Tips for Travelling with a Baby
The idea of travelling with a baby can be exciting, daunting, nerve-wracking, challenging, wonderful, or all of the above! This post will aim to provide you with as much information as possible before undertaking not only your trip, but also tips on requesting seats, using car seats and travelling with a baby by plane, car , taxi and coach.
It will guide you to pack the right things and consider questions to ask of your airline and accommodation. We will be touching on flying with a baby but also other forms of transport which are often a large part of the holiday experience. Hopefully, this post will leave you feeling prepared, informed and excited to take your family on a fantastic adventure.
Travelling with a baby by plane internationally and domestically.
Travelling with a baby on a plane domestically in the UK
Many low cost airlines offer domestic flights within the UK as it is often a cheaper option to fly, rather than drive or take the train. For flights in the UK, there is no need for a child of under 16 years of age to provide photographic ID as the accompanying adult can provide verification of their identity as long as they present their own ID. It may be beneficial to bring a young baby’s birth certificate with them however.
Check-in departments for domestic flights open two hours before the scheduled departure time and some airlines and airports even have dedicated family stations so check this before you fly.
You can sometimes check-in online meaning you can print your boarding passes in advance or download them to an app. There is often an option to check and add baggage too if you feel like you need or want some more information.
Before you get to this point, it is important to check with your specific airline about requirements of what must be checked in and what can be taken with you on the plane as this can vary slightly. The majority of airlines will allow you to check in a pushchair and car seat in the hold at no extra cost but do check this with your individual provider before you arrive at the airport.
If you do decide to do this, you will often be able to keep this with you until you board but ensure you have a luggage tag to make sure you can check it in at this point. Some pushchairs are allowed onto the plane, depending on the size but again it is vital to check dimensions carefully.
This is the time to put your organisation skills to the test! Before you pack your hang luggage, ensure anything you may need to take with you is under 100ml and adhere to liquid restrictions. This includes any creams or lotions for your little one but does NOT include baby food or milk which exempt from the 100ml rule.
Be prepared that you may be informed that some items may need additional screening. Formula, liquid breast milk, baby food and equipment are all allowed to be packed in your hand luggage but frozen breast milk is not permitted and must be placed in your hold luggage.
Pushchairs and all luggage must pass through security meaning they need to be collapsed which may lead to waking up a sleeping baby. Baby wearing can really help keep your baby secure, safe, happy and mean your hands are free too – although you may get asked to remove your baby carrier as you pass through security too.
Give yourself lots of time and talk to your children about the process of security as it can be a little scary, especially for children who understand a little more. If you are travelling alone, be aware that not all security guards will hold your baby for you whilst on duty so consider baby wearing or using a security tray to contain your little one, even for a few moments!
Adult passengers can usually take a piece of hand luggage and one piece of hold luggage onto the plane – as long as it fits with the airline’s size and weight restrictions. Some airlines provide additional luggage allowances when travelling with an infant on your lap but it is important to check this, however, children with their own seat have the same allowances as an adult.
Best seats to book when flying with a baby
Often the best seats to book on short domestic flights, are ones near the front with a little more room, or nearest to the toilets for ease of access. If you are buying an additional seat for your infant and you are not travelling alone, try to book seats in a row to allow for lots of space for you and your little one, plus some privacy for you if needed.
When travelling with a baby, you are able to buy a seat (they will need a car seat or need to sit on your lap for taxi, take off and landing and turbulence, if they have their own seat). Alternatively, you can have your baby travel on your lap if your child is under 2 years of age.
You will be provided with an extended lap belt to accommodate you within the UK if your baby is sitting on your lap.
You are welcome to purchase a seat for your child and these will often be at a reduced rate depending on the airline and where you are flying.
Travelling with a baby internationally
The same information applies as above with a few differences that are listed below.
Check-in for international flights can be done 4 to 5 hours in advance and queues can be long so getting there early could be great to ensure you aren’t waiting around for too long with your little ones. Some airlines may even notice that you have younger children and open up new desks to allow you to pass through more quickly. There are also options of online and self-check in at some airports.
Taking things through security
Security is the same for both international and domestic flights in the UK.
Luggage guidance is the same for both international and domestic UK flights, although weight and size restrictions may differ for each airline. It is a great idea to consider how best to pack your baggage, especially hand luggage, so everything you need is easily accessible and you don’t spend time and space rummaging around in your full-to-the-brim changing bag. Ziploc bags are great to help keep everything organised and to store any wet baby clothes!
With a long wait in the airport with lots of noise and stimulations, baby wearing can be the ideal way to keep your baby happy and safe. Be aware that you may be asked to take your baby out of your carrier to travel through security but it will definitely help you to keep your hands free for other aspects of your travel.
Best seats to book when flying with a baby
On some long haul flights, you will be able to request or book the front bulk head seats which allow for extra room and allow for you to book a bassinet for your child to sleep in (if needed).
Try to request these as soon as possible as these are often given on a first come, first serve basis. Prices for these seats and restrictions vary on the use of bassinet for each airline so make sure you check this carefully. ( The majority of airlines don’t charge, but more and more airlines are jumping on this bandwagon!)
You can sometimes book bassinets or skycots online but if not, try to contact your specific airline (the one you are actually flying with rather than the airline that has a shared codeshare arrangement. eg you may have booked the flight with Finn Air on their site, but due to a codeshare agreement, it is actually British Airways flying the route. This information will be in your booking information.)
Some people like to buy an extra seat for their child on international flights to allow their child more space to explore, and often people will bring a car seat for their child to travel in for additional safety.
Each airline will have guidance on which car seats are appropriate for airline travel and will fit the dimensions of the seat.
When travelling internationally, you are able to buy a seat for your child or, if your child is under 2 years old, they can travel on your lap. Consider what will work best for you and your child depending on the age of your little one. As stated previously, you are also able to request a bassinet for younger babies to sleep in but this must be done in advance.
Travelling with a baby – airline rules
Each airline will have its own specific information about travelling with babies or young children and here are some key facts to help you when considering what you need to do/pack prior to your journey.
- In terms of hand luggage, children aged between 2 and 11 have the same allowance as an adult. If your child is under 2, you can bring an additional bag for them, such as a changing bag. If you book a seat for your child, they will have the same baggage allowance as an adult but baggage allowances cannot be combined so ensure you have the correct number of bags. If your child needs a car seat, pushchair, travel cot or baby back carrier, you can take two of these for free.
- Although BA try to seat families together, this is not always the case and you may have to pay to book seats with your entire party. Children under 12 will always be seated with an adult from the booking. However, if you are travelling with a child under 2, you and your whole booking can reserve their seats for free, unless there are more than 9 of you.
- Carry cots are on a first-come first-served basis and are free but must be booked in advance.
- If your child needs a pushchair, car seat, travel cot, booster seat or baby back carrier, you can bring two of these for free. If your child has their own seat booked or is over the age of 2, they have the same hold and hand baggage allowance as an adult.
- When travelling with Easyjet, you can book to reserve your seats together for free.
- There are no bassinets available but you can use your own car seat but read the requirements first.
- Baggage allowance for children under 2 can vary depending on the destination of your journey but all journeys allow for an extra piece of hand luggage. You can also bring an extra piece of hold baggage weighing up to 10kg. You are also able to take either a pushchair, a carry cot, or car seat for free on board.
- Emirates aim to sit families together and if you do want/need to reserve your seat, this will come at a 50% discount.
- Emirates bassinets are provided for children if booked in advance and on a first-come first-served basis. It is important to check the dimension of these to fit your child.
- If you have booked a flight and hotel package, children under 2 receive a 10kg baggage allowance. You are able to check in your pushchair and car seat for free but these cannot be taken into the cabin for children under 2. They suggest you check with your specific airline about what you are able to bring with you.
- You will need to pay to book your seats together.
- There is no hang luggage allowance for under 2s, but children over 2 have the same allowance as adults on the same flight. For hold baggage, children under 2 are entitled to 5kg of luggage plus a car seat and pushchair. Over 2s can also have a free car seat and pushchair in the hold but will have the same baggage allowance as an adult.
- Depending on the type of seat you book, sometimes you can book your seat for free (this type of ticket is more expensive) but otherwise you will need to pay to sit together.
- There are no bassinets available.
- Children under 2 do not have any additional baggage allowance, but children over 2 have the same allowances as an adult. Collapsible pushchairs/buggies, children’s car seats and travel cots up to a total maximum weight of 10kg (for all items) do not form part of the luggage allowance and may be carried free of charge. If the combined weight is more than 10kg, excess baggage charges will apply.
- You must pay to book your seats together as a family.
- There are no bassinets available.
- You are able to bring a baby bag weighing up to 5kg as an accompanying adult. One pushchair and either a travel cot or car seat can be brought for free.
- Ryanair have a family seating policy in which children under 12 must be seated next to an accompanying adult. Booking is free for 4 children per adult and the fee for booking an adult seat in this situation is reduced.
- There are no bassinets available.
- Child under 2 receive an additional 23kg baggage allowance for the hold (except when travelling Economy Light), and they can bring a piece of hand luggage weighing 6kg. It is free for you to bring a pushchair and a car seat with you with some pushchairs being permitted into the cabin.
- Virgin aim to sit adults near their child (within arm’s reach), however if this does not work for you, you will have to pay to book alternative seats.
- There are bassinets available, but it is vital that you check the dimensions of these for your child.
Packing for travelling both internationally and domestically in the UK with a baby
Packing for a trip away is stressful enough just for yourself as an individual because the thought of forgetting your much needed home comforts can be worrying. Subsequently, many parents worry about what to pack when travelling with babies but we have thought of everything we can to help you through this and you will find it all here.
The age of your baby
Although all children under 2 years of age are classed as infants when flying, as parents we know there are a wide variety of needs and behaviour within these ages.
The differences with flying with a newborn and 12 month old can make a flight very different so despite feeling like you managed it well with your new bundle of joy, the advice is different when your child reaches 12 months of age.
As a newborn, your child will sleep and feed on and off throughout a flight therefore a bassinet could be vital for your journey but it may not seem essential for you to buy an additional seat for your little one unless you feel the need to use a car seat to keep them safe.
When your child is 12 months old, they may not fit the weight and size restrictions for a bassinet so an additional seat can provide you with the extra space to allow your child to nap and play without climbing all over you.
If your child is on the move, the extra space of the bulk head seats at the front of the plane will provide space for them to do this, alongside accompanied walks up and down the aisle. An aisle seat can also be a great idea for when you have both a newborn or a 12 month old so there is no need to squeeze past other passengers to reach the toilets for the numerous nappy changes that you will undoubtedly have to do.
When you have a newborn, milk is the only food your baby will need and it is important to consider how you will bring your baby’s milk with you whilst flying.
Airlines allow you to carry formula milk and liquid breast milk, and encourage breastfeeding. It may be beneficial for you to bring something to cover you both if you would like more privacy or to help keep your baby’s focus.
Once your child reaches 12 months old, they will need to eat food, plus have milk feeds so you may want to bring your own food with you in your hand luggage, as most airlines don’t cater for this stage.
Familiar snacks and mess free options are advised to keep this simple and easy for you, whilst also filling up your little one. Some airlines provide children’s meals, and a couple provide post weaning or toddler meals. Feeding your child, either with a bottle or the breast, can be a great way to combat any pain during take-off and landing so consider timing feeds to fit with this or use a dummy if your baby prefers.
Packing your hand luggage can be very different for a newborn and a 12 month old. A newborn will no doubt need several changes of clothing for the variety of explosions which can occur, but a 12 month old will need bibs and feeding equipment.
Toddlers also need a variety of toys to keep them busy (check our posts on the best travel toys for kids here) which can fill up your luggage allowance whereas your newborn will just be happy with the comfort of your touch and the familiarity of your face and voice.
Newborns tend to snooze for the majority of the time and will happily do this any-time, any-where; however, your toddler may need a little bit of help sticking to their routine. Choosing a flight which fits with nap times or an overnight flight can be a good option to keep you all on track for when you reach your destination. A blanket or cuddly toy from home with a familiar smell can be a comfort for your little one and help them to nod off that little bit easier (we hope!)
A top tip for travelling with a 12 month old is to bring some antibacterial wipes. Although the plane is cleaned, nothing is ever ready for the amount of chewing that some younger babies enjoy to do! This also allows you to put food and toys on chairs and trays to ease your need for additional space.
Baby milk formula brands available abroad
There will be a Boots The Chemist at most airports which you can pre-order your formula to and pick up ready for your holiday abroad which will also save packing space. However, if this won’t work for you and you need to buy formula milk whilst you are away, several brands are the same abroad but are marketed under a different name. Aptamil, Nutricia Karicare, Karicare Infant, Milupa and Almiron, are all very similar. Mellin is similar to Cow and Gate and Wyeth is the alternative name for SMA.
It’s hard to predict how many disposable swim nappies you will need when going abroad with a baby so you may need to purchase these when you arrive. You will need to change these once your baby is out of the water to avoid any embarrassing leaks, but luckily these are usually readily available. Cloth nappies are great for the environment but consider if your hotel or accommodation have washing facilities in order for you to reuse them effectively.
Most countries will have Calpol, or paracetamol equivalents readily available to purchase from the local pharmacy. Check for dosage requirements for the age and weight of your child and always go from the advice of the pharmacist. Make sure you pack and prescribed medication for your child with enough for your entire holiday and it can be a good idea to pack sachets of Calpol if this would suit you more.
Does your hotel provide bedding for a travel cot?
This is a very important question to consider and the information can usually be found out on the hotel’s website. If you are staying in other accommodation, or even are unsure about what your hotel provides, it is a good idea to call or email your accommodation prior to your arrival to see if this is provided for you.
If not, find out the dimensions of the travel cot so you can bring your own. Your child may like the familiarity and smell of their own beddings so it could be a good option anyway.
A travel stroller is an essential when travelling with a baby, even if they don’t use one regularly at home. Your child can nap in here and get some well needed shade too. It’s great for helping to carry the excessive amount of bags you take with you when you’re out with your little one too.
Before you travel, research the best type of stroller for you and when you are travelling too. Consider whether you want this to fit in the overhead locker of your airplane and you know the needed dimensions for this and learn about small folding strollers. Some strollers are lighter than others so it is definitely something important to research before your holiday.
Hotel or accommodation facilities
Especially if you’re on an all-inclusive holiday, the facilities of your hotel or accommodation can make or break your holiday. Your room is the first place to investigate and most websites will detail what is included. Some accommodation will have equipment to prepare food and bottles with a small kitchen whereas others may only have a hairdryer and a safe. Depending on the needs and ages of children, consider what will be best for you and your family.
Check whether your accommodation has a kid’s club, a heated children’s pool with shallow entry, provisions for food for children at their meal times, and has entertainment which can keep them busy throughout the day and in the evenings. Reading reviews before you travel can also help you to see if the accommodation you are looking at is safe for children.
Car seats abroad
It might seem an easy option to just take your own car seat on holiday if you know you’re going to be using it regularly and you like the familiarity of knowing how to use it. However, this poses a very important question – is yours legal to use in the country you are travelling too? We have a comprehension blog post with lots of detail about specific laws and countries here, but here are the guidelines for some of the most frequently visited countries.
UK laws explain that children must travel with a car seat until they are 4ft11 or 12 years old. After this age or when they are taller than 135cm, they do not legally need to use one. Once a child weighs more than 22kg and is taller than 125cm, they can use a backless booster seat.
Car seats must also be fitted using either ISOFIX or a diagonal belt strap. There is a £500 fine for not using the correct or an ill-fitting car seat for your little one. Until a child is 15 months old, they must use a rear-facing seat and this should only be used in the front when the airbag is deactivated. Although these are the laws in the UK, they can differ for car seat use in different countries.
Children under the age of 10 and less than 135cm tall must use a car seat when travelling. This car seat must be R44 or R129 approved and children between 135cm and 150cm can use a booster seat. If there are no back seats, seatbelts, the back seats are unavailable or unusable, children travel in the front of the car. However, a baby can only do this if the airbag is deactivated and they are travelling in a rear-facing car seat.
In Greece, children under 3 must travel in car seats which meet ECE R44/03 (or later) regulations. Children aged between 3 and 11, or under 135cm tall, must use a car seat which is age and size appropriate. Over this age and height, children need only use a regular seat belt. The passenger air bag must be deactivated if a child is to travel in the front seat in a car seat.
In Portugal, children under 12 years of age or less than 135cm must use an R44/R129 approved car seat when travelling in a car. Children under the age of 3 can travel in the front seat once the air bag is deactivated. Children can travel in the front seat if there are no seats or seatbelts in the rear and if you do not have the space for 3 car seats in the back of the car, the eldest can travel using just the seatbelt.
All children under the age of 18 or under the height of 135cm must travel in an R44/R129 approved car seat when travelling in Spain and this must be in a back seat of car. The exceptions to this rule are when you cannot fit any more car seats in the rear of the car or if the car only has 2 seats. The airbag must be deactivated if your child is travelling in the front seat. Not using a car seat carries a fine of 300 euros and the police may cease your travel until someone provides you with a car seat or the children can be transported in another vehicle with a car seat.
It is vital that you check with the laws for each state when travelling to the USA as they each have different regulations for the use of car seats. These can be very varied so check for specific details. UK car seats are not permitted to be used as the car seats must meet FMVSS 213 requirements.
Travelling with a baby in a taxi
Although there are strict regulations for car seat use in normal travel in a car, this is different when using a taxi for any journeys. ( Please note we do check to make sure this information is up to date and current as best as possible, but we do urge you to check on official government websites before you travel.)
If the taxi does not provide a car seat, children over 3 years of age can use a normal adult seat belt and children under 3 must be held. However, children must travel in a rear seat if there is no car seat provided.
There are no laws to say you must use a car seat in a taxi in France.
When travelling in the city, there is no requirement to use a car seat in a taxi. However, if you travel outside of the city, then you must you one. This is important to consider when thinking about the location of your accommodation or your travel route from the airport.
There is no requirement to use a car seat in a taxi when travelling in Portugal.
State laws vary depending on age and size of the child. Check before you go.
There is no regulation to use a car seat when travelling in a taxi.
Travelling with a baby by coach
If you have taken away any stress of booking transfers and other parts of your holiday independently and have chosen a package holiday, you may find your transfer or transport to excursions is via coach.
If you are travelling with a baby by coach in the UK, there is no legal requirement to use car seat, and this is the same when travelling via coach on a package holiday in Europe. You can use your own if you decide to bring it with you though. National Express for example state, “Most of our coaches also now feature children’s booster seats, but if you do want to bring your own we encourage you to do so.”
We hope this blog helps to ease any worry and answers all questions you might have before travelling with a baby. Enjoy your wonderful adventure!