International Air Travel With Baby

My Daughter is now 11-months-old and has been on 7 flights so far. She took her first international flight at 3 1/2 months old when we flew from London to Florida so she could meet her family for the first time. She was an absolute Angel and did not cry even once! The other passengers and flight crew all commented on how well behaved she was and I was so grateful because I was definitely worried about traveling alone with her.

Passports

Just in case you’re wondering, yes, even babies need passports for international travel. A child’s passport expires in 5 years as opposed to an adults passport, which is good for 10 years. You can log onto your governments website to apply. If you live in the USA you can go here for your child’s passport:

https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/passports/apply-renew-passport/under-16.html

If you live in the UK you can go here for your child’s passport:

https://passportapplication.service.gov.uk/ips-olc/

Flying internationally with her passport

(My Daughter with her passport on a flight)

Keep in mind that when traveling domestically (staying within the same country), you might be asked to provide a birth certificate for your baby. Always be prepared so you do not run into any issues at the airport.

Fees

On domestic flights, children under 2 fly free (they’re called a lap child) and I intend to take full advantage of it and fly to as many places as possible before my Daughters Second birthday! When flying internationally though, you will have to pay a percentage of a full fare adult ticket and sometimes taxes. Rules vary by carrier, but the tickets are not expensive. For instance, when we flew from Florida to Jamaica on American Airlines the full cost of my Daughters round trip ticket was $16.61! Our latest flight from London to Florida on British Airways cost £83.16 round trip.

Baggage allowances

Babies flying internationally who have paid their fees typically have the same baggage allowances as their parents. On our trip from London to Florida I was allowed 1 checked bag up to 51 pounds free of charge and so was my Daughter. When flying domestically (free!) babies are typically not allowed checked baggage. Babies are always also allowed free of charge:

1 stroller 1 car seat 1 carry on

My Experience

I remember being slightly nervous about my Daughter going on her first flight back in February because my Husband wasn’t traveling with us and she was still so tiny!

What if she cries a lot?

What if she poops and I need to change her diaper?

What if she wants to feed while I'm walking through the airport?

How am I going to use the bathroom if I need to?

These are all thoughts I had which caused me some minor anxiety! In hindsight, I was completely overthinking everything and the 9 1/2 hour flight to Florida flew by. She actually fell asleep before take off!

She’s now been from London to Florida and back, from Florida to New York and back, from Florida to Jamaica and back, and from London to Florida (and we’ll be flying back in 2 weeks).

Flying to New York when Baby was 4 months

(Flying to New York when Baby was 4 months)

Having flown with both a younger infant and an older baby, I can safely say that in my experience it's much easier to fly with a young infant. They sit still, sleep a lot, and are generally happy to stay in the same place and follow your lead while flying. Older babies have a mind of their own and are mobile! They want to move around, touch everything, and explore.

Our latest flight from London was actually the most trying. Not because my Daughter was misbehaving or acting up, but because she was 10-months-old and did not want to sit still! We spent the whole 9 hours walking and crawling the length of the plane and she only took 3 half hour naps!

For anyone thinking they wouldn't dare allow their child to crawl on the airplane floor, I challenge you to keep your very active and social 10-month-old in a seat for almost 10 hours. Yeah, good luck with that! Though I know the floor isn't the cleanest, she enjoyed investigating her surroundings and making new friends. As for her being soiled, it's nothing a bath can't clean!

There wasn't much rest time for Mommy and to say I was exhausted isn’t the half of it! By the time we finally got home, I was more than happy to share my Baby with my family!

Overall, traveling with your baby is much easier than you think.

Honestly.

Your baby will take on whatever emotions you’re feeling. If you’re scared, anxious, and impatient, then your baby will be too! If you’re calm, cool, and collected, then your baby will be too!

Yes, they’ll cry.

Yes, they’ll poo.

Yes, they'll want to feed at the most inconvenient time.

Yes, you’ll eventually have to pee on a long haul flight.

It's all fine though!

Feeding my Daughter in Security at JFK

(Feeding my Daughter in Security at JFK)

Here are some tips to help get you through your long haul flights with baby (of course they can be applied to short haul flights too!):

1. Arrive at the airport early

It’s one thing to rush through the airport trying to catch your flight when it's just you, it’s another thing to do it with a baby. Save yourself the hassle and get to the airport at least 1 1/2 hours before your scheduled departure. This gives you more than enough time to check in, go through security, use the bathroom, get a snack, find your gate, or anything else you may need to do.

2. Eat a hearty breakfast

If you’re traveling alone with your baby it may be difficult for you to eat while flying since babies like to grab and not sit still. Fill your stomach with a dense breakfast like buckwheat porridge so that you stay fuller longer. I typically eat fruit for breakfast because it is so easily digested and the best way to start your morning, but when taking a long flight with baby I need to be full so that I don’t get hungry so quickly.

Eating a filling buckwheat porridge with peanut butter and nuts on my way to the airport

(Eating a filling buckwheat porridge with peanut butter and nuts on my way to the airport)

3. Don’t drink too much

Even though it’s important that we stay hydrated, especially if you’re a breastfeeding mom, it’s also sensible to not have to use the bathroom constantly while flying with baby. Airplane bathrooms are tiny and get dirty quickly. It’s no place you want to try to squeeze yourself and your baby into just because you had to drink that bottle of water or that cup of coffee.

4. Dress appropriately

For Mom- Comfortable clothes that allow you to move around freely while also keeping you warm. If you’re a breastfeeding mom it’s best to wear clothes that make the breast easily accessible. Long loose sweaters with a tank top underneath and leggings or a tank top with a zip up sweater and leggings are usually my go-to’s.

Planes are typically pretty cold and you don’t want to freeze for hours! Then again, if you do get warm you can easily remove your sweater.

Comfortable shoes that come on and off easily are important too. This is so that you can effortlessly get through security while holding your baby and so that you can remove your shoes on the plane if you’d like to. I love traveling in my Converse, Nike Huaraches, or Nike Juvenate. I prefer not to travel in sandals or open toed shoes because feet get dirty and because of how cold the planes are.

For Baby- Leggings or pants with a t-shirt and sweater/jacket and socks. I prefer a t-shirt on Baby over a onesie because it makes it much easier to check their diaper to see if it needs changing. Smaller babies don’t typically have t-shirt options. Dressing your baby in layers allows you to add and remove clothes effortlessly as your baby gets hot or cold on their journey.

5. Take advantage of priority boarding

Most airlines allow passengers with infants to pre-board. Though you may think you do not want to board the plane any earlier than you have to and get your baby cooped up, it’s actually wise to pre-board. This allows you to get yourself organized while allowing Baby to explore their new surroundings.

Boarded early so we could explore and get organized

(Boarded early so we could explore and get organized)

Upon take off, Baby will be required to be seatbelted and sit on your lap until you’re in the air. Bigger and more active babies probably won’t like being contained. By allowing them on the plane earlier to look around, touch new things, see new faces, and adjust to the atmosphere, they’re more likely to sit calmly with you as you take off.

Boarding early also allows you to organize yourself. Where are you sitting and what things will you immediately need? I put my Daughters books, as well as, my own in the seatback pocket in front of me. I also get my headphones, snacks, toys, and a blanket out and arranged either under my seat or in the seat back pocket.

6. Carry-on’s

Less is more when traveling with Baby. You want to remain light and mobile and only take what is absolutely necessary on board. I like to bring a backpack carry on that way I’m not struggling to pull or carry a hand bag while also dealing with my Daughter. I don't even bring my purse- I take my wallet, chapstick, pen, and reusable utensils and glass straw out of my purse and pack them separately into my carry on that way I can pack my purse away and put it in my checked baggage. This reduces the amount of bags I'm carrying on board and therefore reduces my work load. Pack your carry on so that the things you’ll need first are at the top, while the things you might not need until later are at the bottom.

Necessary items for Baby:

2 blankets (blankets double as cover from the cold and as a changing pad when changing baby's diaper)

Diapers (Amount depends on travel time. Roughly 1 diaper for every 4 hours of travel plus 3. Example: London-Florida 9.5 hour flight= 6 diapers)

Wipes

2 bibs

2 washcloths

1 change of clothes

An extra pair of socks

2 books

2-3 of Baby’s favorite small toys (example: toy car or tiny stuffed animal. Keep in mind babies like to play with any and everything, especially in a new environment. Their toys from home won’t hold their interest, so don’t bring so many. They’ll enjoy playing with spoons, cups, and even the person sitting next to you.)

Necessary items for you:

Extra pair of socks

Headphones

Phone charger

Wallet

Lip balm

Toothbrush

Small jar of coconut oil (you’re allowed 3 oz or less)

Hair brush

1 book

Snacks

7. Bring food

Airport and airplane food is expensive and very unhealthy. Prepare yourself by bringing your own food and snacks for your journey.

Contrary to popular belief, all food is allowed to be taken through security. It's liquids that cannot be taken. I always prepare 1 meal for a long haul journey which is typically made of salad, quinoa, and some sort of pulse like chickpeas or lentils and I always pack my container to the very top.

For any hummus lovers out there, hummus is a hit or a miss. I’ve had them allow me through with it and I’ve also had it taken away. Ouch! Hummus is expensive! You can get away with hummus by scooping it into another container with your meal though.

(Meal I brought on a plane consisting of quinoa, lentil curry, and salad with fresh cilantro and hummus)

Additionally, I bring my own nuts, dried mangoes, dates, and sometimes sweet potato chips so I have savory and sweet options.

You're also allowed to travel with fruit, but the rule is that if you’re traveling internationally you cannot leave the airplane with leftover fruit from the country you came from. If you’re traveling domestically, you can take your leftover fruit with you.

I personally do not take fresh fruit when traveling alone with my Baby because it is too messy and I don’t know if I’ll be able to finish it in one sitting.

8. Find other babies

Babies like babies and parents understand parents. Do yourself a favor and find them on board. Scout the crowd when you're waiting at your gate and also search while you're boarding so that you know where they're sitting. The babies will enjoy seeing and playing with each other and parents will appreciate the understanding of how difficult it can be to travel with children. You can all laugh about it together!

Found a 3-year-old to talk to

(Found a 3-year-old to talk to)

9. Allow your child to roam

We all know that planes aren’t exactly the cleanest of places, but that won’t stop an older baby from wanting to explore it. You can either fight your child to stay in one place for the duration of your flight or you can let them exert their energy, excite their senses, and stay occupied by looking around. It’s not the end of the world. This is why you have a change of clothes and socks for your Baby. Before landing, change them so they’re ready to meet family and friends in a new clean outfit.

10. Feed your baby at take off and landing

The sucking and swallowing helps to adjust to the change in altitude and "popping" ears. Breastfed babies take comfort in nursing, so while they’re required to sit still in your lap this may help to keep them relaxed and busy. My Daughter hasn't seemingly had any problems with her ears while flying. When she was younger she would fall asleep before take off! On our most recent flight she didn't have an interest in nursing at take off or landing because she was too busy looking around.

Baby sleeping before take off

(Baby sleeping before take off)

For those of you who may have easily distracted breastfed babies, I recommend partially covering Baby's face with a blanket and also covering their ears while feeding. This will help to eliminate any outside noise or movement that may be happening.

11. Carriage vs Wrap

Your Baby's age and weight, as well as, the size of the airport, are all important factors when deciding if you should take your carriage or wrap with you all the way to the gate. Some airports are huge, while others are on the smaller side. Personally, when I fly in and out of smaller airports like Montego Bay, I prefer to just hold my Daughter. When going through security you'll have to take your baby out of the carriage or wrap anyway and of course once you arrive at the gate you'll have to remove your baby from their device. In a small airport, with a small baby, it's just not worth it to me.

Holding my 5-month-old Daughter in security at Montego Bay, Jamaica

(Holding my 5-month-old Daughter in security at Montego Bay, Jamaica)

That being said, if you have an older or heavier baby do what feels most comfortable! Allow yourself enough time to check in and go through security so that you do not have to worry over unstrapping, re-strapping, untying, and retying as you make your way to your gate.

I currently have a Baby Zen Yoyo stroller which was designed to fit in the overhead compartment on a plane. I used it on our last flight from London to Tampa because I flew out of a large airport (Gatwick) on my own and my Daughter is heavy! The Yoyo did not disappoint! I took it all the way to the gate at which point I folded it up and brought it on the plane with me and stored it above my seat. Quick and easy! If you do not have a Yoyo, but would like to take your carriage to the gate you can check it at the gate for free and pick it up once you arrive at your destination.

Get ready and go!

I hope this encourages everyone to be brave and courageous enough to travel with their babies! It’s honestly not so bad and it’s over before you know it. It’s all about preparation, both physically and mentally.

Take advantage of these free flights until 2!

You’ll kick yourself later on if you don’t!