Guide to flying with children
Is my child allowed to fly?
Before booking that big family holiday, it is a good idea to check your airline’s policy on babies and small children. Some airlines are happy to allow children to fly when they are just two days old, while others will not permit a child to fly until they are at least two weeks old. Your airline may also request a letter from your GP stating that your child is fit to fly.
The majority of airlines require that there is one adult to accompany each infant. If you are planning a long haul trip, you will also need to ensure that your baby can be vaccinated as necessary; babies cannot take anti-malaria medication if they are under two months old, and children under 6 months cannot receive the yellow fever vaccination. You can find further information regarding vaccinations on the GOV.UK website.
Your child will also need their own valid passport to travel. We recommend that you apply for your child’s passport at least 3 weeks before you travel. The cost of a child passport is £46.
Will your child need its own seat?
Travel with baby on your lap - Babies up to 24 months
- No additional seat cost
- An extension belt will be provided
Book a seat with a bassinet/carrycot - Under 12 months*
- Size restrictions depend on individual airline policy
Reserve a child seat through your airline - 6 months to 4 years**
- You will need to book a seat in advance
- These can often be booked next to the window to avoid blocking other passengers
Use a restraint harness which fits to a seat - 12 months to 4 years**
- The use of Amsafe CARES child restraints depend on airline policy
- * Babies must fit the airline’s bassinet restrictions
- ** Check with your airline for required specifications of car seats, carrycots, harnesses and bassinets
What can you take on the plane?
Each airline has different allowances, but will generally allow:
Infants (up to 2 years) as lap babies, or in bassinets:
You can take one bag for the items that your infant may require during the flight
You may also be able to take:
- one fully-collapsible pushchair
- one car seat
- a small, fully-collapsible pushchair can be wheeled to the aircraft door and then stowed in the hold (check with your airline)
Children (over 2) who have their own seat:
They are allocated the same allowance for hand luggage and checked luggage as you do.
Hand luggage essentials
- Nappies, one for each hour you will be travelling, plus extras for delays
- Expressed milk or formula, boiled water in a baby bottle or baby food for the journey - this may be over 100ml (airport security could ask you to open or taste this as a security measure)
- A disposable changing mat, wet wipes, and nappy sacks
- Blankets to help comfort your baby, or if the plane is cold
- Spare clothes in case of spills
- A favourite toy for comfort if your child is tired or nervous
- Child pain relief
- Hand sanitiser
- Teething gel
- Insect repellent
- Factor 50+ sunblock
- Rehydration powder
- Soluble anti-sickness relief
- Bite and sting relief, calamine lotion
- A universal plug can turn a shower tray into a bath for your baby
- Microwaveable sterilisation bags or pre-sterilised bottles
Keeping your child entertained
Hours of travel can be boring for children and they may get bored and restless. To keep them happy and entertained, why not:
Teach them about the destination
- Get them exploring before they arrive by teaching them all about countries, cities and cultures with Lonely Planet’s Amazing World Atlas app
- Teach your children the local language and how to say “hello”, “thank you” and “goodbye”. They will love doing this, and receiving smiles and encouragement from locals.
- Teach them about local foods - and encourage them to try something completely different
- All children love taking pictures, so why not give them their own camera to capture all the action. Some of the best photographs come from a child’s imagination.
Music and books
- Load your MP3 player with your child’s favourite songs and consider audiobooks
- Remember to bring the headphones. You can purchase sets that are suitable for children and which will fit their ears and protect them from very loud volumes.
- Apps, tablets and games can be a great distraction when travelling. Download their favourite TV show episodes, films, and games and make sure everything can be accessed offline.
Looking after your child
Dealing with nerves
- Before leaving for your trip, speak to your child about their fears and what they might encounter along the way. This might include the security checks, or the safety demonstration on the plane.
- If you can, show them where you will be sitting on the plane beforehand. You can also show them how to do up a seatbelt, and explain what will happen during take-off and landing.
- A great book about planes can go a long way to turning fear into excitement. Teach them all about the wonder of flying.
Dealing with travel related illness
Many children between the ages of 3 and 12 experience motion sickness. There are a number of treatments that are safe and effective, including wristbands, tablets and diluting salts.
It can become extremely dry within the plane cabin due to low humidity, and this can cause you to get dehydrated quicker than you would usually. This can happen even quicker for children. Keep lots of bottled water and fruit to hand.
One of the worst things a child can experience during a flight is ear pain. This can be worse during take-off or landing or if your child has an infection or cold. As adults we learn to alleviate the pain by yawning or swallowing. This is not always easy for young children to understand, so you might want to try these ideas instead:
- Make sure your child has plenty of liquids to drink, especially if they have a cold as dehydration can make the symptoms worse
- Show an older child how to hold and blow their nose to reduce pressure
- Teach them how to do this gently as it can hurt
In case your child gets lost
Airports are full of people, we have lots on our mind and it can be easy to get distracted, for adults and children alike. Losing their child is every parent’s worst nightmare, but there are lots of things you can do to ensure it doesn’t happen, or if it does that you can both be reunited as quickly as possible.
- Invest in a GPS tracker that can be attached to their hand luggage, clothing or worn as a bracelet. You can use your mobile phone to track the signal.
- Agree a meeting point with older children, and also provide them with your flight details so that they can make their own way to you if necessary.