Tips On Traveling With A Baby/Toddler || Series 2 – On The Flight
Board early if baby isn’t walking yet. If baby is walking, make the most of having the space at the airport and board towards the end.
I’ve been lucky enough to never have experienced a crying baby during take off or landing but I have also nearly always either nursed Noah, fed him by bottle, given him the pacifier, or gotten him to drink water. The most important is that they swallow, as this will release the pressure on their ears. Milk also acts as sedative so if you nurse or bottle feed during take off, your chances of a sleeping baby are pretty high. If your baby is tired, try to go through as much of your sleep routine as possible before/during take off (reading a book or singing softly). Young babies generally sleep really well on planes with to the motion and engine noise providing a very soothing environment for them.
The usual flying with baby advice holds true with toddlers as well – try to keep them eating, drinking, or sucking during takeoff and landing, whether that’s by finger foods, nursing, a bottle, or a pacifier – and don’t be afraid to administer a bit of acetaminophen/ibuprofen if you think their ears are in pain. I always travel with some pain relief, just in case.
They are fantastic, especially if baby is small enough to fit in them. Noah was a huge baby and unfortunately he only comfortably fit into the bassinet before 6 months of age. That being said, I remember placing him in the bassinet when he was 11 months because he had fallen asleep before dinner came. I was traveling on my own and I wanted those hands free for dinner. He looked like a big sardine in a tiny can (legs literally hanging over the end), so I could only leave him in there for a little while but it helped me a lot!
If there is turbulence on the flight, you will be asked to pick up your baby and hold it on your lap, even if baby is deep in sleep. This can be frustrating because baby doesn’t always stay asleep – urgh! Just something for you to be aware of.
Believe it or not, the airplane does sometimes book more infants on the flight than there are bassinets, and unfortunately you cannot reserve a bassinet ahead of time with all airlines. So remember the golden rule and get to the airport earlier than normal.
Breastfeed anywhere and everywhere – it will save you on these long journeys. Noah would always fall asleep when breastfeeding and it helped me so much! I would definitely recommend getting a nursing cover, if you don’t already have one. There is so much going on at airports and on airplanes, that babies can so easily get distracted, which makes breastfeeding impossible all of a sudden. I hated those moments when Noah would feed for 30 seconds and then realize he wanted to look around instead and BAM (!), not only would my boob literally be squirting out milk at high-volume speed, but it was so hard to get him to latch back on. Those moments would probably make me more flustered than anything else, so try and help yourself by getting a nursing cover. I’ll do the same for aby number two!
Even if you are breastfeeding, bring a bottle or two of expressed milk (or formula if baby is formula-fed). You should have enough for a nursing session at take off and a nursing session at landing. Your babe might surprise you and suddenly much rather want a bottle than your boob, when its usually the other way around! This happened to me on our first trip and thank goodness I had a bottle. I would either carry my milk (out of the fridge) in a small cooling bag for shorter flights and carry it frozen (gradually defrosting) in a cooling bag for longer flights.
Bring your breast pump!
If your baby is still under 6 months or just still feeding very regularly, make sure you bring your pump along with you ON the airplane. I packed it into my check in luggage on our first trip abroad, when Noah was only 12 weeks old (2 flights and about 8-hour travel in total). This was a massive learning for me! Because of the noise and distraction, Noah did not want to breastfeed whenever I tried to get him to (take off, landing, or whenever really). He suddenly only wanted the bottle, which he never does normally! It was fine for the first flight because I had luckily brought a small bottle of expressed milk, but it certainly wasn’t enough for the second flight and so, not only, did I have to hand express during layover in an airport bathroom whilst somehow entertaining Noah at the same time (not my finest moment…), but also thought my boobs were going to explode by the time we arrived. I think my boobs were sore for days afterwards. Its too embarrassing to ever want to re-live and too risky for mastitis, so spare yourself the trouble and always have your pump ready to go! An idea is also to pump as much as possible beforehand if you expect to bottle feed your littlie on the airplane.
If you’re lucky enough to upgrade through points or you’re just lucky enough to buy business outright, do it! It makes a huge difference when traveling with a baby. I’ve had to travel alone quite a lot with Noah (we’re talking long trips - one was 30 hours), and since hubby was feeling a little bit bad that he wasn’t there to help, so he upgraded me to business once or twice. Score! You’ll generally be surrounded by travelers who are parents themselves and 9 out of 10 they will be supportive and understanding of you, rather than annoyed that you can potentially ruin their silence and comfort. The air hostesses will also be a lot more accommodating and attention dedicating in business class. So if you do have the means, don’t be afraid to go for it, is what I’m trying to say.
Don’t pack too many diapers. You can buy diapers nearly anywhere. Take enough for your trip over and a few more and then plan to go to the shops on day 2 or 3 to get your essentials stocked.
Most airplanes will have changing tables in the bathrooms. I always just went in with a changing mat, a packet of wipes, a fresh nappy and some bum cream and left the nappy bag by the seat. The process felt more streamlined this way.
Some small planes may not have changing tables in their bathrooms. If this is the case, you can always ask the person sitting next to you if they would mind it if you change your babies diaper on your lap. I doubt anyone will ever say no, and if they do, too bad for them J
If you don’t already have one and plan to travel quite a bit with your littlie, be it on your own or with hubby, try to get a diaper bag that can be closed with a zipper. You bend over a lot whilst traveling and things can easily fall out if your bag isn’t closed. I have the Stokke diaper bag and love it because its compact and nothing important can fall out because your main compartment is completely zipped up. It also doesn’t slip off you because it can be carried over your shoulder and across your body, which is a plus. I’ve recently switched over to a backpack as my diaper bag and love being able to carry it on my back. A very convenient choice when it comes to traveling.
Snacks & Food
At age 6 months, I started bringing a few fruit/veggie puree pouches on the trips, along with a baby spoon. Some airplanes offer them to you on long flights but if you are sensitive about feeding your child sugar, definitely bring your own! Once your baby starts eating snacks as well, make it a priority to load up on these. You can never bring too many! Make sure you bring fun snacks that your baby/toddler has never tried before. Even special treats like cookies or chips. Its not like you fly every day and having some entertaining snacks can bring you a whole lot of peace. Around 6-10 months, Noah loved the bread rolls that they gave you with your meals. Not the healthiest but it kept him chewing and crumbling for a long time. These days some of the snacks we love are cheese sticks or Babybel cheese rounds, raisins, healthy cheerios, popcorn, wholegrain bread rounds, sweet potato chips, puffed cereal, and bananas.
Do not drink the tap water on the airplane. Bring on a couple bottles of your own and if you run out, ask the hostesses for bottled water.
I didn’t bother with toys for the first 6 months. After that, I would pack two of Noah’s favourite toys (a rattle or chewy toy like Sophie the Giraffe). He was always way more entertained by the seatbelt, headphones, safety card, buttons on the remote, magazines, etc. than any toy I would bring along for him (unless it were a new toy that he’s never played with – that’s also a good idea). If your babe is toddler age, a really good tip is a box of tissue paper. They love tearing it all out and putting it all back in. I've heard stickers are good as well. And there’s always the iPad for slightly older babes too. We don’t own one anymore so I can’t speak from experience but I have heard many mamas swear by it for long plane trips (toddler age and older). We’ve definitely whipped out the iPhone for a little Peppa Pig or Baby Einstein in car trips so I am no opponent to technology when it can literally save you from all having a melt down at the same time.
When Noah couldn’t crawl yet, I always traveled with a play mat. It is so useful if you just want to put your baby down somewhere so that both of you can stretch out a bit. When bringing your own, you know its clean and comfortable. In my opinion, it is worth the space that it takes up.
Entertainment throughout the flight
I’ve done a very long 9-hour flight that just happened to be during the day. On my own. Eeek! So before I give you any other tips, my number one piece of advice is, make sure your partner travels with you at all times! Noah took his regular naps on the flight but those awake times felt extremely l.o.n.g. He wasn’t walking yet, which made things a lot easier for me, but he was itching to move and if there’s one thing you really don’t want to do, it is letting your baby crawl on an airplane floor. So we would walk the plane in regular intervals and hang out in the back with the flight attendants. We played with the headphones, the buttons on the entertainment remote, and went for more supply trips to the back of the plane for empty plastic cups and crackers (two things you’ll be bound to have on your flight generally). We’d listen to music and watch short cartoon video clips on the entertainment channels. We’d flip down the tray table and flip it back up again, then repeat, multiple times. We’d read a little book we brought and whip out some of the toys we brought along. Side note on the toys - make sure not to bring them all out at the same time. Since each toy will only be novel for a short while, try and be strategic in drawing out the interest. An idea is to wrap the toys in wrapping paper as this doesn’t add to your load but it creates for some extra entertainment. You change up activities in 5 minute intervals at least, if not more. This may sound like hard work but you know your little one so well and there is so much love, that all of this is actually enjoyable. Tiring, exhausting, but enjoyable.
And don’t forget to let your baby flirt and coo at other people (people love it so let this drag on as long as possible). The seat behind you is always your best bet because you can casually hold your baby over your shoulder. New faces keep babies entertained for a long time and it will give you a much-needed break.
Try to stay relaxed about germs. Reality is you cannot avoid them. I always travel with some hand sanitizer and otherwise it is what it is.
Next blog post up will be tips about arriving at your destination, including battling good old jet lag and timezones!