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Top tips for travelling with a baby

Heading abroad with a little one for the first time? From buggies to baby food, we've pulled together the top tips for travelling with a baby.

Published 8 Sept 2018, 09:00 BST, Updated 15 Jul 2021, 10:18 BST
A mother travelling with her baby

A mother travelling with her baby.

Photograph by Getty

Does my baby need a passport?
All children need to have a passport of their own, and you need to submit your application at least six weeks before you plan to travel unless you want to pay a hefty mark-up for a week's turnaround.

How do I take my baby's passport photo?
Taking that first passport photo is a challenge. Lay a white sheet on a bean bag or on the bed, and then take the picture from above. Children under six don't have to be looking directly at the camera or have a plain expression. Children under one don't have to have their eyes open. You can support their head with your hand, but your hand mustn't be visible in the photo.

Should I fly? And if so, is there a maximum flight duration for babies?
There's no single answer to this. In terms of physical practicalities, babies can fly from when they're about one week old (if your doctor says so) but the air pressure in the cabin can give them ear pain (feeding during take-off and landing can help). Ideally, wait until they're at least 8-12 weeks old before taking to the air to avoid any germs from ventilation systems.

Do I have to pay for my baby to fly?
Under-twos fly for free on mainstream airlines, and many airlines offer varying degrees of support in the sky — sometimes wipes and nappies, baby food, bassinets and even special staff for those flying with very young ones.

What can I take on a flight?
In terms of flying with baby food, formula, medicines and other essential liquids, you're allowed to take enough baby food, baby milk and sterilised water for the journey. In some cases, this will be more than 100ml. You can carry breast milk in hand luggage even if you're not travelling with a baby. You can't carry frozen breast milk in hand luggage. Individual containers of breast milk must hold no more than two litres. Each container will need to be screened when you pass through security and airport staff may need to open the containers to screen the liquids.

Can I take my buggy up to the plane doors?
Usually yes, but you'd need to check with the airline's policy.

Where to go?
Avoid malarial regions and those places for which travellers need vaccines; these can't be given to very young children. If you're thinking about travelling long-haul, consider whether the jet-lag and routine disruption (for both you and baby) will be worth it. If you're heading to the Mediterranean, the ideal months are May, June, September and October, when the weather is milder — and prices lower.

Where should I stay?
Self-catering tends to be most popular, for the extra space, flexibility and facilities — including the likes of high chairs and washing machines. However, hotels and resorts have upped their game over the past few years in terms of what they offer those travelling with very young kids. Many now have creches for children as young as four months, 24-hour parents' kitchens and restaurants with children's buffet corners including baby puree. A third, 'in-between' option is apart-hotels, which give you the flexibility of self-catering apartments along with the facilities of a hotel. Many new families stick to domestic travel — simply pack up the car and take whatever you need.

What do I need to take?
Any specific brands of formula, baby food, sun screen, wipes and nappies. For daily essentials, check whether these are available in or near your resort or other accommodation. Some baby-friendly hotels can order these in as long as you give them plenty of notice. If you're organised enough, send a box of provisions to yourself at your holiday address.

Cots are provided in most hotels and self-catering complexes, but these should be booked in advance.  Many places now also loan baby and toddler equipment, such as changing tables or mats, baby baths, sterilisers and even buggies, but again, do ask if you need to pre-book them. Conversely, unless you're sure a property has blackout blinds, it can be well worth taking a foldable travel version that attaches to a window via suction cups and prevents crack-of-dawn awakenings.

What about car hire?
Ensure you either book car seats in advance or take your own. It's usually more cost-effective, but perhaps not practical, to take your own. If your child is over two, then car seats can be used on the plane too. 

What meds should I take?
Always travel with a basic first aid kit containing Calpol (sachets are easiest), antiseptic gel/wipes, plasters, sterile gauze, bandages, tape, a thermometer, insect repellent and calamine lotion (good for bites and sunburn).

If a baby's on the way, check out our tips for travelling whilst pregnant.

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Taken from an upcoming piece for the Family guide, distributed with the Jan/Feb 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK) 

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