My husband and I want to fly to Marbella with our baby for Christmas to visit the grandparents. Is this safe and wise? And is it still possible for a child under the age of two to fly for free if he sits on my lap, and if so, what are some good ways to keep the baby happy? It is my first time flying with the baby and I'm nervous he will cry the whole way there! Alex Parsons, Colliers Wood
For the most part it is perfectly safe for babies to fly, provided they are in good health. Three months is the general rule of thumb for giving parents with babies the go-ahead on aeroplanes, however children older than 48 hours are legally allowed to fly.
Award winning travel experts, Travelling with Children, say that people should "not fly with a baby under one week old; their hearts and respiratory systems are not sufficiently developed to cope with the reduced levels of oxygen. During the first two months of life, babies are very susceptible to infections and should really avoid all crowds.... personally we wouldn't take a baby under three months old on an aircraft".
Many airlines (not all) allow children under two to fly free of charge or at a discounted rate, provided your baby sits on your lap and that it's a short/domestic flight. British Airways, for example, charge 10% of the normal price for infants sitting on a parent's lap. It would be best to check with the airline as far in advance as possible, as special offers are often subject to availability.
Early Birds Get The Comfy Seats
The flight to Marbella is roughly three hours, so your airline may not allow you to fly with your child on your lap. Regardless, we would still not recommend flying like that for so long. This will get very uncomfortable for you, your baby and probably other passengers as a result.
Rather phone ahead and find out about renting a bassinet (a soft cradle), which goes on the floor in front of or beside you. Again, book as far ahead of schedule as possible, because bassinets may be subject to 1. availability and 2. seats near the bulkheads where there is extra room.
You can also bring your own bassinet or a small baby car seat - look for airline approved seats. Most baby seats are approved for aeroplanes, but double-check this before you swipe the credit card! CAA approved baby seats should fit straight onto the aeroplane seat. This is really handy for parents with children (2-12 years is the generally accepted 'children' age group). Aeroplane safety belts are fine for grown-ups, but kids are often left rattling in their seats because a belt doesn't offer any support for their tiny frames.
Where possible, book direct flights rather than looking for a broken route. Drawing the journey out may seem like a nice way to make it easy on kids, but many parents say it's best to get the flight over and done with as quickly as possible.
Let 'Em Cry, Cry Cry
The reality is that your child will probably cry at some point during the flight - even the most blissfully quiet babies end up in tears sometimes. It's not a bad thing. Try not to pay attention to people who give you stink-eye about it. Just focus on working out what has upset your baby and trying to remedy the situation. That way, the trip runs smoothly for everyone.
Planning + Team Work = Success
Call your airline as far in advance as possible to let them know that a baby is getting on board. Request a bassinet - this will be easy on your baby and you. This also gives you the opportunity to request the best seats available in your class. Ideally you want to be near the front of the plane and in an isle seat. You won't be able to put all the extra baby accessories under the seat in front of you, so being able to stand up and get them easily is important.
The common trend dictates that people with babies board the plane first. This is not always the best way forward, as you and your baby then have to deal with everyone shuffling in past you, getting their bags in the overhead compartment and generally making a noise. You don't want to introduce any unnecessary stimuli.
Work as a team with your husband or partner. One of you should board at the regular time, taking all the bags and extra equipment with them. Whoever is carrying the baby should board during the last call, once everyone else has been seated, ensuring you have a straight shot to your seat.
Be Nappy Sensible
A clean baby is not always a happy baby, but a dirty one almost never is. Put a fresh nappy on your baby as close to your boarding time as possible. Keep a few spares handy on you and be prepared to use them at any time. Make sure there are nappy changing sheets in your bag of tricks too which will come in handy when using the changing table in the cramped bathrooms.
Protect Their Ears
The air pressure in the cabin is stressful on their ears. While there is no cure, protect their ears by letting them suck on a bottle to relieve the pressure when you take off and land.
Make Sure Everything Is Within Reach
Make sure that everything is within reach: from your boarding passes to the box of wet wipes (which you will need!). A way to do this is to wear a waist bag for your travel documents, and to keep a backpack handy for your nappies and other dirties.
Keep Them Entertained
Buy something new for them to play with on the plane (preferably something that does not make too much noise, otherwise the crying may not be so bad after all). Whether it's a dolly, a car or just a pretty ball that lights up, give your child something to keep their minds off the turbulence around them.
Last Updated: October 2011