Travelling with a baby… What fun! But also, what a headache.
We’ve been travelling with Frankie since she was about 8 weeks old, mastering (and struggling through) long and short haul flights. And because of our different work schedules, often I travel on my own with her, which can be challenging. I admit it was pretty daunting at first – working out what to take on the plane and how to make sure it wasn’t hell on earth for 9 hours. But you know what? Once I got over my initial fear of doing it, and got a bit organised, I found it was actually quite fun… It’s like taking your favourite toy with you on the plane! That said, it’s definitely worth getting organised for your trip, so I wanted to share my protocol for getting on the plane with a baby.
Tips for Flying Long Haul With A Baby
Pick the right flight times
I’ve experimented a lot with flight times, some people are adamant that it’s best to take them at night when they will be more likely to sleep. I don’t agree! After doing a few night flights where Frankie kept me (and the people around us) up the whole time I decided that it’s best to take her on the plane in the day. For me, it’s better if there isn’t any pressure for me to sleep, and people seem to be less annoyed by a crying baby during the day.
Bassinet Is King
Honestly – beg, borrow, steal, cry, have a tantrum, tweet people… Do WHATEVER you have to do to get a bassinet. Most of the time you should be able to book one by calling up the airline, but you might find it difficult during holidays and on budget airlines. Then your bub will be sitting in your lap the whole time, something I’ve done with no trouble for 2 or 3 hours flights. However if it’s a long haul flight I would look at all options before doing that with a baby on your lap, I know some people have bought an extra seat.
Feed on Take Off and Landing
Everyone will tell you to do this, and you know why? It works. Whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle feeding, giving them something to drink and encouraging them to swallow when the plane is taking off and landing will reduce the pressure on their ears. Babies can’t equalise like we can so this is a useful thing to encourage. It can sometimes be difficult to time it so that they are hungry, which is harder than it sounds, but even sucking on a pacifier or your finger is better than nothing! As a side note, I haven’t found that Frankie has been that affected by the pressure, and I think generally planes are better than they used to be, although on smaller planes the pressure seems to be worse. To make breastfeeding easier, I usually wear a nursing tee with a flap that lifts up, it’s a lot easier than opening and closing buttons!
Take all the things
I’m a simple gal, and generally don’t overdo it in the stuff department, but when it comes to babies on planes, I take a different approach. I say bring it all. That means, toys, milk, food, rusks etc etc (etc etc etc etc). To get around this, when I travel I pack a separate carry on suitcase that has all Frankie’s things in it, which I then take on the plane. Meaning I have ALL her stuff with me at all times. This sounds silly but it gives me such piece of mind, because I don’t have to worry about having enough clothes for her or taking enough nappies. I got it all!
A quick list…
In case you don’t want to take all your baby’s things on the plane, a quick list of stuff you need includes:
- Nappies – I usually take 5 or so for a 12 hour trip, but some people say as many as 1 per hour.
- Two changes of clothes for the baby
- A change of clothes for you
- Hand sanitiser
- Baby pain reliever – in case of sore ears, make sure you’ve tested it on them before flying.
- Dummy and clip/string to attach to them.
- A few toys/books
- Teething rusks or food (if your baby is eating).
Get organised with your carry on luggage – it makes life so much easier! A few different zip up bags are great for compartmentalising things, and are useful for when you only have one hand, which will be pretty much the whole time when flying on your own with a baby!
Although technically part of ‘things’ I think blankets deserve a call out of their own… Because they are so so useful. As feeding covers, keeping warm, propping baby up in a seat, as a change table cover etc. More is more in the blanket department. I have a few different ones that I take, but I like these large muslins clothes, this soft blanket and also this is a fancy one that I was given and it so sooo nice. Natural, breathable fabrics are even more important when you’re flying because the temperature can change a lot!
How to gear up
One of the most difficult things when travelling alone is streamlining what you need to the point where you are comfortable walk miles and carry the baby. After a few not so good attempts at packing for the flight, here’s my approach:
- I check the pram in as luggage.
- I put Frankie in the baby carrier (I use the Ergo 360).
- I take a small carry on suitcase with all her stuff in it (I also add in my lap top and camera).
- I take an extra small tote to put my wallet, phone, passports and nappy bag in. This bag is also useful for corralling her stuff on the plane if your luggage needs to be in the compartment.
I don’t take the stroller to the gate, I just find it easier to carry Frankie in the harness, and I also avoid using a backpack because I find that difficult when I have the baby carrier on. Phew!
Tough it out in the bathroom
Ok so you didn’t think being a parent would be without its pitfalls, right? One of those is trying to use the bathroom when you have a baby on the plane alone. You can definitely ask the air hostess to hold your baby, but usually I just take Frankie in with me and hold her… Not ideal but nor is childbirth and we get through that, right? 🙂
No matter how bad it is, always remember that there is an end point. You’re not going to be stuck on the plane forever. On a recent flight I forgot the baby pain reliever and Frankie chose that day to start teething. She didn’t sleep a wink the whole 9 hours and just cried and cried…. I wanted to cry too by the end but you know what? It didn’t last forever. So no matter how bad it gets, you’ll be fine! Worse case, it always makes for a good story.
Finally, don’t be mad if people aren’t that excited to sit next to you when you have a baby, I’m sure you didn’t love the idea of a long haul with a child next to you before you had your own!