A Parent’s Guide To Flying With Baby
A little prep goes a long way - allow us to guide you through a stress-free flight with your baby…
Ask any seasoned parent what flying with a baby entails, and they’ll say it’s an art that's a challenge to master. Being stuck on-board for long hours and doing everything in your power to help your cherub feel comfortable, whilst trying not to annoy any fellow passengers is hugely stressful for any parent. So to help you cope with the challenges and prepare for any unexpected hiccups, here’s a detailed guide with all the tips and relevant information you'll need. Good luck!
Note: All general information included in this article are standard guidelines, and may vary with airlines, routes and ports. Please contact your airline carrier directly for any details and enquiries.
Infants: under 2 yrs.; no need to book seats; recommended not to fly until 6 weeks old
Children: 2-11 yrs.; you must book seats for children once they are 2 yrs
Choose your airline, flight & seating wisely
To minimise stress for you, your baby and surrounding passengers, here are some key points to consider when booking your flights both ways:
For long-hauls, select a flight that corresponds with your baby’s sleep schedule, if possible. What could possibly top your little one managing to sleep through the majority of the flight? However, if he or she has an irregular clockwork, then you should probably steer away from night-flights so others can rest (and to avoid death-stares and disgruntled tuts!)
Fly direct and avoid stopovers whenever possible - hauling your baby and bags around and waiting around for hours at gates for connecting flights is nothing short of a nightmare!
Contact your airline or visit the website to find out what special services they offer for families travelling with babies or toddlers.
The front bulkhead rows are absolute life-savers: they’re spacious, provide legroom and a play-area, and most importantly gives you access to the detachable / foldable bassinets.
If the bulkhead is unavailable, try the last row of each cabin - the advantage is that there won't be any passengers behind you to disturb
- Don’t forget to order baby meals (BBML) or child meals (CHML) - airlines normally require a minimum of 24 hours’ notice prior to your scheduled flight. Aside from special meals, most flights will carry a range of baby food.
With a long list of special requirements, plus the limited number of bassinets and bulkhead rows per aircraft, it’s important to make arrangements as early as you can, before your options shrink. If you book online, call the airline to ensure they've received and confirmed your requests (any miscommunications in this case would be disastrous!)
Consider ideal seating arrangements & strategies
If the flight isn’t too packed, see if you can utilise any empty seats to give yourself extra space. For example, try booking two seats - for you and your partner - on either side of an empty one, so (hopefully) you'll score the entire row. Experienced parents recommend bringing a car-seat onboard to help your tot drift off into a slumber. If you’re travelling with other kids, splitting them up is a good tactic to prevent them from waking each other or bickering over toys and so on.
It’s much easier flying with newborns or tiny infants than toddlers - especially if you’re breastfeeding. Only booked one seat for you and your little one? Have a go at these tips for maximum comfort:
- Keep your baby in a sling to keep your arms free
- Aisle seats are better, as you’ll need to get up for nappy changes and strolls
Opt for the bulkhead or emergency rows for leg and floor space
Pack a carry-on bag with essentials in a larger carry-on bag
As you can imagine, ensuring you’re armed with all the in-flight necessities is absolutely crucial. When you're packing your hand-luggage, just imagine all the worst scenarios possible - as they say, better safe than sorry! Always bring extras in case your flight gets delayed, or you land yourself in a sticky, smelly or messy accident (oh, the joys of parenting!) Take out the ‘essentials’ bag and keep it under the seat in front, and the bigger one equipped with back-up supplies in the overhead compartment. Need a checklist?
In the smaller bag, pack:
- nappy kit > nappies, wet wipes, disposal bags, rash cream, baby powder, mat
- a baby-bottle for milk / formula mix
- milk formula
- a baby sling or front carrier
- snacks (for big kids) > raisins, biscuits, gummy bears etc. (avoid anything messy)
- 2 bibs
- entertainment supplies > toys, books, puzzles, colouring books + colour pencils
- a soft blanket
- wet wipes and tissues
- Ziplocks and plastic bags
- a small towel
- a nursing cover
- a change of clothes for baby and yourself
- a dark scarf or black-out cover (to drape over the bassinet)
a bottle of water (purchase before you board at/near your departure gate)
In the larger bag, pack:
- extra changing supplies
- plastic bags (for soiled / dirty clothes)
- an extra change of clothes (for baby and you)
- baby food + spoon
- extra formula
- a basic first-aid kit > baby paracetamol / Panadol, antihistamines, antiseptic gel, Band-Aids, alcohol wipes, gauze and tape, thermometer, eye-drops, anti-itch gel, tiger balm, Vaseline, baby lotion, teething meds, sweets (for older kids to ease blocked ears and sinus pressure)
- (the smaller “essentials” bag until you board your flight)
Dress your tot in layers
Cabin temperatures can fluctuate dramatically with changes in altitudes, so dress your angel in layered clothing that can be easily put on or removed. Avoid onesies and stick to separates to make changing easier. To help them fall asleep and feel comfortable, make sure their feet are warm with a pair of cosy socks.
Cabin ear pressure
Babies are particularly sensitive to the fluctuations in the cabin’s air pressure which causes our ears to pop, and sometimes even gives us intense headaches if we’re suffering from blocked sinuses. The pain usually lasts for around 40 minutes during the climb after take-off, and the descent before landings.
To ease the pain and ear pressure, paediatricians, cabin crew and experienced parents recommend giving the baby something to suck on like a bottle, dummy or nipple. If they are still squealing in pain, try rubbing their ears, singing to them, or distracting them with toys etc. For older kids (or yourself), giving them some lollipops, sweets or gum usually helps to relieve ear pressure.
Newer aircrafts offer individual in-flight entertainment systems complete with kid’s movies, shows and games. However, you don’t want to rely on this as sometimes, the system is out-of-order or faulty. Also, this system is not really suitable for infants or toddlers, but more for older children. So it’s essential that you bring plenty of items to keep the youngsters occupied and entertained throughout long flights: toys, cards, colouring books, crayons, pencils, puzzles, games, stickers, iPads and so on.
Avoid toys or games with small parts as they are potential choking hazards and easy to lose under or between the seats. Before you fly, download your child’s favourite games, shows or movies on to your iPad and fully charge it. Don’t forget to pack some small earphones or headphones in your purse for them as the headsets provided on the plane are loose and not the best quality!
Useful info & standard travel guidelines
Baggage weight allowances
Generally, the standard allowance for economy class travellers (adults + children) per passenger is: one carry-on bag (7kg or 15lbs) plus check-in bags weighing no more than a total of 20kg or 44lbs.
Make sure your bag is small enough to fit in the overhead bins for take-offs and landings; you can refer to the Cathay Pacific website (or other airline's websites) for specific size dimensions and further details.
In addition to your one bag, you may also bring small purses, backpacks, briefcases and/or laptop bags onboard.
Passengers travelling with young kids or infants are permitted the following items onboard, free of charge: an approved car safety seat, a small bag containing food and nappies, an umbrella-type collapsible stroller (larger strollers and buggies must be checked-in.)
Any items including sharp objects, LAG (see below), flammable solids / liquids, lithium batteries etc, will be confiscated if found in any hand-luggage (see all prohibited items here)
Milk, baby food and medicines are exempt from 100ml LAG restrictions.
There are no restrictions for the number of check-in bags or suitcases, so long as the total combined weight does not exceed the limit.
Infants are entitled to a maximum combined weight of 10kg or 22lbs (in any class.)
You will incur additional charges for any extra weight or baggage.
- Never pack any valuables (jewellery, electronics, sentimental items etc.) in your check-in bags (keep them on your person in case your bags are lost or stolen.)
LAG restrictions (liquids, aerosols & gels)
Worldwide airport security regulations strictly prohibit the carriage of LAGs exceeding an amount of 100ml per item in all departing passenger’s carry-on luggage. All LAG must be stored in 100ml containers; larger containers, even if only partially filled, will not be accepted and will be confiscated. These containers must be placed in a transparent Ziplock bag per person (these are provided at the airport) for pre-flight baggage checks. Further information regarding LAG is outlined in the Hong Kong International Airport website.
Most airlines give priority boarding to passengers who are elderly, disabled and / or travelling with infants or young children. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport, and arrive at your gate by the boarding time printed on your boarding card. Once boarding commences, the ground-staff will call all passengers eligible for priority boarding.
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