Flying with a Baby
The idea of flying with a baby might fill you with dread but our handy guide and checklist should take away some of the stress and introduce your little one to the wide world. Once you have done it once you will be able to take to the skies with confidence.
Before You Travel
Do your research for both the UK Airport you are travelling from and the destination that you are travelling to.
As a basic, look at the following:
What facilities are available: family rooms, baby change?
Food and drink
Where you can heat up baby milk
What is the maximum time to get to the furthest gate?
What buggy facilities are there?
It’s worth checking out any airline and government restrictions
And, of course, the Foreign Office for travel restrictions
Arriving at the Airport
Most airports have many options for parking, however, take into consideration how much you are carrying and what time your flight is. There is no point looking for park and ride options where your car is 5 miles from the airport and then getting on a bus at 3am in the morning. A ‘Meet and Greet’ option (whereby you drive up to the front of the terminal and someone takes your car), if you book in advance, will not break the bank. You will find the best options at www.holidayextras.co.uk. Once you are on the mailing list you will also get great discounts.
This also helps with getting yourself organised, especially if you are taking a car seat with you as it can be loaded straight on to an airport trolley so you’re not lugging it around with you.
We recommend dumping the traditional change bag and opting for something that can be put on your back freeing up your hands.
When it comes to buggies, it’s simpler and stress free to opt for an umbrella folding buggy which folds flat for a newborn. We travelled for many years with the isafe Visual 3. Which also has almost 360 Degrees sun protection. Don’t think for one minute your £1000 Bugaboo travel system will survive the flight! We also bought a travel strap to go round it to give it extra protection.
In an era of self check-in, it is still ok to talk to an actual person at the airport. If you are checking in additional baby equipment you will need to head to the check-in desk anyway, so don’t give yourself additional work to do!
Most airlines, when travelling with an infant, allow you to take free of charge items that can be checked in. These items often have to be loaded by you at the outsize luggage belt, but the airline operators will point you in the right direction. Check with your airline first as to what you can take.
Check the position of your seat. An aisle seat will make it easier for you to get up and walk up and down the aisle if you need to. If you are breastfeeding you may prefer a window seat for privacy.
The Security Gate
This is where the most faffing around on your trip will be done. But there are ways to overcome this.
Most airports have family lanes for you to use, some even have a person directing you to them as they see you coming.
Avoid wearing any metal, and take only limited electronics. You don’t need to be unpacking or repacking all your bags or re dressing yourself whilst trying to balance the baby.
You will need to take out any milk or baby food, cold gels or medicines and YOU CANNOT TAKE FROZEN MILK THROUGH. Keep these at the top of your bag when you pack. Place them in a separate tray. You may be asked to drink the milk to prove what it is. Get your doctor to write a note for any prescription medications that have to be carried when travelling.
If you are travelling with your buggy to the gate you will have to take the baby out and walk through the scanners with the baby, as security will search the buggy.
If you have checked-in your buggy and have opted for a sling (which is the easier way to do things) you will have to take the baby out of the sling.
Once you are through the scanners secure the baby first before loading up your bag again. Take your time and don’t worry who is behind you. Get yourself ready to go and get some food!
Relax, the hard bit is done! Locate the Child/Family facilities even if you don’t need to use them, you might do before you board.
Locate your gate and estimate how long it will take you to get there. Most departure lounges have a pharmacy or a Boots which means you can top up with anything you might need or have forgotten about. I would often pick up an extra teething gel or an Infacol.
Map out or set alarms on your phone and work backwards from when you arrive at the gate.
We would recommend that you take the opportunity to change the baby and have a wee before you are called to the gate. Often in some of the larger airports the plane may take up to 30 mins to get a slot for take off. If you add boarding time and holding time it could be up to an hour before you can get out your seat.
You will be called to the gate for boarding before anyone else. If you have decided to travel to the gate with your buggy it will be taken off you at this point; transfer your baby to a sling so you’re not balancing baby and bags. There are plenty of slings on the market but have a look at our product page for the Tested by Tots recommendations.
Make yourself known to the air hosts. If you are a solo traveller with a baby this will come in handy. Once you’ve found your seat, take your time, unload what you need for the flight out of your bag, milk (and an extra one just in case the timings for your flight have thrown out their routine), nappy change items, muslin square and anything to entertain the baby. Whilst you are unloading check in with the air hosts, ask them to give you a signal before the fasten seat belt signal on landing comes on, so you can change the baby's nappy and get comfortable for landing.
During the Flight
Don’t feel obliged to stay seated the whole flight. Of course, whilst the seatbelt sign is on you need to remain in the chair though. Walk up and down the aisle. Stimulating a baby at this age is often visual, so don’t underestimate the power of showing them lights and signs onboard.
You will be asked to take your baby out of the sling on take-off and landing and will be given an extension belt for this. But getting the baby back into a familiar sling will offer comfort to you both.
If you’re travelling with someone, take turns with the baby; it’s ok to have some time off and relax yourself. If you are a solo traveller, ask the air hosts to take the baby if you need the toilet.
It’s hard enough for an adult to try and level out your ears as a flight descends, so for a baby this can be very uncomfortable. However, sucking on something can always help. Both of our children had dummies from an early age, so we would use this to help them regulate their ears. Breastfeeding or giving the baby a bottle works well too. Anything that causes them to suck.
When the flight has landed take your time to leave your seat, there is no rush. If you’re travelling on your own, get the help of the air hosts to hold your baby for you whilst you repack your bag. Make sure the baby is secure in the sling and you are comfortable. We would recommend at this point making sure your passports are to hand.
DON’T EXPECT YOUR BUGGY TO BE THERE AS SOON AS YOU GET OFF THE FLIGHT! Most of the time the buggy will either come out on the baggage belt or to outsized luggage. Some airports have rented buggies from the gate, Gatwick operates this scheme.
You will need access to all passports at this point and unfortunately you will have to go through the physical/traditional passport control. As you are travelling with a baby the chip in the passport and the e-gates are not accessible to you.
They will need to see the baby's face so be ready to show off your baby!
It’s impossible to predict if all your luggage will come out at the same place but it’s important to prioritise the buggy. Once the baby is strapped in everything else gets easier. Check with the airline where the buggy will come out. Often in France there is an outsized belt where car seats, buggies and cots come out of.
Find the buggy first then head for the baggage belt.