Flying with infants
Know before you go when flying with infants
It can seem overwhelming, and perhaps a little intimidating, but short of sticking to driving or ferry-based holidays, it’s likely that at some point as a parent you will need to face an overseas flight with a young child. If there’s not the terror of a screaming child on a flight, there are the liquid and baggage regulations, seating issues and endless questions around whether you can, or can’t take a buggy on the plane.
But it need not be a terrifying experience; you simply have to know what you’re dealing with. With a little careful planning and research, it’s possible to make the experience far simpler, leaving you the time and energy to focus on keeping your little one happy and well and your holiday as fun and relaxing as possible.
Here’s a guide to what to consider when flying with a youngster and advice on how to keep the travelling process as smooth as possible.
What to know: When planning a fly with infants
You’ll need to make sure your infant has a passport and has had the relevant travel vaccinations for your trip. The NHS website has some useful guidelines on the health of your little one when travelling, but it’s worth seeing your GP at least six to eight weeks before you intend to travel to check whether they have any further advice for your intended destination.
Also, you will need to check with your airline if you plan to travel with more than one child on your own. Typically, children under two will need to sit on the lap of a parent or guardian, meaning that two children will need two adults to care for them on the flight.
What to know: When booking
Before you book your flights, it’s important to research flight operator’s individual policies on flying with infants. Whilst children under two can sit on your lap with an extension belt for free, there can be some additional charges with some of the cheaper airlines. For example, Easyjet and Ryanair charge a fee of £20 and Flybe or Virgin charge a set percentage of an adult fare. For details on the policies of some of the major operators, Heathrow parking specialists Purple Parking offers a breakdown of seating and baggage allowances for infants as a resource for parents.
Most airlines won’t take newborns, so also check what the minimum age for travel is. For most this tends to be around 10 days to 2 weeks old. Once children are over the age of two, you will need to pay the full cost of a seat. This is always the case, even if they turn two while on holiday, so factor in any birthdays that may affect the cost of your return flights.
What to know: When packing for flight with infants
One of the main things to bear in mind when packing for your flight is the baggage allowance you will permitted – once you know this you will be able to determine how many nappies and bottles of formula you will be able to stash in your luggage. Some airlines, such as British Airways, will allow young children to have the same baggage allowance as adults – both hand luggage and hold baggage. Others, like Thomson, will give infants a certain luggage allowance (in this case 10kg), whilst cheaper flight providers such as Easyjet and Ryanair will not have any allowance for baggage for an infant without their own seat.
Most airlines will allow a fully-collapsible pushchair to be carried right up to the plane – although this will then need to be handed to airline staff for storage. Some, such as British Airways and FlyBe will allow both a pushchair and one car seat to be carried free of charge. Ryanair, however, will allow a pushchair, but will charge £10 per item per flight for car seats, booster seats and travel cots.
Also, make sure you are fully aware of the airport’s security restrictions, such as rules on liquids and baby foods, as you don’t want to have to throw away any expensive products at the airport.
What to know: When flying with infants
It can be uncomfortable flying with an infant on your lap, particularly if they’re a wriggly child! Nevertheless, unless you want to pay the fees for a whole extra seat, this is the only option for take-off and landing. Airlines will always provide a seat-belt extension to secure your baby during these times. However, for the main part of the flight, with the right airline and a little extra planning, you can book a seat next to a travel bassinet or cot, to free up your lap. These options tend to be available with the larger airlines, such as British Airways or Virgin Atlantic, so check their regulations and perhaps call to book, to ensure you can arrange the necessary seating and allow for a more comfortable flight for both you and your little one. These seats do tend to fill up quickly, so try to book as far in advance as possible.
If you’re holding them throughout, ask if the flight is full when you check in – if there are spare seats then some assistants will block out the seat next to you or offer you the option of seating next to a vacant chair.
For further advice on travelling with a family and flying with infants – see Purple Parking’s guide to going on holiday with a family, which is filled with tips and advice from real parents on how to make your trip as easy as possible.