My top tips for flying with a baby-Part 1
Although not quite nutrition related I’ve been asked by a few people for some tips on flying with a baby so I thought it might make a useful blog post.
Travelling with a baby and the anxiety that surrounds it seems to be a common topic amongst new moms. Many new parents are understandably nervous and apprehensive about flying with their new arrivals. Most of us have at least some experience of being on a plane with a nonstop crying baby or a tantrum throwing toddler nearby.
Before having Willow I always thought that when I did have kids I would never travel on an aeroplane with them unless it was an absolute necessity. I had seen enough crying babies and parents bickering on planes over the years to scare me off for life. Fast forward a few years however and a love for travelling and giving birth to a baby abroad away from all my family soon changed my plans.
Over the past 7 months I have been on eight long haul and two short-haul flights with my now 10 month old baby Willow and husband, Mark. Our longest trip was a 2 leg journey of over 30 hours from Toronto to Melbourne, for a friend’s wedding in February. Before each flight I was filled with dread of what may happen during it, and each time none of the flights were as bad as I had imagined they would be. Although flying so many times does not make me an expert I have learnt a huge amount from those trips that I wanted to share with you.
Before the trip to Australia I was very reluctant to go and even suggested to Mark that he should go alone. I had already done four long haul flights to and from Ireland without any major mishaps, but I was still extremely nervous about the idea of being on a plane for that long with a baby who was getting more and more active every day. After speaking to various people and reading various blogs I decided to go for it and I am so glad we did. I know Willow won’t remember the trip, but we had so much fun and created many lasting memories as a family, which we can share with her when she is older. She cut her first tooth on the plane journey over, started crawling 3 days later and also went swimming and to the beach for the first time. She was in her element meeting lots of new people, being in a warmer environment and getting to swim daily amongst other things.
It is often said that the younger the baby the easier it is to fly with them and this is definitely true. The older Willow gets the more active she gets and the more needs she has to be met. I must emphasize that this was our experience and I do realize that not everyone’s might not run as smoothly. Each trip with a baby is different and although our trips have been relatively smooth until now I know it does not mean our next one will be without any mishaps. As quickly as babies grow and change so too do the challenges we face when flying with them. Flying becomes even more complex when there is more than one child. Our journeys were helped hugely by the fact that there were two of us and that Willow is generally a happy easy-going baby (most of the time at least 🙂 ). Hopefully you might find some of the things I have learnt so far useful and they will help in creating a smoother trip for you and your baby in future
Here are my top tips for flying long haul with a baby…
(Part 1- Preparing to fly)
1. Dress them in easy access clothing
Now is not the best time to be dressing them in that beautiful new dress or shirt you think they look so cute in. Dress them in something that’s easy to get on and off like a vest and a long-sleeved onesie. This will give you quick and easy access when changing them and also help to keep them warm and snug throughout their journey.
2. Get to the airport early to allow lots of time to go through security and change diapers, feed etc.
Airports can be stressful places at the best of times even without a baby. I like to get there early so that if something does go wrong we have plenty of time and we don’t have added stress of potentially missing a flight. We found some airports particularly family friendly allowing us to fast track through designated family lanes and making security check as easy and stress free as possible for us…. Other airports unfortunately were not as good and actually made it far more difficult. When going through Pearson airport in Toronto’s we were allowed to keep Willow in the carrier going through security whilst in LAX we had to wake her up and take her out of the carrier. Arriving early had been a godsend when they ended up taking over 25 minutes to search Mark, his bags and Willow’s bag after he beeped going through the scanner.
3. Be prepared but be realistic when packing
We brought far too many changes of clothes and diapers on board for all of our flights but I was nervous and felt it better to be safe than sorry. Luckily we didn’t need all 15 diapers and 5 outfit changes I had packed for our 15 hour flight to LA (Willow did not have a diaper explosion every hour and spew everywhere constantly as I had imagined might happen in my nightmare scenario). Next time I would pack less but still bring a couple of extra diapers and changes of clothes than I would normally need just in case.
Packing things in large zip lock bags is also a great way to keep organized and prevent spillages. We packed 3 large zip lock bags with just a diaper, wipes and some cream. If Willow needed a wet diaper changed on the flight I just took this out of her diaper bag and brought her and this to the changing room instead of lugging the big diaper bag through the aisles which are narrow and toilets are small. If it was a poop however the whole bag came with me in case I needed back up clothes, towel etc. Some people also swear by using a back pack style diaper bag as it allows for optimal hands free movement.
4. Bring a blanket
If you are stopping over in airports bring a blanket to place on the ground and allow your baby to play on it by themselves and not be in the stroller or your arms/lap all the time. This will allow them to get some much-needed exercise, burn off some energy and give you a break from having a baby on your lap.
5. There is no need for lots of toys
New babies won’t need many toys. If your baby is a bit older a few small favourite toys should be enough. You do not need lots as they will be entertained easily by other things on the flight such as an empty water bottle, plastic cutlery, magazines, people on board, your watch etc. Obviously the older the child the more toys they may need to keep them entertained . I brought far too many for Willow on the flight over to Australia and didn’t end up using most. They ended up just taking up space in our carry on luggage along with the 15 diapers and 5 changes of clothes. On the return flight I just brought a couple of small toys and instead gave her the items mentioned above which she actually preferred as these were new and exciting to her. If you do bring toys and your child is a bit older it is probably best if it’s a toy they have never seen or played with before as it will keep the occupied for even longer.
Toy straps are also great here to stop toys from constantly falling onto the floor and in between the seats.
6. Bring food, liquids or formula that you need for the baby.
You are usually allowed to bring liquids (e.g. pumped breast milk, water for formula, food or water) through security as long as it’s for the baby. I am not sure if there is a limit on how much you can bring as we only brought water so you should check with the airport you are travelling through for the most up to date info on this.
7. Let your baby sleep
Allow your baby to sleep when they want to and even better try to pre-empt them getting tired and help them get to sleep whichever way you can before this point. (We used our Becco carrier a lot to get her to sleep in the airport and on the plane as she loves this and will go to sleep quite quickly in it especially when she is starting to get tired). This was great in helping to prevent her from getting overtired which can often result in a cranky baby. We found Willow was far more tired than she normally would be and slept much more than I had anticipated she would. This may have been due to all the travelling and the white noise on the plane.
8. Carriers are so helpful I can’t recommend them enough!
Our Becco carrier helped us in so many ways. As mentioned above we used it a lot to help get Willow to sleep in the airports and once or twice also on the plane when we felt Willow was beginning to get over tired and may not drop off in our arms. It was a huge help when boarding and disembarking too as one of us would wear her leaving our hands free to carry bags, passports etc. I imagine if travelling alone a carrier is even more helpful. It was also essential when we had to check in our stroller at the check in desk in Melbourne.
9. Stroller gate check
Most airlines will allow you to use your stroller up until you reach the gate to board the plane where it must then be gate checked. If it is a large stroller however some airports may ask you to check it in at the ticket desk when checking in. We flew Qantas on the way over to Australia with our Uppa Baby Cruz and had no problems bringing it as far as the gate in Toronto. On the return flight from Melbourne however we were told that it was too big and needed to be checked in. This wasn’t ideal but manageable as we had our carrier to put Willow in.
Well there are my top tips for preparing to fly with your new baby. Click here for Part 2 which on ‘Tips for during the flight’…..