This is a guest post by Nicola from Jetlag and Mayhem travel blog.
As soon as a baby toting parent steps on board the plane, there’s a collective groan from passengers followed by an audible sigh of relief as you pass by their row of seats.
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Part of the stress of flying with a baby is becoming too concerned by what other people think. Whilst it’s right to be considerate, put yourself in a calm frame of mind and smile. The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your baby will be.
Living overseas, my babies have racked up more longhaul flights in their first year than some people do in a lifetime.
Some were plain sailing, others were plain horrible but here are my top tips:
Planning Your Flight
Pick a flight time that works for you. If the timetable allows, I prefer to fly overnight so that (fingers crossed) the kids will sleep for a large chunk of it.
Not all airlines provide these but where you can, try to book a bassinet. Bassinet seats are located in the bulkhead and the Flight Attendant will install it once the plane is at cruising altitude. Planes carry a limited supply of bassinets and normally prioritise those with younger babies (although I have never had a problem getting one). Some airlines have both a traditional ‘box’ style bassinet and also a car seat for older babies. Even if you are not going to use the bassinet, it’s nice to have it as an extra space for baby to play in and also as storage.
What to pack in hand luggage
Expect the unexpected and factor in a delay. Always bring more nappies and milk than you think you’ll need. Don’t throw in your junk haphazardly – print off a packing list like mine! [PDF]
If your baby is bottle fed, bring plenty of sterilized bottles and a mix of powdered and ready made formula. Security rules vary but expect to open and taste 50% of the liquids you are carrying. You might prefer to reserve liquid formula in advance from a store airside to pick up after security e.g. Boots at London’s Heathrow.
Make sure you pack all your baby’s documentation especially if you do not share the same surname. I always bring a copy of the birth certificate.
Bring your baby carrier/sling. This will come in handy the moment you have to give up your stroller as you might have a long walk to/from the plane. Don’t rely on being able to pick up your stroller at the aircraft door as airport regulations vary and you may have to wait until the luggage carousel.
On The Plane
As soon as you get onboard, smile at everyone you see and let them see how cute your baby is! Despite a few eye rolling passengers, I’ve found most people are sympathetic to the plight of a parent (especially flying solo) with a baby. I’ve even had neighboring passengers offer to look after and play with baby while I’ve nipped to the toilet or tried to grab a few minutes of sleep.
During take off and landing, the change in cabin pressure might trigger some ear pain in your baby. To equalize the pressure, have them suck, whether that’s through feeding or with a pacifier. I often find feeding a baby on take off makes them sleepy and might buy you some peace and quiet for the first few hours of the flight.
Entertaining baby on the plane
On the upside, babies will nap more frequently than toddlers. On the downside, their attention span won’t allow them to sit in front of a movie or play with stickers for a lengthy period of time! My favorite toys for babies on a plane are; tearing up the in flight magazine, books with flaps, sensory toys e.g. with mirrors, teething rings, cups and a pack of straws.
For older babies, snacks are a great way to keep them occupied. Bring a stock of teething biscuits, apple rings, soft cooked veggies, fruit pouches or bread rolls.
Getting baby to sleep on the plane
Don’t stress about sticking to your baby’s usual routine. Allow them to go with the flow but as soon as you spot tired signs, try to help them on their way. I always pack a black shawl so that I can create blackout over the bassinet or baby carrier in case the cabin lights are blaring brightly. If baby won’t sleep in the bassinet, strap them into the baby carrier/sling and go for a walk up and down the plane.
Do enjoy flying longhaul with your baby! The move into toddler stage presents a whole new host of fun and games but I’ll save that advice for next time….
Originally from London, Nicola has been living in Asia for the past nine years. She has always been a traveler, from backpacking the globe to seeking out Asia’s finer luxury destinations. After becoming Mum to two little girls (and now globetrotters in their own right!) she wanted to share her tips on making traveling with kids easier. You can find her kids travel advice site at Jetlag and Mayhem and follow her on Twitter.