Flights to Australia, and taking a baby with you!

Image of Miss Small Person and Lucy on a travelator at Singapore's Changi Airport
Even airports with a baby can be lots of fun — or maybe it’s just the relief from being off the plane for a few minutes!

Now I know I have already written about flights to Australia and taking a baby, but I didn’t cover everything — I am learning new things all the time — like how not all bassinets are the same!

Now, I have been doing a bit of research (OK, looking up flights for our next trip, I’ll admit!), and discovered that the size and weight restrictions for different airlines and their bassinets (sky cots) are really different (especially when you have a 1 year-old, who is on the verge of weighing too much for some, and not for others!).

Image of Miss Small Person asleep in an Emirate's sky cot
Miss Small Person snoozing her way Down Under — when she was light enough for an Emirates’ sky cot

Singapore Airlines have bassinets suitable for slim but heavy babies it seems (!), as their weight limit is 14kgs (er, my rough calculation for that into pounds is 30lbs), but the bassinets are only 29.9cm wide and 76.9cm long (20cm high). Compare that to Emirates, and their ‘sky cots’ have a limit of only 11kgs (just over 24lbs) but they are 33cms wide (but only 16.5cm deep!). And if you fly Virgin then, irrespective of weight, no babies over 12 months get a bassinet. So there!

Also, you need to see what baggage is and isn’t allowed by airlines, as this is not the same for infants either… Virgin lets you check in a bag of 10kg and take 6kg on board, and with Emirates you can check in a bag of up to 10kg for your baby, and then a 5kg bag as hand-luggage, and Singapore allows 10kg checked baggage too, and its hand-luggage isn’t mentioned in kgs, but just says that “Infant’s food for consumption in flight and infant’s carrying basket” is allowed in addition to 1 bag per passenger…

I haven’t trawled through every airline, as I have picked out the ones that I consider are best for travelling with kids on, but if you’ve had good experience of other airlines with small people, then please let me know — always willing to try something new!

So, now assuming you got all your visa and customs issues sorted (make sure you get a visa for baby, and declare all formula and baby food when you get there on your form), then you’re good to fly!

Image of Miss Small Person in her Quinny and car-seat capsule on Mission Beach
Miss Small Person and Daddy leaving tracks in the sand on Mission Beach, Queensland

If you are travelling with a little little person (a baby under 6 months), I would recommend bringing a car-seat/buggy combo as then you know you are all sorted on that front for hire cars and taxis when you get to Australia. We got ourselves a Quinny Zapp set of ‘wheels’ that our Cabrio Fix car-seat slotted into nicely. Most airlines let you keep your buggy until literally the plane door, and then put it into the hold from there. The Quinny comes with its own travel-bag, and folds up pretty small which is why we liked it (and it’s now been chucked around by various baggage handlers, and none the worse for it!).

Also, if you don’t already have one, I would recommend a baby carrier or sling (we had a Baby Bjorn) for hands-free manoeuvres at airports, but also while out and about (bushwalking not so easy with a buggy, for example!).

Image of Miss Small Person asleep at last in the Blue Mountains
The woodland views in the Blue Mountains, NSW, aren’t a match for the sleepy comfort of the Baby Bjorn…

Now, I have been reading that many airlines allow you to take your own car-seat on board, and strap it to a seat for babies up to 3 years old if you want to go for that option (as opposed to the ‘on lap’ option for up to 2 year olds, or just the ‘own seat’ option for 2-3 year olds), but remember this will mean you have a pay for a ticket (child price), which is usually about 60-70% of an adult ticket price. This might well be worth doing if you have a little person who is not a good ‘on lap’ napper, or is just a bit too big for that sort of thing! You will need to check with your airline for the criteria the car-seat has to meet though, as if it’s not the right ‘sort’ of car-seat they do put it into the hold…

Also, in terms of stop overs, then I still think the option of a few hours of kip and/or a quick dip in the roof top pool at Singapore Airport is a really good idea. Here’s the link to the transit hotel, and more importantly — you can check-out the amazing-looking new Terminal 3 at Changi (Singapore Airport) while you are there (probably almost worth the stop in itself — now I sound like an airport geek when really I’m not — honest!).

If you have a baby at the crawling or toddling stage, it’s a good idea to think about breaking up the journey once or twice, even if it’s just for an hour or so, as am sure you know all about the ability to sit still only for a limited amount of time 😉
If you choose the (handily, the cheaper) Emirates connections to Australia, these have a break (change of plane) in Dubai and then a quick stop in either Singapore Airport (for Brisbane), or Bangkok (Sydney) for example, which can mean a good crawl about a suitable empty departure lounge for 20 minutes or so to burn off a bit of energy before getting back on the plane!

Image of Miss Small Person at Bangkok Airport
The security guards at Bangkok airport were very scary!

In terms of being on board, then obviously sleep is the best plan, so my advice here is to try and take as much of the flight at usual ‘bed time’ — if you take a night flight out (some leave at 8pm, 9pm, 10pm), then you can (hopefully) get some sleep right away as it’s still in tune with little body-clocks. Mind you, it’s 24 hours pretty much whichever way you do it, so you will have to do some entertaining at some point! This is where small toys, fail-safe books, and a bit of seat-back TV comes in (Miss Small Person loved the ‘all cricket’ sports channel on Emirates… that’s her Dad’s doing, I might add!).

Important things to remember are:

  • changes of outfits for baby AND you (you know nappy changes aren’t always without casualties!)
  • way more nappies/milk/food than you think you will need (in case of delays or spills, etc)
  • the way of looking past people when they give you an evil stare (or, as I do, give them a lovely smile — always good for freaking miserable people out!).

Enjoy — and remember, people take babies to Australia every day — so there’s a few of us nutters out there 😉

14 Responses to “Flights to Australia, and taking a baby with you!”

  1. wendy mcgoldrick says:

    Hi Lucy, i’ve just been reading your posts and they are very interesting – god knows how much research we’ve been doing over the past year and doing the flights part with 3 kids under 10 has always been my no.1 pet hate/worry!!! I’ve convinced myself that i will need an excorcism at the end of the journey!!! Oh and a long vodka (essensial)!!!

    Funnily enough we are travelling by Emirates via Glasgow to Dubai/Singapore through to Brisbane – hopefully in September 08 – can’t wait, although we are emigrating which is a different scenario altogether.

    Anyway i’ve loved every bit of your input, it’s been so helpful as you well know that every parent’s worse nightmare is mad mental kids on a long haul flight to Australia. AAARRRRGGGGHHHH

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  3. […] Airlines bassinets are the biggest you can get on a plane (see my earlier posting about bassinet sizes). Miss Small Person slept happily in one when she was 15 months, and I have seen nearly 2-year-olds sleeping […]

  4. RACHEL MCDERMOTT says:

    I feel so much better after reading all of your valuble advice. We are travelling to Oz in October from Newcastle Uk via Dubai to Perth with Rosie who will be 1 year and a couple of weeks. We have visited Oz many times pre baby and know how exhausting the journey can be (this may be why I have been stressed out about it) however i feel comforted and reassured that we are not the only crazy family about! We have pre booked seats and a bassinet for all of the flights (flying emirates). Rosie is not a big baby, i just hope that she will fit in the bassinet, if not at least we will have some extra leg room!

  5. scott rookes says:

    Hi lucy, i’ve just read your posts, very informative thankyou, we are hoping to travel to perth next may to vist sisters. our daughter holly will be 1 1/2 years when we travel. I’m thinking of booking with singapore airlines this week and hope to get a bassinet for holly. As with singapore you have to ring up after you’ve booked online to put holly on our booking and also request a bassinet, hope we get one. Just wondered about the pushchair situation, will they give you it back for the couple of hours stopover at singapore?. Thanks again for your site as i’m sure i’ll be coming back to it many a time before we set off.
    Today someone also mentioned taking a mini portable dvd player with them to take the young ones favourite dvds, they said it kept then occupied for a couple of hours at least. thanks again.

  6. Lucy says:

    Hi Scott
    Glad the posts are useful. I can confidently comment on taking an 18 month old long haul as Miss Small Person was that age in June when we flew to (shh) New Zealand.
    Singapore Airlines is the best choice with a toddler as their bassinets are huge and you should be able to fit Holly in one no problems. (Miss Small Person fitted when she was 15 months old and there was an almost 2 year old next to us with one too).
    If you are booking an infant ticket along with your own then you should be allocated a bassinet (make sure your travel agent requests that) but I always phone up to make sure… and join Krisflyer (Singapore Airlines frequent flyer scheme) which is free and means you can call their contact numbers to book requests.
    If you want some help booking your flight then I have a trusty travel agent Rob robert.blamey@travelmood.com who can help you out (mention me!).
    In terms of pushchairs then I am pleased to report that Singapore Airlines do give you your buggy back at the airport for a transfer. You might also want to consider taking a few hours break to have a swim/walk about/sleep on the way instead of heading direct to the next plane. There are good transit hotels in Singapore – its a fab airport. Have a look at Miss Small Person here enjoying her buggy at the airport here http://www.lucylovesaustralia.com/?p=49
    I personally wouldn’t bother with the personal DVD player as even now (Miss Small Person is 20 months) her attention span for TV is only around 20 mins max (mind you we only watch one show a day at bedtime).
    We do take a couple of Miss Small Person’s DVDs (Makka Pakka’s adventures are well travelled!) to play for her at bedtime to keep up with a bit of a routine. Because I take a laptop with me we just let her watch on that. On the plane she will watch a little bit of the small screens but best option is some small books (we buy the little box sets of Mr Men and Thomas the Tank Engine etc) and some small toys to play with. Also she enjoys a look through the inflight magazine 🙂
    Hope that helps.
    Lucy

  7. Anna says:

    Hi Lucy,
    We are travelling to OZ in March with our little Lily who will be 9 months old then. I was wondering have ytou ever given your baby Tylenol to your baby to help them sleep on the planes?
    I am hessitant but others have reccommended this.
    Anna

  8. Lucy says:

    Hi Anna

    I have never given Miss Small Person anything when we travel through personal choice as I don’t ever take myself or give Miss Small Person medicine unless its really needed. But that’s just me 🙂
    With a baby of this age you should be absolutely fine with the trip as she should still be sleeping a good deal and you will be surprised at how easy it will be to entertain her on the plane. At that age they won’t really mind where they are for naps and eating etc and you are more likely to be more jet lagged than Lily!
    If you want to help yourselves out then a stop on the way (even if its just 4 hours in the transit hotel) can really help everyone to cope. Otherwise I think its better to have your baby able to sleep/eat as they want to.
    The most I have ever done to ‘help’ is maybe have a few extra feeds or snacks that aren’t strictly at mealtimes!
    Of course its up to you but I prefer to know that Miss Small Person is her usual self and that she will know best how to handle the situation (and at that age will mean a good few hours of sleep on the flight don’t worry).
    And taking a night flight also helps a lot as there is a much longer ‘dark’ and ‘quiet’ part to the flight environment which is more conducive to small people sleeping. That said, a well placed muslin over the top of the bassinet does the same trick! 🙂
    Have a great trip.
    Lucy

  9. Sue says:

    Hi Lucy,

    Very nice of you to take the time to share your advice and experience – thanks! One thing with the car seat, Australia has some pretty strict safety laws regarding car seats. The need to have a strap that connects to an anchor point in the car. Most car seats from USA do not comply with the Australian requirements. Not sure about car seats purchased from other countries. Interested to know if anyone has had any issues in Australia with their car seat. We are thinking of hiring the infant car seat once we get to Australia, for the duration of our trip.

    Thanks!
    Sue
    PS: Your baby is cute 🙂

  10. Pete says:

    Hi Lucy,

    After reading your site before we went to Oz and getting some valueable information from it, I thought I would add some of my tips/experience for everyone as we have just come back. We flew Manchester-Dubai-Sydney return with Emirates in economy. We decided not to have a nightstop as it would have extended the pain if the journey was a nightmare -it worked well for us but I guess its not to everybodies taste.

    Oz Visa – for UK passport holders you only need an E Visa for visiting and it dosen’t cost anything (lots of websites out there will charge £20 a passport for doing it for you when it takes less than 5 minutes online if you have your passport information with you).

    Why Emirates? – BA and Singapore more expensive, Qantas cheaper but major issue over when payment for flights is demanded, Emirates good price and good reviews.

    Liquids – I spoke to the security staff at Manchester before we went and was advised that any liquids not more than 100mls would not require opening and the only limit for baby stuff is that it is a reasonable amount required for the flight (a lot for Oz!). I worked out that a 100mg pack of baby food equated to 100ml and we took loads of them – in any case the staff were not too concerned which made going through security a breeze.

    Boarding – Emirates gives priority boarding for families which is good.

    Basinets – A big issue for us with one year old twins. Booked six months in advance and thought we had the bulkhead and seats booked but had to fight to get the bassinets (5 different answers from office/check-in staff/gate staff and cabin crew on Emirates policy!) We paid for three seats to get the extra space (in our opinion an absolute must if you have two infants and two adults, as all the flights were pretty full) and went for the centre 4 seat bulkheads. MAN-DXB had another infant booked next to us – a real no no as there are only 2 oxygen masks for infants for those 4 seats (other person moved to another row). DXB-SYD 777-200 change to 777-300(longer aircraft) 2 hours prior, which we were unaware of as we were transit passengers. The bulkhead row became three rows behind the bulkhead and they wouldn’t move us – a few unhappy families with us on that one. SYD-DXB was on an A380 which has more leg space and better width in the bulkhead seats than the 777 (carnage at the airports with so many passengers – make sure you are at the front of the queue!). DXB-SYD had a nice lady who put up with a bassinet in front of her.

    Transit at Dubai – Really poor signposting combined with no Emirates staff on hand made both transits a bit of a struggle – just because you are transiting, you don’t necessarily follow the transit signs if you have a onward boarding card (the situation was partially eased by the spectacle of an A380 load of transit passengers all trying to get to the right place and passing each other in different directions for 10 mins until someone knew where to go).

    Strollers at Dubai – Don’t expect a stroller as soon as you get off the aircraft – on the way out it took about 15 minutes to find a stroller park with strollers available and on the way back, we never got one (twin stroller? forget it – we never saw one).

    Emirates overall – Really nice cabin crew who are obviously child friendly and went out of their way to help us, food pretty awful and I didn’t enjoy transiting through Dubai.

    I hope this personal view maybe of some help to those considering flying with Emirates through Dubai. Thanks for the website information, Pete

  11. Camilla says:

    Hi Lucy,

    Your website is brilliant, thanks loads.

    We are travelling to Oz in August/ September with our then 4-5 month old, so will be writing a checklist of things from all your info to take!

    As we will be going for a year we are looking at taking our maxi cosi car seat & isofix base. I am guessing that we won’t be able to swing putting the base in with the buggy to avoid charges. From your experience do you think it will be worth paying to take the base (I am assuming that it will be compatible with Oz cars) or should we hold off & replace it when we get there?

    Cheers, I’ll be regularly reading up all your advice on everything before we go!!!

    Camilla

  12. Lucy says:

    Hi Camilla

    You can (depending on the airline) take your car seat and your buggy in the hold if you explain they are all part of the same buggy (we’ve done this). HOWEVER most UK sold car seats don’t meet Australian standards and will invalidate any insurance you have if used so you would be better off to buy a new car seat when you arrive that meets the Australian standards. I would leave the base and the car seat at home and buy new as soon as you arrive. You can download the PDF about the Australian requirements for car restraints here http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/roads/safety/publications/2007/Child_restraints.aspx

    Cheers,
    Lucy

  13. Miss Small Person says:

    Hi Lucy,

    We are traveling to Oz in a few weeks with our 8 month baby. We are taking our Maxi Cosi and Quinny Zapp combo (probably the best investment we made in terms of baby purchases!!!).

    Flying with Emirates I understand we can take the Maxi Cosi and Zapp to the airplane and then they put it in the hold all the way from Frankfurt to Oz. The Zapp will be safe in its carry bag. While I doubt that it will be raining in Dubai when they exchange planes, I am worried about the car seat being damaged in some way (straps loose or dirt). I am considering bringing along a large clear plastic bag, something like a space saver to put the car seat in. Do you remember what you did with your Maxi Cosi? Did you bag it?

    Great posts on traveling with you baby! Thanks for sharing!

    Thanks,
    Miss Small Person

  14. Lucy says:

    Yes the Quinny Zapp and maxi cosi have been great for us too. We still use the Zapp as our ‘holiday buggy’ and its been all over the places now!

    So what did we do with the Maxi Cosi when we traveled… well yes we also ‘bagged’ the car seat but not in the classy way that you have suggested 🙂 We went for the ‘strong black dustbin sack and masking tape’ option! This way we had a couple of spare bags incase we needed them/the first one got damaged. There were no problems with it in the hold and it made it just fine! We used the extra thick bags that have a drawstring. Cheap, strong, did the job!

    Now one thing I do have to point out is that while the Maxi Cosi meets all the safety standards for UK/EU it is not on the list of approved Australian car seats yet that I know. So technically its not ‘legal’ to be used in Australia for car travel. That said its great for taxi journeys (where you don’t always have to have a car seat) and also good for using as a pre-6 month old buggy option with the Zapp.

    Have a great trip and let me know if you have any more questions!

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