By the time my daughter hit her first birthday, she had flown on a total of 19 different flights to 5 countries, 7 states, and 3 islands. We boarded a 78 passenger aircraft in Greece, the 787 Dreamliner overnight flight to Los Angeles, took multiple domestic flights around America, Europe, and Australia; we flew business, premium, and economy.
Can anyone say jet lag?
My partner and I were both avid travellers well before having a baby. We decided very early on that this life changing journey would not slow us down by any means. When I learned children under 23 months could fly for free on domestic flights or cost a small fraction for international travel, I decided to take full advantage. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to travel around the world while on a year maternity leave.
Babies rapidly change and develop more in the first year of life than at any other time. Therefore no two flights were the same, each flight was different and unique in its own way. My daughter had been on a plane at nearly every developmental stage of her life. Here are just a few tips and ticks I’ve learned when traveling the first 12 months.
1. The Younger The Better
We took our first flight as a family of three when our daughter was just shy of 8 weeks old. A short 1 hour 35 minute flight proved to be just the sort of trial run we needed before embarking on one of the many long-haul flights to come. We learned what to pack in our carry on, how to efficiently get through security, and quickly learned that the airplane cabin white noise is a godsend.
When our daughter was 12 weeks old we boarded the dreamliner and flew 12 hours and 40 minutes. It was deceptively easy, when we landed passengers gave us a standing ovation. The hardest obstacle was making sure our little one would stay awake to nurse during landing and take off — this is a necessity for their ears.
2. Always Request A Bassinet For Long Haul Flights
Bassinets may be requested for infants up to 18 months of age, but keep in mind there is a weight limit.
Although the idea of a bassinet seems like a fantastic perk, they are actually rarely used so don’t be discouraged or disappointed if your baby doesn’t like it. In fact our own daughter refused to sleep in one until she was 8 months old. However, what you are actually after is extra floor space. Bassinet seats are usually “bulkhead” seats and come with extra leg room. Depending on the flight attendant, we would plop our daughter on the floor by our feet and she would entertain herself long enough to give our arms a rest.
3. Don’t Bother Packing Toys under the age of 12 months
We were advised to buy a bunch of new toys when taking a more alert baby on a flight. The idea behind this tactic is to introduce unfamiliar toys sparking curiosity and interest.
The thing is, we tried this twice and it didn’t work. Our baby was just as interested in plastic cups, paper, magazines, or the blanket to keep herself entertained. Save the space in your carry on and use what you have.
4. Add A Stopover To Long Haul Flights
Did you know that most long haul flights have a layover ? Take advantage and turn your layover into a stopover.
Sure most people going on holiday would like to get from point A to point B as quickly and efficiently as possible. But when traveling long distances with a baby it can be exhausting for parents. Why not use the opportunity to get some rest, adjust to the time zone, restock on baby essentials, and explore a new city. Trust me, your health will appreciate it.
5. Navigating an Airport With a Baby is Actually Quite Easy
Not always, but sometimes traveling with babies is more efficient when navigating through an airport. In most cases airline staff try to accomodate to help the process go as smooth as possible when it comes to getting your family to the gate. Look for family only lines when checking in, going through security, boarding the aircraft, and passing through passport control.
When scouring the internet you can get conflicting information on whether or not to pre-board the plane early with a baby. We always jumped at the opportunity. We preferred to make sure we could get the overhead bin space for our carry on and have time to get comfortable in our seats.
6. Learn to Change a Diaper Anywhere
It’s fairly straightforward when changing a baby’s diaper on a change table. But sometimes when traveling you’ll need to change a diaper in a tiny plane bathroom, on a rocking boat, train, on your lap, chair, or standing.
Always make sure you change baby BEFORE boarding the plane. Invest in a travel changing pad and bring plastic nappie bags for disposal.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to change my baby’s diaper on my lap. The seat belt sign was on, my neighbour was fast asleep, the line to the bathroom was too long, or once I was sat in a middle seat next to a handicap man— thanks Lufthansa. (Yes that meant I couldn’t get out of my seat the ENTIRE FLIGHT)
7. Book Flights Around Nap Time
If you can, schedule flights around your baby’s sleep time. That way they are more likely to nap instead so wanting to crawl around or play most of the flight giving you little time to rest. For morning flights ensure your baby gets a good nights sleep, a cranky baby is a fussy baby. For afternoon flights try wearing them out. But remember sometimes the whole process of getting through the airport is stimulating enough.
8. Follow Airline Guidelines For Carry-On Limits and Check-In Baggage
First things first, make sure you know the correct weight and dimensions for your carry on. If you are flying international keep in mind these limits may differ from domestic flights within your destination country. Generally adults accompanying infants are allowed to check-in a specific number of infant items free of charge (pram, car seat, travel cot).
9. Pack Your Diaper Bag Efficiently
You diaper bag needs to store everything you need to access quickly during travel. When you’re traveling with a baby infant supplies like wipes, diapers, bottles, milk, and formula go in this bag. You will also want to pack snacks, extra set of clothes, and anything you may think you’ll need during the flight. Remember you can always stock up on supplies at your destination or airport if need be. We found out on our back from Singapore that most airlines will carry diapers on board in case you run out. But always check before hand.
Repeat after me: Yes you can take liquids. Breastmilk, formula, and baby food are allowed in a reasonable amount.
10. They Will Cry
No matter what you do to prepare yourself and your baby for the flight, chances are they will cry. Don’t stress. Before take off we profusely apologised to nearby passengers for any unforeseen wailing. A majority of the time most shook their heads, telling us not to worry, that they had “been there, done that.”