Travelling with little ones can be stressful but with a little forward planning, you can make it bearable and maybe even enjoyable.
So prepare for take-off with this handy guide to flying with an infant.
There are some essentials you’ll want to have with you.
Most airlines have consistent policies when it comes to carry-on baggage. Generally, there is no extra baggage allowance provided for an infant meaning the parent or guardian is allowed one carry-on item, plus a small personal item for baby essentials.
Together, these bags should have a combined weight of seven-kilograms or less and be small enough to fit under the seat in front of you.
For international flights, liquid containers are restricted to 100-millilitres each (3-ounces). Any aerosol products will require a lid or cap.
It’s always a good idea to pack a little extra of the baby essentials you’ll need in case of a delay.
Suggested carry-on bag inclusions:
- Wet-wipes and cream
- Travel-sized hand disinfectant
- Disposable changing pads to lay on change tables
- Disposable plastic bags for the rubbish bin
- Tissues and burp cloths in case of spit-ups
- Washable bibs for feed time
- Dummy (plus a spare in case one falls on the floor)
- Something familiar to help keep them calm such as a soft toy or blanket
- Change of clothes
- Bottle, and a spare
- Wet and dry food for the flight, plus a little extra in case of a delay
- Baby sling to help cradle them
- Any required medication
Travel tip: There are age restrictions for infant travel. In some cases, proof of the child’s age may be required. Don’t get stuck. Take a copy of the birth certificate or passport ready to show the check-in staff.
Infants are not typically given their own baggage allowance if they’re travelling on your lap, however, airlines often allow extra items like prams and car seats to be checked free-of-charge. Check ahead of time and ask if these items will be charged as a baggage fee.
Depending on your fare type, cabin class or frequent flyer status, most airlines allow one 23-kilogram bag per (paying), passenger.
Suggested checked bag inclusions:
- Enough clothing, keeping in mind the weather at your destination
- Plan for at least two outfits per day
- Two sets of pyjamas or sleepwear
- Hat or beanie in case of cool weather
- Enough nappies to get you to the destination
- Socks and comfy shoes or booties
- Swimmers (or swim nappies) and/or floaties
- Cold-weather clothing if required
- Toiletries, including baby wash, sponge and baby shampoo
- A natural insect repellent safe for baby use
- Nappy rash lotion or powder
Other packing suggestions:
- Plastic bags for dirty clothes or nappies
- Baby utensils if required
- Breast pump if required
- Portable cot (remembering the weight counts towards your baggage allowance)
- Inflatable bathtub
- Collapsible stroller or pram
- Car seat
- Plug-in nightlight
- Baby monitor
- Swaddle blanket if required
Travel tip: Hotels generally have cribs on request. Use a sani-wipe before use.
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At the airport
If possible, it’s always a good idea to check-in the day before departure. Most airlines allow advanced check-in up to 24 hours before departure online or on your mobile phone via an App. Not only does this save time at the airport but you may also be able to select your seat before they’ve all been allocated at the airport.
If you have a pram, you may be able to take it through security where it will be screened separately. You will need to carry your child with you through the screening process.
Airport screening technology is safe and will not contaminate any type of food or milk products.
At the gate
Parents with very young children are often given extra time to board. Be sure to arrive at the gate early and identify yourself as a candidate for early boarding.
Prams will be tagged at the gate and you can drop them at the aircraft door.
Upon arrival at your destination, the stroller will be first off and made available to you inside the jetway. This process does vary by airline, so check with the gate agent at the time of boarding.
Best time to fly
When you’re booking your flight, consider a time that works with your baby’s sleep pattern so they have maximum chance to sleep during the flight.
To maximise the potential of a spare seat next to you, try to fly outside peak times.
Travel Tip: Ask at check-in if a spare seat can be “courtesy-blocked” next to you.
On board the plane
Infants are strictly defined as children under the age of two years on the day of travel.
A “lap-child” refers to an infant who does not occupy their own seat but held by a parent or guardian during the flight. “Lap children” typically fly for free and must be under the age of two. By law, a separate seat must be purchased for children over two.
Be sure to carry proof of age for your child because if the check-in staff have any doubt, they may require you to purchase a seat.
Where to sit
Travellers with an infant are typically seated towards the rear of the aircraft. This is for a number of reasons.
- Lavatories with change tables are usually at the rear of the aircraft
- There are more lavatories in the rear section of the plane
- Depending on the aircraft, there are typically more crew members in the back section to offer assistance
- The main galley is located at the rear.
On larger aircraft used on overseas travel, bassinets are sometimes provided in bulkhead rows. These bassinets are limited and must be pre-booked.
Once you are seated, a flight attendant will provide you with a special infant seatbelt. It loops through your seatbelt to secure the infant against you for take-off, landing, and turbulence.
If you’re planning to sleep, make sure the infant seatbelt – and yours – remain fastened. This way, flight attendants will not have to wake you should the seat-belt sign be switched on.
Travel tip: Fasten your seatbelt on the outside of your blanket, so the flight attendants don’t have to wake or disturb you.
These days, most aircraft lavatories are fitted with a baby change table. Your flight attendant can point out the one closest to you.
Travel tip: Take disposable changing pads to use in the bathrooms.
How to avoid blocked ears
The cabin pressure inside the aircraft can affect young children more than it does adults. To help ease a toddler’s discomfort on take-off and landing, give them a bottle to drink. The sucking and swallowing motion will help unblock their ears.
Travel tip: Time a bottle for departure and landing to help with the equalizing of ears.
Heating bottles and food
Have the bottle pre-prepared with powdered formula close at hand. Always travel with bottled water which can be used to fill the baby bottle.
If you need a bottle to be heated during flight, just ask a flight attendant. Check the bottle temperature before feeding.
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