If you are one of those awesome people who read me regularly (thank you, by the way!), you already know that we had a super-long vacation with Loulou Maya. We managed to survive one 3-hour flight, a short 1-hour one and a 3,5-hour one as well. At the time, Loulou had just turned 3 months and I DREADED the whole traveling experience. Fortunately, N. is a cool dad (and person, in general) and helped keep me relaxed. OK, I was never relaxed, but at least, I was sane. I ‘d like to think that most new moms are a bit freaked out by the prospect of flying with their little one and it’s not just me. That’s why I decided to compose a list of tips and tricks that helped us travel safely and sanely.
1. Leave early for the airport. Like, 2 hours earlier. This way you will have plenty of time to fight with airport staff who claim that your pram can’t go into the cabin. Or to deal with a poop explosion that will happen right after you check in.
2. Take extra clothes for your baby and an extra shirt for you as well in the hand luggage. Because that poop explosion might actually happen IN the plane and you don’t want your baby to stink the whole time. Other passengers won’t appreciate it either. Also, you don’t want to stink of sour milk, in case your baby decides to spit up a bit more than usual. On your shirt.
3. Keep in your hand luggage:
- One extra diaper for every hour of flight, especially if you are flying with a newborn.
- Wet wipes.
- The baby’s food. I had mine in my b@@bs (heh, I always wanted to write breasts like that. It’s my inner 13 year old boy writing, I guess…), which is super convenient, but not an option for everyone. If you give your baby formula, you are allowed to have a certain amount pre-mixed as well but even the lowest or low cost companies will offer hot water to you, to prepare it on-board.
- A toy or two, to distract your baby. Every baby is different, but I think for most of them things with bright colors, that make some sort of sound, will do the job.
- The extra clothes that we talked about.
- A blanket, as it can get chilly in the cabin.
- A big scarf or other piece of light fabric, to lay your baby on and avoid all the germs.
- Baby paracetamol, just in case.
- 2 pacifiers, if you are using one.
4. Encourage your baby to suck his/her pacifier or breastfeed during take off and landing. It can help relief the pressure and prevent ear pain.
5. Ask if there are empty seats. If the flight is not full and other passengers are accommodating, you might end up with a seat, to put your baby on. At first I was hesitant about the safety of this, but when I saw the flimsy seat belt, that attaches to the parent’s seat belt, I realized that my baby would only be safe if there was no plain crash or heavy turbulence anyway. Plus, I don’t think that they would allow it, if it was not considered safe. Loulou did enjoy having her own space and she even slept for a while.
6. Apologize beforehand to the people sitting close to you, but don’t overdo it. This will create a positive environment, but in my honest opinion, people should have some tolerance towards babies anyway. In fact, I wouldn’t even put the “apologize” part in there, if I hadn’t been a baby-hating teen with no sympathy towards parents at all, when I was younger (I have said some horrible things about babies and their parents in my teenage years, which I of course regret).
7. Changing your baby before boarding. This way, if your flight is short, you might even get away with zero changes during the flight! I am afraid that airplane toilets are tiny and most of them are not even equipped with a changing table. In that case, just put your changing mat on the cover of the toilet seat and pray that your baby’s immune system is strong enough already.
8. Don’t try to get the baby tired, with the hope that they will sleep during the flight. Babies this young go crazy if they are over-tired. Just let your little one enjoy his/her naps as usual the day of the flight. If your baby’s nap times are somewhat established, then you could even arrange your flight so that at least part of it coincides with your baby’s nap.
9. Don’t over-stimulate your baby. Use a scarf or muslin square to block your baby’s view of the super-busy airport. This way you will manage to keep them much calmer. You can do that weather you are using a pram or a baby carrier. Just make sure that your baby gets plenty of oxygen.
10. Try not to feel bad, if your baby cries during the whole flight. I know it is easier said than done, but it’s a baby! Crying is totally normal, especially when their environment changes so much and there is so much stimulation. If people give you nasty looks, you can return even nastier ones. Or ignore them. That’s better for your karma too, I hear.
11. Don’t forget your baby’s passport and other necessary travel documents. No matter how tiny, your little one is still a person. Keep in mind that in many cases, especially if you are an expat, if you want to travel with the baby but without the other parent, you might need special documents. To put it simply, you will need a paper that states that the other parent gives his/her permission for the baby to leave the country with you. It does sound strict, but it helps prevent nasty situations, so I am all for it.
12. (Almost) All companies allow you to take a pram and car seat with you. That is additional to your luggage and it is for free! Check with them what you are allowed to take in the cabin and what has to go with the luggage. Package your stuff VERY carefully as those strong fellows that unload the luggage are not exactly treating them like unique, precious snowflakes.
13. Use a baby carrier to keep your hands free. Especially if you are traveling on your own with your baby, having a stroller with you is not very convenient, as you need at least one hand to use it. With a baby carrier on the other hand (sling, mei tai, structured carrier, wrap etc), you have two hands free. You can carry your suitcase and even put your hand luggage on the stroller and rrrrrrrrrroll! If you don’t have a stroller, you can be the ninja parent that carries two suitcases!
We waited until Loulou was 3 months old to fly with her, because we knew she would be over-stimulated not just during the flights, but during her stay in Greece as well. I am happy to report that she seemed to have great fun during her first holidays. I don’ t know if this would be the case if she was younger. I feel that, if you have the choice, the best is to fly either with a very very young baby (a few weeks old) that will sleep through it all, or with a slightly older baby, that has a relatively firm head control, as this gives new parents a bit more confidence.
*You can check out all the “Family and Parenting” posts here*