Most of us know from observing other mums on a flight, that travelling with a baby on an aeroplane is no easy task, and its not always fun for your fellow travellers around you either. In fact, I’ve witnessed a passenger on a recent flight asking to be moved so that they didn’t have to sit next to a mum with her baby as they were hoping to catch up on some sleep.
There are a lot of things that you can do to improve your chances of having as easy and comfortable a flight as possible. I’ve put together a list of all of the things I’ve learned when travelling with my two boys.
My top ten tips for flying with a baby:
1. Health check
Before you fly, make sure your baby does not have a cold or an ear infection. When you fly, the eustachian tubes in your ears adjust to the air pressure changes and it can cause some small discomfort in adults. Babies and children have narrower eustachian tubes that may not function as effectively as an adults, so any inflammation or infection can cause serious pain when the plane climbs or descends. This is the reason that babies often cry during the the descent of an aeroplane. Check with your doctor before flying if you suspect a cold or ear infection and if there is one present, they may recommend delaying your flight.
2. Pre-book seats
Book an aisle seat! I can’t stress this point enough. It’s almost impossible to try to get out of a middle or window seat with a baby in your arms while trying to climb over other passengers and deal with reclined seat backs from the row in front.
3. Get to the airport early
Ensure you arrive at the boarding lounge early enough to take advantage of pre-boarding times for parents with children that most airlines allow for.
4. Plan your hand luggage
Take only 1 main bag on board for both your and your baby. A compact back pack is the best choice, as carrying a baby onto a plane while a heavy nappy bag swings around off a single shoulder strap, banging into seats and people as you try to squeeze down the narrow aisle, will not get you off to a good start. A great idea is to have a second, more compact bag inside the main bag that you carry essential items like wipes or food/drink that you can take out of the main bag before you stow it in the overhead lockers and pop the smaller bag under the seat in front of you for easy access during the flight.
5. Pack smart
Pack as lightly as possible to save space and to make it easy to find things in your bag once on the flight by utilising all of the pockets and compartments in your bag. Travel sized baby skincare are perfect. Buy soft packs of wipes, as these take up less space in your bag and compress easily. Packing hierarchy is important. Make sure that you keep the most used items at the top of the bag, so you don’t need to empty everything out whenever you need to use them.
6. More nappies!
Pack more nappies than you would normally use in the same period of time. You don’t want to run out unexpectedly at 30,000 feet.
7. Extra clothes
Depending on how long your flight is, include at least 1-2 clothing changes in case of accidents or spillages which can occur very easily in the confined seating space.
8. Boredom busters
If your baby is old enough to play with toys or books, make sure that you pack a couple of favourites to help keep them occupied. Try to avoid any noisy toys that may disrupt your fellow passengers.
9. Feed to soothe
Be prepared to breast or bottle feed your baby to sooth them whenever needed. When you are flying, its not the time to worry about feeding and sleeping routines. Do whatever it takes to keep your baby happy and calm (and therefore keeping you happy) Pressure changes when taking off and landing can be upsetting for a baby and the familiar comfort of feeding will help to calm them. Walking with them up and down the aisle so they can see other faces while on the move can also help once the seat belt sign is off and you are free to move around the cabin.
10. Make friends
Befriend the passengers around you and introduce them to your baby. Most people will understand how difficult it is to travel with a young child, however if you’ve made the effort to get to know them and for them to know your baby, they will be less likely to shoot you any dirty looks and are more likely to offer help if your baby starts crying or acting distressed during the flight.
Babies can be unpredictable at the best of times, so its no surprise that travelling with them can bring situations that may be difficult to deal with. With some basic planning and a little patience, you can make your next flight less stressful and more enjoyable for both you and your child.