you land.
- You’re allowed to take hand luggage for your baby or child as well as yourself.
- Your baby’s approved car safety seat is an included extra to your hand luggage, so you don’t need to worry about it
Can you get a passport for a newborn?
Getting a passport for a newborn is possible and it’s essential if you want to travel abroad! If you just want to fly within the UK, you won’t need one.
- To apply for a passport for your baby you’ll need to contact the UK passport service and fill in an application form. You’ll also need two passport size photos and an original document like a birth certificate.
- The passport costs £46 and lasts for five years.
- If you just want to fly within the UK, you don’t need a passport for your baby just as you wouldn’t need a passport to travel either.
How do you go through airport security with a baby?
Going through security is a huge faff even when you’re on your own, so taking kids through with you fills many parents with horror. Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as you think!
- You can take your baby stroller through airport security but you will have to put it through the x-ray bag check with the rest of your hand luggage.
- If your baby or toddler is wearing shoes, they may be asked to remove them so it’s worth doing this yourself first (especially if your baby or toddler hates their shoes being taken off!) or just popping some comfy sock-shoes on their feet for flying.
- You will take your baby or toddler with you when you go through the metal detector. It’s fine to have them supported on your body in a sling or just to carry them.
- Many airports have an isle that prioritises families with young children. Get to the airport early and take your time so you don’t feel like you’re rushing through security.
If you have any of your own tips about travelling on a plane with a baby, please let us know. Also, if you would like a few more helpful travel tips on flying with a baby or toddler, check out my post on tips when travelling with toddlers!