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Are you flying with a 1 year old baby soon? Worry not, whether you are flying domestic with an infant or on an international short or long haul flight, you will find plenty of tips and information here to help you feel more prepared and relaxed about your next flight.
(Don’t forget to visit my bumper guide with many scenarios covered for flying with a baby after you have read this helpful article)
Flying with a baby can be a daunting experience for any new parents (or even those well-experienced!) due to peering eyes of other travellers and your child’s desire to be on the move and occupied at all times. Hopefully this blog post can help to give you some tips and tricks to consider when you travel with a one-year old baby and some carry on ideas while travelling with your baby in flight. For even more baby and toddler travel toys ideas see here.
Traveling With a 1 Year Old On A Plane
Table of Contents - Click to jump to a section
Do Children Need ID to fly?
If you are traveling internationally with a 1 year old, then a passport is always needed. If you are flying domestically in the USA or Canada you do not need ID for your baby, but I always recommend taking a copy of their birth certificate.
Various other countries require all different sorts of ID and paperwork. With some airlines, lap babies may not be issued a boarding card but may need a boarding verification document. There is more information on travel documents here.
Do babies fly for free?
- Traveling with an infant on a plane gives you the option for them to fly as a lap baby, or if you purchase a seat, to fly in their car seat. If you are traveling with a 1 year old on your lap (sometimes known as a “lap baby” or” lap infant”, typically they either fly for free, or at a reduced fare of approximately 10% of the adult fare plus any applicable taxes. This obviously depends on the airline, the destination and whether it’s a domestic or international flight. If you purchase a seat to use your carseat for your infant, then it will be at the applicable child fare plus taxes.
Can I use a car seat on a plane?
- Short, answer. Yes, in most cases. But you will need to purchase a seat for your baby and have a valid approved car sear for air travel. Car seat use occasionally depends on the plane seat type and whether an air bag seat belt is used so some business and first class seats may not be suitable. USA and Canadian based airlines allow airline and FAA approved car seats at any age.
- Find out more about child restraint devices and car seats regulations here. The FAA car seat rules are here for USA readers and for UK readers the CAA are here. If your little one flies as lap baby, on a non USA/Canadian airline, then you will be given a lap belt to secure to them to your seatbelt.
How to travel with a 1 year old
- Travelling with a 1 year old on the plane means they will possibly be exposed to more germs than at home. Tray-tables, TV handsets, air vents etc can all be breeding grounds for germs. A one year old will be able to grab things more easily and reach out, so adding anti-bacterial wipes to your carry on is a good idea. Use disposable gloves before you wipe the table and other surfaces, and then dispose of these gloves carefully without cross contamination.
- Request an airline bassinet if it is available on your airline/flight. If you are flying with a 1 year old infant as a lap baby, then you need to carefully check babies length and weight – to see if your little one will fit in an airline bassinet. Check here to find out which airlines provide a baby bassinet on board. For more tips on how to get your baby to sleep on a plane, see here.
- If you have a bassinet, I can’t recommend the CoziGo airline bassinet cover highly enough- which shuts out the cabin light so baby can sleep even during the day time. It doubles up as a UV breathable stroller cover too – perfect for hot sunny climates. This bit of baby gear is my go to for baby shower gifts or as a travel gift for parents, and is perfect when flying with infants.
- Several airlines allow you to choose your seat immediately if you are flying with an infant – some for free! e.g British Airways and Thai Airways. If you want to double-check for a particular seat, look at www.seatguru.com and put in your flight number where you can check the plane layout. if you don’t know your flight number, don’t worry, you can enter the route and the airline. However, with USA and Canadian airlines this does not apply: in this case, it is first come, first served at the gate – so check in early to maximise your chances.
- Look at the airline policies on hand luggage and hold luggage. All airlines allow at least a car seat or stroller – with the majority allowing both for free. Lots of airlines provide an infant baggage allowance too, some for both cabin and hold baggage. If you think you will be taking a lot of stuff when traveling with a baby, look at what each airline provides.
- Check with your airline if you are allowed to bring an additional diaper/nappy bag with you as well as your cabin bag allowance when traveling with a 1 year old.
- Keep your routine and schedule before the flight as normal as possible and aim for a night flight if you can as many babies have got used to that period as the longest sleep period.
- Read this comprehensive guide of over 50 tips about flying with a baby which covers most circumstances.
- Use this free downloadable packing checklist for travelling with a baby. which lists everything you may need. Consider if you need any of this travel gear? Alternatively, this baby travel essentials list has some great suggestions too.
- If you are breastfeeding, consider what will make YOU more comfortable. Here are some breastfeeding tips whilst travelling.
- If you are bottle feeding and need to sterilise bottles whilst on the go – look into the various ways you can sterilise baby bottles whilst travelling.
- All airlines are happy with a mum breastfeeding. If you are a bit self-conscious, here are my breastfeeding tips on a plane in detail.
- If you need milk or food heated up – do ask in plenty of time in case the crew are about to busy with a meal service. They normally will provide you with hot water to do this.
- Babies on planes usually likely to drink more than they usually do as the cabin air is quite dehydrating, which is another reason to pack more than you need if formula feeding.
- Do bring your own baby food and drink. Although you can request a baby meal at least 24 hours before you fly with many airlines for long haul flights.. These are typically pureed jars of baby food which you can request for long haul flights – but not all airlines have them and one year olds are usually past this stage. It is always best if you to bring your own supplies. For older babies, some airlines provide pre requestable toddler meals or post weaning meals too. For more information on what airline food airlines provide for babies and toddler, see here. However, do note, since Covid-19, many airlines are not offering baby or child meals.
- If you are formula feeding, then plan to bring double than what your baby would normally consume. The same goes for any weaning snacks. You never know if your flight will be delayed on cancelled and having extra will save you stressing if that happens.
- The same also goes for diapers/nappies and wipes. Always pack more than you need for the trip and have them easily accessible in your carry on, in case you are delayed on the airplane and can’t access your hold baggage. Some airlines will allow a carry on diaper bag or changing bag for free. Otherwise it will need to be part of your carry on allowance.
- Bring a baby carrier with you, even if you have brought your own car seat. This makes it so easy to walk around the plane or settle baby inflight. Although you cannot use them for taxi, take-off phases of the flight. There are some excellent cabin size strollers around which can stow in the overhead locker as hand luggage. For the best travel stroller for 1 year olds have a look at this guide too.
- Be prepared for your baby to cry during take off, so landing. This is due to the change in air pressure: crying, feeding or sucking on a dummy/pacifier can all help.
- When traveling with a 1 year old wear layers which are easy to remove one handed and dress baby in layers too.
- Pack an extra change of clothing for you and baby in your carry on. We have to rely on this several times, and once we went through our changes of clothes and my daughter ended up wearing an over sized pyjama top from first class! You never know when someone will feel poorly or an accident can happen! My husband got covered in puke on one long haul flight, and no, he didn’t have a spare change of clothes!
- Don’t forget to pack any essential medicine in your carry on. If it’s over 100ml or breaks the 3-1-1 liquid rules, ask your doctor for a note and check with your airline. Liquid medicines are exempt from TSA limits in the USA, but this is not always the case in other countries.
- Try and relax! You’ve got this!
How to entertain a 1 year old on a plane
- Entertaining your 1 year old on a plane is easier than you think. Often simple items like the buttons on the screen or the inflight safety card or a few paper cups provide a distraction. However, with the increasing need to limit touch points and keep things clean with anti-bacterial wipes you may want to bring some of your own items. Bring some interactive but quiet baby and toddler toys which will keep them busy and you popular with fellow passengers.
- We also loved Melissa And Doug’s Take Along Shape Sorter. A popular game for little hands and one that is easy to transport whilst traveling. It does have pieces which could drop, but this is useful for little ones to play with in the more secure airplane bassinet or at your destination. It includes a padded case with 2 activity sides and a take-along handle, plus 9 shaped, textured blocks in various colours. For more information see here
- Some favourite books include the ‘Find The .. series Lots of things to spot on each page and a complete classic. Both have loved this book so much that I had to buy two copies due to over use!
- and also the Julia Donaldson ‘Lift the Flap’ series. Fox’s Socks, Hide and Seek Pig etc. Again lots of things to spot and fun lifting the flaps to see who is hiding. The pictures are by Axl Schelffler and are so engaging. It’s easy to see why these books are so popular with young children. Both of mine loved them from an early age and now the older one reads it to my youngest. Win win! For more information on this and others in the series, see here.
You will likely need some more baby travel toys that are light, portable, quiet, plus easy to clean and not too small that they fall behind a plane seat or car seat!
Some big requirements but we found the perfect toys to take on trip with a 1 year old in this tried and tested guide.
Even more travel toy ideas for one year olds.
We all know that children at this age find concentrating on one activity for a prolonged period of time difficult and are perfecting their pinching grasp so it’s important to consider various baby travel toys when partaking in air travel with toddlers!
The most effective airplane activities for one-year olds are often the simplest. These include homemade toys which create great airplane games for kids and are small enough to be popped into your hand luggage. Ideas for these include:
Little ones love putting things in them and taking them out again. I particularly liked this bath set from Munchkin. Whether your child likes to knock them down, build them back up, nest them together or hide things in them, these can create hours of easy fun both on the plane and in the bath/pool when you reach your destination. It’s great for cause-and-effect learning but just be aware that they could be quite noisy however!
Homemade tissue box
Ever had your child get hold of a packet of wet wipes only to be in complete dismay as the entirety is emptied all over their bedroom floor? Children love pulling things out and ripping things so this is the perfect game when you travel with kids.
However, this is costly and messy but I have a solution! Find an old box, cover it in coloured paper. Create some holes in the lid, and find yourself some coloured chiffons or scarves. Tie a note in the end of each one and poke a small amount through the hole in the lid so only a little is showing.
Secure the lid to the box and your child can have hours of fun pulling and ripping scarves through the hole and you can push them back in! A similar toddler airplane activity is filling an old (clean) spice jar with cut pipe cleaners so that your little ones can pull them out over and over… and over again!
Keeping with the ripping theme, post-it notes can provide hours of fun in the way of sticking and ripping off the seats, windows, trays and any other surface (no doubt including you and your little one at some point).
Who doesn’t love to read on the plane? Your little one might be too young to indulge in a new novel but will love to explore cloth, touch and feel or lift the flap books. eg The Julia Donaldson ‘Lift the Flap’ series. Fox’s Socks, Hide and Seek Pig etc. Again lots of things to spot and fun lifting the flaps to see who is hiding. Be prepared for some ripped tabs so sturdy board books are a good choice and a lovely story may even help your little one to drift off to sleep… if you’re lucky!
Phone and Keys
There are some great mobile phone and key toys on the market these days which look and act realistically, saving your own versions from new teeth and dribble. These can act as fun toys and aid in role play to keep your air travel with kids a little more entertaining for you all.
Being flexible and having the ability to move in a small space makes a slinky a great flight companion. Your little one can watch it move across their seat or tray or create shapes and moves of their own with it.
We are all trying to do our best to help the environment but we can still often find ourselves with spare plastic bottles. In order to get unlimited use out of these, fill them with noisy items such as: pasta, lentils, coloured buttons or coloured rice for a homemade instrument, or pom poms, water and glitter or pipe cleaners for a sensory experience. Easy to make but endless fun.
Finger puppets are a dream toy for airplane travel with a one-year old. Not only can you play the favourite game of hide and seek with them but they can aid singing songs, role play and story telling.
The days are long and the nights are longer when you’re little one is teething so can you imagine how long a flight might feel when you are travelling with a one-year old internationally? Teething toys are a must and even better if they have multiple uses such as sensory style toys.
Gel window stickers
Gel Window stickers are simple and easier to use than paper stickers. However, make sure they don’t leave any marks on the window and are removed after the journey.
Build your own bead necklace
Find some string or a pipe cleaner and add some large beads. Your little one will enjoy moving the beads to and fro and if the beads are safe, could even be used as a teether too.
Fill plastic easter eggs with small toys, snacks or anything that will fit. Your little one can enjoy opening and closing them whilst emptying and enjoying the contents and refilling again.
Tablet (for example: iPad)
Even if you don’t usually advocate the use of electronics, this could keep your one-year old entertained on a plane for longer than most other activities. Make sure you download some excited apps, games and even a couple of episodes of their favourite programme to fill time and give Mummy and Daddy some well-earned rest!
No journey with a one-year old can be complete without a repertoire of snacks. Bring various snacks in case you have a fussy toddler for the day and hide them in different places or stagger their introduction to ensure eating snacks eats into the time you are on the flight.
I hope these ideas make travelling with children an exciting experience. Remember, it’s all worth it when you land in your dream destination!
You can also buy pre made activity packs or busy bags, which are tailored to your child and save you a heap of time! Some are better than others and this guide to the best busy bags for toddlers will help.
Most Frequently Asked Questions
How much baby formula can I take on a plane?
You can bring as much breastmilk, formula or water as you need for your baby for the flight. This can be over 100ml or over the 3-1-1 rule.
How can I stop my babies ears from hurting?
If you are wondering how to stop babies ears popping on a plane, here are some ideas! Some babies cry with the change of pressure in their ears on landing too – sucking or chewing or feeding often helps relieve this. Alternatively, use a pacifier/dummy.
Have you any more tips for flying with a one year old? Let me know in the comments below.
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