Born To Fly: British Babies Travel 10 Billion Miles Before Their First Birthday

·         Eight million parents have taken their babies abroad by the time they are one – with British one-year-olds collectively making over 401,000 trips around the world

·         69 per cent of people back moves by airlines to allow passengers to see where babies are sitting on a flight

·         Nearly half (45 per cent) of people would happily pay to sit away from a child under two – the average amount they would add to the cost of their flight is £40, though parents would spend significantly more than non-parents (£51 vs £34)

·         Men would spend nearly double the amount women would for a baby free journey - £50 vs £29

British babies have collectively travelled over 10 billion miles before their first birthday reveals new research from Direct Line Travel Insurance1. This works out as more than 401,000 trips around the world2. A quarter (24 per cent) of parents, over eight million people, have taken their child abroad by the time they were one, with one in nine of these (11 per cent) visiting three or more countries with their babies before their first birthday. On average, each parent who has been abroad with their baby has travelled 3,016 miles with them.

Over 12 million parents (37 per cent) have taken their children abroad by the age of five and one in nine (11 per cent) have visited five or more countries by then. Collectively, five-year-olds have travelled 22 billion miles with their parents, working out as 1,833 miles per child, the equivalent of 884,000 trips around the world. When parents were the same age, they had visited just one country and the majority (70 per cent) had not been abroad at all.

Table one: Mileage travelled by British babies and children

  Number of parents who have taken their baby abroad by this age Average mileage travelled by babies abroad by this age Collective amount of mileage travelled Equivalent trips around the world 
By age 1  8,012,746 1,497 10 billion  41,000
By age 5



1,833 22 billion 884,000

Source: Direct Line Travel Insurance 2019

Travelling abroad with babies and young children can come with challenges for parents and their fellow passengers alike. Most people (69 per cent) believe the recent announcement by a leading airline allowing passengers to see where babies are sitting on a flight is a positive move. This view is shared by both parents and non-parents, as nearly a third of parents (29 per cent) can understand why passengers want to sit far away from babies, while one in eight (13 per cent) parents would prefer to choose seats away from other babies.

This view isn’t just restricted to one airline and a high proportion of people would pay extra to sit away from babies on any plane. A third (33 per cent) of adults would pay to sit away from a child under two on a short haul flight, while half (50 per cent) would do so on a long-haul flight.

The average amount people would be willing to spend to sit away from a baby on a short haul flight is £41 and on a long-haul flight is £44. Men would happily spend more than women for a baby free journey, forking out around £50 for the privilege both on a short haul and long-haul flight, while women would spend £29 and £36 respectively.  Interestingly, parents would spend more than double the amount of non-parents to sit away from other young children. On both short and long-haul flights parents would happily spend around £50 to avoid other young children, while non-parents would spend just £21 on a short haul and £34 on a long haul.

Tom Bishop, Head of Travel Insurance at Direct Line said: “British children are so well travelled compared to their parents at the same age. The rise of the low-cost airlines means it has never been easier to take young children abroad and they are quickly ticking off countries visited. Whether going on holiday with children or not, it is vital to take out a comprehensive travel insurance policy when booking the holiday so you can relax while away in the knowledge that you are covered should anything unexpected happen.

“Our research shows parents don’t have an issue with moves to allow people to choose airlines seats away from their child, they may be happier to be surrounded by friendly faces who recognise the joys and potential challenges of travelling with a baby.”

Parents who have flown with babies and toddlers use several tactics to help ease the stress. Taking plenty of toys (34 per cent) and food (26 per cent) are easy ways to distract children but parents also advise some practical steps like packing everything you need in an easy to reach part of your bag (29 per cent) and flying at times to better suit the child’s routine (21 per cent). Paying for convenience also comes recommended where possible. Whether that be for fast track to get through security quickly (10 per cent) or booking an extra seat to give themselves an entire row (eight per cent).

Table two: Strategies used by parents when flying with a baby

Tactic Percentage of aprents who used this strategy
Take plenty of toys to distract your child 34%
Make sure you pack what you need somewhere easy to reach in your bag 29%
Take pletny of food fotr your child 26%
Fly at times that better suit their child's routine 21%
Give them headphones to distract them from the noise  11%
Pay for fast track to get them through security quickly 10%
Give your child medication to relax them e.g. Calpol 10%
Booking an extra seat to give yourself an entire row 8%
Provide gifts for those passengers around you so they are more accomodating  6%
Take medication yourself to relax 6%

Source: Direct Line Travel Insurance 2019

The countries children visit most by their first and fifth birthdays are Spain and France. A third of parents (30 per cent) who travelled abroad with a baby took them to Spain by the age of one, while nearly half (48 per cent) have taken their child by the age of five. In comparison, a fifth (21 per cent) of parents travelling with a baby visited France before their first birthday and just under two fifths (39 per cent) have taken them by the age of five. One in seven (13 per cent) parents have taken their children to the USA before they turn five compared to just one in 14 (seven per cent) under ones.

- ENDS -

Notes to Editors

1        Research conducted by Opinium Research among 2005 UK adults between 11th and 16th October 2019

2        Based on 24,901 miles to travel around the world -

For further information please contact:

Naomi Kombe 
Media Relations Executive
Direct Line Group

01651 832895
[email protected]

Samantha Stewart

Citigate Dewe Rogerson

[email protected]

0207 025 6497

Direct Line

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