Traveling with young children will always be an adventure. Whether it is an hour and half long trip or a transatlantic voyage, the general rule is that the trip will surely be totally unpredictable, and what you should always keep in mind is that it is only a means to an end.
There are many things you can do to make sure the trip with your baby goes smoothly, but, like with all baby related advice, the ugly truth is that each child is different, and what works perfectly for one mom, may be torment for another. Worse of all, children change very quickly as they grow. One day, out of the blue, that blankie that helped him sleep like magic has totally lost its effect… so, get creative and try to find something to replace it… good luck with that!
There is another golden rule that no matter how much people don’t want to believe it, I swear to God it’s true: the younger the baby, the easier. Do you have a young baby? Do you think it’s tough? Well.. get ready… because it will get tougher! I don’t mean to be a party pooper or a pessimist, but when you are a first time mom you tend to drown yourself in a cup of water, and with a little perspective you realize that what happened at the beginning was not really that bad.
Having these basic rules in mind, and remembering the disclaimer that none of these tips guarantee a smooth and easy flight, les agree that sharing some tips never hurt anyone!
Tips for traveling with a baby on an airplane
1. What to pack in your carry on
Estimate one diaper for every 4 hours. This depends on the age of the baby of course, but this formula has worked very well for at one year of age. Wet wipes of course should be included and a changing mat to cover the changing table in the bathroom as well. Include 2 complete changes of clothes and a sweater or sweatshirt in case it gets chilly. A favorite blanket that has recognizable smell is also a good idea. Two pacifiers and a strap to keep them from falling (they can easily get lost among the seats!)… these are the basics for the carry on bag. Paracetamol and a thermometer should also be included.
2. Avoid earaches
This is especially important with younger babies. The basic advice I can give you is to use a pacifier as much as you can, especially during takeoff and landing. Even better – breastfeed!
I know many people give their babies paracetamol about 20 minutes prior to the flight just in case. Other people prefer to do so only in case they notice their baby is upset or in pain. Of course, as your pediatrician about this and see what they recommend. However, this won’t necessarily be an issue. Maybe we have been lucky but our son has never gotten ear aches!
3. If you breastfeed, use this as a weapon. All. The. Time.
At the first grunt breastfeed…. Fussy face… breastfeed… cooing? Breastfeed… That simple.
4. Always bring a brand new toy
Make sure it is a toy that your baby will love, but do not, by any means, show it to him or her prior to the trip. The secret is in keeping it a surprise. A rattle or a chew toy are great for babies up to six months of age. A container where the baby can put things in and out are wonderful for babies up to about a year old. Stickers are ideal from nine months onwards. Basically, any toy that develops fine motor skills will be a hit – threading, buttoning, large plastic sweing needles (made especially for children), a puzzle, large Lego type blocks, crayons… you know your baby way better than anyone else so think what will keep him busy and entertained. Keep in mind that the chance of these toys getting lost is high, so don’t spend a lot of money on them!
Another tip is to know exactly when its best to take the toys out. If you baby is calm and happy playing with her hands and flirting with the swetardess, no need to waste the novelty of the toys. Also, try to prevent the crisis. Right when you see that a storm is coming, take the toy out like a leathel weapon.
5. Leave all apprehensions about screen time at home
Don’t get so stressed over this. Yes, I know, you’ve read tons of articles online about how horrible the effects of using Ipads are on babies. It is the most horrendous thing in the world, the effects are irreversible, you will never forgive yourself the neuronal damage you’ve caused. When you baby is eleven years old and you get a call from school saying he is messy and never sits still, you´ll blame it on the screen time… bla, bla, bla…
When it’s been four hours without you being able to sit still because you have a baby head over feet climbing over the person next to you, and you no longer know what to tell the poor guy in the seat in front of you which your baby keeps kicking, you will not care about the neuron less that you’re baby will have due to the twenty minutes of ipad you exposed her to.
Download at least four episodes of a show you know your baby likes (if you don’t know because you’ve never let your baby watch TV, simply choose a popular show – there’s a reason it’s so popular, right?).
“Download” seems simple, but it’s not… if you find the way to do so easily and free, please let me know, as I’ve searched and searched for a way to do this and have not been able to accomplish it.
To stay on the safe side and be able to download these shows successfully, you can use Amazon Prime or Youtube Red. Bear in mind Youtube Red is only available in Australia, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand and USA. If you are not a lucky resident of these places, you can use a VPN (something I have had the “luck” to use while living in China). But from about a year of age you can try using the headphones, in which case it’s a good idea to practice before at home.
6. If you are lucky and are traveling with another adult, reserve the window and aisle seat in a row of three.
Yes, you do run the risk of not being able to sit with the other person who will be helping you out during the flight, but it’s worth it. It’s less lickly that someone will reserve the seat in the middle so you may get lucky and get to keep the whole row to yourselves. Worst case scenario, someone still reserves this middle seat you can always exchange once on the plane.
And speaking of reserving things…
7. As soon as you have your tickets, contact the airline to reserve the baby cot or child seat.
Airplanes generally have a few of these and they are handed out on a first come first serve basis, which means that if you are last in line you don’t get one.
The cots are generally good to be used with babies up to six months of age, but this really depends on the weight of your baby and whether or not they can sit on their own.
Some airlines have a baby seat like the one in the photo (from British Airways) which is good to use with children a bit older because they have safety straps.
If you were not able to reserve a cot for your baby, don’t panic.. You can still…
8. Use a babycarrier
A baby carrier is a MUST when traveling with babies. In the airport you will be thankful to have both free hands to carry suitcases or find your passports. In the airplane you can use it to wear your baby while they sleep and you can have both free hands for reading or eating. While you sleep, your baby can sleep in the carrier and that way you can relax without having to hold them in your arms.
You can also wear a baby wrap, but most people find it complex to tie especially in the craziness of an airport and airplane. However, you should use either a wrap or baby carrier, whatever is best for you.
And speaking of carriers and wraps…
9. The stroller… to take or not to take…
Depends! Is your destination stroller friendly? Is there someone there that can lend you one? How big is your stroller? What mechanism does it have for folding and unfolding? Are you traveling alone or with someone else who can help you carry it around or hold your baby while you unfold it?
If your destination is Machu-Pichu, the Great Wall or the Sahara, clearly you should leave your stroller behind. If upon arriving your best friend will be waiting for you with all the baby gear you could ever need, leave it behind as well…
If you are super wise and you have a super compact stroller, easy and fast to open and close, and with weight under 6 kilos… take it!
¿Do you have any other tips to include to the list? ¡Tell me about them in the comments!…