At first glance, travel and babies definitely do not go together.
In fact flying with a baby is pretty much always seen as a high stress endeavour, that might not be worth the hassle. In fact it fills most parents with fear and dread! Yet some parents (the rare few…) seem to have travel and flying with a baby down to a fine art, making us wonder if it really is possible to have a baby, and the freedom to jet-set. The jury might still be out on this one, but here are some tips to get you started.
1. Don’t Stress Before You Have To!
Flying with a baby might be stressful, but there’s no point letting yourself get caught up in what might happen during your flight if that’s going to stress you out more. Yes, your child might cry for the entire flight. Yes, they might vomit everywhere or have a massive nappy blowout or do something else that children are prone to do at the absolutely wrong moment. But guess what? It hasn’t happened yet! Deal with things as they come to you, and take your flight one minute at a time.
2. Plan Smart
You might be surprised just how much easier your flights are if you plan a little smarter. When you’re booking look around for flights that coincide with your child’s existing nap time or bed time, even if that means paying just a little bit more for them. In the same thread, while you should try to opt for direct flights wherever possible for your own sanity, plan stopovers around your child’s most active time. That way they can burn themselves out at the airport, and sleep on plane! Let the airline know you are travelling with a baby, and ask them if there is anything they can do to make your flight more enjoyable for both you, your baby, and your fellow passengers.
3. Don’t Overpack, But Be Prepared
There’s a line that you need to walk as a parent flying with a baby. You definitely don’t want to overpack, because the more you’re carting the more hassle you’ll have trying to get from one point to another. At the same time, you need to be prepared for the actual journey with supplies. This means things to entertain your baby, lots of nappies, bottles and formula or expressed milk (depending on your style), wipes and cloths for cleanups, a ziplock bag for smelly clothes and a change of clothes for adults, just in case. In terms of baby stuff the important thing to ask, before you cart your cot through check-in, is whether you can rent it at your destination. If your baby uses a dummy, pack a heap. Anything that you can give your baby to soothe him or her, bring along.
4. Dress For Comfort
Both you, your partner and your baby should be dressed for the airport with comfort and ease being the number one priority. For the baby this means easy-on easy-off PJs (including a spare) and additional layers that do not have buttons, zips or any kind of metal on them. It sucks having to undress a child at airport security with crowds of impatient people behind you. Better to plan ahead and breeze through instead.
5. Check The Stroller At The Door
Strollers can be a lifesaver for parents travelling with babies. Remember that due to check in times you often spend an hour at the airport just waiting around for your flight to board, and that’s before delays and other unexpected goodies. So, instead of getting rid of your stroller, at the check-in counter, ask if you can check it in at the gate. You’ll usually get a tag, and the hostess will take it at the door. Not all airlines allow this, but some do and it really does save a massive hassle.
6. See If There’s A Bassinet Available
Have you ever seen those little clips on the bulkheads of some plane types? The clips are for bassinets, small cribs that can be anchored to the bulkhead that essentially allow your baby to sleep comfortably in their own little space. Now, not all airlines have bulkhead bassinets, and not all plane types are designed to accommodate them. They often can’t be booked online either, so consider booking with a travel agent who can sort out the details of this for you. Basically having a bassinet means you don’t have to have your child strapped to you all the time, a welcome relief.
7. Offer A Feed At Takeoff And Landing (helps pressurise the ears)
Going from the ground to a cruising altitude can be hard on the ears, and if you think it’s hard for an adult, imagine what it’s like for a baby who doesn’t know what’s happening. Sucking helps to equalise the ears, so stop the inevitable takeoff and landing freak out by offering your baby a chance to feed at both times. Both bottle-feeding and breastfeeding work in this regard, and they also give your child something to focus on during the noisiest and bumpiest time in the flight.
8. Be Apologetic And Friendly
It’s nice to think that the people in the plane are patient and accepting of you travelling with your child, but even when that isn’t the case a bit of friendliness and apologies on your part can go a long way. It’s easy to hate someone you haven’t interacted with, but harder to hate a well-meaning parent just trying to take their kids to visit Grandma. Some parents even give out little lolly bags with a note apologising in advance just in case, but if that’s not your style a few kind words work too.