The idea of boarding a plane for a 24-hour long-haul flight with a baby in tow would probably fill most people with horror! However, with a little bit of careful planning, it can be done. With family and friends living overseas, I have flown economy class with four children in tow several times over the past few years. Whilst it has been an adventure (to say the least!) I have found that babies and young children are surprisingly adaptable and it is very do-able if you are well organized.
Top Tips For Plane Travel With A Baby
Here are some useful tips that I have gathered from my own experience and the experience of other moms for plane travel with a baby:
- Everyone in the family will need a passport and you will need to find out what is required in the way of visa/s.
- Check with your doctor for any medical requirements or vaccinations needed, depending on where you are traveling. Children under 18 months are generally not given travel related needles!
When visiting friends in Vanuatu my entire family was required to take anti-malarial medication. This is apparently available in a syrup form but on this occasion, it was tablets for all. Children are subscribed smaller amounts which usually means breaking the tablets up so you might want to invest in a pill-cutter to make the task easier. Also if you’re traveling to a country in which malaria is endemic remember to take plenty of insect repellent and lightweight clothes to cover up in the evening.
Some parents are reluctant to travel with a small baby because they think they’ll need to carry around too much heavy gear! However it is possible to travel with a minimum of baby products and there is a huge range of specialized baby travel gear on the market today, all designed to make your trip much easier than you think. This includes lightweight portable travel costs, quick-fold strollers, baby slings or backpack style carriers that can be handy for carrying a baby around the airport.
Do a little research before you book to find out which airlines are good at dealing with children.
Some airlines have sky cots and others will allow you to take a buggy or stroller onto the plane as hand luggage. They may even allow you to use your car seat (if it is a suitable type) as a restraint for your child. Check the airline website for more information or ask your travel agent what facilities are available for babies and children before you set off.
Children under 2 years who do not occupy a seat generally travel for free (so make the most of this time!)
Take a look at your baby’s schedule and see if you can book a flight for your baby’s sleepiest time. Children will usually sleep better on long -haul flights at night. If you have a very long flight, consider breaking up your trip with a stop-over along the way.
Some airlines let you check in online, so you can book your preferred seats from home. This can save time when you get to the airport as you can usually join a fast-track queue to hand over your checked luggage…
Consider getting an aisle seat so you can get up more easily for diaper changes or to walk around with a fussy baby without having to climb over the people next to you every time. Alternatively, many mothers prefer to get the window seat so they have more privacy for nursing.
What To Pack
Use the Internet to help research the expected weather for the country you are visiting, at a particular time of year, or check the predicted weather forecast for the time you are traveling.
Have a strategically packed carry-on bag such as a large backpack that can hold your wallet, travel documents, snacks, diapers, baby wipes and a spare change of clothes for the baby. Take some plastic bags along for rubbish, soiled clothing or diapers, until you can dispose of them.
Check the airline website to make sure your bag meets airline specifications for carry-on baggage size.
I learned to take a change of clothes on board for all my children, not just the baby after my oldest son decided to throw up all over himself on a trip that had several stops and flights. I had actually debated packing a change of clothes for everyone before we left but decided it was too much to carry and only packed a change for the baby. Bad mistake!
Pack any medication such as baby paracetamol or ibuprofen with a dosing spoon or dropper.
Pack enough essential supplies for the first few days after you arrive. This allows you to get over jet lag without worrying about finding a store.
At The Airport
Allow plenty of time to get to the airport and try to get there at least 60 minutes early in case your baby needs a feed, a diaper change or a whole change of clothes! It is a good idea to dress a baby in layers for air travel. That way you can easily take layers off or put them back on if the temperature in the plane feels a little cool.
One mom suggests dressing young children in bright colors so they can be easily spotted if they do wander off at the airport. Another parent suggests putting your contact details on a luggage tag and attaching to it to a belt loop on your child’s pants. Don’t be afraid to use a safety harness if it will keep your child safe.
Airports sometimes offer a “meet and assist” service so you can be assisted with your children and bags all the way to the plane. It will depend on the availability of staff but, if you are traveling solo with more than one child, you should be given priority.
Some airlines will allow you to gate-check your stroller which means you leave the stroller at the gate before you board the plane and it will be waiting for you when you exit the plane at the other end. This is very convenient if you need the stroller for a connecting flight.
Alternatively, you might prefer to carry your baby in a sling or backpack carrier when at the airport so you can be “hands-free” to check in luggage and navigate the pedestrian traffic.
Most airlines will let parents traveling with babies and toddlers to board the plane first giving you extra time to install a car seat and get young children organized and settled.
During The Flight
Flying can cause air to expand in the middle ear and sinuses which can be painful for babies and infants because of their smaller ear passages. Breastfeed or give your child a dummy or a bottle during takeoff and landing to help prevent sore ears. Toddlers also find it helpful to suck on something or have a drink during take-off and landing.
Pack some snack foods including finger foods, individually wrapped for easy access, and small jars or sachets of prepared baby food. If you don’t want to clean up too much gear during your trip shop around for disposable items like plastic cups and utensils or eco-friendly biodegradable disposable bibs.
It is always a good idea to buy a few new toys to keep as a surprise so baby can be entertained during the long and boring bits of the journey. Depending on the age of your baby this might be something like plastic keys, teething rings, a new rattle, “touch and feel” or pop-up books, small toy cars, a puppet or a soft toy.
Older children can be entertained with small toys such as plastic farm animals or toy cars, new sticker books and puzzle books. Older children might like to take their own small backpack with a favorite toy and you can pack a few “new” toys from the $2 shop.
Other parents suggest a portable DVD player with headphones. Invest in a pair of headphones that sit snugly on your child’s head as the earplug type don’t always work that well with little ones. An iPod or iPad loaded with games and movies is also a good idea if you have one of these.
Fill in your immigration cards before the plane lands. Fill out every section and don’t forget to sign it. This saves a lot of time at the immigration control gate after you land.
Finally, be flexible, have fun and enjoy the time with your baby and children.
“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million“
Do you have other great tips for traveling on a plane with a baby? Please share your ideas here!