What It’s Like to Fly Ryanair With a Baby or Toddler for the First Time
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On a recent trip home from Jalón, Spain with my two children, the best flight option was Ryanair into Stansted. As I hadn’t flown Ryanair since having kids, I thought I would give it a go in the spirit of adventure. I travelled alone with my 4-year-old and my nearly 2-year-old (still technically a lap infant, but very large) from ALC to STN.
Perhaps having really low expectations worked in my favour, because we had a great flight. My goal was to not be caught out — and the airline only got one thing on me.
Cost of the Lap Infant
Ryanair charges a flat fee of £25 or €25 for infants, which is around what I pay short-haul on British Airways, depending on the flight (10% of adult fare plus taxes and fees). You get a 5kg bag for your lap infant. We paid for priority boarding because those with young children do not board first automatically. There are only 90 priority seats available. Although we were given the option of Family Plus, we did not find it to be a good value for us without checked bags.
Choosing Seats with a Baby or Toddler
Kids seats are free when an adult buys a £7/€7 Standard seat but not when you buy a higher-priced seat. I tried to book the aisle and window to leave the middle seat open but Ryanair does not allow you to do this with a child on a booking even though I’ve always done it on British Airways.
Lap infants are only able to sit on your lap in certain seats on Ryanair, all shown with a baby symbol on the seat. Notably, it excludes row 1. A child/teen also cannot sit in row 1 or the exit rows of 16 and 17. However, they can sit in row 2.
On the Ground
You get two free checked items per child (pushchair plus car seat, booster or travel cot) on Ryanair. The agent promptly tagged my booster and we were off to oversized luggage to hand it in.
I used my Priority Pass membership to spend some time in the Alicante lounge, which was spacious and airy with lots of nice food. I was able to gain access thanks to my Priority Pass membership with The Platinum Card from American Express UK.
We had our priority boarding, but there was still a bit of a scrum. In the end, we were the second family allowed on the plane.
The Dreaded Stairs
I somehow forgot that Ryanair almost always has stairs instead of jetbridges for faster boarding at both the front and back. Ryanair previously squared off with Alicante airport about the stairs vs. airbridge debate and pulled half of its routes when Alicante tried to get it to use jetbridges.
Soon, I was carrying the toddler, two bags and my pushchair up the steps while my 4-year-old ran ahead.
No Pushchairs Allowed on Board
Although I paid for extra cabin bags and had folded my buggy up, carried it onto the plane and put it in an overhead bin, my Babyzen Yoyo was removed from the plane and checked in the hold. I protested heavily, but the rule according to the FA is that it must be in a bag in order to be in the overhead bins.
The space above 2D, 2E and 2F was ample for our remaining things. The downside was that I had to carry my toddler for over an hour off the plane, through the airport and chase him around immigration when normally he would be in his pushchair kept on board.
The downside of 2D, 2E and 2F is that they have a fixed armrest. It was certainly the most snug I have been in an airline seat at 17 inches wide and with a toddler on my lap.
You can also buy your under 2 a seat and use the CARES harness, but he or she still needs to be on your lap for takeoff and landing. You can also bring a car seat for a child under 2 with their own seat. Approved car seats for children can only be fitted in rows 5-14 and 19-30 and usually only in window seats. You have to call Ryanair ahead of time if you wish to use a car seat, which must have a 5-point harness and be certified in the US or EU.
Perhaps due to the nature of fluid seating on Ryanair, people seemed much more willing to rearrange themselves. The woman in 2F did a three-way swap to give us the whole row. Even though we had three seats, my toddler still had to sit on my lap with the orange infant extension belt for take-off, landing and four times during turbulence because he is not yet 2.
The upside and why I would recommend these seats is that it allowed ample room to play and move without disturbing other passengers. Also, the front pocket was large enough for snacks and water bottles, plus my preschooler could reach it from his seat.
Due to row 2’s proximity to the cabin crew and the cockpit the boys were able to visit up and see the lights before take off. They are sometimes invited after a flight but rarely before. It’s definitely worth asking to bring the kids if you aren’t interrupting anyone.
In total, there are three restrooms on a Ryanair plane — one at the front and two in the rear. I thought our position at the front of the plane would mean we’d have easy access to the restroom. However, the only changing table was in the back of the plane and in only one of the two restrooms, so we marched back and checked out the changing table. This seemed better than many in-flight changing tables I’ve seen.
We brought our own food and drinks. The cabin crew was surprisingly attentive considering their passenger to crew ratio. The in-arm tray tables were used as colouring tables.
Our flight on Ryanair went surprisingly smooth. The other passengers were accommodating and kind, as were the crew. By throwing money at the problem in the form of bulkhead seats and a few lucky breaks like the check-in line and our seatmate moving, we had a better flight than our British Airways outbound. With older children who can sit through a short-haul flight, I’d say the back rows would be fine. However, if you want to create a play space and have euro to spare, I can recommend seats 2D, 2E and 2F.