So, you’ve decided to get on an airplane with your little one! Congratulations on making this big step and don’t worry — you’ve got this!
We started this travel section of the blog because so many people ask us about traveling with a baby. What are the best tricks for take off and landing? How do you navigate the airport? What if my baby has a meltdown? We hope to get all of your burning questions answered, but first let’s tackle surviving the flight with your baby!
Felipa has been traveling since she was 6 weeks old — she has been to Los Angeles multiple times, Europe and in a few weeks, we’ll be stamping her passport in Asia! A lot of people that find out about our travels think we’re crazy, but we like to think that we’re just adventurous!
I think it is safe to assume that we have all been on a flight with a crying baby at some point. This alone, can deter parents from wanting to fly with their baby. No one wants to be that person, but the reality is, you probably will be at some point! Not to worry though, we are going to list a few things that you can do to help your little one on their flight!
We gathered this information from our own personal experience over the last year. We also got some amazing tips from a good friend of ours that works for Air Canada. We hope that you will get some insight into flying with a baby and gain the confidence to do it too!
Tip #1: Figure Out Where Your Baby is Going to Sit
Did you know that some airlines have bassinets for your little ones? If you aren’t sure whether or not your airline provides this, then simply contact their customer service department and find out the details. From what I have seen, it is on a first-come, first-serve basis so make sure to find out when you book. Personally, we have never used the bassinet on an airline because by the time we found out about them, Felipa was just too long to fit in one! We have seen other parents use this and it looked great, so check with your airline if it is an option.
Since children under the age of 2 travel free when sitting on your lap, we have opted for this on every flight. You could pay for an extra seat for your child, but I think up until 1 years old is completely doable to have your child on your lap.
If you are going to have your child on your lap, then consider travelling with a nursing pillow or some sort cushion. This will be a lot more comfortable after the 2nd hour of holding your child’s limp, heavy body during naps and bedtime. Trust us. We did one flight — only one — without a nursing pillow, and never again!
Tip #2: Choose Your Seats in Advance
This is something that I urge parents to do. If you are traveling with your partner, then you want to sit next to them. Being able to take turns holding your baby during the flight will keep you both sane. If you are able to, try and get a seat with extra leg room as it can get quite cramped.
Aisle or Window? We have flown both ways and when Felipa was under 4 months, I preferred the window seat. This was mostly because I could rest against the window and get better sleep with her when she napped. I also like it that her legs and arms weren’t hanging in the aisle.
Now, fast forward to her being 10 months old, and aisle all the way! It is so much easier to just get out of the seat and walk around with her. As babies get older, they need to be stimulated more or else they get cranky. Whichever you choose, just weigh the pros and cons of the space, other passengers and your sanity!
Tip #3: Reconsider Boarding Early
Yes, all airplanes will call “families with small children” for early boarding. And it sounds lovely and you feel ever so important not having to wait in line. But, it’s not that great– all this means is that you are sitting in a cramped seat with your child for longer than necessary time. It takes about 30 minutes on average to board a plane, so that is an extra 30 minutes of you trying to manage your baby in a confined space.
We typically sit back and wait until Zone 3 is called and then we just walk to the priority line with the baby. Most flight attendants don’t like this, but what can they do? Nothing really. This usually cuts the time that we are sitting and waiting for take off by about half. And trust me, when you have an 8 hour flight ahead of you, that 30 minutes makes a huge difference!
If you are worried about your gate check items, like a stroller or car seat, don’t fret! You simply are just leaving the items by the plane door and then walking on the plane, so it doesn’t really matter what time you leave them there.
Tip #4: Feed Baby During Take Off and Landing
The change in pressure can bother your baby’s ears during take off and landing. The best way to help them adjust to the pressure change is to feed them. This forces them to swallow and keeps the ears open, which will help them from feeling the changes. Typically I try to time Felipa’s feeding with our take off and landing times. This isn’t always perfectly timed, so when she isn’t hungry then I go to my second option.
Hold your baby upright. You will want to have your baby up against your chest, with their head looking over your shoulder, similar to a burping position. And if you’re really lucky, then hopefully it is nap time around take off and landing. This has worked for us a handful of times and it is glorious when your child sleeps right through.
What if baby won’t eat or sleep and just cries? Let them cry. Try and comfort them of course, in an upright position, but the crying will help with the pressure as well. It isn’t comfortable for the passengers around you, but it will be short lived once the baby calms down. If baby is still crying, wait until the seat belt sign is off and go for a walk with baby down the aisles. My husband finds the back of the plane by the emergency door very calming for Felipa. He said that it sounds like our sound machine there and provides almost a white noise effect.
To be honest, take off and landing are typically the hardest parts for babies to get through. Once you master that, then the rest of the flight should be a breeze!
Tip #5: Pack those Snacks
Do not ever underestimate the power of snacks on a plane! If you have traveled by air before, you know that airplane food is nothing desirable. This is why I always pack ample snacks, not only for ourselves, but also for Felipa.
We have been on a flight before where other parents had left their snacks, milk and diapers in their checked luggage! Thankfully, we packed enough for a small army of babies so we were able to give them some of our stash. Don’t let this happen to you! Always make sure to triple check your carry on for everything that you need to satisfy your baby.
Another quick tip is to try and get your baby to drink room temperature or even cold milk before your trip. This will eliminate the hassle of having to warm up their bottles on the flight. Just one less thing that you will have to worry about.
Tip #6: Don’t Forget the Entertainment
Make sure you bring some toys, books or electronics on the flight. Do not leave these in your checked baggage! I never thought that Sophie the Giraffe would entertain my 5 month old for over an hour, but it did! The younger the baby, the less you will need.
However, once you get passed the 6-7 month mark, you may want to bring a lot more with you, depending on how stimulated your little one needs to be. Our Felipa gets bored very quickly so we need to be sure to pack quite a few different options in order to keep sane during flights. I have found that using a medium size packing cube is the best way to keep all the toys confined to one area of your carry on.
Tip #7: Get Some Rest
If you are traveling solo, then try and sleep when your baby sleeps. This is so important for when you arrive to your destination. No one wants to be sleep-deprived, dealing with a cranky baby and navigating their way through a new city or country!
If you are traveling with a partner, then talk about the expectations of sleep on the flight. We like to take turns napping when Felipa is awake and then both try and get some sleep while she naps. This way we are both semi-rested when we land and not as cranky! Trust me, we’ve tried the opposite of this tactic and it failed miserably!
Tip #8: Be Prepared for Small Washrooms
Having been on so many flights, I have seen my fair share of airplane washrooms and change tables — and they are not all created equally! All airplanes have change tables in either all of the washrooms, or dedicated ones. The flight attendants on your plane will let you know where to find them.
My best advice and tips for changing your baby in an airplane washroom is have everything you need and nothing else. I use a small size packing cube and only put the following in it: 8-10 diapers, 1 pack of wipes, portable change pad, diaper cream, one extra set of clothes (we learned the hard way one plane ride with a poo-explosion and no extra clothes—that was fun!)
Be advised that most planes don’t have anything to hold down your little one, so my husband will usually come with me to the bathroom so I can set up the washroom before actually changing Felipa. Once I have her diaper, wipes and portable change pad down, he hands me the baby and I change her. We have this down to a science now, so don’t worry if your first time isn’t as smooth!
If you are flying solo, you can always ask a flight attendant to help you out if you need to. You can also ask them for extra plastic bags for any stinky diapers. Because no one wants to smell your baby all flight long — no matter how cute they are!
Tip #9: Travel with Sanitizing Wipes
As much as we want to trust that the cleaning crew has wiped down every nook and cranny of your seat, the reality is that this just probably isn’t the case. Most planes have a cleanup crew that has to quickly discard garbage left behind and clean the washrooms before the next flight boards. So, this is why your trusty sanitizing wipes are key for a clean flight!
I usually wipe down the arm rests, tray, magazines, entertainment monitor — basically anything that Felipa can get her hands onto! I also wipe down my husbands station and if the passenger beside us hasn’t sat down already, then theirs too. You can never be too sure!
Tip #10: Plan Ahead and Just Go With It
The best tip we can give to parents flying with their little one is to plan ahead and then throw that plan out the window and just go with it! As much as we want to anticipate every little scenario that could happen on the plane, the reality is– you just won’t know until you’re on the plane! Your baby can surprise you and be so well behaved that you will start planning your next vacation before you land.
Or, your child will be a big mess. Crying every second, fussy and not wanting to sit still and you will question every reason as to why you got on the plane in the first place! No matter what your scenario is, just remember to breathe and ask for help when necessary!
Wishing you the safest of travels and make sure to check back for more tips on successful traveling with a baby! Leave us a comment on what has worked for you or other type of traveling information you want us to post!
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