Traveling Parents' Forum: Flying with a Baby

Monday, December 21, 2015


Welcome to the fourth session of the Traveling Parents' Forum! Today I've got six incredibly knowledgeable Mom's joining me to share experiences and tips about flying with children. Here you'll find tips for short and long flights with infants, toddlers, older children, and multiple children. 

Throughout the series we'll be sharing our tips, favorite products, and looking to each other for advice to make traveling with little ones easier. If you have any questions or would like to share your experience please write it in the comments below! Also, if you have written a post(s) on a similar topic feel free to add the link in the comments. You can also join our group Pinterest board to post your own articles or ones you've found helpful. Just follow our Pinterest accounts and message me to add you to the board. The more information we have the better we can travel - at least that's what I think!


We'll be chatting about a new topic on the third Monday of every month. Today's topic is 'Flying with a Baby'

December 21: Flying with a baby/child
January 18: Child jet lag
February 22: Items to make travel easier
March 21: Traveling without your child
April 18: Moving/living abroad with your child



Frankie





"My partner and I just took our four month old son on his first flight and although it was a very short flight (Amsterdam to London, which is just under an hour in the air) it went much, much better than I expected. In fact, the biggest problem we had was heavy turbulence which triggered my travel sickness, so you could say our baby did better than I did! On the way back to Amsterdam I travelled with Otis on my own and again he was fantastic; took a dummy on take-off and landing, only cried for a few minutes and didn't ruin any clothes with puke or poop! My biggest fear, of course, was ruining other peoples' journeys with a screaming baby because as we all know sometimes young babies just cry for no reason and don't stop until they're done. But actually - even though Otis didn't have a meltdown - I noticed that most other people on the plane would smile at us as we boarded or they walked past our seat, rather than frown or look annoyed. So take some comfort in knowing that many people like babies, a lot of people have been in your shoes and most people are rooting for you and your family, not looking for the ejector seat button.

"Practically speaking, it goes without saying that when travelling with a baby you can make your life a lot easier by only having real essentials with you for the journey. You can't underestimate how much easier it is to travel with (or without!) a child when you only have one or two bags, as opposed to three or four. It's not only less weight to carry but you're less likely to lose things when you really need them - we had to do a very urgent nappy change on our flight so misplacing nappies and wipes would have been a very smelly nightmare! - I had one checked-in bag and one hand luggage bag when I was travelling on my own and that meant I could carry all my bags and my baby in a carrier fairly easily. Remember you can always buy more of what you need once you get to your destination. The baby carrier was a definite lifesaver as it freed up my hands and also encouraged Otis to sleep as much as possible and at both Schiphol and Heathrow airports I was permitted to go through security with him still in the carrier - this helped a lot! (We were lucky enough to borrow a stroller from a family member when we were back in the UK and I would personally definitely look into hiring kit like this rather than lugging it on and off planes.)

Finally, relax. After getting really anxious before our first flight, once we'd boarded and were pointing out all the other planes on the tarmac to our baby boy and later trying to show him the clouds, I actually realised how much fun travelling with kids could be. It's essentially like you're looking at travel for the first time yourself and that's sort of exciting. Yes, and exhausting, but exciting too!" 

Frankie has an infant and blogs about Amsterdam, travels, and writing on As the Bird Flies and Travelettes. Frankie is writing from Amsterdam, The Netherlands. You can find more from Frankie on her blogTwitterInstagramPinterest, and Facebook.


Emma



A photo posted by Emma (@bavariansojourn) on



Flying with children needn't be the ordeal that you imagine it to be.   A little organisation (and perhaps some gin for you) beforehand and it can even be pleasant in parts (even if those parts are usually when everyone's fallen asleep!)...   Here are a few pointers, and a few items you definitely don't want to be without...

  • Pack plenty of baby wipes.   You won't believe how useful they can be!
  • Take different snacks your little ones don't usually have - definitely no chocolate though, you will be dealing with enough mess, believe me!
  • Sneak a couple of  lollipops (sugar free if necessary, and obviously if they are old enough) in your bag.    Little ears suffer with the air pressure on take off and landing, and sucking can help - just make sure you insist on a no crunching rule!
  • Choose comics, activity books and things like sticker mosaic kits (which were a big flying favourite in our house), these all help pass the time (don't dish them out all at once either!);
  • Split siblings up.  Not letting them sit next to each other can prevent arguments.  Plus, if you sit in the middle you can split your time between them;
  • Have a rest.   If you are travelling with your partner or someone else, book a seat a row or two away and share the childcare (when it's your turn to have a break, if you are really lucky, you can get away with pretending to be asleep!!);
  • Prevent arguments over the window seat by making children take turns.   My two will usually agree on who sits next to it on the way out and on the way back, and if they don't, then I sit next to it!
  • Take a few plastic bags for rubbish;
  • Take a spare change of clothes for you as well as the children.  A hastily found pair of club class pyjamas to replace clothes that have been projectile vomited over is not a good look - trust me!
  • Keep an eye on the toilet queue, and regularly ask if small people need to go.  This will prevent toilet emergencies when they can't leave their seats i.e. during turbulence or landing etc.
  • Invest in a few audio books.   These can be really useful at bedtime and for when they have reached screen saturation point!
And last, but by no means least.  Remember that if all else fails, you will never see your fellow passengers again!!

Emma has three children. She blogs over at Bavarian Sojourn and is writing from Bavaria, Germany. You can find more from Emma on her blogPinterest, and Instagram.

Roshan



Flying with an infant is different at different ages. Babies are easiest, but you may be the more stressed one as a first time parent. Water and food for children is allowed, so take as much as you will need for the trip and then double it. Same advice goes for nappies and spare clothes as you never know when you are going to be stuck on the runway or in an airport.

Between baby and toddler was a horrible age to fly with my daughter, as she was too big to sleep all the time, but too small to just sit and watch TV. She was labour intensive as I had to get up and walk her up and down the aisles endlessly, so was exhausted at the end of each flight. Having a backup parent or enlisting the help of the air hostesses is advised.

Flying solo with your infant is also a good experience in surprising yourself with just how strong and capable you are. This happened to me when I went to Singapore with my daughter when she was 9 months old. See http://iwilltravelblog.com/singapore-land-tropical-fruit-humidity-merlion/



Roshan has a three year old and blogs about her travels at Roshan's Ramblings. Roshan is writing from Australia. You can find more from Roshan on her blogTwitterInstagram, and Pinterest.


Marianne




Flying for the first time with a baby can be a daunting prospect. But the thing I always say is “it’s never as bad as you think it will be”. I have flown multiple times a year with my kids since my first-born was just 10 weeks old, and I am always pleasantly surprised by how un-stressful it really is.

There are several things you can do to help ease your passage, and a bit of preparation will certainly make your life a lot easier. Firstly – try to book the bulkhead seats. These are the seats at the front of the cabin, which mean that you can get a bassinet to put your baby in – essential for a long haul overnight flight – and also have extra legroom for storing all that baby paraphernalia. Once your children get older though – bear in mind that the arm rests don’t move on the bulkhead seat row and so you can’t let your kids stretch out properly.

The most essential item you can buy is a baby carrier - It frees up your hands to carry all that extra hand luggage – and can be a real help in trying to get the baby to sleep while you walk up and down the aisle. Even if you have a baby carrier, I would still advise checking your buggy at the gate rather than with your luggage so you don’t have to carry your baby (and hand luggage) through the airport.

Other advice for flying with a baby – try to organize your flight to co-incide with nap times; pack changes of clothing for everyone (several for a small baby); don’t forget baby’s teddy or snuggly; and feed during take-off and landing to help baby’s ears equalize.

For older children – I have two words of advice: iPad and snacks!


Marianne travels regularly with her four-year old daughter and two-year old son, and blogs about family travel at Mum on the Move. You can see more about her travels on TwitterInstagram, orPinterest.


Andrea




We have flown a lot with William, both short and long haul flights.  There are a number of things that are good to know in advance, which might make the journey a bit easier.

Book a bassinet for the flight.  Bassinets are not available on all planes or for all flights, but they come in handy if you are able to get one.  We used one when we flew with Air Canada from London to Edmonton, Alberta.  William was 8 months old and we just made the cut off.  The child has to be under 25 lbs and is not supposed to be able to sit on their own.  William could not get to a sitting position from lying down on his own, so we requested the bassinet.  They are usually in an aisle that has more room and they attach to the wall or seat in front of you.   It did not cost us anything to have the bassinet, although my husband had to upgrade to a preferred seat if he wanted to sit beside me because this was the aisle with more legroom.  I did not have to pay to sit in that row or have the bassinet. 

Pack light and be organized.  In terms of items that you will carry on to the plane with you, I suggest paring down to the minimum essentials and having them well organized in something easy to carry like a backpack.  If your baby is prone to diaper “blow outs”, I would bring an extra outfit and lots of diapers.  Make sure to bring whatever food/milk your baby is currently taking.  Baby food in liquid form is allowed through security.  Pack a few small but captivating toys to keep your child busy. Packing light also comes in handy when you are going through airport security and boarding the plane.  You will have to remove all items from under the stroller to put through security and possibly take the baby out of the stroller as well.  If you are gate checking the stroller, you will have to fold it down at some point to hand off to staff, so it makes things much easier if you don’t have a lot of things to carry around.

Wear a baby carrier.  Even though you might be bringing a stroller for your child, if you have a baby carrier, I recommend bringing it.  You can wear your child in it when you go through security and as you board the plane.  Some people who have very easily collapsible strollers keep their child in it right up until they board the plane and fold it down at the door.  We have a larger stroller and a travel bag for it, so we prefer to pack it up ahead of time before we board the plane. 

Nurse/feed baby on take off and landing.  If your child is still drinking milk, I recommend feeding to avoid any ear discomfort.  During our first flight, I attempted to hold William off until we took off.  But now I just feed him as soon as he is restless, even if we are still sitting on the tarmac. He has fallen asleep a few times before take off and was ok even though he was no longer sucking.  Everyone knows his or her child best, but I found it was better to feed him before he got really upset, even if the plane hadn’t taken off yet.

Try to stick to your usual schedule.  It’s easy to loose track of time when sitting on a plane for endless hours.  When we do long distance flights, we wear a watch with the time of “home” or the city we left and use it to keep track of when William should be eating a meal, having a bottle, or attempting a nap.

All of this becomes that much more difficult if you are doing this trip solo with your baby!  I flew one way from Edmonton to London and it went all right.  I just made sure to be organized and gave myself lots of time.  I had help from family getting my luggage to the check-in counter.  At the gate, I left William in his car seat as I folded down the stroller and then got him organized in the baby carrier.  Luckily, during the flight I got him to sleep for about half of it and put him in the bassinet as I ate my meals and tried to get some sleep myself.  I had my neighbor keep an eye on him in the bassinet as I got up to stretch and use the washroom.

I don’t have that much advice about baby jet lag other than to say it sucks!  William was affected quite badly when we came back from Canada.  He would wake at about 1:00AM and want to play until 4:00AM.  We would take him out of his nursery in a dimly lit room and preoccupy him with quiet toys (no flashing lights or music) until he was tired again and then I would nurse him back to sleep.  They say jet lag usually lasts for as many days as the number of hours of time change you flew through. 


Andrea is joining us from London where she lives with her husband and 11 month old. You can find more on her blog, In Love In London, or on Instagram.



Elizabeth




Since I'm the lucky host of this forum I was able to read all of these flying tips prior to our overseas flight (from Vilnius to Boston with a stop in Frankfurt). These traveling moms know that they are talking about! From Frankie and Marianne I learned that popping the baby in a carrier is the easiest way to go through an airport (and encourage sleep). This worked wonders for us when Baby ISO was overtired and getting a bit cranky. From Emma and Roshan I learned that I should take extra clothes and tons of wipes (we also brought extra bibs as the Baby ISO is a bit drooly at the moment). We listened and messes were averted! And from Andrea I learned to book my seats early to get a bulkhead with space for a bassinet.

Following this advice we made it without any major meltdowns! I count that as a win when it comes to traveling. Reserving your seats in advance for the bulkhead gives you much more space even if you don't get a bassinet. We were really counting on that bassinet, but unfortunately the tv was too low, so even though we paid to book the seats we didn't get it. It was pretty exhausting holding a baby for the entire flight, so if you are traveling with someone sharing the holding is really helpful. Also, I'd suggest bringing a large scarf that can be used as a baby blanket, a nursing cover, or to block the light from a particularly bright tv. On our doctor's suggestion, we brought baby nasal decongestion drops. I didn't think we'd need them, but after the first leg of our flight and the dry air we needed them.

My last, and perhaps most important, tip is to bring snacks for yourself.

I have a 4.5 month old and I write from Vilnius, Lithuania on In Search Of. You can find more on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and Pinterest.


Follow Elizabeth @ In Search Of's board Traveling with Children on Pinterest.

What are your tips for flying with a baby? Feel free to share your experiences, both good and bad, below.

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