Possibly the most stressful of travel means, taking a baby or toddler can be a daunting prospect. Being prepared is essential, as is having a sense of humour. Knowing what is available to you, what to ask for and what to expect whilst on board all help to make your flight go more smoothly.
Babies in general fly well as the noise of the aircraft often puts them to sleep, where as toddlers don't enjoy having to sit for long periods of time and require entertaining. Some top tips for travelling with babies or toddlers include:
Fares and Baggage Allowance
- Offer babies and toddlers a bottle or nurse them during
take off and landing. This will help reduce potential earache
due to changes in cabin pressure.
- Book your seats early. If you require a skycot or care seat,
be sure to ask for one as soon as you book your tickets. Also,
check with your airline what your luggage allowance is for
an infant fare. If you have purchased a child fare you will
have the full adult luggage allowance.
- Get to the airport early. This will help ensure that you
check in your entire luggage smoothly and have time to deal
with any last minute hiccups.
- Ask for help when you need it. Airport staff and cabin crew
are generally sympathetic to parents with small children.
- Most airlines will allow you to use your stroller up until
the point of boarding. It is worth asking when these will
be returned on arrival. If it at the luggage collection area,
a sling may be helpful to get you to this point.
- Make sure you take lots of items to entertain your little
one. Babies are easier to please; bring one or two soft toys,
a soft book and a rattle and you should be ok. Toddlers on
the other hand bore easily and so a selection of items are
needed. Pack a small activity bag with items such as a small
tub of play dough, fat colour pencils and paper, a car, a
few blocks, a couple of interactive books, with mirrors and
flaps and two finger puppets (so that one can talk to the
other). Try your best to make these activities last by giving
them out slowly. Gift wrapping them will delight you toddler,
and help entertain them for a few minutes longer.
- Make sure you have a small bag with nappies, wipes, nappy
sacks, a change of clothes for you and your baby, muslins,
bibs, milk and food all at hand, which can slip under you
seat. For guidance on packing for your trip use our Packing
For most international flights, infants under two pay 10% of the full adult fare whilst accompanied by a fare paying adult. They are however expected to sit on your lap throughout the flight, so unless your flight is less than an hour or two this is not a practical option. Many airlines offer a skycot suitable up until 12 months for free, although after 8 months, many babies want to stand up and get out! The baggage allowance for an infant seat varies from airline to airline. In many cases, there is none, although almost all will take a stroller for free and allow a small carry on bag, provided it weighs less than 6kgs. For young babies, this means that most of your allowance will be taken up with the necessary equipment needed for your little one. Other airlines are more generous, allowing 32kgs for long haul or 10kgs for shorter flights in addition to a collapsible stroller. Always check with your airline as to what their allowance is.
" Be sure to contact the airline to
find out what options are available and book any extras
The other alternative is to purchase a seat at the child fare, which is typically 50% of the scheduled adult fare or up to 75% of a discounted fare. In this case, you can then bring your own car seat, (but be sure to call the airline to check that your make and model will fit the aircraft seat), or ask for a care seat which some airlines have begun to provide. Having an extra seat for your little one is by far the safest option, and although you have to pay more for this, you will get the full baggage allowance over and above a car seat and a stroller- check with your airline before flying.
Whatever option you choose, always call the airline before you fly to book your seats. Make sure you request a skycot or care seat as soon as you book your tickets- the earlier you make your request the more likely you are to get what you want. Ask for some sort of confirmation, (some airlines may be reluctant to provide a guarantee, but still ask) and reconfirm all the details a week before you fly. If you are unable to book the seats that you want, make sure you get to the airport early and be one of the first to check in. Staff will then do their best to obtain the best available seats for you and hopefully arrange that you all sit together.
At the airport
Some suggestions for an easy transition at the airport include:
When to fly
- Get there early. Allow extra time for long queues at the
check in and also the oversize luggage desk for your stroller/travel
- Check out the airport facilities for your outboard and return
journey using the very useful airport guide from www.expedia.co.uk.
This will give you an indication of what sort of amenities
to expect and where to find them. In any case, be sure to
ask airport staff where the baby changing facilities are and
whether there are any family or play areas. Ask what facilities
exist past security in the departure lounge too.
- Viewing galleries are also great for curious toddlers, who
will happily plane spot for while.
- Feeding your baby or toddler before you board may also be
a good idea, as it may be sometime before any meals are served.
It also helps as a distraction and passes a bit more time.
For young babies, simply stick to your usual feeding time.
For long haul flights, opt for a night flight if your little one will is a good sleeper. This will make the flight relatively hassle free as they should sleep for a good part of it. However, if this not the case, you could spend the night entertaining your little one and end up at your destination exhausted. If you think this might be the case, go for a day flight but be armed with activities to help pass the time. You could also consider a night stopover. Although this adds to your journey time, a night stopover may be a welcomed break, allowing you to arrive at your destination feeling human.
For shorter journeys, go for early morning flights. They are less busy, less likely to be delayed and will probably suit your baby or toddler better.
If you have requested a skycot, you will almost certainly be allocated bulkhead seats. Although they provide extra legroom, there can be some disadvantages to having these seats. They are directly under the film screen, which may disturb your baby. There are no pockets in front for storing toys or small books, and the arm rests do not lift up so you may find yourself getting up on to your seat to get out to go to the toilet. However, having the extra leg room is still useful, as you have the space to play on the floor or make a makeshift bed for a toddler. If you are thinking of doing this remember to bring a small rug or blanket.
" Your seats will be vital to the comfort
of your journey so select carefully!"
If you are not allocated a bulkhead seat, then it is a matter of personal choice whether you select a window or aisle seat. Window seats provide some distraction during take off and landing and as the aisle lights stay on for most of the flight, they will probably keep your little one awake. However, if your toddler is walking then having an aisle seat is useful for getting out and wandering around when the cabin crew are not using the gangway.
Feeding on board
- Always bring your own milk and food. Although some airlines
offer toddler meals, you do not know when this will be served.
Toddlers are notoriously fussy, so bringing along some sure
favourites will help.
- Most flight attendant will be happy to warm milk and jars
- Feed your baby or toddler first, especially if they are
strapped to your lap. This will then hopefully allow you to
eat something yourself when your food is served.
- Make sure you all have lots of water to drink- it will help
to keep you hydrated and reduce the effects of jet lag.
Older planes may not have any changing facilities on board, and although modern planes do have a changing tray in the toilets, it is often cramped and difficult to do so. If you have the bulk head seats, then there should be enough space on the floor to put out a changing mat and do so there. Otherwise, you may be forced to attempt this on your seat itself. You may want to use an ultra absorbent night time nappy for your flight, which might last until you reach your destination. Cabin crew will not take away dirty nappies, unless in a bag, so remember to pack a few nappy sacks in your hand luggage.