I’ve heard that phrase dozens of times:
You’ll see, when you have a baby, you won’t be able to travel anymore.
At first, I took this sentence lightly…
Traveling by plane with a baby
With a baby “on the way”, “existential” questions took place in my head:
- Will our passion, travel, disappear with the arrival of our baby?
- Will our travel life become a hell?
- How do you change a child in a space as small as an airplane bathroom?
- How will we ever be able to upgrade to business again with a baby in our arms?
- At what age can a child earn miles?
Joking aside, traveling with a baby (0-2 years old) can be stressful for many parents. So I will try to enlighten you with my experience of the last 12 months.
Indeed, our daughter Alexandra has already completed 19 flights (including 3 transatlantic and 2 transcontinental)… and has 8 more scheduled for this year. 34,456 miles traveled, or nearly one and a half times around the Earth!
Here are our tips and tricks to help you travel by plane with baby.
Reservation of the baby ticket: in money
Many airlines charge for bringing a baby on your lap on international flights. The price is usually not very high (about 10% of the price of an adult ticket).
Reservation of the baby ticket: in points
What about a reservation made with Aeroplan points?
For domestic flights, you don’t have to pay anything if the baby is sitting on an adult’s lap. Just let the company know so that your baby can be added to the reservation.
For international flights, you can pay with Aeroplan points or cash (I recommend cash to keep your points). In all cases, you will need to call Aeroplan – once you have made your own reservation – to add your baby to your airline award.
Travelling in business class with a baby
Traveling in business class is perfectly possible with a baby. There is nothing to prevent you from doing so: you can book your ticket with points or pay for it. The same conditions apply for your baby’s flight in business class.
For example, I paid $100 for my baby to travel with me in business class on Swiss to Europe during the holiday season.
However, don’t expect to be upgraded from Economics to Business…! At best it will be towards Premium Economy / Economy Comfort if the operational needs justify it.
At the airport with a baby
Registering baby’s travel accessories
Please note that most airlines will allow a stroller and car seat to be checked in at no charge.
However, be careful with your type of stroller depending on the company!
Air Canada may charge for the check-in of a stroller if it is considered“large“, as if it were a checked bag. However, I must say that Air Canada did not charge me on my two flights between Montreal and Vancouver despite the imposing size of our stroller.
You can also bring your stroller and car seat to the door of the plane and have them “checked in” at that time. This can be convenient for parents who have a stroller that is easy to close and fold.
TipYou can also take this opportunity to check with the gate agents if the flight is full or not: this might allow you to take the car seat with you (if compatible with the airplane seats) and position it on the seat next to you… without paying extra!
Special queue with a baby
Be aware that for some airlines or in some airports, special lanes are reserved for people with young children to check in. This could save you valuable time, especially if your baby starts to fuss. So look for the signs (often they are the same lanes as the disabled).
Airport security with a baby
There are also special lanes to go through security at most airports. This is the case in Montreal, Toronto or Vancouver for example.
Also, be aware that you can bring bottled water (just say it is for bottle feeding) or any other bottled liquid food. These products will usually be tested.
If your baby is on top of you in his or her carrier, you will usually be able to keep him or her on top of you (especially if you show the officers that he or she is sleeping and waking him or her up will not be beneficial to anyone).
However, if your baby is in the stroller, you will need to pick him up and fold the stroller so that it can be x-rayed. If you are lucky, it will only go through the metal detector and be analyzed by an agent.
Comfort in the airport with a baby
Once you’ve checked your luggage and gone through security, let’s get on with the rest of the journey to the plane.
Airport toilets with a baby
Generally, most airports contain family restrooms (usually combined with those for the mobility impaired).
You will be able to take your time, in a secluded room, without other people around you.
Airport lounge with a baby
Airport lounges accept your baby on one condition: that it is quiet.
If your baby starts to cry, it’s best to leave the lounge and return when calmed. However, lounges are a good option for avoiding the rush of the gate.
Most salons, however, have a dedicated room for children. This is the case, for example, of the Maple Leaf trade show in Montreal, or of this American Express Centurion trade show in San Francisco!
Boarding the plane with a baby
In theory, you should be the first to board the plane. But different rules apply depending on the company or flight.
With the exception of Air Canada, all the airlines on which we traveled allowed us to board first: it’s very convenient to be able to quietly install our stuff (changing bag, food, toys…).
Air Canada calls passengers in “Zone 1” and its frequent flyers first. Then will bring the families on board.
Baby’s comfort and safety on the plane
When you buy your ticket, you will probably be offered a seat in front of a partition to which a crib can be attached.
This is a good deal because these seats usually have more legroom and are often charged or reserved for the airline’s frequent flyers. To know in advance the seats with a crib, I advise you touse the site seatguru.
However, the policy is different for each company. I was surprised, for example, that Air Canada charged the second parent to sit next to the parent with the baby on his or her lap when choosing a seat. This had never happened to me, whether on Air France, KLM or Easyjet.
KLM has been the best airline so far on our economy trips with baby as a family. On our way to Europe, a last minute change of aircraft (B747 vs A333) disrupted all the seat reservations we had made (to have a crib in economy class).
In compensation, we have been “upgraded” from economy to comfort economy. In addition, a seat was blocked between me and my wife in order to have more room with our baby (picture below).
And on our way back to Canada, we also upgraded to comfort economy so that we could enjoy a baby bed. In fact, all the other economy seats had been allocated to frequent flyers. Thank you KLM!
The baby bed / “bassinette
Up to a weight of 10kg, you will be able to put your baby in an adapted bed that will be hooked up by a flight attendant when the plane is at cruising altitude.
However, when the captain indicates turbulence (the “fasten seatbelt” sign), you should pick up your baby.
I never liked putting Alexandra in the crib. Moreover, our baby being breastfed, it was easier to keep him against us, during the whole flight so that my wife could breastfeed him if needed. So our baby never cried during all the flights we made with our family.
When we tried the bed, our baby was disturbed by various noises because behind these walls are usually the kitchens or toilets of the plane.
And on a personal note, I tried to put Alexandra in the crib offered by Swiss… and it never worked: she didn’t want to sleep in it.
On the other hand, she fell asleep comfortably installed in her Swiss business class seat… already some luxury tastes this little one!
The accessories provided for your baby depend once again on the company. Swiss, Air France, KLM and Easyjet for example, gave us a blanket, a pillow, a life jacket and a belt adapted to the baby.
Air Canada on the other hand gave us nothing, not even a belt and told us to just hold the baby against us. As I say, it depends on the company and the policies in place.
During the flight
Feel free to get up, walk around despite the narrow aisles and head to the back of the plane. You’ll usually have more space and can relax with your baby. Moreover, if your child is chirping, laughing or crying, he won’t bother the other passengers.
If your baby is not or no longer breastfed, you can ask the flight attendants to heat your meals or water for your bottle.
You’ll even get accessories like with Swiss.
Before you sit in your seat, look for restrooms with changing tables for your baby. There is at least one in each device. Avoid throwing the dirty diaper directly into the trash (put it in a plastic bag: flight attendants will usually offer you one before takeoff).
Anticipate! Introduce the baby to your neighbors and apologize in advance for any noise the baby may make. Generally, the other passengers are understanding (as long as you don’t let baby cry without intervening!).
My main travel accessories
Many friends often ask me for advice on travel accessories, especially those related to Alexandra.
Here is a small list of what I frequently use when I travel. You can find the products directly with their links on Amazon.ca (that’s where I got the best prices).
The travel stroller for baby
The stroller I take with me all the time on planes is the Mountain Buggy Nano Stroller. This is the one pictured in front of the Air Canada lounge above. The latest version is the Mountain Buggy Nano Stroller V3.
It is simply brilliant: it folds in 3 to fit in the luggage compartment of the planes. So I can have it with me in the airport and take it to the gate (or even to my seat in the big planes). Every flight attendant asks me the name of this stroller to recommend it!
The long distance stroller for baby
We also have an all-terrain stroller that we use mainly in Montreal, but have also taken on trips to Vancouver. It was accepted in the hold for free.
The baby car seat
In fact there are 2 car seats. The one from the first year (which we fixed on the Bob Revolution SE and which can also be fitted on the Mountain Buggy Nano): the Bob B-Safe. The newer equivalent is the Britax B-Safe Gen2.
The baby car seat carrying case
Because you have to carry your car seat when you travel, this J.L Childress Ultimate Car seat bag allows you to carry any car seat like a backpack! Very useful for navigating through airports or once you have retrieved your luggage on arrival to get to your rental car.
In addition, you can store a lot of things (diapers, wipes, accessories) that will not be counted in the baggage allowance because “the car seat is carried free”.
The travel bag for diapers
I couldn’t see myself carrying the diaper bag I use over my shoulder. Also, since I often travel alone, I needed a practical bag.
So I opted for the black version of the Obersee Rio Diaper Bag! You can put everything in it! Diapers, wipes, bottles (in the little detachable bag that keeps the bottles cool), computer, documents, camera, etc.!
The baby changing station
This Skip Hop Pronto changing station is super convenient in spaces as tight as an airplane bathroom. I can hang it on my wrist while holding Baby to go to the bathroom.
It has several pockets, really a must! The newest version is the Skip Hop Pronto with mattress.
Toy hangers for babies
It may be a simple accessory, the Baby Buddy Secure-A-Toy…. but how useful in a plane! Just hang the toys on one end, and the other end on your wrist (or baby’s)…
No more rummaging around under the seats (and you don’t really want to see what’s under the seats…) looking for the famous comforter!
Baby’s high chair for travel
This high chair, Mountain Buggy Pod Clip-On, fits on any table or even airport benches and stores flat to take up very little space (I put it in the car seat bag).
Dad’s travel accessory
We have quite a few gadgets that we take with us on trips. But if I had to name just one: the Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones!
It is certainly expensive, but it cuts me off from all the surrounding noises (including, of course, the jet engines of a plane) without preventing us from hearing Alexandra. It’s just perfect!
Don’t worry, you can still travel with your baby and it will be fine! The important thing is to anticipate and rehearse the steps of your trip before you leave. You will then be mentally prepared and know what to do.
If you have any questions about air travel with baby – or any other questions – feel free to come and ask them on the milesopedia facebook group!
For even more travel tips, there’s the book The Traveling Parent’s Guide by Sophie Reis of BB Jetlag.