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International travel tips: Flying with a baby under 2 years

Updated on June 29, 2011

I decided to take advantage of my maternity leave and the fact that babies under two years can travel free on international flights, and took my six month old baby on holiday to Asia from Australia. Once there we also took several internal flights. Based on my own experience here are some travel tips for flying with a baby.

  • Although a baby under two years can travel for free you can pay for a seat for them if you decide to take your baby seat or capsule on holiday with you, as it can be attached to the plane seat the same way it is in your car. For free travel you have to nurse your baby.
  • Some planes, but not all, will be fitted with some sort of bassinets. You will need to book one of these in advance, but even if you do you may not end up with it as the bassinets are usually given babies of the youngest age even if you have pre-booked one. You may also want to check that it's appropriate for your babies size and age, as they can be very tiny, and up high on the plane wall, and may not be appropriate for your babies size, or if your baby can sit up and roll over. The styles will vary between airlines, but the one's I saw would be appropriate for Newborns only (In my opinion) they were too small for my six month old.
  • If you are nursing your baby for the duration of the trip, you will find that you will be unable to pull down the tray in front of your seat due to the limited room between the seats. This will mean you will not be able to use it to prepare your babies food or bottles and you won't be able to use it to eat yourself. This is made easier, providing you are not travelling alone, by sharing your travel companions tray, or having them assist you in preparing your babies food. It's also worth telling staff at the Check-In counter when you are booking in your luggage that because you are travelling with a baby could they seat you somewhere on the plane which is less crowded. They may be able to sit you in a row with an empty seat which will give you and your baby more room. Airlines will not allow you to sleep baby on the floor during any part of the flight due to safety issues.
  • Most Airlines will allow you to bring your pram to the gate of the plane and have it waiting for you at the plane door when you arrive at your destination. Sometimes they will only do this if the pram is under a certain size, so it's best to check with your airline in advance. A pram is not counted in your luggage limits, and usually you can also take a port-a-cot on your trip without paying any excess luggage charges.
  • Ensure you travel with onboard luggage that fits under the seat in front of you and arrange the contents inside for easy reach, as it's too difficult getting up and down to retrieve your baby items from the overhead lockers.
  • The liquid restrictions on international flights don't apply to baby food or bottles, but you may be asked to show your baby food during customs. Therefore I recommend packing a separate bag which just contains your babies food and sit it inside your hand luggage. This makes things easier to reach during your flight too. I found the weight of my hand luggage was over the usual requirements but had no problem when I said I had my babies food inside it as well as my own on-board luggage.
  • As with adults babies ears can 'pop' during the flight. It's most common after off and before landing. I gave my baby a dummy or a rusk during these times as the chewing motion helps with this.
  • When the seat belt lights are on your baby will have a seat belt which attaches to yours and sitting on your lap. I took a patchwork fabric square and hung it over the magazine holder on the back of the chair in front of us, so that there was something interesting to look at during these times.
  • Preparing bottles: I packed my own bottles of water and packets of formula, along with some disposable spoons for mixing. When the Flight Attendants came around serving tea and coffee I asked for a half cup of hot water. I made up the bottles myself and sat them in the cup of hot water on my partners tray next to us to warm them up.
  • I found it easier to sit in an isle seat for getting up to change nappies. There were fold down nappy change tables in the toilets. I placed a blanket under my baby as they had quite a hard surface.
  • I found a few light wraps were good to layer over baby as required during sleep time.
  • I used a toddler pillow as a mattress for when my baby slept across me, making us both more comfortable.
  • I packed a beach towel for my baby to play on the ground while we were waiting at the terminal to board the plane (A small blanket would also suit this need), and a few light-weight non-musical toys and books.
  • Ensure the air conditioning vents above your seat is not blowing directly onto you and your baby as it can cause dry eyes. I kept the vent opened just a little.
  • I never found the change in time zones to affect my baby's routine at all.

I really enjoyed travelling with my baby! I hope these tips will help you when planning your trip and I wish you and your baby happy travels!


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