The thought of travelling with a baby scares a lot of people, especially flying with a baby. If you’re teetering on the edge of booking a trip with a baby, or perhaps you’ve booked a family trip and you’re now starting to doubt your confidence this post is for you.
These are the baby travel questions that I receive the most, so I hope this post helps you mamas and dadas out. I’ll keep updating it, so if you have a question that isn’t on here or perhaps you want to share your own advice, please do leave a comment.
Your Guide on Baby Travel
Newborn and New Parent Travel Basics
1. How do I know I can travel with a baby?
You can do it. Don’t listen to the naysayers, even if they’re just the niggles in your own mind. You really can travel with a baby and you can have the most amazing time.
Loads of people told me I’d never travel again once my baby came along and they were completely wrong – and unkind.
At eight months old Nova had been on five overseas trips and lots of staycations here in the UK. We loved them all. We also travelled with our second, Kit, from when she was a few weeks old. I didn’t know what I was doing, but you don’t know what you’re doing at home either, so why not learn in a place that makes you feel good?!
There are a million and one ways of parenting and despite what many authors will tell you there isn’t a step-by-step manual that works for every single baby. If only it were that easy, eh?! You’ll make your own parent-baby travel method and as I’m sure you can imagine, what works one time may not work the next time, but the important thing is that you carry on exploring (if of course, that’s what you want to do!).
2. When should I start travelling with a baby?
As soon as you want to! I took Nova to the Netherlands when he was two months old and we all loved it.
Chat to your health visitor if you have any concerns about vaccinations, mosquitos or climates. They’ll be able to give you the most up to date health info. Nova was due his baby vaccinations the week after our trip, but we were able to get an earlier appointment so that he’d had them before our flight (for our peace of mind rather than anything else).
If you want to know what our baby travel experiences were like you can read these posts:
The First Trip With Nova (Netherlands)
3. How do I apply for a baby’s passport?
Here’s my step-by-step guide on getting a baby passport picture right the first time and how to apply for a new baby passport.
Flying With A Baby
1. Help! I’m travelling with a baby long-haul, what tips do you have?
Flying with a baby is totally doable. These are my tips for travelling with a baby both short and long-haul.
2. How and where do you change a baby on a plane?
In one of the toilet cubicles. You probably haven’t noticed before, but there’s usually a fold out changing table just above the loo.
Obviously the cubicles are cramped anyway, without adding a baby and change bag into the equation, so I’d recommend packing your changing supplies in a smaller ‘pod’ so that you can just take that bit into the cubicle, rather than your whole bag. I use a Pacapod bag which comes with two pods, but you could also just utilise a clear freezer bag. I say clear because you can then easily find it in your big bag.
3. Do you have any tips for flying with a baby and a toddler?
Yes! Again, totally doable. We’ve been all over with our two, including long-haul to Canada. You can read about our trip with a baby and toddler here.
4. What happens to my baby during the security process?
Look out for family dedicated lanes. They usually have less queues and wider lanes to help with buggies.
Your baby will need to pass through the security. If they’re in a buggy you’ll usually be asked to remove them so that the buggy can go through security and you’ll then walk through security holding them. Bear in mind that you’ll usually be asked to remove anything that’s inside the buggy.
If you’re travelling with a baby and another child, your child will need to go through security too. If you’re not travelling with another adult, staff will usually help, especially if you use the family lane.
Jay normally deals with all the equipment/bags going through and I focus on getting me and the children through. I usually walk through holding Kit and Nova then follows.
Security procedures vary to some degree at each airport, so just listen to the staff as to whether you need to remove boots, coats etc.
5. How do I entertain my baby on the plane?
Now this really depends on their age. I class a baby as up to 12 months, so personally I’ve always entertained them like I would at home, which is through feeding, changing, napping, singing, bouncing etc.
Entertaining a toddler is a different ball game and these ideas are useful.
6. What if my baby cries on the plane?
Let’s face it, if you’re travelling with a baby it’s bound to happen at some point. If they have colic and that’s why they’re crying, you’ll find loads of tips in this post.
Otherwise, check everything like you normally would – do they need changing? Do they need feeding or burping? Are they too cold or too hot? If you’ve done all of that and they’re still crying, there’s not much you can do.
Yes, it makes for a long flight, but it’s only X amount of hours out of a lot more enjoyable hours in an exciting new destination. You can do it!
The majority of people are extremely kind and understanding.
7. How old does a baby have to be to fly?
Airlines have their own rules. Some say 2-days old, whereas most seem to say 7-14-days old.
Baby Travel Health
1. Can babies travel before vaccinations?
When travelling with a baby it’s usually recommended that they have had their 8 week jabs. We had a trip booked for when Nova was 8 weeks old and our nurse managed to adjust our appointment so that he could have them before we went. Check with your GP for solid health advice.
2. My baby has colic. How will we ever be able to travel?
My second, Kit, had colic for the first six months of her life. It’s awful. However, you can still travel (if you want to). I have lots of colic tips here.
Baby Travel Gear
1. Should I take a car seat, a baby carrier/sling or both?
I think it depends on the type of trip you’re going on – will you be walking or driving lots? Aside from the transfers, if you’re not planning to be in a car what’s the point of lugging a car seat around? Will you be hiring a car or going on public transport? Will you be staying in a resort or are you trekking up a mountain? It also depends on your baby – are they a shiny newborn? Are they a petite little dot or more of a chunkier baba?
There’s lots to think about, so I’ve got a whole post here dedicated to this question, detailing all of your options so that you can make a decision.
2. Should I take a travel cot or use the one at the hotel?
This comes down to personal preference. We always take our Nuna SENA travel cot with us. It’s an extra thing to carry, but once it’s checked-in we don’t have to worry about it. The reason we always bring it on our family trips is that Nova likes it. It’s sturdy, safe and we know that he usually sleeps well on it. Sleep is precious, so we’d never risk using something else. You can read our review and why we love it in this separate post.
Some hotels and apartments have travel cots that you can rent (sometimes for free, sometimes for a fee), but the quality and availability isn’t always guaranteed, so do your research.
3. Should I take a stroller?
The answer to this is similar to the car seat question. It really does depend on where you’re going, how long for and what your little one is like. If they never end up in their buggy when you’re out and about at home then don’t expect things to be any different abroad.
We use and love the Nuna PEPP Luxx – see the link for a full review and pics. I’d definitely recommend one that reclines flat so that you’re not chained to nap times in your hotel room.
4. Where do you find cool children’s clothes?
I’m a fan of independent boutiques like indikidual, Tobias + The Bear, and Two Tykes. I also really like Next because they wash well, can go in the drier and are affordable. Matalan and George at Asda also do cute, super affordable bits.
5. What toys should I take?
You don’t need to go wild. Try to take a mixture of familiar and new. Lightweight things obviously work well, so think paper books rather than hard covers. I’ve shared my favourite suggestions in this post – 80 of the best travel presents for kids.
6. What should I pack?
This is my ultimate packing list for young families (complete with printable checklist).
Baby Feeding on the Go
1. How do you breastfeed a baby on a plane?
The same way that you’d feed anywhere else. Sure, it’s not as comfortable as the sofa, but it’s doable. On all of the flights I’ve been on whilst feeding Nova nobody batted an eyelid and in fact, they tended to look the other way which suited me fine.
If you have a passenger next to you then you might want to use a giant muslin, pashmina or feeding cover to minimise any flashing. Nova liked to wave any attempted cover-up in the air, so I tried to just wear a specific breastfeeding top – you know the ones with concealed panels. When I was feeding Next had a small, but great online selection that looked like regular tops.
Alternatively, I’d do the layer thing, where you wear a stretchy strap top underneath a normal top and then just pull the top layer up and the bottom strap top down when you want to feed.
2. How do you bottle feed a baby on a plane?
According to the government’s website ‘When travelling with a baby you’re allowed to take enough baby food, baby milk and sterilised water for the journey. In some cases this will be over 100ml’ (see here for source).
At around six-months old Nova had a good set of teeth that he liked to remind me of when feeding, so we swiftly moved onto formula milk. You can either take the powered formula milk with you or the ready-made bottles. The latter are a little pricey (around 80p for a 200ml bottle), but personally I think they’re worth their weight in gold, as they are just so convenient. You simply pour the milk into a sterilised bottle.
You can even buy some that have a bottle teat, but if you want to use that option I’d definitely recommend trying them at home first. Babies can often be very fussy with teats, sometimes even refusing a feed.
If you choose to take the powdered version I’d recommend using small plastic pods to store each feed, so rather than having to scoop it out of the box during the flight you simply pour a pod into the bottle. Nova used to have six scoops per feed, so we’d make loads of pods containing six scoops. Tommee Tippee have some great pods that come with some of their bottles. You can then either bring a flask of hot water and a bottle of cold water with you to make the feeds, or ask an air steward for some hot water. Just bear in mind that sometimes it can take them a little while to get it for you, particularly if it’s a busy flight.
Whatever option you go for, make sure you bring extra supplies in case of any delays or lost luggage. Also bear in mind that whatever you take in your hand luggage will need to be scanned and tested at security, so allow extra time at the airport. Your days of whizzing through are in the past.
You can speed it up a little bit by pre-ordering your supplies from Boots and collecting them once you’ve gone through airport security. However, personally I don’t think you really gain that much time as you still have to queue for your order and you have to order at least a week in advance. I guess it saves you some hassle if you’re planning on taking loads and loads.
3. Can you order baby milk to collect at the airport?
Yes. You can do this through Boots. Simply head to their website, order the milk and select ‘Order & Collect’ as your delivery option and select a Boots airside airport store. This means you’ll collect it after you’ve been through the security gates.
Boots say that you’ll need to place your order at least three days before you fly. However, some airports like Gatwick, say you need to order at least seven days before and that it’s limited to two tubs. Check your specific airport’s website for more details on any restrictions and regulations.
4. Do I need to feed my baby during take-off and landing?
Rumour has it that if you don’t feed your baby at the start and end of a flight they’ll howl in pain and scream. Some people say that the change in cabin pressure effects little one’s ears more so than adults.
I was terrified that Nova would be screaming during our first flight as he wouldn’t take a feed, but he was fine. I think I’ve only fed him on a couple of the flight take-offs and he’s been fine both ways, so I don’t think it’s a definite that you need to feed. Don’t force it.
5. How do you bottle feed a baby in a new destination?
You have a few options. You can bring enough supplies in your hand luggage or checked-in bags (see here for confirmation of this from the government’s website). The advantage to this is that you know you’ll have your baby’s favourite milk and won’t have to rush to find a supermarket (that may or may not sell your preferred brand). The disadvantage is that your luggage will be heavy and full on the way out, especially if you’re travelling for a week or longer.
We chose this option for our long-haul trip to Canada when Nova was six-months old and I’d do it again. It was convenient for us and when we looked in the supermarket they didn’t have the milk we’d want to buy anyway.
Your other option is to take enough supplies for the flight (and any possible delays) and then to hit the supermarket on arrival. Depending on where you’re going you might be able to Google the supermarket to see what they have available or to check with your host/accommodation provider, particularly if it’s a place that’s geared for families – someone’s bound to have asked before.
6. Do I need to use sterilised water for feeds when I’m abroad? Can I use mineral water?
Bottled water shouldn’t be used if possible. If you have to though, check the label to make sure the water contains:
- less than 200 milligrams (mg) a litre of sodium (also written as Na)
- no more than 250mg a litre of sulphate (also written as SO4)
It’s recommended that it’s still boiled before using. This guidance is from the NHS website (see more here). When we’ve been away we’ve managed to easily find water that meets this guidance.
You might to choose to travel with sterilising tablets, such as these Milton ones. They’re cheap, don’t take up much space in your case and you don’t need to rinse. Easy peasy!
7. How do I carry on weaning my baby while on holiday?
Again, this comes down to personal preference. Nova had started solids (well, purees – you know what I mean) by the time we went to Mallorca, Greece and Canada. He has a high gag reflex, so let’s just say that weaning him was a challenge. Combined with the ridiculous amount of teeth that were coming through, I’m sure that you can imagine how tricky it was feeding him abroad.
You have a few options; take pre-packaged food pouches (good if you’re on the go and/or not near a supermarket), take a blender (only if you’re staying in a villa/apartment with a kitchen), or take supplies for the flights (and any delays) and then head to the supermarket/restaurants.
On two of the trips we took Ella’s Kitchen pouches with us. We took most of them in our hand luggage in case our checked-in cases went missing. This did mean that they all had to be scanned at security and on one trip I think we had about 25 of them! Similar to the milk, you can choose to pre-order from Boots and collect once you’ve gone through security if you’d rather.
We took pouches as we knew he was fussy and didn’t think we’d be able to get them abroad (we were right), and we knew we’d be out and about without a kitchen to cook anything from scratch. We worked on the basis that if we could find fresh food , such as bananas etc then we’d give them instead, but if not we knew we’d be able to feed him.
On one trip we took our Baby Bullet as we were staying in a villa so we knew we’d be able to blend all his food for him and make everything like we do at home. I wouldn’t particularly recommend this option. We were worried about it in our case and Nova went on a bit of a food strike anyway because of his new teeth! We could have just mashed things like avocado, banana etc with a fork and probably got by for a week.
So, anything else that you’d love to ask?
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