I remember packing for our first flight with a little one. I was so anxious I spent hours on the phone to our tour operator, asking question after question about all of my little niggles and worries. I learned a lot during this process, and have put together my top five tips for flying with a baby, in the hope of helping other new mummies relax a bit when it comes to airline travel.
1. Where will my baby sleep/sit on the aeroplane? If your infant is under two they can sit on your lap for free (your pay only taxes, usually around £35 for short haul). For most short-haul flights your options are either to keep your child on your knee for the duration of your flight, or choose to buy them their own seat. The airline will provide you with a special chair or belt to strap them in securely, or you may be allowed to take your own car seat with you. Of course, in an ideal world, we would all pay for an extra seat, but often this costs almost as much as an adult fair. A great tip is to try flying with a baby off peak, as if you check in and there is a spare seat available, the airline will gladly allocate it to you free of charge.
If you’re travelling long haul, and your baby is still at an age where they will happily lie flat, you can request a bulk head seat, and a sky cot, in which the baby can lie down in front of you and sleep, giving you a break. Once a baby is too big for a sky cot, your options will vary dependent on who you are flying with. For long haul flights, you will sometimes be given an option of a toddler seat which attaches to the bulkheads (provided your infant is less than 12.5 kilos), which is fantastic.2. I’m transferring to the airport via taxi, but what should I do about a car seat?! This one had me in a complete panic just hours before departure. There is actually no legal requirement to put your baby in a car seat in a taxi. Obviously, this is a risk you have to be prepared to take, and if it worries you then a lift from a friend might be better, but it’s good to know this is an option, provided you cling on very tightly to your child, and aren’t going too far! Some taxi firms do have car seats they can strap in before they pick you up, so it’s worth asking.
3. I am so worried about getting my baby’s milk and food through customs, help! This one seems like a big insurmountable nightmare of a problem, until you find out what the rules are, and do it once, then it seems very easy :). Airports have tightened security in recent years meaning that none of us are allowed to take liquids on planes. This is obviously a tricky one when it comes to babies, as when they are small, most of what they eat is in liquid format. I am pleased to report that airports do recognise this problem, and there are special exceptions for babies. The rules are that you are allowed to take through with you as much food as your baby might need for a flight (in my experience, this was quite a lot…about 6 jars of baby food and four bottles of formula!). In order to check that your food is not toxic, security are likely to ask you to taste it. In my case I was told just to taste “something”, so I could have my pick of what was easiest to open.
Clearly, you are not going to be able to use a steriliser, and my best answer to this is buying chuck-away pre-sterilised bottles to use on flights to Baby Holidays. Sam was just over a year old, so I decided to fill the bottles with water and take powdered formula separately. The air hostesses were more than happy to help with bottle and food warming, and they had baby food on board too. I also packed heaps of food and nappies in my suitcase, and this was no issue. The other godsend is that nearly every airport in the UK has a Boots, and you can phone and pre-order baby food and essentials so that they’re waiting for you when you’ve come through customs.
A little note here that whilst these rules apply in the majority of Countries now, it was worth checking with your returning airport in advance, to see what the situation is there.
4. Will the airline let me take my buggy? I’m worried as I will need it in the airport. Yes, you are allowed to take a light-weight, easy fold buggy with you for your infant. You do not need to check it in, you simply fold it down and hand it in when you get on the plane, and pick it up at the other end, sometimes just outside the plane, and sometimes on the carousel. Sometimes airlines have a rule that you can either take a buggy or a car seat with you. I would suggest that you’ll want to take the buggy, and hire a car seat at the other end (this is really easy to do, I went to Majorca last year and there was a huge selection to choose from). Often, airlines will only let you check in both if you have bought a separate seat on the plane for your child.
5. I have so many baby essentials to pack, will my infant have a luggage allowance if I haven’t bought a separate seat? Yes, usually. On long haul flights this tends to be the same as your own allowance, on short haul flights it is more often 10kg, but definitely worth having!
I hope that you find this advice on flying with a baby useful, and that it eases your mind! All of our recommended Baby Holidays and Toddler Holidays can be found from our homepage.