our first flight with a baby

We survived our first flight with a baby, but only just

I guess the photo above says it all, really: smiling through gritted teeth, while a small person flails around on your lap for hours. In a tin can in the sky. With no legroom. And someone in the window seat who wants to use the bathroom every 20 minutes.

And that, my friends, is what flying with a baby is like! The End!

Wow, this was an unusually short post from me, huh?

Nah, I’m exaggerating: our first flight with Max wasn’t quite as bad as all that. Yes, it was hard work: like, REALLY hard work. I mean, I’m frightened of flying , but, when you’re self-employed, the run-up to a holiday is so stressful that,in recent years, I’ve actually found myself almost looking forward to some flights, purely because I knew they’d be the first chance I’d had in weeks to just sit and read my book (And, OK, drink my wine…) for a few hours, guilt free.

Well, there was no book-reading or wine-drinking on our first flight with a baby, obviously. That goes without saying. It wasn’t quite as bad as we’d expected it to be either, though, so here are some of the things we’ve learned about flying with a baby – and, if you don’t have children, I guess these could also come in handy if you ever find yourself in a small space with a wild animal, say? Because it amounts to the same thing, right?

(I’m exaggerating again. OR AM I?)

checking in and navigating airport security with a baby


  • You’ll have to remove the baby from his pushchair to go through the scanner: in our case, I carried Max through with me, with one of the airport staff taking the pushchair right at the last minute. It was given back to me as soon as I’d walked through the scanner, so we were only without it for a minute or so, but it’s worth bearing in mind so you can get the baby out before you get to the front of the queue.
  • You can take both expressed breast milk and formula through security, but it might be taken away to be scanned.
  • If your husband is anything like mine, he’ll probably be taken away for an additional pat-down (This NEVER fails for us: pretty sure someone who looks like Terry must be on a ‘Wanted’ list or something…), so be prepared to have to wangle the child and bags on your own for as long as that takes.

We’d made up one bottle for Max just before we left the house, and had brought another (This time of pre-made formula) for the flight, so, as soon as we got through security, we found a seat, and gave Max his breakfast. (Well, Terry did: I actually went to duty free and bought some mascara, to make up for my eyelash extension disaster a couple of days earlier…)

So far, so good… but we’d gotten up early, so, by this stage, Max was ready for a nap. It was absolutely impossible to get him to sleep in the noisy airport (As I’ve mentioned before, he currently won’t sleep anywhere other than in his cot, so we were really worried about how naptime was going to work on the go…), and, sure enough, by the time we boarded the aircraft, having left the pushchair right at the end of the air bridge, it was like he was possessed:

flying with a baby: tips and advice

Flying with a baby: not as fun as it looks…

I mean, sure, he looks happy here: he cried the entire time the plane was taxiing, stopped briefly during take-off, and then screamed for ten minutes after that, before finally falling asleep, exhausted. We knew his ears might hurt during takeoff, so we’d given him his dummy to try to make it easier on him, but he actually did most of his crying while we were still on the ground, so I think the problem was tiredness more than anything else, really…

Max sleeping on the plane

As you can see, he’s in his sleeping bag, here: we brought it onto the plane with us, because we knew from experience that he won’t sleep without it – I think it’s just the comfort/routine of being zipped up in it or something? As you can also see, though, he’s been stripped to his vest before going into the sleeping bag: I’m always absolutely freezing on airplanes, so I’d dressed Max and myself in lots of layers, but yup – this plane was boiling, so Max travelled in his vest, although not until he’d crushed blueberries into his lovely white top. (I, on the other hand, kept my sweater on, because I had pretty much given up on life by this point. Yes, ALREADY.)

(Tip: if you’re flying with a baby, take at least a couple of changes of clothes for him: not just in case of changes in temperature, but because they never stay clean for long, do they?)

He slept for about 40 minutes. It was longer than we’d expected, but shorter than we’d have liked, and we found that the slightest noise would wake him up, so Terry, who’d volunteered to have him on his lap (He claims to have done this because Max is pretty heavy now, and he thought it would be really uncomfortable for me to have him sitting on me for hours, but I’m pretty sure he just did it so he could have the window seat. Honestly, I’d do anything to avoid being in the middle, too…) had to keep rocking him back to sleep, to the accompaniment of loud tears. I’ll leave it up to you to work out whether they were Max’s or Terry’s.

tips and advice for your first flight with a baby

(Everything’s red in this photo because we were in hell. OK, I’m joking: it was just the cabin lights at night on the way back. Could easily have been hell, though…)

tips for your first flight with a baby

The bag he’s holding contains dummies, and I also had a couple with toys in them, plus one with his changing kit – so, nappies, wipes, etc. I found this easier than just having everything in one bag together, because it meant that, when it was time for a nappy change, I only had to take the smallest of the bags, rather than lugging everything with me. And this was a small blessing, because, unsurprisingly, it turns out that changing a baby on a aircraft is a lot like wrestling an octopus in a phone box. Or so I would imagine, anyway.

entertaining a baby on a flight

Absolutely nothing in our collective parenting arsenal was even half as interesting to him as the magnifying glass the man in the seat next to me was using to read his book, though. In this photo, for instance, Max is clearly resenting us both for not allowing him to touch the magnifying glass. Many years from now, I’m sure he’ll be telling his therapist all about it…

Se were in Tenerife, which meant that Terry and I spent the entire flight home picking dummies off the floor – and that’s no one’s favourite thing, is it?

Which brings me to my final tip:

Anyway. It definitely wasn’t the easiest flight we’ve ever had, but it was a smooth, straightforward one (And I have to quickly add here that Jet2 were fantastic to fly with, and I couldn’t recommend them more: and no, they’re not sponsoring this post, so you can trust me on that…), and, five hours after takeoff, we were looking at this view from the aircraft window:

Tenerife from the air

And, you know what? Once we were safely on the ground, and had been reunited with our luggage and hire car, those five hours in the air were already starting to feel like a distant memory – and as soon as I felt the sun hit my face, I knew it had been 100% worth it.

So, was it a trickier than usual flight? Yup, for sure.

Would we do it again? Absolutely – and as soon as possible, really: because, at the end of the day, it’s a few hours of discomfort in exchange for memories that will last a lifetime. It’s really no contest, is it?

flying with a baby: tips and advice for your first flight with a baby or toddler

P.S. I write a weekly diary which goes out every Friday to my subscribers. Sign up below to get on the list...

I also write books
  • I also have a post on this coming up next year! Luckily Benjamin is a somewhat “easy” baby, but flying with him alone to Portugal was an adventure! It seems like you guys handled everything super well =) I love the family lines at the airport (in Austria you don’t even get in line, they let you cut it right away) and being able to take the stroller until the aircraft is really handy!

    xo, Rosie //Curvy Life stories

    December 17, 2018
  • What is it with babies and their fascination with videos of themselves?! My wee nephew is the same. This is such a fab, practical post that I’m sure loads of people will find useful – and I’m glad your first flight hasn’t put you off loads more adventures as a family of three!


    December 17, 2018
  • Myra


    Take a drink for Max on the plane during take off and landing. Swallowing helps the equalise the difference of air pressure between inner and outer ear as the Eustachian tube balances it by opening and closing. Sucking The dummy doesn’t do that, but swallowing does.

    December 17, 2018
  • He’s such a sweetie! Thanks for these awesome tips. I’m so glad you were able to leave behind the 5 hours of flying in the end. That part of the journey isn’t so great. I wonder how I’d cope with that and then trying to entertain a baby too. Not sure! Well done you
    Debs @ https://tiger-mint.com

    December 18, 2018
  • Hi Amber, great informative post. To be honest, you’ve covered all bases here – we did pretty much the same when we travelled with our 1 year old back in September.

    Only other thing I’d add is to try and book flight time which best suit your baby’s schedule. We went for morning flights as we knew it would be our best chance of getting him to sleep through some of the flight. x

    December 18, 2018
  • Oh how I truly needed this post!! Currently waffling over booking tickets to Arizona (a 4+ hour flight from where I live in the Midwest), and I’m terrified of attempting it with a 13-month-old! But your post has given me some courage. Not quite enough to book the tickets, mid you, because I’m a coward, but I do appreciate the tips!

    December 18, 2018
  • Myra


    Very glad the books were useful

    May 4, 2019