By Trisha Bautista
Thinking of taking your infant on a trip overseas? It may sound intimidating, but it is actually a lot simpler than travelling with a toddler. Infants sleep for longer, and are often easier to soothe (they mostly eat and sleep), as opposed to bigger babies and toddlers who are old enough to get restless or nervous on the plane.
Here’s what you need to know before flying with your newborn:
1. If your child is under two years old, they fly for free for most domestic flights, and at a small percentage of your ticket price for international.
The policy may differ for international flights—some flights, like PAL, Emirates, American Airlines, and Singapore Air charge about 10 percent of the standard fare. This fee allows you to travel with an infant on your lap (one infant per adult) and will get you an extra 10kg of baggage allowance. You are required to indicate that you are traveling with an infant when you book, and usually, he will get his own ticket. If, however, you want your infant to travel in a car seat, you will need to purchase a ticket at full price for the seat that your child and the car seat will occupy.
2. They will need some kind of identification.
Again, rules may vary, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Most domestic flights don’t require an infant ID, but some airlines may ask for documents like a birth certificate. If you’re traveling internationally, you will definitely need to get a passport for your infant. Luckily, most government services have a courtesy lane for passport application. You will need a photo of your child with their eyes open against a white background or blanket. The same applies for getting a Visa for your child, but policies vary depending on the country you’re traveling to.
3. Your child’s car seat and stroller don’t count in your baggage allowance.
You can check in your stroller and car seat right before boarding (literally as you board the plane), it won’t be counted as a part of your baggage allowance, which means you won’t be charged extra if you are overweight. You can also keep them with you until right before you step in the plane—the airline crew will stow them away for you and have them ready as you deplane.
4. You can bring liquid on the plane—only if it’s breast milk or formula.
Again, exact policies vary per airline, but generally, security will allow liquids like these in “reasonable amounts”, according to the Transport Securiy Administration (TSA https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures/traveling-children) in the US. Most, if not all, airlines adhere to similar rules, but they will still have to be inspected and examined through the x-ray. Have a smaller, separate bag for this to make the security checks smoother. It’ll also prevent untoward spills (imagine if your milk or formula spill inside the diaper bag mid-flight!).
5. If you can, bring a stroller, carrier, and a carseat.
This way, you can stow some stuff underneath or over your stroller. And since it doesn’t count as baggage, you don’t need to worry about being overweight. Carriers are also a must-have—especially if you want to be able to use your hands as you walk around and do sightseeing. It’s also easier to soothe babies in a carrier, so if you have a trip coming up, start training your infant to use the carrier and stay in a stroller/car seat. When babies are fussy in their strollers, they are usually calm once they’re in a carrier against your chest. It would also be helpful to know that some countries require babies to use the car seats when in moving vehicles. If this applies to the country you are travelling to, then we recommend you bring one on your trip, as opposed to buying one when you arrive. Airlines allow for the check-in of carseats as well, at no extra baggage cost.
6. Be prepared to navigate through the airport with a fussy infant.
My baby traveled on a 14-hour flight at 7 weeks, and being at the airport was an extremely stressful experience for him. The bright lights and the flurry of the crowd provided too much stimulation, and he literally screamed his head off throughout the whole security check process. He was only pacified when we got past the checkpoints and found a spot to breastfeed. In hindsight, I should’ve brought a baby sling, a wrap, or infant carrier as an option, as these options provide the baby with a sense of security that a car seat or stroller cannot.
7. But don’t worry, they’re calmer on the plane!
This is especially true for babies younger than six months. The trickiest part of traveling with an infant could actually be navigating the airport. Once inside the plane, chances are, your baby will be asleep or feeding throughout the flight. Most babies are lulled to sleep by the plane’s rhythm, and if they’re sitting on your lap, remember, they love being carried and snuggled in your arms! When my husband and I took our 7-week old on a 14-hour plane ride, it was much easier than I expected. The baby literally slept or latched most of the time. Of course, an older and more active infant could be a different story, since they’re harder to entertain. If it’s possible, pick a flight schedule that coincides with his naptime/bedtime to make it easier for you and so they can sleep throughout the flight.
8. If you’re traveling internationally, call as early as a week ahead and ask about early check-in so you can reserve a bassinet and ask for the window seat.
You can request for a bassinet, and that means you get a bulkhead seat. The bassinets attach to the wall in front of the seat, and they only hold infants up to six months old. If you’re EBF, you probably will end up just using it to store your diaper bag, because it ends up being more convenient to hold the baby on your lap. Whoever carries the baby will be on the window seat, with your companion beside you. The window seat also offers a little more privacy if you’re going to breastfeed.
9. Ditch your hand-carry and just take a diaper bag. Make sure it has an outside pocket!
The fewer bags you have to worry about, the better. The most important things are your documents, so make sure they’re easily accessible in a secure outside pocket. If you’re carrying baby and have a companion, have them bring the diaper bag, with documents in a secure outside pocket. Whoever will carry the baby can make do with a smaller bag. I found a small sling bag with a fold-over cover to be really handy—you can sling it across your body under the carrier, and reach for anything inside easily with one hand. Get one that fits your phone, wallet, and the baby’s passport or documents for easier access at security.
10. Stock up your diaper bag with essentials, and don’t worry about changing nappies.
The longer the flight, the more diapers and extra clothes you need in case of emergencies. Make a checklist of your essentials in case you forget anything! Plane bathrooms are equipped with a changing table, so cleanups are possible. When we needed to change a diaper, my husband and I would go to the bathroom together—one of us inside doing the actual changing, one right outside to hand wipes and diapers. The bathrooms are very cramped, so you won’t have much room to move around in.
11. If you’re in for a long ride, bring a breastfeeding pillow, or at least a small pillow to help you prop the baby up.
This is especially important if you’re breastfeeding, because it will make the ride much comfier. Although it was a bit of a pain carrying it all through the airport, we brought a Boppy pillow. It went on my lap, over the seatbelt, and under the baby. That way, I could be a little relaxed about holding the baby, because the Boppy served as his sort of cushion. If it’s too bulky for you, take a small pillow you can prop under your elbow for support. You can also just ask for extra head pillows to avoid straining your arms and back.
12. Wear something comfortable!
This is a general rule that applies to bringing a baby around anywhere, but it is especially important when traveling on a plane. It doesn’t mean you have to travel in sweatpants—but I find separates to be more convenient than a dress when it comes to traveling. Comfy pants like culottes, soft jeans, or chinos will do well, paired with a roomy top or button-down. It’ll be tricky finding a comfy position in the airplane seat, so you’ll want an outfit that will allow you to move around freely. Wear shoes that are comfy and easy to take on an off (read: slip-ons), because the last thing you’d want is to hold up the security checks with a fussy baby while you tie shoelaces or do up shoe buckles.
Packing and preparing for the actual trip itself is a whole other story, but it will be much easier than the traveling part. Before you book a trip, review your airline’s policies when it comes to infants, and always check in and call about special arrangements (like the bassinet). Even if you do end up with a screaming, fussy baby, remember—you will most likely never see those people again!
Trisha Bautista is a writer, editor, and PR practitioner with articles published in many of the country’s top magazines and lifestyle websites. She’s a mother to an eight months-old baby boy, and is constantly trying to find the time to stay fit and healthy while balancing married life, motherhood, career, and a social life. She enjoys discovering health, fitness, beauty, and shopping hacks to maximize time and money, and loves the occasional wine night.