The planning stages can be as important as the trip. In planning, you can at least try to avoid potential difficulties regarding air travel with your infant.
These are just some of the questions you should be able to answer when planning air travel with baby in tow:
- Do you need a passport?
- Is baby covered under your travel insurance?
- If you are traveling without the other parent do you have written permission to do so?
- Does the airline offer an infant luggage allowance?
- If you are purchasing a seat for the baby, is there a discount?
- If you are not purchasing a seat for the baby (travel as a lap baby), is there a bassinet or skycot available, and will you need a ticket for the baby?
- Can you prebook your seating?
Some airlines do offer discounted child/infant airfares when you decide to book a seat for your infant. Ditto for luggage allowance where many airlines will allow you to check in a small piece of luggage and a car seat or stroller - but the caveat is that not all airlines do. You don't have to necessarily book everything over the phone as the best airfares tend to be online, but it is a good idea to call the airline you plan to travel with and ask questions.
A passport and a ticket are both likely required if you are traveling internationally, so that will need to be organized in advance. Make sure that your baby is covered by your travel insurance.
Many airlines do have skycots or bassinets but they are not always available and do not fit in every row. They also have weight and size limits (usually around the 6 month old mark).
In terms of booking flights, a lot of the tips are about trying to fit in with your baby's schedule. Try to book flights that will not upset your infant's routine. Many parents prefer night flights or early morning flights particularly for longer journeys. Try to avoid connecting flights where possible.
Try to prebook seating if it is possible. If you don't get the seats you want, check in online as early as the airline's check in permits. If you still aren't satisfied with the seating, approach the gate agent and ask them what seats are available. Ask about seats with an extra oxygen mask if you have not purchased a seat for your baby. As a gate agent, and having traveled with a baby I find that on most flights the back fills up last plus you have the added bonus of being closer to the toilets for changing the baby. I book aisle seats when I can so that walking up and down the aisle is possible.
If you are traveling internationally across time zones, try adjusting your baby's schedule slowly, several days before you fly.
Plan for an onboard kit - diapers, wipes, blanket, plastic bag for trash and dirty diapers, fresh change of clothes. Keep it in a smaller bag so you can stow it under your feet or keep immediately above you on flights for quick access. Add a bit extra in case of delays. Pack an extra clean shirt for yourself in case of "accidents". And I like to plan snacks for myself to keep my energy level up - usually protein bars and fruit. Include some sort of first aid kit as well.
Jot down a packing list in advance. That way you have time to make adjustments. Last minute packing tends to lead towards forgotten necessities.
When the planning is done you can get prepped for the airport and flight experience.