I’m a little ashamed to admit that at the grand old age of 10 months Fred has already taken 12 flights – through a combination of his daddy getting a 3 month job in Australia, alongside me wanting to make the most of my maternity leave, catching up with old friends. That adds up to a terrible carbon footprint (hangs head in shame). Although it does mean that I’ve become a bit of an expert on how to fly with a baby. Here are my top tips:
- Accept that it’s no longer going to be possible to get the absolute cheapest seats – travelling at baby friendly times tends to be more expensive: that’s just the way it is unfortunately.
- Ask for a bassinet cot – on long haul, specifically ask for a seat with a bassinet cot when you book, as they can often be highly in demand. Dependent on the airlines, they can be used up to 2 years. Each airline’s website details the size/weight restrictions. Read more about the restrictions on this blog that I came across.
- Be smart about packing – travelling with a baby generally means more kit, so you’ll probably have to check some luggage into the hold. On the budget airlines, if you’re smart about your packing, you can just take one large family bag, rather than paying for lots of individual bags. Remember things like highchairs and car seats can often be borrowed/hired at your location.
- Utilise space saving items – Totseat is a brilliant alternative for a high chair and is especially useful when eating out, as many countries don’t have highchairs in restaurants. Whilst the Babyzen YOYO is the first stroller that can be taken on as cabin baggage.
- Tag team it – if you can, travel in a pair. If your baby is wailing or if you have a toddler who just wants to be on the move, it’s handy to have someone else to take their turn with them.
- Early bird catches the worm – give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport and to check in. If your little one is anything like ours, they’ll strategically wait to fill up their nappy for the point when it’s going to be most inconvenient. Changing a nappy on the floor at the gate because you’re worried the plane is going to leave without you, isn’t pleasant for anyone.
- Take a carrier – it makes life easier if you have your hands free. I started out with a Baby Bjorn, but have now progressed onto a Macpac as Fred has got heavier. If you do bring a stroller, sometimes you can take it right to the gate, but there is still the risk that you have to wait until the luggage carousel to get it back when you land.
- Don’t be shy about getting additional assistance – the world is getting more baby friendly these days – some airlines offer priority boarding for families, airports now have family lanes, they might even have a soft play area tucked away…..in short do your research on what’s available before you go and don’t be afraid to use it. I’ve also found that generally people are happy to help if you ask. So for example, security staff were fighting over themselves to hold Fred whilst I organised my stuff to go through the security scanner. I like to think it’s because he’s especially cute, but I know really it’s just the baby thing.
- Give your baby milk during take off/landing – babies can struggle with equalising their ears during take off/landing, which can obviously cause them some pain. So getting them to take their milk can really help.
- Breast feeding makes life easier (if you can) – on long haul flights I found that being able to breastfeed really helped to settle Fred. It also made things easier at security checkpoints as we weren’t carrying lots of formula milk. If you’re not breastfeeding take lots of cartons and bottles. Also, be prepared to sample your products at security.
- Try not to worry too much about your baby crying – Fred was quite a colicky baby and I was terrified that he would disturb our fellow passengers on our long haul flight to Australia. Amazingly the background noise and movement of the flight lulled him to sleep. It was so effective that I’ve thought about producing a ‘Baby Sleep Plane CD’. Also, if you’re near the back of the plane the drone of the engines tends to drown out the most high pitched baby screams. If it does all go tits up, then many of your fellow passengers will have been there themselves – I’ve found that in the main people are usually sympathetic.
- Distractions are good – your bundle of joy will get bored on the flight, we all do! So take along a selection of their favourite toys to keep them amused.
- Use food pouches to minimise mess – weaning is tricky enough, but trying to feed your little one on a plane in a confined space is especially tough. I’ve found that food pouches and rice cakes are the most convenient foods when on the move.
I hope that these tips are helpful. If you have any other suggestions do please get in touch to help future mums embarking on what can initially be a terrifying prospect, but with a little preparation can be almost as smooth as travelling on your own.