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A guide to travelling with a baby

Any parent or carer will tell you that travelling with a baby is all about peace of mind. That starts with the right baby travel insurance.

Here’s our guide to help make travelling as parents simple and easy, including a handy checklist, together with help about finding the best insurance policy for your family.

Any parent or carer will tell you that travelling with a baby is all about peace of mind. That starts with the right baby travel insurance.

Here’s our guide to help make travelling as parents simple and easy, including a handy checklist, together with help about finding the best insurance policy for your family.

Written by
Kate Hughes
Insurance and finance expert
Last Updated
8 min read
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How to travel with a baby

Sometimes just getting out of the house with a baby seems impossible, let alone going away. But if you’re off on a well-deserved holiday, being organised can help make it easier and more enjoyable.

When choosing your destination, take the weather into account. If you go somewhere very hot, babies not used to the warmer climate could get easily sunburnt, dehydrated and may find it hard to sleep – which probably won’t be very relaxing for you.

Also think about the practicalities of how long it will take to get to your destination. If going on a longer flight, you might want to think about travelling overnight to keep to your baby’s schedule.

If travelling by car, make sure your timings include breaks – and if your child gets car sick you may want to take that into account too. Plan how to get to your final destination from the airport or train station as this will save time when you arrive.

Remember, it’s your break too, so look for somewhere it’s easy to travel with a baby.

Cruising with a baby

A cruise could be a good option as it’s easy to pop back to your cabin if it’s time for an afternoon nap. Plus there are usually many family-friendly services from baby pools to babysitting – some cruise lines let young kids come free too.

Your baby typically needs to be six months old to go on a cruise. But for some routes or destinations – particularly for ocean crossings – your child may need to be a year old. Check with the cruise line.

Some cruises offer you the option of getting baby supplies direct to your cabin, while others will expect you to bring everything you need with you. Check before you travel about what equipment you can borrow, such as sterilisers, baby baths and cots.

Remember to add on cover for a cruise when you are buying your travel insurance as it's not usually included as standard

Travelling abroad with a baby – what to organise in advance

Time is the key factor when travelling with babies – time to plan, time to pack and time to get from A to B. So set aside time to get organised ahead of your trip.

Get your baby a GHIC card if you’re travelling to Europe

Your child needs their own UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). It gives you access to emergency and medically necessary state healthcare at a reduced cost or sometimes for free (you get care on the same terms as a local). It’s not an alternative to travel insurance, though.

  • You can apply for a free GHIC card on the NHS website and check which European countries it covers.
  • Only ever use the official website to apply for one and make sure you do it with plenty of time before your trip.
  • Watch out for scams that try to make you pay for this free service.
  • Make sure you have your own card and that it hasn’t expired, too.

Apply for a passport for your baby in good time

If your child doesn’t have a passport, leave plenty of time to organise one before you travel as it can take up to 10 weeks to arrive, even when the authorities aren’t swamped with applications or hit by other delays. You can apply on the GOV.UK website.

Check if you need a visa

Check whether you need visas for travel on the government’s foreign travel advice website. See the country or countries you’re travelling to or through, then check the entry requirements. If you need one, get your documentation together and apply in good time.

Get any required vaccinations in good time for you and your baby 

See your doctor or midwife at least eight weeks before your trip. They can tell you about any precautions you should take or vaccinations your child might need. Keep any medicines with you in your hand luggage when you travel.

The Travel Health Pro website also provides some useful advice on the travel-associated health risks to children and infants.

Make sure your child is eligible to fly

If you’re travelling by plane, make sure the airline is happy to take your baby on board. It sounds like an odd detail to check but many require children to be at least two weeks old before they can become passengers.

Consider seating for the flight when you book your ticket

If you’re flying long-haul, you may be able to reserve a free bassinet for your baby in advance, subject to availability. This is a detachable cot that’s set up by particular seats on the plane. There’s often an age and/or weight limit, so check with your airline.

You might find that if you’re travelling with a baby on your lap, the baby doesn’t have a luggage allowance, despite all the kit needed.

You may also be able to book (and pay for) a child seat for older children or bring your own carrycot or child seat if you have one. It’s worth checking with your airline. The alternative – having your baby on your lap for the entire journey – isn’t always ideal.

Organise a baby seat if you are hiring a car

Let the car hire company know in advance if you need a baby or child car seat. You might need to let them know the age or height/weight of any children.

Consider buying baby essentials at the airport

Save room in your suitcase by taking advantage of the ‘order and collect’ service available at some airports through their on-site pharmacies.

Consider pre-ordering baby food including baby milk and formula, as well as bulky items like nappies, wipes and liquids over the 100ml limit. But be sure to check the price against what you’d normally pay.

Bring enough food and drink for the journey

Some airlines will offer pureed food for babies travelling on laps and they’ll generally heat bottles of milk. Check what options are available with your airline.

For older children, make sure you have enough snacks for the flight and the onwards journey if you have a drive at the other end.

Giving your child something to drink or suck as the plane takes off could help minimise ear pain and discomfort.

Getting through airport security

Remember, you won’t be able to take liquids, liquid or semi-liquid foods and pastes over 100ml, but you can take empty bottles and fill them with water once you’re through security.

The government website has more information on what baby food and drinks are typically permitted at UK airports – plus don’t forget cutlery.

What to pack when travelling with a baby

What and how much you need to take will depend on where you're going and for how long and possibly how old your baby is, for example whether they are weaned.

Here’s a checklist for the essentials you need to pack into your hand luggage that you might need during the journey.

Your baby-friendly hand luggage is likely to include:

  • Food and drink for the baby
  • Any medication needed
  • Favourite toys, books and any other comforters
  • A travel changing mat
  • A baby blanket
  • Spare sets of clothes
  • Wipes, nappies and nappy bags
  • A baby sling so you can carry them hands-free
  • A universal bath plug to turn any sink into a baby bath
  • For long flights you may also need a travel steriliser to keep bottles and teats clean if you’re formula-feeding.

Pack the rest of your baby stuff in your checked-in luggage

Make sure to spread nappies, clothes and formula between your checked in bags. If one bag goes missing you’ll still have supplies for your baby in a different bag.

How much you need to take might depend on where you are staying, access to shops and if you have washing facilities or not.

Does a baby need travel insurance?

Yes – in fact everyone in your family should have travel insurance, regardless of their age.

If your baby or toddler is sick or injured while you’re away, getting the right diagnosis and the necessary emergency treatment can be a costly process. The right travel insurance for your family, including your baby, can help make a stressful situation more manageable.

  • Emergency medical care will cover the cost of seeing a doctor. It could also include hospital charges, medicines and ambulance fees.
  • Curtailment – if you have to get an early flight home for a reason covered in your policy and you can’t use your original tickets so are out of pocket.
  • Cancellation cover comes as standard with many travel insurance policies. This gives you the added reassurance that if your baby is too ill to travel in the first place, you can claim back the cost of your trip.
  • Cover for lost, stolen or damaged possessions such as buggies, travel cots and feeding products.

Make sure you check the single-article limit. This is the most you’ll be able to claim for an individual item. Anything worth more must be added on to a policy individually, which could result in a higher premium.

These days, most policies come with a 24/7 helpline so you have access to support and advice whenever and wherever you need it. This can be particularly valuable reassurance if you are worried about your child.

To help you find the best insurance policy for you and your child, read our guide to what travel insurance will cover you for and what it won’t.

Does your child have a more serious pre-existing medical condition?

If you or your baby have a serious health condition, the price you pay for travel insurance is likely to be more expensive. However, there are still many providers out there and you should be able to find affordable cover. Whatever happens, don’t be tempted to lie to an insurance provider, because if you do and then need to make a claim, it could be rejected.

When you declare medical conditions on our website, we’ll only show quotes from insurance providers who will cover all declared medical conditions, with no exclusions. 

MoneyHelper has a directory of insurance providers who may be able to provide quotes over the phone if you have more serious medical conditions. Find more information at MoneyHelper or by calling them on 0800 138 7777.

Do I need special insurance if we are going on a cruise?

Yes, if you go on a cruise, you’ll need to add on cruise insurance to a standard travel insurance. This is because it’s designed for some of the special circumstances of cruising. For example, medical cover might take into account the need for transport to a hospital if you fall ill while at sea or confinement to your cabin if you’re unwell.

Travel cover for the whole family

Travel cover for tiny tots doesn’t need to bring extra hassle. It could be easier to take out family travel insurance that covers everyone. You’ll often simply need to enter the date of birth of all children travelling when you buy the cover.

You can get single-parent cover for one adult plus their children, but not all providers offer this. You can also get cover for adopted, foster, stepchildren and grandchildren.

If you’re separated or divorced and your children don’t live with you, some travel insurance providers will still allow you to take out a family or single-parent policy.

Always check the policy wording carefully before you buy to make sure you’re getting the cover you need. Look for exclusions around:

  • Whether you must all live together at the same address.
  • If there’s a maximum of number of children under 18.
  • If you have to travel together and children can’t travel independently under the policy.
  • Non-family members being included.

Try to take out travel insurance as soon as you’ve booked your trip so you have cancellation cover right away.

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Kate Hughes - Insurance and finance expert

As an award-winning journalist, author and broadcast commentator, Kate has been writing about personal finance for more than 20 years. She’s the former Money Editor for The Independent. Her work has appeared across the UK broadsheets as well as a number of international titles. Kate brings her financial expertise to inform her readers on ways to save money. She’s also written a book. ‘Going Zero: One Family’s Journey to Zero Waste and a Greener Lifestyle’ is available now.

Learn more about Kate

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