Travel tips for babies, toddlers and young children

When you’re travelling with small children, giving yourself enough time and being prepared makes things much easier. Read our tips on how to make your trip go smoothly.

Eve Powell
Eve Powell
Updated 21 September 2022  | 6 mins read

Key points

  • Compare airlines to find out which provide the best options for travelling with small children
  • Choose flight times that will work for your child’s routine and book your seats as soon as possible to ensure that you’ll be sitting together
  • Allow extra time for travelling and getting through the airport and security
  • Apply for a GHIC for each family member and take out travel insurance to cover any medical emergencies

Flying with a baby or young child

It's a good idea to take advantage of the time when your child is very young and can travel with you for free or at a discounted rate.

But it’s well known that flying with babies and young children can be challenging, not to mention the amount of extra kit you need to take.

So it’s not surprising that many parents feel apprehensive. But flying with a little one does become easier when you know what to do.

Read our tips on making the experience more enjoyable for everyone.

Booking a seat for you and your baby

When you fly with a baby or child under the age of two, they’re typically classed as an infant, which allows you to fly with them sitting on your lap.

The airline may charge you a fee for this, but it’s usually much lower than the cost of an adult ticket and is often a set fee or around 10% of the adult fare.

Or you could consider booking an extra seat, which may be charged at a child fare - this can be helpful to give you extra space.

Tips for booking a flight with your baby

Time flights with your child’s routine

Early mornings, night times or flights that coincide with naps can work well. It will hopefully mean your child sleeps through most of the flight and their routine won’t be affected too much

Book your seats as soon as you can

Think about whether aisle or window would be best - a window seat may be better if you’ll be breastfeeding, but an aisle seat could help with a restless toddler. There might be limitations on what seats you can book with a baby or a toddler (such as emergency exit seats) so be sure to check with the airline before travelling

Request a bassinet

For babies on long-haul flights, you can book a bassinet or cot. Only a few are available on each flight and you’ll need to book a bulkhead seat, so do this as soon as possible - you may need to contact the airline directly

Compare airlines

Shop around and compare what each airline offers for travelling with young children. Some allow a changing bag as well as hand luggage, while others have more generous allowances for baby equipment that’s free of charge in the hold, like car seats and prams

Once you’ve booked your flight

With your flight and seats now booked, you need to make sure you’re prepared for other important parts of your trip:

  • Organise your baby or child’s passport - Your baby or child will need their own passport, so you’ll need to organise this as soon as possible. It can take up to 10 weeks for a new passport to be processed
  • Apply for GHIC cards - You’ll need to apply for a Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) for each member of your family. This will give you access to free or reduced cost emergency state healthcare in the European Union while you’re away
  • Check health and travel advice - Before you travel, check the latest travel advice from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. You can find the latest health advice for your destination on TravelHealthPro
  • Be prepared if you have a different surname - If your surname is different to your child’s you might need to prove you’re related to be able to take them in or out of a foreign country, so check with the relevant embassy and UK government advice

Do I need travel insurance for my baby or toddler?

Yes, everyone in your family needs travel insurance, even if they’re a newborn baby.

Taking out travel insurance can give you peace of mind that if something unexpected happens to affect your trip, you and your little one will be protected.

Travel insurance can help cover unexpected medical costs and emergency travel back to the UK, as well as things like delays, cancellations and lost luggage.

It’s also worth making sure that any baby equipment you’ll be putting in the hold - like buggies, travel cots and car seats - will be covered if it gets damaged, lost or stolen.

Preparing for your flight

  1. Order baby milk and essentials

    You can pre-order things like baby milk, baby food, and suncream to pick up from Boots pharmacies in departure lounges to save you taking them through security

  2. Check your luggage weight before flying

    What is allowed will vary between airlines, so make sure you check the size and weight of your baggage before you set off for the airport

  3. Find out if you need a baby car seat

    If you’ve booked an extra seat for your baby, some airlines require your baby to be in a car seat

  4. Get ready for security

    When you pack, make sure any items that need to be removed for security - like any liquids and electronic devices - can be reached easily

  5. Give yourself enough time

    Allow for traffic and unexpected stops for little ones so that you’re not arriving at the airport, or at your boarding gate, in a rush

  6. Prepare for motion sickness and air pressure

    If your child suffers from travel sickness, pack what works best for them and have drinks on hand to help them swallow

  7. Consider using pull-ups

    Even if they’re potty trained, using a pull-up for the flight can prevent accidents if you can’t get your little one to the toilet in time, or there’s a queue

  8. Count your luggage

    Count the bags and items you’re taking, or better yet have a checklist to help keep track of everything and avoid leaving things behind

What to do when you’re flying with your baby

Many airlines will let you take a baby as young as two weeks old on a plane. However, flying with a baby does require some preparation and there are a few things to consider:

Choose what buggy you take

You can usually use your buggy until you’re at the boarding gate, but taking a lighter, collapsible pushchair can be more practical than a travel-system buggy. Some airlines have restrictions on the weight or size of pushchairs they allow

Consider using a baby carrier

Using a sling or baby carrier can make moving around the airport easier. You’ll be handsfree and it can make your baby more settled in a noisy, busy airport environment

Time baby feedings - If you can, time feeding your baby to coincide with takeoff and landing to help equalise the pressure in their ears and make them more comfortable

Check the regulations - Baby milk, food and formula aren’t included in the liquid regulation amounts for flights, but other things like nappy cream and baby suncream are

Plan your on-flight baby packing

Make a list of everything you might need for your baby and you on the plane, things you might want to pack include:

  • Nappies, wipes, nappy bags and changing mat
  • Baby milk and sterilised water - bring double the amount your baby would normally have in case your flight is delayed
  • Travel steriliser or disposable sterilising bags
  • Dummy or comforter
  • Baby blanket and muslins
  • Layers and change of clothes for baby, and spare top for mum
  • Baby medicine sachets, like baby paracetamol and teething gel
  • Small baby books and toys
  • Baby food and snacks for the journey

What to do when you’re flying with a toddler

Unlike babies, who aren’t on the move, travelling with an energetic toddler requires different preparation, for example:

Decide on early or late boarding - Parents with young children are often offered the chance of early boarding. This can work well to get you settled in with a baby, but it may be better to let an energetic toddler burn off energy at the gate until it’s time to board

Leave extra time for the airport - Moving through the airport and security with young children takes longer than you think, so give yourself plenty of time

Expect to be the entertainer - You’ll be on call to provide all your toddler’s entertainment, whether it’s on screen or with activities that you’ve packed - so don’t expect to watch your own movie in peace

Look out for the family line - Some airports have family lines to help you get through security and passport control queues more easily

Plan your on-flight toddler packing

What you’ll need can vary depending on your toddler, but items you might want to take with you on the plane include:

  • Nappies and changing kit
  • Wet wipes
  • Collapsible buggy
  • Toddler headphones
  • Charged devices or tablets
  • Soft blanket
  • Drinks and snacks
  • Easily removable layers of clothing for your toddler
  • Identity wristband
  • Spare clothes
  • Spill-proof cup
  • A few favourite toys
  • Some new surprises and activities

Keeping your child safe when you travel

Airports are busy, crowded places and travelling can be a long and tiring experience. Try following these tips to keep your child safe and well:

  • Use a wristband - Put your name and contact details on a wristband so that if your child is found wandering, you can be easily contacted and reunited
  • Put them in brightly coloured clothes - Make your little ones really easy to spot by putting them in a top that’s easy to spot in crowds
  • Take a picture - A quick picture of your child snapped on the morning of your trip can help if you need to show people who you’re looking for and what they’re wearing
  • Teach your child what to do if they get lost - Explain how to find a safe person, like a member of staff, police officer or parent, and point out a safe spot to meet at if they’re lost
  • Keep them hydrated on the plane - It’s easy to get dehydrated on a plane, so make sure your child has drinks regularly
  • Prepare for air pressure pain - Little ears can suffer with the change in air pressure, so pack plenty of sweets or drinks as frequent swallowing will help ease the pain
  • Pack enough medicine and a travel first-aid kit - Taking small amounts of basic medicines and a first-aid kit can help you treat minor problems quickly