Travelling with kids

Only newborns under 7 days old are not accepted on an airplane. If your little one is older, there are no particular restrictions on flying. However, it is recommended to check with your airline to avoid any upsetting surprises. For example, it is recommended to wait until your child is at least 3 weeks old before sitting through a transatlantic flight.

Is it free or not?

If you are travelling in Canada or in the United States, most carriers will allow your little one to travel for free as long as he sits on an adult’s lap.  For international flights, it may be possible to obtain a reduced price depending on which airline company you are flying with. Also, try to book seats near the aisle to be more comfortable if you need to walk around with the baby or make frequent trips to the washroom. Some airline companies even have small beds for you to place your sleeping baby in.

In addition, take note that a baby over two years of age who has his own seat must be placed in a restraining child seat for safety purposes.


Since December 11th 2001, travelling Canadian children, including newborns, must have their own travelling documents. This policy was implanted to fight trafficking of millions of children around the world. These children are often sold for slavery, prostitution or worse. By making sure that every child has his own identification documents including a valid picture, the child’s protection was thereby increased. If you are a parent and you have a valid passport in which your name and your child’s name are registered, this document will only be valid for your child and yourself until its expiration date.

There are two exceptions. If your child plans to travel without you or if he turns 16 years old, he must have his own documents. By visiting the website Passport Canada, you will be able to download the required documents. It is also recommended to bring your child’s birth certificate. It is easy to carry and will solve any misunderstanding at the customs. Also, if only one parent is travelling with a child, prepare a written letter stating the other parent’s consent. Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada has posted an example of a letter on its website.

Pregnant women

A pregnant woman who has never had a premature delivery and is having a healthy pregnancy can travel up until the 36th week of pregnancy. However, it is recommended to call your carrier before booking your flight.


Even if your little one is in great health, a visit to the doctor’s office before leaving is always a good idea. It is even more important if your baby hasn’t received all the recommended vaccines. Also, a vaccine against Hepatitis A is appropriate if you are heading to a tropical destination. However, the traveller’s clinic does not give vaccines to children under the age of one. Asking your doctor for advice remains the best way to be pointed into the right direction.

If your child takes any form of medication, make sure to have the original containers showing the official prescription. This precaution could save you a lot of trouble with the authorities at the airport.

Before taking off, take a look at different reports entitled Travel Advice Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. These reports hold very useful advice on security, visas and health conditions in over 200 destinations.


You can leave many items in your suitcase that will be transported to the airplane’s baggage hold but remember to keep a handbag with you to carry useful items

Beware of new rules forbidding water bottles, hygienic products and bottles of all sorts. Make sure to contact your airline company to have all the necessary information.

Here are some items to carry when travelling with a baby!

  • Snacks, purees, juice, diluted breast milk if necessary
  • Spare clothing
  • Wet wipes
  • Milk bottle, if necessary
  • First aid kit (thermometer, acetaminophen, oragel, zinc paste...)
  • Toys: try getting your older kid a new toy in order to keep him concentrated for a longer period of time.
  • Blanket
  • Tiny inflatable pool: it will not take up too much space in your luggage and it will allow you to wash your baby in your room and refresh him, in the shade, while you are under your umbrella.
  • Backpack: when travelling from one place to another, it is better to have a backpack than a bag with handles.
  • Bring enough diapers: paper diapers are not available everywhere and if they are, they tend to be quite expensive.

Note: Air Canada and Air Transat transport, for no extra fee, the following articles in the baggage hold: car seat, highchair, stroller and crib. Each carrier has his own policy concerning different baby articles, therefore, ask your carrier before leaving.

Ear congestion

Just like in adults, takeoff and landing often produce ear pain due to a sudden change in air pressure. The only trick that really works is to make your child chew something. You can try breastfeeding, a pacifier, a bottle or food since swallowing will help relieve your little one’s ear pain.


Many airplanes, but not all, have small beds for babies under 25 pounds. You must ask for one when making your flight reservations, as they are available in limited quantity. The bed will be installed by your side, in the aisle.

Before leaving for the airport, ask your doctor if you child can take Benadryl, an antihistaminic that provokes somnolence and may help your baby to recuperate during the trip. Your doctor can teach you how to calculate the correct dose depending on your child’s weight. Some paediatricians advise against using antihistaminic because it can generate the opposite effect and make your child agitated. Ultimately, nothing works better than holding your child in your arms while signing his favourite lullaby.


Most airline companies prepare special children meals. Air Canada, for example, offers purees for children under the age of 2 and hamburgers, chicken fingers and sandwiches for children over the age of 2. It is also necessary to mention whether or not you would like to be served a meal while making the seat reservations. Plan ahead and bring your child’s favourite snacks just in case!


Even if travel sickness is more common over the age of 3, some babies may show signs of discomfort while travelling in a car or in a plane. If your child is old enough to eat by himself, give him small quantities to eat on a regular basis. It will decrease the nausea.

Jet lag

Usually, children are not as sensitive to time zones as adults. Nonetheless, some babies may be awake at times when they should be sleeping and begin to feel hungry at the wrong hour. In this case, you will usually have to be flexible with your schedule for a little while until your baby adjusts. For example, you may have to push back bedtime an hour later or make supper an hour earlier. This way, you can limit the trouble. Still, expect to wait a day or two for everyone to adjust.


Make sure to leave space in your luggage for water bottles, especially for your baby.  Several diseases, including hepatitis are transmitted through ingestion of local water and not all hotels offer bottled water. If your baby is fed with formula milk, choose already diluted formulas that will reduce the amount of water that you will have to carry. If you are not using milk bottles with disposable bags, remember to bring antibacterial dish soap to wash the bottles regularly.


Ideally, your child should be exposed to the sun as little as possible. He MUST wear a large hat, quality sunglasses and a good quality sunscreen of at least 30 FPS. Make sure to add a fresh layer of sunscreen every 2 to 3 hours even if your child has been sitting under the shadow. Sunrays reflect on sand, water, concrete, etc.

  • Several diseases such as hepatitis A and B, typhoid fever, tetanus, diphtheria, poliomyelitis, malaria, meningitis, measles and rubella threaten any unprotected traveller.
  • Visit a traveller’s clinic or your doctor 4 to 6 weeks before taking off to give enough time for the immunizing agent in the vaccine to become active. It is even more crucial to follow these procedures if you are planning on bringing a baby or young child with you. In this case, it may be necessary change their vaccination routine and plan for additional vaccines according to the Canadian immunization guide.
  • On their website, the Public Health Agency of Canada broadcasts information for travellers concerning the preponderance of certain foreign diseases.
  • To consult the list of different traveller’s clinics, click here.

Source: Touring Winter 2004, Passport CanadaAir Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada,  Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada

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