Babies change week to week as they grow so it’s good to look in advance at where your baby is at departure date. It is not always recommended to travel with very young infants as to not expose them to germs from the traveling public. At what age you are comfortable is up to you. Here’s a complete description of baby’s changes on WebMD.
Babies are typically not approved by airlines to travel until they are at least a week old. There may be some slight variation in airlines’ policies so be sure to ask. You may need to provide proof of age. For international travel, even babies need passports! Children under two can often travel for free if they sit on your lap but be sure to confirm. International flights often charge 10% of the fare for lap infants. Some of the large air travel websites may not allow you to book an infant especially if they sit in your lap so you may have to phone.
You will be more comfortable without the baby in your lap for hours. You definitely should consider booking a seat for your baby which an airline may offer at a reduced rate. If you can, book a premium economy seat if budget allows as even a few more inches of legroom translates into a lot more comfort. A baby would be safest in a government-approved car seat which would be required if you bought a seat for baby. It should be rear-facing. Make a copy of the installation instructions to bring with you if necessary! It must be FAA-approved and the label should read “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft”. You will have to hold your baby during taxi, takeoff or landing. More info on rear facing seats.
You cannot request an exit row if you have a child traveling with you. You also may consider requesting a seat in the first row of the seat cabin (bulkhead). Bulkhead seats have some negatives: sometimes the arm rests don’t go up and down which isn’t comfortable. And, carry-on space at your seat is less inhibiting access to things and organization. Bulkheads is where they have bassinets (a “bag” that suspends from hooks) where your baby can comfortably sleep. There are only a few assigned to specific seats so book early to get them. Sometimes they are reserved for lap babies only. These can be comfortable for both you and your child but if there’s turbulence, you will have to take the child out of the bassinet for safety reasons. Bulkheads are nice but may have less room to store carry-on items. Check with your airline if the child seat or small stroller count as carry-ons. You want to avoid being surprised by unexpected charges.
You can expect some facilities for infants on board. At least one of the restrooms should have a changing table. Do not change a diaper at your seat please. A changing pad would be handy in the restroom. Bring baby’s blanket and a few favorite toys. Bring a large bib to keep clean and at least two sets of extra clothes (extra shirt for you too!). And, don’t forget a supply of plastic bags to dispose of items onboard without making a mess for others. Bring some alcohol-based cleaning wipes (avoid antibacterial wipes) to keep your area germ-free for you and the next occupant of your seat. Wipe the tray table, arm rests, remote-control or touch screen and window shade.
Flight attendants can assist with warming formula but bear in mind they have limited tools (e.g. a microwave). Do not expect diapers or baby food to be provided. Come fully contained for all your needs. There is a restriction on liquids but ready-to-use formula is certainly easiest. Hand it over to Security when being screened. Back up with formula you can mix onboard. Likewise for baby food. For TSA restrictions on baby food and formula, click here. Infants do best while sucking on a bottle, a pacifier or breast-feeding during takeoff and landing to equalize air pressure in their ears so plan on providing them with that during those times. If they are sleeping and you think it won’t matter to them, use your judgment whether you wake them or not. Diapers and baby food are readily available in Europe, even brands you’ll recognize, but bring enough for the flight on board and the first arrival day. (Reminder: stores often close on Sundays in Europe.)
If you need assistance with connecting flights or getting to the gate, ask the airline what options you have. You may be able to get a pass through Security for a spouse if you are travelling with your children alone and need extra help. Typically, you can expect pre-boarding but ask your airline and then at the Gate. You can decide if you want to board last .. less time in cramped quarters but risks losing overhead space to “bin hogs.” If baby is small, a front-carrier like a Baby Bjorn would be useful while a backpack for older babies works great. Cribs and playpens can be rented at your destinations with some planning.
Keeping Baby Happy:
If baby gets fussy on the flight, here are some tips:
- Get up and walk around. Baby needs stimulation too. Why people sit and bounce their baby around forever without success I’ll never know … Stretch!!
- Have some favorite toys and maybe a couple of new ones. Travel light though ….
- Watch cartoons or play music softly. You can bring baby-friendly headphones or tablet.
Why Babies Cry and Some Solutions to Sooth Them
Here’s a whole page of things to look for and tips for making baby happy again. Why Babies Cry.
Some good questions to ask the airline in advance:
- Is there are charge for a lap baby? Everyone, including infants, need a ticket and passport for an international flight.
- If you buy a seat for a child under age 2, is there a discount?
- If I don’t have a car seat, can I request one from the airline?
- Can we get seats in a bulkhead row in advance?
- Are bassinets available on the flight? When should I reserve one?
- Do all of your rows have extra oxygen masks? What if your child is in your lap? If not, can you seat us in a row that does?
- Do lap babies get a baggage allowance?
- Does a car seat count as a carry-on? If I have to check it at the gate, does it count against my baggage allowance?
- Can we bring our stroller on board? Will it count as a carry-on?
- Can flight attendants warm my baby’s bottle during the flight?
- What is the procedure for my spouse or loved one get security clearance to accompany me to the departure gate if I need assistance?
- Do you offer assistance with maneuvering through the terminal when making connecting flights? How can I arrange for that?