While pre-baby journey prep involved chucking some things in a bag and a drink at the airport, travelling with a child can feel daunting. Here are some tips…
Travelling with a baby or toddler: the basics
If you want to stay put for a while when you have a newborn, that’s understandable and totally normal. But when you are ready to head off, you will have all kinds of fun and adventures. Here are some tips to help things go as smoothly as possible.
Baby and toddler travel essentials
Think about what you’ll need, particularly if the journey takes longer than planned. Stuff to tick off includes:
- drinks and snacks
- nappies, wipes and changing mat
- change of clothes.
(Which? 2018a, b)
Keep it all easily accessible and prep a few bags with one nappy, a small packet of wipes and some cream for easy dashes to the loo (Which? 2018a, b).
Baby and toddler holiday essentials
Things you’ll probably need include:
- a lightweight buggy
- a baby carrier/sling
- a travel cot
- a first-aid kit, medicines and sun protection
- travel blackout blinds.
If you're formula feeding, you'll also need to think about:
See our guide to sun safety for more tips.
Travelling with a baby or toddler: top tips
- Try to organise your baby's passport in plenty of time (GOV.UK, 2018a). NB: this will involve the most hilarious photoshoot of your life.
- If you are travelling to countries where you need a visa, you’ll need to sort that out too (GOV.UK, 2012).
- It’s a good idea to apply for a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for each member of your family if you’re travelling in Europe (GOV.UK, 2018b).
- Make sure you sort travel and health insurance before you go (annual family policies are often the best value) (GOV.UK, 2012).
- Find out about required travel vaccinations (GOV.UK, 2012; Fit for travel, 2018)
- Try not to rush – this will make journeys way more stressful.
- It might be easier to go when your baby is young. Small babies are portable and often a lot more flexible than their toddler buddies. Usually infants must be at least two weeks old before they can travel although some airlines allow seven-day old infants on board. The booking policy differs from one airline to another, so it is important to check directly with the airlines (Which? c). But three to seven months is a great window (The Guardian, 2005).
- Book outside the school holidays if you can – way cheaper and less crowded.
- You can make full use of the facilities: lots of airports have dedicated areas for entertaining children and have buggies you can use. Some airlines also let you keep your own pushchair with you right up to the boarding gate.
- Try to keep stuff you need for your baby or toddler in your hand luggage.
- It’s always good to check the weight limit for your airline before you travel.
- Children under two years old usually sit on your lap, so taking a cushion or blanket can help.
- On long-haul flights, you can request a bassinet for them to sleep in. Travelling at night can help them stick to their usual routines too.
- A baby carrier or sling for very young children and a back/hip carrier for toddlers is great for walking babies up and down the aisles. It also keeps your hands free.
- It’s good to find out from the airport and your airline about the rules for fluids allowed through security and in cabin baggage.
- If you need transfers from the airport, check with your airline about taking your baby car seat, or arrange to hire one when you get there.
- If possible, sit in an easily accessible seat on the plane.
- Changing cabin pressure during take-off and landing can be uncomfortable for your children, you can ease the discomfort by feeding babies, giving toddlers a dummy and older children a sweet to suck on.
- Attach a luggage label to your child’s clothing with their name and flight number on it.
(Baby Can Travel, 2018b; Which? 2018a, b)
By train or bus
- Always try to avoid rush hour. This means the carriages and buses are less crowded and there will be extra seats.
- You’ll thank yourself for checking which train stations have lifts for pushchairs.
- It’s best if you can avoid sitting in quiet zones on trains – other passengers may not be sympathetic to a chatty toddler or crying baby.
- Try to use a sling or baby carrier rather than a buggy. It can be overwhelming arriving at a train station with a buggy, whereas using a sling will keep your hands free to find things like tickets.
- Sit near the toilets on trains as there’s often more space and flip-up seats for pushchair space. When you get off the train, watch gaps and get off backwards as it’s often safer.
- Plan the most direct route to avoid awkward train changes.
- Reserve a seat, choosing a window seat for older babies and toddlers to look out of.
- Pack a light bag with nappies, snacks and toys so you can stow other luggage in the rack.
- Plan how you get from the train station to your final destination, e.g. whether you need to book a taxi with a baby seat.
(My Train Ticket, 2018; TFL, 2018).
- Try to time your journey around nap times and stop for breaks if you need.
- If you need to, dispatch one parent to the back seat to keep your child company.
- Take window blinds for bright sunshine and music for bored children. Warning: be prepared for long stints of Twinkle Twinkle.
- Make sure you keep toys handy.
- Stock up on essentials like snacks, water, formula, extra bottles, extra soothers.
- Make sure your car seat meets all the safety criteria for your baby or toddler. Read our guidelines here and how to fit it here.
(Baby Can Travel, 2018c)
This page was last reviewed in March 2019
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700.
We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about labour and life with a new baby.
Baby Can Travel. (2018a) Airline perks for families with babies. Available at: https://www.babycantravel.com/2015/11/11/airline-perks-for-families-with-babies/ [Accessed 15th October 2018]
Baby Can Travel. (2018b) Inflight entertainment for babies and toddlers. Available at: https://www.babycantravel.com/2017/04/27/inflight-entertainment-for-babies-and-toddlers/ [Accessed 15th October 2018]
Baby Can Travel. (2018c) Road trip with a baby: 7 essential tips. Available at: https://www.babycantravel.com/2015/09/14/road-trip-with-a-baby-7-essential-tips/ [Accessed 15th October 2018]
Fit for travel. (2018) Travel health advice. Available at: https://www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk/home Accessed 15th October 2018]
GOV.UK. (2012) Checklist for travelling abroad. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/checklist-for-travellers--2 [Accessed 15th October 2018]
GOV.UK. (2018a) HM Passport Office. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-passport-office [Accessed 15th October 2018]
GOV.UK. (2018b) Apply for a European Health Insurance Card. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/european-health-insurance-card [Accessed 15th October 2018]
My Train Ticket. (2018) Travelling by train with children. Available at: http://www.mytrainticket.co.uk/travelling-with-children [Accessed 15th October 2018]
TFL. (2018) Getting around with your buggy. Available at: https://tfl.gov.uk/transport-accessibility/getting-around-with-your-buggy [Accessed 15th October 2018]
The Guardian. (2005) Have baby, won’t travel? Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2005/oct/22/familyholidays.family.guardiansaturdaytravelsection [Accessed 15th October 2018]
Which? (2018a) Top 10 baby and child travel tips. Available at: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/travelling-with-children/article/travelling-with-children/top-10-baby-and-child-travel-tips [Accessed 15th October 2018]
Which? (2018b) Baby products to take on holiday. Available at: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/travelling-with-children/article/travelling-with-children/baby-products-to-take-on-holiday [Accessed 15th October 2018]
Which? (2018c) What are my rights when flying with a baby? Available at: https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/what-are-my-rights-when-flying-with-a-baby [Accessed 15th October 2018]