So the time has come… for baby’s first trip on an airplane! Should you simply accept the fact that this is going to be the day from hell?! Or is there ANYTHING that you can do to make the whole experience more bearable (perhaps even enjoyable!) for everyone involved?
Hint: Yes, there is! I’m afraid this does not involve a magic wand that teleports you to your destination (unfortunately), but I can offer some helpful tips to make flying with baby more stress-free for all.
“At last, she’s asleep! Time to start up the in-flight entertainment system!”
Traveling with baby does not mean you have to take a 2 week supply of diapers or 50 burp cloths (Thank goodness!) Efficient packing means taking the essentials, whilst keeping your luggage as light and compact as possible.
Always take less than you think you’ll need! Try taking only a week supply of clothes and then wash at your destination. Take diapers, wipes and baby food for the first few days only and then buy at your destination – or you could order online and have them sent to where you are staying. Take a small number of toys and books, so that baby has familiar things around her – but don’t take the whole toy box! Use lightweight bags and cases, to save on weight.
Decide which of the ‘big things’ – stroller, car seat, high chair, travel crib – you need to take and which you can borrow or rent when you get there. This will depend on where you are going and where you are staying. Either way, leave out your bulky stroller – you’ll likely have to check it and you may risk getting it damaged. (It’s also a pain in the ass to haul around – hear the voice of experience!) Buy a cheap ‘umbrella stroller’ for the trip, or rent or borrow a stroller when you arrive. A lightweight umbrella stroller is useful at the airport and can be checked at the gate – usually in addition to your luggage allowance. If your baby is still small, you may want to skip the stroller altogether and just take a baby carrier. If you need to take your car seat, you can usually check this in addition to your luggage allowance. Or if you have purchased a seat for baby, you can usually bring it on board if it’s been approved for air travel – check with your airline.
Baby’s Plane Bag
Pack a separate bag for any of baby’s things that you need to take on the flight. If baby is traveling ‘in lap’ you could even put all of baby’s luggage in this bag – so you only need to check your own luggage, plus have all of baby’s things to hand. If you decide to do this, you might want to also pack a small ‘easy access’ bag for things that you need to reach quickly on the flight – diapers, baby food etc. Whichever you decide, by keeping baby’s things separate from your other luggage, you can be sure that you won’t forget anything essential for baby on the flight. Be sure to leave out any unnecessary liquids, like baby shampoo or lotion though. You can only take 100ml bottles of liquid through airport security (with the exception of milk and baby food) – so unless you really need it on the plane, pack baby’s toiletries with your own instead.
Consider the length of the flight when packing baby’s bag/s and allow for time before and after the flight, as well as possible delays. You don’t need to go over board, but just have a few spare things in case. If baby spits up a lot, also put in spare shirt for yourself! You may need to adjust the quantities I have suggested.
Include the following in baby’s plane bag/s:
- Spare clothes – 1 or 2 sets
- Pajamas and Sleep sack – to recreate bedtime or naptime
- 1 or 2 small familiar toys
- 1 or 2 small new toys
- 1 or 2 familiar books
- 1 or 2 new books
- 1 or 2 burp cloths
- 1 or 2 bibs
- Diapers/Nappies – enough for the travel time, plus 3 or 4 spare
- Wipes – a small packet
- Change pad – take one of the thin, folded ‘diaper bag’ style pads, for quick changes anywhere
- Bottles (if needed) – enough for the travel time, plus 2 or 3 spare. Fill bottles with dry powder, so you only need to add water on the airplane. Staff will usually warm bottles if needed – though don’t expect more than that!
- Food and snacks (if on solids) – enough for the travel time, plus 2 or 3 spare meals or snacks. You are allowed to take ‘reasonable quantities’ of food and drink for baby – which you will need to show at the security check. Pack pureed pouches, rather than jars – to save weight. This is a good time to go ‘shop bought’ for convenience, though you could take homemade puree in small tubs if you wanted to. If baby is used to homemade baby food, but you want to take bought purees, try some out in advance to check they agree with her. For self feeding babies or toddlers –pack some sandwiches, rice cakes etc to make life easy. Whilst we are on the subject of food – put in a few snacks for yourself too!
- Pacifiers/dummies – if baby uses them
Allow Extra Time
Giving yourself extra time to do everything dramatically reduces stress and makes the whole experience more leisurely.
Check in online in advance (this goes without saying!) Get to the airport an hour earlier than needed – to avoid any queues, give yourself time to change and feed baby and have a coffee and relax!
If you have a long journey to the airport either side of your flight, consider staying at an airport hotel the night before. Sometimes you can get deals on hotels and parking combined – especially useful if you are leaving your car at the airport whilst away. Already being at the airport takes a huge stress away – it is often the dash to the airport that creates anxiety. Plus it breaks up the travel time – especially good before a long flight.
Don’t rush to get on the plane – you’ll be sat there long enough. Even if parents and children are called to board first, take your time and minimize the time you are sat on the plane. If possible do a last diaper change just before boarding. Tip: Use night time diapers for extra absorbency!
On the Plane
It’s always worth asking if the bulkhead seats are available – these give you some extra space when with baby, although remember you won’t be able to put a bag under the seat in front. If you want to use one of the airlines onboard cots, then make sure to book in advance.
Give baby a breastfeed, bottle or pacifier during take off and landing – the sucking will help equalize any pressure in the ears. Briefly introduce baby to people who are sitting around you – people tend to be more sympathetic to any crying when they know who it’s coming from, plus if you’re lucky they may help entertain baby! Try to get baby to sleep when they normally would if you can, even if this means rocking or feeding to sleep – a rested baby is much less cranky. But don’t stress if they just won’t sleep – they’ll catch up when you get there. Little M is a terrible sleeper on airplanes – there’s too much going on! Try to also get some rest yourself if you can!
Finally and most importantly, don’t forget to smile! Even if there is the odd hiccup, try to treat the whole day with good humor and everything will go much more smoothly. Babies are quick to pick up on tension, so try to stay relaxed and it will rub off on baby – and perhaps on your fellow travelers! Have a great flight – keep smiling and you’ll be there before you know it.
Do you have any other words of wisdom on flying with baby? Any stories from the air to share?
Disclosure: This post contains some affiliate links, however all opinions are entirely my own.