I recently travelled to Spain with my then 4 week old baby for a family wedding. To say I was nervous about it beforehand is an understatement. I was worried about the heat, about how to manage bottles and formula, about bringing all the luggage we needed without paying loads extra – I was a wreck for weeks! So now that I’ve done it all, I wanted to put together a few tips and tricks for any other parents who are planning to travel with a baby.
Tickets & Seats:
First things first – children under 2 years old don’t pay full ticket price on short-haul flights. Most airlines just charge a €20 fee. On long-haul flights this fee is usually 10% of a full price ticket. If your baby hasn’t been born at the time you book the tickets don’t worry – yes the airlines are usually strict about inputting correct passenger names, but in this case you can book the baby on by putting their first name down as “Baby” and then once they are born you simply phone the airline and they will change it to the baby’s name free of charge.
If the child cannot sit by themselves you will need to hold them on your lap for the entire flight, and you will be provided with a baby belt by the staff on board. This loops into your own belt and then around the baby. Some airlines allow you to take a car-seat onto the plane so the baby can sit in that during the flight instead of on your lap, so this might be worth checking with your airline. If your child can sit by themselves but are under 2 years old you will need to hold them on your lap for take-off and landing.
You have two options when flying with an infant – you can book them onto one of the parent’s tickets where the don’t get their own seat, or you can book a seat under their own name and use the baggage allowance that comes with that which can be useful if you need to pack a large amount. Either way, you will get an allowance for their buggy. If your baby can sit up by themselves and doesn’t need to be lying flat (i.e. if they are over 6 months) then you only need a standard buggy. However, if they are under 6 months you will need to use a pram so they can lie flat. You may need a car seat when you reach your destination, for using in cabs or if you’re hiring a car, and always check whether your accommodation will provide a cot or not. Some pram fixtures are certified for overnight sleeping, so think about this before you decide to bring a travel cot with you.
This sounds like an awful lot to bring, and could be very expensive. But most airlines allow a collapsable buggy plus a carseat, both free of charge. The “collapsable buggy” allows for either a plain sit-in buggy for an older infant/child, or travel system where the buggy seat and pram fixture can slot in and out of the chassis. The three parts (chassis, buggy seat and pram fixture) all count as the one buggy. Just make sure that the staff at the check-in desk label all the pieces, and mark them for collection at the door of the plane. If possible, buy a travel bag for the lot as this will protect the frame from scrapes and chips.
For the days you are travelling to and from your destination try to pack smartly. Put as much as you can into your checked luggage, then in your carry-on you will need at least two changes of clothes for baby, one change of clothes each for Mum and Dad (you WILL get caught in the firing line!), and everything else that you would normally have in your baby’s changing bag (nappies, wipes, creams, etc) as well as your travel documents.
Feeding & Sterilising:
If you are breastfeeding then this isn’t an issue at all (lucky you!). Hot climates can make it tricky to keep formula fresh, so where possible only make up one bottle at a time. If you won’t be able to get back to your accommodation during the day and you need to bring extra with you then pop the bottle(s) in a cooler bag. You could also buy some of the ready-to-drink formula which doesn’t need to be kept refrigerated, and just bring some cartons and sterilised bottles out with you for the day. Then all you need to do is open a carton and pour it into a clean bottle. You can also get ready-to-drink bottles that come with a sterilised bottle teat, but if your baby is fussy about the teats they use this might not be an option, plus those bottles are only 70ml. For making up bottles you will need boiled water. If you’re in self catering accommodation there should be a kettle there for you to use. If not, or if you are staying in a hotel, I recommend buying a cheap €15/€20 kettle once you arrive.
When going through security you can bring as much liquid as you like if it’s baby formula, so don’t worry about that. You may be asked to taste the liquid, or they might take the bottles away to a special scanner for checking, but other than that you shouldn’t have any issues.
Rather than lugging your electric steriliser with you and risking damaging it, I found the best option was a cold water steriliser. They are just like a big bucket that you fill with cold water, pop in a sterilising tablet, put all your washed bottles, teats, lids, soothers, etc. into it, and after 15 minutes they are sterile. Milton do these for about €18, available in pharmacies, or you could just use a container you already have and buy the tablets. The Milton units are large (5L capacity) so they do take up a lot of room in your case, but just pack smartly by filling it with clothes so it’s not wasted space.
Dealing with heat:
Some people don’t know that newborns shouldn’t be out in direct sun until they’re 6 months old, so make sure you bring some sort of canopy or parasol for their pram so that they will always be in shade, and try not to be out for long during the hottest part of the day (12 noon to 3.00pm). We found that evenings after 6.00pm were the best times to go for a walk with baby – it was still bright but most of the heat was gone from the sun, and it was low in the sky so you could find a lot of shade, and we kept her parasol up.
Babies are supposed to sleep at a recommended 16C-20C. The cooler the room the more layers they need, and vice versa. We brought a room thermometer with us to Spain so we could gauge how hot it was at night (usually 25C!). Most nights we put baby down to sleep in her nappy and a light vest, with just a muslin cloth over her legs instead of a blanket. We did try the air conditioning in the hotel but she didn’t like the breeze from it so actually slept better when it was switched off.
If you are planning on travelling with a baby, being organised is the key so you don’t get flustered. As they say, a calm mum makes for a calm baby!
Do you have any other travel tips and tricks? Share them in the comments.