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Flying with babies and toddlers. How to survive?

  • 26 Aug, 2021
  • Franki Napolitano
  • 39 Comments

travelling with babies

If your children haven’t reached the school age yet, you may find yourself looking for a sunny mid-year break at pretty much any time of year. Buckets and spades (and even a sun hat!) still stand a good chance of giving your little one a quality time in the September sun. If you are flying with babies this autumn and booking your first trip abroad with your baby, or a toddler, you might find the packing process overwhelming. Here we share some our tried and tested tips to help make the journey easier and stress-free; we’ve even included a free downloadable list of items to pack to make sure you don’t miss anything!

What to consider before booking your holiday?

  • Will you be able to enjoy the holiday too? It is important to consider the baby’s needs but you’re also on a holiday so make sure you go to a place which is not only child friendly but one you’ll like too.
  • Packing, remember, it’ll be tempting to take the whole house with you but try and only pack the essentials. For instance baby milk, nappies, favourite toy, etc.
  • Prepare for the worst case scenario, now, we know you want the flight to go smoothly but remember, it’s always good to consider what can go wrong. So, ensure you have a change of clothes, baby milk, diapers and snacks for both you and the baby!
  • Get your baby’s passport ready in advance. You don’t want to have to delay this and stress about it not being ready in time. You’ll have a lot of fun doing this too so make sure to enjoy the process!
  • Medicines, try to bring a small amount of it with you because you’ll be surprised that some places will ask for prescriptions before giving anything. So, try and bring baby Benadryl, Calpol, a Rectal Thermometer (it’s the best for children under 1).

What is the best time to travel with a baby?

Travelling with a baby can be a stressful experience if it’s your first time however, there are still some perks you can utilize! For instance, they’re not going to school just yet, so you can still take advantage of the off-peak time and avoid the summer crowd! It will not only be cheaper but also less busy so it’s a win-win situation. Don’t worry about missing the sun though, there are plenty of great locations you can travel where you’ll experience the sun all year round!

What is the best time of the day?

Now that you’ve decided on when, you also need to make sure you pick the right time of the day as well. But, there’s no hard or fast rule for this one, this will solely depend on your child. If they’re an early riser, then mornings might be great but if they wake up crying, perhaps mornings aren’t such a good option. Try to see what are the best times for your child and when they’re the most happy or go when they’ll likely be asleep. The key thing is, work out what will work best for your child and plan your flight around that.

What is the best accommodation for a baby?

Accommodation is such a key factor when considering travelling with a baby, because the last thing you want is your baby to be upset in your luxurious 5 star hotel room. The important thing is to try to create as much of a home-like atmosphere as you can. There are many options to choose from and it can be difficult to know which is the best.

Now booking a hotel room may seem like the best idea and it is usually the cheapest too so it can be tempting. But remember, babies usually tend to sleep a lot and for that, you need to have a nice quiet room. Now, do you really fancy having to tread around carefully around the room because you don’t want the baby waking up? So we recommend renting a suite or a family room rather than just a room, it may be slightly more expensive but having an extra room will definitely help. Remember, you’ll probably end up spending more time in in your accommodation than you initially anticipated as the baby might be ill or in a bad mood. So it’s a good idea to get good accommodation so you and the baby can both have the best time possible.

If a hotel isn’t sounding that great, why not consider booking a villa or an apartment? You’d be surprised to know that they’re actually cheaper than hotel rooms because villas often charge per week whereas hotels charge per night. Some parents prefer villas to hotels because they tend to give you a lot more privacy, not to mention a lot more space too. They come equipped with their own kitchen so you can prepare baby food! The other perk of renting a villa is, there are no neighbours to disturb, babies tend to cry a lot and this can be annoying for other people staying nearby if you’re in a hotel.

Finally, booking a family resort can also be a good option as they will usually offer a lot of child friendly activities and attractions. Resorts will also usually have a creche area or a babysitter where you could leave your baby for a small period of time, like if you wanted to go to lunch for a few hours. Now, on the surface, a resort may seem to be the most expensive option but if you think about all the added bonuses like having food and drink for all your meals, child care facilities, and many other resort activities like a child friendly pool. You might actually find yourself a bargain!

We hope some of these options help you decide on what accommodation will be best for your child!

Travelling with babies and toddlers (1)

Can I take baby milk through security?

Yes, you certainly can! The quantity is restricted though; in your hand luggage, you can take up to 2,000ml of breast milk / sterilsed water, but your baby must be present. However, you can’t take frozen milk through, but you can take it in your hold luggage. If you’re taking your own supply, most restaurants and bars will be happy to warm it up for you, so don’t be afraid to ask!

Some powdered milk manufacturers also sell ready-to-use cartons (usually 200 ml) which, if sealed, can normally be taken through security (always check with the airport you are travelling from). For example, people travelling from Gatwick Airport are advised to carry the amount of baby milk required for the journey in their hand luggage, and the rest should be packed in the checked-in baggage. Remember, you can always buy ready-to-drink milk from places like Boots in airport departure lounges if you’d rather not take lots through with you; you can even pre-order it to ensure it’s there!

What about baby scissors; can I take those through the airport?

If you are a well-organised parent who always carries a small pair of scissors to open milk cartons, you may need to check with your airport whether you will be able to take those on board. According to London Heathrow Airport website you can take scissors in your hand luggage providing the blades are no longer than 6 cm measured from the point where the blades cross, whereas Gatwick Airport Security Guidelines also state the blunt scissors shorter than 6 cm should also have rounded ends if you want to take them in your hand luggage. It’s probably best to check the up-to-date lists of prohibited items on official sites such as Gov.uk.

Can I take a pushchair on the plane?

Most parents will understandably be very protective of their baby carrying equipment and go to great lengths to avoid any possible damage to prams, pushchairs and car seats. In most cases you will be able to take your child’s pushchair, pram or buggy to the departure gate, or even right up to the aircraft door and it won’t have to be tossed about with other suitcases on the way from check-in to the aircraft.

Please note that your child might need to come out of the buggy for a while when you go through security checks and the buggy might be checked separately. However, it’s wise to check the arrangements for carrying pushchairs onto the aircraft and returning them afterwards with the airline you will be flying with.

Airlines have different rules of what can be taken and at what cost, in fact that alone can be key when selecting what airline to fly with. Here’s a list of some of the airlines that fly out of UK’s airports and what their policies are with regard to taking pushchairs (and travelling with infants in general).

babies

Airline rules for flying with pushchairs or car seats:

Airline Pushchair information Car seat information Infant charge
British Airways A small pushchair that doesn’t exceed the size of 117 x 38 x 38 cm is allowed to be taken into the aircraft door. The staff will then put it in the hold and return it back to you at the aircraft door after the flight. However, the larger ones are allowed to be taken until departures but will have to be collected from the baggage hall. The age and weight restrictions should not exceed the stated amount on the manufacturer’s guide.
The width must not be more than 45cm.
It must stay in the same position during the whole flight
An infant that is sitting in your lap will pay an infant fare. But if you want to book a separate seat for your child, then they would have to pay a child’s fare. 
Wizz Air Pushchairs will be checked in as baggage free of charge if your baby is flying with you. If not, then there will be a fee applied.
You’re allowed to take the pushchair up until the gate but will have to be collected from baggage hall on arrival.
If you’re booking an extra seat for your infant then you’re allowed to take a rear-facing infant car seat that has an inside seat belt on board. It needs to come equipped with a latch!

You’ll need to pay the normal price if you decide to pay for an extra seat.

Infants aged 14 days to 2 years old can sit in an adult’s lap. For this, you’ll be charged €31 per one way flight.
Ryanair You’re allowed to take this all the way up until you board the plane. You’re allowed to carry 2 items for your child for free. This can include a pushchair and a car seat. You’re also allowed to take a baby bag with you in addition to your own hand luggage! The car seat has to be approved by the aircraft and it needs to have a 5 point harness.
The size must not exceed 16.8 inches.
It must have a ‘Certified for use on aircraft’ sticker printed on it.
8 days to under 2 years old are allowed to sit in an adult’s lap for a small fee.
easyJet You’re allowed to take 2 items of your child for free. This may include, a pushchair, a travel cot, car seat, booster seat, etc. The airline does not provide their own car seat so you’ll have to bring your own and it must be a forward seating one. 14- days to 2 years are allowed to fly in an adult’s lap for a small fee
Air Canada You’re allowed to bring one stroller per child as an addition to your checked baggage allowance.
Small pushchairs, with the size 25.5 x 92 cm when collapsed, can be checked in either at the boarding gate or baggage counter. However, larger ones can only be checked in at the baggage counter.
It must follow the transport canada regulations.
Car seats are allowed as an addition to regular baggage allowance, free of charge.
Free if travelling domestically in an adult’s lap. However, if travelling to the US, then taxes apply.
But, if travelling internationally, a child seated in an adult’s lap will pay 10% of an adult fare plus taxes.
jetBlue Pushchair will not be counted as an extra luggage Car seats will be allowed as part of checked luggage without an extra charge If you’re flying domestically, infants are can fly free of charge in an adult’s lap. You’ll be asked to show proof of age, birth certificate, passport or immunisation record. But if you’re flying internationally, you might have to pay tax.
Lufthansa You’re allowed to take the pushchair with you for free. Like other airlines, you’re allowed to take this all the way to the airplane’s steps and will be returned to you on arrival. You’re allowed to take a car seat with you but it must follow Lufthansa’s regulations. If it doesn’t meet the requirements, it will not be allowed in the aircraft. Free if you’re flying within Germany with children under 2. But for all other flights, the child flying in an adult’s lap must pay 10% of the adult’s charge.
Air France You’re allowed to check in the pushchair free of charge. However, it must not exceed the maximum size of 15 x 30 x 100 cm. The car seat must be approved for air travel. It must not exceed the 44cm limit.
When taking off or landing, the seat must face the rear of the plane. At other times, it must face forward.
The child may travel at 10% price of an adult ticket.
Emirates You’re allowed to take a pushchair with you even in the cabin if there’s room but it has to be a fully collapsible one. In addition, infants are allowed one handbag but it must not weight more than 5kg! Car seats are allowed on all Emirates flights. But it will need to have a label that says it’s safe to for air travel, as well as follow the airline’s regulations.
If your baby weighs less than 10 kilogrammes, then they can use either front facing or back facing. But if they’re over this, the car seat must be forward facing one.
7 – 23 months can travel in the parent’s lap or in a bassinet at a discounted rate.

Please note that some airlines require that you take a fully collapsible umbrella-style pushchair, which, especially if you are travelling on your own with your children, might be difficult to fold while holding the baby. Trying to fold it yourself with a baby strapped in a front carrier, whilst leaning forward to do it is a challenge to say the least. Having a one hand fold / unfold stroller would be best but not all pushchairs on the market are that easy!

What food can I take on the plane for my child?

You probably know this already, but a small snack at the right time can do wonders to your toddler. Always pack something to eat. Need ideas? Small packets of raisins, rice crackers, bread sticks, dried banana chips, sliced apples, rusks – anything that isn’t too runny or requires a spoon is great. You don’t want the passenger in front of you to find your child wiping messy hands onto their hair (as infants under 2 years old have to be held on parent’s lap and they will try to make the most of it!).

If your precious bundle of joy is still breastfed, take a scarf or a wide shawl for privacy. Some airports have dedicated Mother and Baby rooms where you can nurse in private if you prefer. For example, Gatwick Airport has great facilities where armchairs and playpens are provided for older children when their mum is feeding the baby; however, if you have to breastfeed on board, try to get the window seat – you don’t want people bumping into your baby’s feet or the head if you are sitting in the aisle seat.

How do I keep my child entertained on a flight?

Some mums swear by giving their baby a glossy magazine to tear while on the plane. Colourful pictures, noisy page turning, excitement – and you can chuck it afterwards. Toys and books are always good to have, however if you are flying with a child younger than 2 years and you have to keep them on your lap throughout the journey, it might be a bit of a stretch to keep picking up that ball that rolls down the aisle every 3 minutes. For the younger ones entertainment try taking a toy chain, hooking it onto the foldable tray (or your own seatbelt belt) and then using that to secure the toy (preferably with some hoops / rings). Crayons and a small sketchbook are ideal for older children. Our guide to keeping children entertained on longer journeys offers a wide range of ideas for kids of all ages.

kid on plane

Be ready for all the mess; have a spare set of clothes (for both of you!)

Be prepared, this will be messy. If you expect to exit the plane at the end of your plane journey wearing crisp cream linen trousers or that floaty white silk blouse, think again. We’d suggest wearing something that can double as a burping cloth (for babies) or a handkerchief / wipe / kitchen towel for toddlers. We have seen mums change in the bathrooms as soon as they land, so if your hand luggage space allows it, have an extra change of clothes for yourself. It goes without saying that you HAVE to have an extra change of clothes for the child! Choose clothes for the little one that you can layer easily, and peel them off if needed! Especially if you are travelling to a hot climate and the heat will hit you as soon as you step out of the plane.

What about nappies and wipes, can I take those?

For babies and toddlers, take as may nappies, pull ups and baby wipes as you’d like in your hand luggage; we’d always suggest taking a couple more than you normally would carry in your nappy bag just in case your hold luggage is delayed or you have an emergency! You probably already wonder how you managed to live without baby wipes before becoming a parent, but a plane journey is the time and place where you will absolutely worship the inventors of them.

messy baby

How best to pack for babies and toddlers

Try and distribute key items between various bags, so if there’s a small chance of losing one bag, you can survive with only having the other. Another tip is to start packing in advance; a week before your trip, open your main suitcase, leave it somewhere easily accessible and start collecting all the things to take as you go along, don’t worry about the order yet. As time goes on you will get the feel of the volume of your luggage and won’t need to stress the night before when it turns out you can’t fit it all in! The days when you could throw a few essential items into your hand luggage and not even worry about a check-in bag are over for a while, and you’d be shocked to realise your baby has more outfits for the holiday than the parents put together.

What should go in my hand luggage and what shall I put in my checked bag?

You will say it’s impossible but keep your hand baggage to a minimum. Hats off to people who travel with their baby or a young child on their own. If you are a first-time parent and this is your first flight with a baby, forget your previous life where you could sit back, relax and read a book. You won’t need the book, you have all the entertainment you need! So reduce your hand luggage by removing items that you know you won’t have a chance to use on the plane.

However cutting down is easier said than done. Here’s a checklist of baby/toddler items you should take with you split into two groups – items that should go into your hand luggage and items that can go into hold.

Follow this link to our Flying with a Baby Packing Checklist Document to make sure you don’t forget anything for your little one!

As Brexit has taken place, if you want health cover when travelling through the EU, you’ll now need to apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) card for your little ones. If you don’t have a GHIC as an adult yet it’s worth getting one for yourself and you’ll be able to add your child to the initial application; however if you are already a GHIC holder you will need to contact NHS Overseas Healthcare Services and provide them with your details so they can access your record.

Finally; the best lugagge to take as a parent?

Hands down, it’s got to be a backpack as your hand luggage; if you don’t see it, it doesn’t need to use up your hands! Another space-saving and hands-freeing piece of equipment is a front baby carrier. The combination of a backpack and a baby carrier is an absolute must if you are travelling with the little one on your own. If all else fails, ask people for help. You’ll be surprised who will be around to help you out be they airport staff or fellow travellers.

Older children will be able to take their own backpacks on board with their toys and books, and it will be much easier to spread the load. They will also enjoy ‘feeling the part’, carrying a backpack just like Mummy or Daddy.

kid playing

Feeling ready to travel with your baby?

Good, it’s now time to relax. Take a deep breath and go with the flow, it will be a lovely journey after all; be confident in the knowledge that you know how to survive flying with babies and toddlers!

About Franki Napolitano

Working in the travel industry has really opened my eyes to the attitudes, issues and obstacles people can face just trying to go on holiday. Whether it's due to their health, family situations or budgets, travel should be accessible for all. I cover everything from travelling with a disability to how to save money while you travel, hoping to make the holiday process easier for everyone.

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39 responses to “Flying with babies and toddlers. How to survive?”

  1. Hiya. I will be travelling a long haul flight with my 2 year old daughter next month. Do you think i should bring a car seat or a harness belt.? I will be travelling alone and just wondering how i would even carry the carseat around til boarding

    • Hi Kelly, thanks for your comment!

      Most airlines will allow up to 2 pieces of children’s equipment, including a foldable push chair and a car seat, to be carried on the plane free of charge. The pushchair will need to go in the hold once you get to the gate, allowing use if it for as long as possible.

      If you are travelling in economy class, your daughter may even be able to sit in her car seat on her own seat if you have purchased one for her – check your airlines policy on this as the seat needs to meet certain height and safety requirements. (This is not usually an option in other classes).

      I hope that helps!

  2. Hi, I am flying with a 4 month old baby who is on mixed feeding. I had to express milk for her 4 to 5 times a day. I am traveling through emirates and going to Pakistan via Dubai. I want to know can I take some breast milk and a few cartons of ready to feed milk through security. I am traveling from Heathrow airport. I have already booked the basinett seat and a bassinet for her. Also will I be able to express some milk during the flight. She can’t digest formula milk easily so I have to mix feed her

    • Hi Nadia,

      Thanks for your message!

      You are able to take Breast Milk, Formula Milk and Sterilised Water through security at UK Airports as per the information on the Gov.uk website. You also have the option to pre order formula milk at Boots, which have stores after security across all terminals.

      With regard to expressing on the plane, I am sure this would not be an issue at all, but if you have any concerns or questions, I would check with Emirates directly. You may also wish to inform the passenger sitting next to you (if flying alone with your child) as they may wish to give you some privacy and space to do so to make it more comfortable for you.

      Hope this was of help – have a safe trip!

  3. Hi, im travelling with a 3 year old so no problerm just wanted to know if i was allowed to take fresh milk as my flight is at 9pm & my daughter does not sleap without drinking milk.

  4. Hi there, I’m travelling with my 1&3 yr old, I’m more concerned about how I carry suitcases, carry on luggage , travel cot and push the buggy, checking in isn’t so bad as I can have someone help me, but what do I do when I arrive. Am I entitled to special assistance?

    • Hi Liz

      I’m not sure whether you mean arriving at your destination or back in the UK, but either way it would mean checking with the airport directly.

      The special assistance service is usually just available to those with reduced mobilty, however it’s always worth speaking to your airline and the airports in advance to see if there is any help available.

  5. I’m going on a 8 hour flight with my 7month baby with Heathrow I was just wondering do you think I could take baby yoghurts as a snack or could you give me any other ideas

    • Hi Kiran,

      As per Heathrow’s website, they state;

      “You can (carry yogurt or fruit juice), but these are considered liquids so the standard liquid rules apply. They must be in containers of 100ml or less, and placed inside a closed single, resealable, transparent plastic bag that has a capacity no greater than 1 litre.There’s no 100ml limit on yoghurts or fruit juices bought in airport shops after security control.”

      So depending on how much you will need, you could take a pot or two through with you in your liquid allowance, or head to one of the Boots branches after security (available in all terminals) to stock up there

      Hope that helps!
      Franki

  6. I am travelling with a 6 yr old. Can i carry milk for him as he survives on it during travel. How much can i carry . My journey is almost 24 hrs from india to miami with a break of 3 hrs. Travelling with qatar airline. Pls help

  7. Hi
    My 2 year old has just had to undergo an excessive security seRch in Aberdeen airport. Is this legal. She was extremely upset by this as obviously it was a total stranger prodding and checking. I think this is unacceptable. Can you shed any light on this matter. Thank you

    • Hi Drew,

      We’re so sorry to hear of yours and your daughters experience, and sadly, it’s not the first time it’s come up as an issue.

      All passengers can be subject to a body search or scan, including children, but if you feel hers was conducted unfairly, we’d suggest speaking to a representative of Aberdeen Airport.

      We hope she is ok!

  8. Hi!
    Me and my husband are travelling with our 16 month old twins from Israel to Brazil with a 9 hour stop in heatrhow.
    Can you give me some tips regarding the 4 hour flight to England, the 9 hour stop and the 12 hour flight to Brazil?
    Thank you in advance!

    • Hi Nehama

      With regards to the flights, everything we would recommend is in the above article 🙂 plenty of snacks, distractions and check your airports restrictions on baby food and formula if you use it.

      Take a look at this guide to children’s facilities at Heathrow Airport to see what’s available in the terminal you’ll be arriving and departing from to keep your twins entertained on your 9 hour stop over – I’d recommend checking into a lounge for part of it!

      Good luck, wishing you a stress free journey!

  9. Hi – i recently discovered your info and found it very helpful. Especially the tip on airport policies for strollers/prams. Can i just say as a mum of a now 3 year old who i have been travelling longhaul (glasgow to nz – approx 30 hours) with on my own since she was 5 months old, i prefer a baby carrier (wrap when theyre young then structured when older/bigger), with a wheele bag and if possible can convert to a backpack. The reason for the wheelie bag vs backpack is that my shoulders, legs, body got nailed wearing both baby and backpack especially when i had to walk for 30 mins through a terminal. I have found a wheelie bag so much more relaxing and would only need the backpack option when over loading up my trolley of bags from bag collection to get to the taxi (when i really need to be hands free to push the trolley). Also, i cant recommend an umbrella stroller like a maclaren to take through the airport to the gate enough. This is really handy as im always
    asked to remove my baby/child from my carrier and also take off the carrier so it can go through security. “So who holds my baby or where can i put my baby when taking off/putting on the carrier (imagine with a wrap too right?). Also, a stroller is great for giving the option of carrying baby when they’re a bit older, awake and alert and want to explore the world or alternatively use the stroller to carry your wheelie bag.

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