Anticipating flying with a baby can make someone very anxious. Flying in itself can be quite hectic with security, loads of baggage, knowing where to go, and making sure to be on time. Just thinking about adding a baby to the mix can be scary. I have made three long haul international flights with my son, each over 24 hours traveling, all by the time he was eight months old. Also, it was by myself. Each and every time I was about to make one of these flights by myself, I would have a mini anxiety attack and think long and hard about my life decisions. In the end, we always ended up alive! I found that being prepared is half of the battle. Here are some tips that helped me get through those flights.
Less is More
When traveling with a baby, it can be tempting to try and think of every little thing they might possibly need in hopes that it will make the trip easier. You might think bringing 10 of their favorite toys, their favorite sound soother, an I Pad, five pacifiers, and 8 outfits will all make the flight go smoother because you just never know what they might need. All babies are different, but for my son I found that just a few toys will keep him occupied and a couple of apps on my phone will entertain him for 15 minutes at a time. Once they get older an I Pad might be more useful. I found that my son’s attention span is usually pretty short when it comes to things, and he would much rather just me play with him or hold him anyways. When you have too much stuff, I found that it is actually more stressful to try and keep track of it all. If you have less stuff, it is also easier to get what you need when you need it. There is nothing worse than having to comb through a bunch of crap in a tiny enclosed space while your baby is screaming in your face. After making these flights there are only a couple of things I found I need for baby.
- Diapers: however many you usually use for the amount of time you will be traveling
- Wipes: obviously
- Two bibs
- Baby food
- Two burp cloths
- 2-3 toys
- Baby apps on your phone
- A pacifier or something to chew on for when the plane takes off
- Nursing cover or formula
- Two extra outfits, one pair of pajamas
- Ergo baby carrier
- Children’s Benadryl
- Baby Ibuprofen if teething
Those are main necessary items I have found I needed. I have been able to fit all of these items into one diaper bag except for the baby carrier. I have flown with a diaper bag and a carry on and I have found it is just easier to take only your diaper bag if you are able to fit everything. As far as strollers I go, I have found that unless you have a long layover, (more than 1.5-2 hours), I would just carry your baby in the carrier so you don’t even have to mess with the stroller.
Fly at Night
The key to having an okay flight with a baby: fly when they usually sleep! This can be the difference between the flight from Hell and an easy flight. If they are able to sleep in unusual and loud places, that is even better. If you have an older baby and they will just NOT go to sleep, you can give them children’s Benadryl after consulting your pediatrician. Although the box says not to give to children under two, my pediatrician said it would be okay to give him half a tablespoon to help him sleep. I had it on hand just in case I needed it but luckily I did not have to use it. No I am not advocating drugging your child, but if you have tried everything and your baby will not sleep, it may be better and make for a happier baby and you in the long run if your baby is able to get a good nights sleep! Make sure you test it out on your baby before the flight since sometimes Benadryl has the opposite effect on children and will make them hyper! Another key to your baby sleeping well: try to keep it as similar to how they sleep at home to on the plane. If they sleep in a certain sleep sack, bring it. Which brings me to my next topic: try to get the bassinet seat.
The bassinet seat verses car seat verses lap seat: Which is best?
I have flown in all different scenarios and I have found that the bassinet is definitely preferable! It is where baby is the most comfortable and able to sleep the best. It is nice to have them in the bassinet seat and be able to eat and go to the bathroom without having to worry. If your baby is able to sit up, you can also feed them baby food in it. If you have the bassinet seat, you are pretty much set for the most part. The bulk head bassinet seats are great since you also have more leg room and space for them to possibly crawl if they are just so antsy! The only thing that is frustrating is that you are supposed to take your baby out of the bassinet when it is turbulent. If you had a rough time putting them to sleep and a flight attendant tells you to take them out, you just might want to throat punch them. 😀 I recommend doing your research before you even book a flight to see if a bassinet is available. I have found that Delta does not prioritize babies for the bassinet: I had to beg for a seat on a 17 hour flight and none of the other babies on the flight had a bassinet! I have flown Eva airlines and found that there were only two bassinet seats available and they were already booked, which drove me to buy his own seat: a pricey option. I just couldn’t imagine holding my son in my lap for 17 hours by myself. I have found that Qatar airlines doesn’t even have the bassinet seats available to book online unless you have a baby. I am not sure about other airlines, but from now on I will be flying Qatar.
If you can’t get a bassinet, is it worth it to buy their own seat?
For me, it wasn’t worth the extra 800 bucks since he doesn’t sleep very well in his car seat. He would sleep for an hour at a time and wake up super uncomfortable. For more of the flight, he was in my lap anyways and slept better that way. He wouldn’t sit for very long in his car seat until he got super restless and wanted to play. I also found it was pretty hard for me being by myself to haul a car seat through the connecting airports. However, every baby is different and if your baby sleeps well for long periods of time in a car seat, it may be worth it. I did buy this car seat cart which made it way easier to haul it through an airport. If you have an infant car seat and travel system stroller that you gate check when you get on the plane, this would be even better.
Sleep when the baby sleeps… or else you never will!
When your baby is finally asleep, don’t be scared to go to sleep yourself, as long as they are securely fastened. In the bassinet seat, put the baby seat belt on, buckle their car seat, or make sure they are securely cuddled up in your lap.
The younger the baby, the better
The older your baby gets, the harder it actually is to travel. I traveled when Ben was 7 weeks old and it was an easy flight since he slept the whole time, didn’t need much stimulation, and wasn’t active yet. I traveled again when he was 7 months old and there was a huge difference! He is at the age where he is exploring and trying new things, crawling everywhere, and pulling himself up on everything. He needed way more stimulation on the plane and got very restless. Which brings me to my next point: when they are active, take every opportunity you can to let them crawl.
Let them crawl where you can!
Of course it isn’t ideal to let your baby crawl all over a nasty germ infested airport or airplane floor. Pick your poison: a crazy hyper and miserable baby, or letting them crawl over a nasty floor. I pick the former 🙂 When Ben was literally crawling up me, I would put him on the floor underneath my seat and let him sit up on the floor, or stand up while holding onto my knees. When I had a bulk head seat, there was plenty of leg room to let him crawl and pull himself up on the magazine pocket. At the airport on a layover or just waiting to board a plane it is a good idea to let them crawl in a small clean looking area to get their energy out. Bring hand sanitizer and/or disinfecting wipes to wipe down their hands after crawling. On one of my connecting flights through the Taipei airport I was delighted to see they had nursery rooms. There were cribs, free diapers, and nursing rooms. I was so happy to nurse him and let him crawl around for an hour after a long 16 hour leg before having to get on another 5 hour flight.
Baby carriers are your best friend
As I mentioned before, the Ergo baby carrier saved my life while I was traveling by myself. If you don’t have any long lay overs it may be better to just check your stroller with your bags. You have free hands to eat and go to the bathroom, and you can usually just walk through security without having to remove them from the carrier or mess with a stroller.
Well there you go! Whether you are traveling with your baby or entire family, you can have a great flight! I believe in you 🙂