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Flying with babies and toddlers. How to survive?

  • 26 Aug, 2021
  • Franki Napolitano

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

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).


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. Hi my name is Eva Latkova I am 3 month pregnant and would like to know what is your proceeder for scanning pregnant women.I am flying from Prague to London and London to Vancouver Canada. Please let me know how I should handle it

    Eva Latkova

  2. Hi Eva, thanks for your comment. To find out more about security checks you’d need to contact both Prague and London airports, or simply visit their official sites to see if there’s any information they have for pregnant women. Asking the airline you are flying with could also help.

  3. Hi Debbie,
    Thanks for your comment.

    I see you have a challenge ahead of you! Depending on the duration of the flight (short trip? long haul?), you might find that the best thing to do on board of the plane is try and make friends with passengers sitting immediately next to you. I’ve witnessed many mums flying alone with two small children who quickly befriended their seat neighbours, to the point where there was free baby sitting available whilst mum took a trip to the WC!

    Another tip is don’t be afraid or embarrassed or shy to ask for help, even if it’s a small thing like asking someone to pick up a toy that rolled under the seats, or place your bags in the overhead holder, or – it happened to me – asking someone to hold the baby whilst you put on your baby carrier.

    Hope it helps, and good luck with your trip!

  4. Hi,
    I am travelling on a budget airline long-haul London to LAX alone with 4 kids age just 1, nearly 3, 9 and 11 years, as soon as we get there family will take over and help we just got to get there!!
    Am i completely mad? Any tips very much appreciated.
    Thanks in advance

  5. Hi Jurga,

    I’m travelling next Friday with a 10month old. We have bought him his own car seat (approved for plane use and checked with the airline) can we take a fold away trolley with us to transport it all the way through the airport until we get to the plane?
    Also, the baby uses a powder milk that is not supplied in shops, can we take a fresh unsealed carton through with us?
    Can you recommend any food containers that will be recognised as 100mls as he is on purée foods as well as milk that I can buy in 80g packs. But as gram measurements are not acceptable I’m not sure what to do??
    Bearing in mind my flight is long haul to Sri Lanka… So 10 hours or so…. Any suggestions would be great. I have gone through all security FAQs but still unsure in the above. There are 3 adults in total travelling but also 3 children so any extra help is appreciated

    Thanks in advance


  6. Hi Natasha,

    Thanks for your question.

    When you talk about the fold away trolley, is it part of a travel system where your car seat turns into a pram if attached to this trolley? Most airlines list on their websites what is their policy regarding taking a pram/pushchair so if the two items could be treated as one piece of infant equipment (on wheels) you should be able to take it with you. Please double-check with your airline.

    With regards to the ready made baby milk – does the carton contain any English writing on it? Is it a specialised product purchased abroad? Unfortunately I can’t give you an answer to this, you’d need to ask the particular airport. You can even tweet the airport with your enquiry, they are usually prompt in replying.

    Regarding the 80g packs of pureed food – have you considered buying some baby food freezer pots? A quick search on Amazon showed there are some good baby weaning food freezing pots available that are up to 70 ml each, perhaps worth looking into it?

    I hope this helps. Please note we are not an official source of information, so always refer to the airline you are flying with and the airport of your departure.

    Have a lovely trip!

  7. Hi, I’m traveling with my 1 yr old, flying with Wizz Air, can I take a changing bag as an extra hand luggage and if so how big it can be? thanks, Laura

    • Hi Laura, thanks for your comment.
      The Wizz Air website has a detailed answer to this question: “Is an infant entitled to any baggage allowance?”

      Infants are not entitled to any baggage allowance with the exception of a pushchair / foldable baby carriage / infant car seat per infant (carried free of charge). One of these items will also be carried free of charge for children (between the age of 2 years and 14 years old). Please note that prams and pushchairs shall be checked in with other baggage and will be carried free of charge only if the user of the equipment is travelling. However if no infant or child is involved, these items will be carried as checked-in baggage for an additional fee.

      So you might need to incorporate your personal belongings (perhaps a small handbag) into the baby changing bag, so that it makes one bag.
      Hope it helps!

  8. Hi I’m traveling in 2weeks and am 18 weeks pregnant and have a 7month old any tips? Also would it still be safe to have her seated in my lap during take off?

  9. Hi Sara,

    Thanks for your comment. From what I can imagine your 7month old will have to be seated on your lap, as I suspect you will be flying on your own. If concerned, please contact the airline you are flying with prior to your trip.

    Also, if checking-in online, you might want to think where it would be best for you to sit (if you are able to get allocated seating). Some seats won’t be available to a parent flying with a small baby, but you can still at least opt for the isle seat vs. window seat. I find there’s more space for manoeuvre.

    All the other tips on how to keep your 7month old busy/happy still apply!

  10. Hi, IAM travelling with a 17months old.we take a long flight 18 hours, will stop over once. We take Emirate, they don’t provide child food for under 2year old kid. Only baby puree, but my wee don’t eat puree for a long time. We have to prepare his meal our own. We planned to buy the ready made food like by hipp or Ella kitchen. But seems it can’t pass the security. Can you give us some advise in this situation? Thanks

    • Hello Christina,
      Thanks for your comment.
      The best source of information is Emirates’ official website, where they state: “Exemptions will be made for medications, baby milk or foods, and special dietary requirements, but you will need to show an appropriate means of verifying the nature of these items.”

      You should still contact the airline directly, especially if you intend on packing some home-made pureed foods. It’s probably best to ask the airline about particular baby food brands (such as Hipp or Ella Kitchen) as many parents would have had the same question.

      Some parenting forums report that you may be asked to open and try one of the shop-bought food pouches you are taking in your hand luggage during security check. Again, it’s best to contact the airline and check the rules applied at security check of particular airport you are flying from. Hope this helps.

  11. HI. I Will travel with my son ( 1 year and 4 month old while traveling) and take wizz air. I would like to make sure if I can bring pushchair and car seat free of charge. Based on information in website: Infants are not entitled to any baggage allowance with the exception of a pushchair / foldable baby carriage / infant car seat per infant (carried free of charge). I also would like to ask what the infant car seat mean because my son now is using car seat for 9kg to 18 kg. Is this kind of car seat free of charge? Thanks.

  12. Thanks for your comment Lin.

    We always advise to contact the airline directly. Their website says:
    “Infants up to the age of 2 may fly for a infant fee, on the accompanying adult’s lap. (…) Infants are not entitled to any baggage allowance with the exception of a pushchair (carried free of charge). Infant car seats cannot be taken on board.”

    However, on their FAQ page they say, as you correctly pointed out:
    “Infants are not entitled to any baggage allowance with the exception of a pushchair / foldable baby carriage / infant car seat per infant (carried free of charge). One of these items will also be carried free of charge for children (between the age of 2 years and 14 years old).”

    I’d say you’d need to make a choice and decide on one piece of infant equipment (whether it is a pushchair or a car seat) if you want it to be carried for free. The best is still to inquire directly with Wizz Air. Hope it helps.

  13. Hi. I am traveling to turkey in a few days time and my 14month old daughter is on full fat cows milk. I have thaught about solutions to cleaning her bottles but i am wondering what will i do about milk for the flight? As i know i wont be able to fill them at home as i cant take it through security. Will it be abailable for me to buy in thw airport in a carton like at home so i can take it on the plane and use when i get there as it will be around 1pm when we arrive. An answer would be great.

    • Hello Stacey,

      Thanks for your comment. How long is your trip to Turkey, and how many feeds do you expect to require? Also, what airline are you flying with? It may be worth going on your airline’s website and finding out their policies for taking foods for babies and infants. Would your daughter be able to take any other liquids during the flight?

      Personally I haven’t been to Turkey and can’t really tell if you’d be able to get cows milk when landing around 1pm. Perhaps have a look at what shops/facilities are available at the airport of your destination.
      Hope this helps, and happy travels!

  14. Hi my name is Ella. I’m travelling with my 23 months old baby from london to Copenhagen. We live in Birmingham (so we are taking a coach from birmingham to london luton airport). We have 3 bags to check in and 1 hand bag. Are baggage trolleys available right after we get off the coach? And can I put my baby on the trolley as well so that I can push her and the trolley at the airport (she’s really naughty, I’m afraid that if I let her walk she might run away and get lost)… 🙁

    • Hi Ella,
      Usually baggage trolleys are available as soon as you arrive at the airport. However it is not usually advised to let your child ride on the trolley. At Luton Airport they normally charge £2 for use of a trolley. Hope that helps!

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