Flying with a baby for the first time? Feeling stressed, anxious, nervous? Let’s change that! Here you’ll find an in-depth summary covering all the baby flight essentials you need to have a happy, stress-free flight.
During our 6 years of parenthood, we’ve taken a lot of flights with babies. The longest flight was the new Qantas 17 hour non stop London to Perth WA direct route. Most people thought we were utterly crazy taking a one year old on such a long flight. In all honestly, it was probably one of the best flights we’ve ever had. Without a doubt, spending a little time planning before hand went a long way towards making this super long flight a happy one.
The recipe for success when flying with a baby largely rests on two factors. Firstly, make sure you’ve got all the essentials covered when booking the flight. And secondly, have the right baby essentials readily available on board. Couldn’t be simpler, right?!
So here’s where to start…
Baby Flight Essentials: Booking
There are three things to consider before booking a flight with your baby;
Essential #1: Time of Flight
Where possible, book a flight which fits best with your babies routine.
From personal experience, flights departing after normal bedtime hour have been troublesome, leading to an overtired, overstimulated baby. Equally, long flights where we’ve boarded a few hours before ‘night time’ have gone very smoothly.
The few troublesome flights have been as the boys have got older and more wriggly. These have all been flights just after nap time when they’re wide awake and full of beans (and definitely not wanting to sit on a lap for several hours!)
Essential #2: Booking Your Seat
Most airlines allow infants under 2 travel in your lap for free or a small charge. For long haul flights, babies ideally need a bassinet. It makes everyones life easier. Some airlines will pre-book your bassinet seat in advance – either free of charge or for an additional fee. Personally, we’ve paid extra when we’ve needed to in order to save ourselves any stress/worry. Some airlines allocate bassinet seats on the day of travel therefore worth arriving to the airport early to secure one.
Finally, check your seat with Seat Guru before you book them. This tool has saved our butt countless times. Things which are essential to consider are;
- Proximity to the baby change
- Recline or legroom restrictions
- Proximity to galley area
Some airlines allow you to book a seat for your baby with them travelling on an airline approved seat. The rules and regulations surrounding this vary by airline therefore ensure you talk directly to the airline to understand the requirements.
Essential #3: Onboard and Airport Provisions
Enquire as to what food is provided (if any) for infants and check ability to heat food or milk. This will help you plan hand luggage efficiently.
Research baby facilities at your departure and any transient airports. Knowing what’s available to you before departure, or on stop over, helps with hand luggage requirements.
Baby Flight Essentials: Packing hand luggage
Having the right hand luggage is essential when flying with a baby. It’s important not to overpack and weigh yourself down with stuff you won’t need. Equally as important is having easy access to everything in flight. Feeling like your rooting around in Mary Poppins handbag looking for a nappy when you’ve got an explosion on your lap is not an experience I’d recommend!
Our travel was completely revolutionised once I discovered packing cubes. Using packing cubes to arrange hand luggage into usage requirements gives easy access to what you need on board, when you need it. I carry four packing cubes compromising of – baby changing essentials, feeding and snacking essentials, toys and overnight essentials. The four cubes can then be put in a rucksack or small wheeled case and taken onboard.
Here’s what to pack in each cube…
Cube #1: Baby Changing Essentials
The baby change on board is always a squeeze for space. By packing all changing essentials into one compact packing cube, you’ll have everything you need in one place for easy access at any point during the flight.
No matter how short your flight, a nappy change will be inevitable. Using extra protection nappies or liners minimise the risk of leaks and can reduce the number of trips to the baby change. Pack roughly one nappy/liner for every 2 hours of flying plus a few spares. Also include a pack of baby wipes.
A small, fold away, wipe clean changing mat is essential for air travel. Not only does it protect the baby from potentially dirty surfaces, it also provides some comfort on the hard plastic changers. It’s likely your regular baby changing bag has one you can use however, if not, you can purchase specific travel changing mats.
In addition, pack the regular changing essentials you use. This includes; nappy sacks, nappy barrier cream and hand and surface sanitising gel.
In summary, the baby flight essentials checklist items for changing are;
- Small wipeable fold away Baby Changing Mat
- Enough nappies for the flight duration plus a few spare
- Pack of Baby Wipes
- Nappy cream, nappy sacks & hand sanitising gel
- Spare change of baby clothes (i.e. pack 2 x vests incase of any nappy explosions and a spare sleep suit/outfit)
Cube #2: Baby Feeding & Snacking Essentials
Pack all food, snacks, feeding apparatus so they are readily available in one place. You’ll need muslins, bibs, spoons and a sippy cup or beaker for your baby to drink water.
If your baby is bottle fed, pack enough sterilised bottles and formula for the entire travel duration. Formula dispenser pots are great when travelling and can be used to prepare spill free bottles on the go. A Thermos flask containing sterilised water will keep water hot enough to prepare feeds on board (note: this will not fit in a cube and will therefore need to be carried separately)
If your baby is at the weaning stage, you’ll need to think about meals and snacks. By completing the baby flight essentials (above), you’ll know if the airline is providing any meals thereby potentially cutting down what you’ll need. Ella’s Kitchen organic pouches are handy for on the go meals. Tasty solid snack foods work really well. We typically pack flavoured rice cakes, bread sticks, fresh and dried fruit, oat bar type snacks.
In summary, the feeding and snacking baby flight essentials are:
- Muslins, bibs, spoons, beaker/sippy cup
- Formula Feeding essentials (if applicable) – bottles, thermos flask, formula dispenser
- If weaning – meals and a tasty collection of snacks
Cube #3: Baby Toys & Essentials
This cube contains a selection of favourite toys and books, a few muslins, the favourite blankie/soother and a small medical bag.
Touch & feel books, chewy toys (for teething babies) and hand held toys work a treat. For older babies who need a little more stimulation, gift wrap small toys for them to unwrap onboard as added entertainment. Stickers also provide a lot of fun!
Ensure you carry all prescribed medication. If carrying liquid medication over 150ml, it’s recommended you travel with a doctors note explaining the medication. Also ensure you have a pharmacy dispensing label on the bottle.
In summary, the baby flight essentials for toys and essentials are:
- Favourite toys and books – hand held and chew friendly (if teething)
- Favourite blankie/soother and pacifier
- Medical bag
Cube #4: Overnight Baby Flight Essentials (if applicable)
When taking a long flight, its likely there will be a day to night transition. Having “home comforts” help babies (and therefore parents) settle and snooze. You’ll probably only need this once during the flight so pack everything together and put at the bottom of your hold luggage.
Other invaluable items to take on board are a full size comfy pillow, or a breastfeeding pillow if you have one, and a soft baby blanket.
The pillow is great to support your elbow, arm or back when holding or cuddling baby – especially if they take a little while to warm to the bassinet.
The blanket helps the bassinet “smell” like home and provides extra comfort. Both items are even more invaluable in the event of a bassinet being unavailable. Arranging the pillow and blanket on your lap as a makeshift bed makes a great cosy sleeping area.
In summary, the overnight cube baby flight essentials are;
- Baby sleeping bag
- Baby PJ’s or night suit
- Something comfy (and warm socks!) for mum/dad
- Full size pillow and soft baby blanket
Finally, when packing your baby flight essentials into hand luggage, take note of where any liquids are packed. This makes getting through security checks at the airport a lot smoother.
Another consideration for your flight is baby transport. Most airlines allow you to check in a stroller or pushchair which you can use in the terminal, up to the boarding gate.
When flying with a baby, a baby carrier can be your best friend. Handsfree travel is essential for moving around the airport and plane with ease. Sometimes babies get restless, bored or, like us big humans, just need a change of scenery. Your arms will thank you endlessly for opportunity for some rest – especially on a long flight.
So that’s everything covered in this guide to Baby Flight Essentials – what to do before booking the flight and what essentials to pack and have readily available on board.
If there’s anything else you’d like us to cover, please ask in the comments below.
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