So, taking flights, especially long ones, with baby is the most dreaded part about traveling. Being stuck in a confined space with your infant or toddler and a couple of hundred fellow passengers (judging you, hating on you, killing you with their looks) is daunting indeed. Here are 11 things I do to make traveling with baby a (slightly) more pleasant and comfortable experience.
Before the flight…
- Dress the baby in layers: most flights are cold so dressing warm works, but airports (and even some flights) can be warm and make your baby irritable. Dressing in layers works for us – remove and add clothing as necessary. My typical travel dress for baby is a full-length onesie (which also protects baby from floor dirt on airports) and a cardigan and cap that can go on top in case its cold.
- Strollers are usually free to check in: most airlines allow strollers to be checked-in for free and it does not count for hand baggage allowance. Some even allow car seats and other infant equipment. But some low cost airlines either have restrictions on the type of stroller or charge you extra for taking one. Most airlines also allow a gate check-in for strollers – which means you don’t have to check it in with luggage and can use it for the long airport walk. You will also get your stroller back at the gate when you land, and don’t have to walk all the way to baggage claim to get it. But again some airlines require you to check it in with the luggage. Read this very helpful post. As a rule, if it’s the first time I am taking the baby on that airline… I do this next one:
Check airline policy: just Google “<airline name> baby stroller policy” and you will find a page that leads you to the airline’s policy on baby equipment. Its great to know if you could even bring a car seat on board for free (if you plan to take one for that driving trip through Europe 🙂 ).
- Let baby run around in the airport: you are going to be mostly tied to your seat for the duration of the flight, so you might as well let the baby exhaust themselves by running (or crawling) around in the airport so they (like you) just want to rest on the flight
- Invest in a lounge pass: I mentioned in my Sri Lanka post, that if you travel more than 2-3 times a year its worth investing in a lounge pass that lets you use the business class lounge (even on an economy ticket). This way you get a slightly more private and cleaner space for the baby to crawl or run around in.
During the flight…
- Upgrade to Business Class, Baby! (ok just kidding…!)
- (Ok Really) Put yourself in your baby’s (tiny) shoes: Poor baby can only express discomfort or annoyance by crying, so try to imagine yourself in her place and see what might make you uncomfortable, and try to eliminate or address that. For example, I have severe ear popping during take off and landing so I can only imagine what Arya goes through – so that brings me to this next one…
Be extra attentive to the baby during take off and landing: I know you may be in the middle of some riveting conversation with a fellow passenger but just take a pause and shift your attention entirely to the baby for the 10 minutes each of take off and landing. I was reading that some babies experience severe discomfort during this time. So feed them, have them eat a snack, suck your finger… anything that makes them suck and swallow – because this relieves ear pressure. If the baby is still restless… follow this next one.
- Engage them through talk, song, game, or book: When the airhostess is instructing you to sit with the seatbelt on but the baby just wont sit still – engage them with whatever works for getting their attention at home. If they are engaged in an activity they like, they will not be restless. I know this sounds easy but it takes serious effort – especially with babies older than 9-10 months who are very restless. But don’t give in – seek help from any willing fellow passengers if you need to.
- If they are small enough, put them in a sling: this has several advantages – both you and the baby can sleep comfortably without you worrying about the baby falling off while you sleep. They stay close to you and feel secure (especially babies below six-months old). Also, some airlines allow you to skip the uncomfortable infant seatbelt attachment if the baby is secure in a sling – one less thing to manage!
Be extra prepared with food, medicine, and other supplies: so I am usually a light packer but when it comes to baby stuff it doesn’t hurt to carry a couple of extra servings of food (on long flights), and some basic medicines for an SOS situation. Some international airlines (I know Emirates does for sure) carry organic baby food, formula, allergen free blankets, and toys for infants on board. Its great for back up but personally I wouldn’t rely on it.
- Once the seatbelt sign is off let them loose: babies eight months or older have oodles of energy, and if you don’t let them spend it they will get cranky and annoyed. So once the seat belt sign is off let them get off your lap and walk or crawl between the seats a little bit. Especially if this is a long flight you can even bring them to the little open area near the toilets and pantry and let them explore a bit. I know, I know, you are concerned about all the germs on the floor – keep a keen watch on them to make sure they don’t put anything in their mouth, and keep some sanitizer to apply after they are done.
There – all of this helps make my flying experience better. There will always be the annoyed co-travelers. While I do sympathize with them, I refuse to leave them sorry notes or care packages on flights (which a lot of generous parents do) – I just think they are full-grown adults who can look after their comfort. I spend my energy ensuring it’s a comfortable experience for my baby and me.