When I married my Danish husband, I knew at that point that traveling will be part of the deal. We have traveled to a few countries in Asia together and so it was inevitable that we will also travel after our wedding and when we have our own little family. And we sure did!
Our first international flight with our baby daughter was when she was only five months old.The thought of being in transit with a baby for 30 hours scared me and that’s saying it lightly. The 30-hour transit time included the flight wait time, layovers (10 hours in Dubai), trip to and from the airport, and the whole nine yards. That trip was longer than when I first travelled to Denmark because we decided to try a different airline. It wasn’t our first airplane trip with a baby because we travelled domestic when she was only 2 months old but a 2-hour flight cannot be compared to 8 hours much less a total of 30 hours. You can bet I did all the reading I can to equip me to survive the trip and I interviewed all my mommy friends if they have tips or even hacks to share.
So here I am, writing this article, hoping to help an anxious mommy out there with 10 of the best tips that I collated through my own experience, from other moms, or through my online research. Please do note that what worked for us may not work for you but know that the tips below should be taken with caution and know that your baby’s needs might be different from the needs of the baby sitting next to your airplane seat.
Travelling with your little ones in tow can be a daunting prospect, especially on long haul flights or if your flight has been delayed or cancelled! After all, there’s just something about being confined to one small space for several hours that fills even the most competent parents with fear!
The good news is, if your flight has been delayed or cancelled, you could be entitled to flight delay compensation, so don’t forget to check if you are eligible!
But remember, providing you are prepared with everything you need to keep your little one happy, content and entertained, flying with your baby or toddler needn’t be the nightmare you imagined it to be, even if your flight has been delayed or cancelled.
1. Plans are nothing; planning is everything.
The quote above is my favorite quote penned by Dwight D. Eisenhower and I strive to apply that in my life especially after I gave birth to my baby daughter. Because of the “mommy-brain” (I’m sure a lot of mommies can relate to this), planning is really on top of my list. I also made sure to write the plans on a piece of paper so it would be easier for me to remember what I wrote. I honestly think it is easier to forget about a list if you type it and print. Of course, when it comes to planning and keeping your list, always do what is easier and more convenient for you. It goes without saying that writing it on a piece of paper is not a hard and fast rule. What I can tell you with conviction now is that when you travel and you have a baby, you cannot just rely on “winging” things. When you travel with an infant, do not forget to book your ticket and your little one as well. Yes, they need to pay even if they won’t be occupying a seat yet. Write down your travel and tour itineraries and make sure the places you will visit are baby-friendly. Check the weather and plan what clothes to bring. If baggage weight is a concern, make sure to bring a few clothes that would suit the season and then just do your shopping when you get to your destination. If your baby is not feeding on you, make sure to bring enough milk for his/her consumption. I had to bring a few extra scoops of formula to make sure that my baby won’t starve just in case our flight gets delayed. Getting from place to place was not a big consideration for us because we had a car waiting at our destination but if you will be using public transport, make sure to include it in your plans as well. If I haven’t stressed it enough yet – planning is everything!
2. Do your research.
Doing your research and planning goes hand-in-hand and so I am adding another item about it. As I have mentioned above, you cannot just wing it anymore when you have a baby. A baby will change everything – even the amount of things you bring, the time you spend on doing something, and even the places you will see and things to do. You can’t possibly schedule a mountain climbing activity when you have a baby in tow right? Buy the flight time that would suit your baby’s sleeping hours. Our flight left Manila at 12 midnight and that was perfect because I know that was my baby’s downtime and so she was asleep in the bassinet the whole 8-hour flight to Dubai. We felt so blessed! Now, that’s good planning and research isn’t it? It is also best to keep the pace of your tours manageable and allow for some downtime. Build your itinerary around the nap schedule of the little person you’re travelling with. You don’t want a cranky nap-deprived baby while travelling. It will be a nightmare for sure. The safety and well-being of your baby trumps seeing the next tourist attraction 15-miles away. Your research should also include the following: breastfeeding areas in airports, weather, availability of diaper-changing stations, availability of medicines for common illnesses (if not available then make sure to bring), equivalent brand of your baby’s formula milk, and other things you feel would be necessary for you and your baby.
3. Pack wisely for your baby and you.
Have you heard of the saying “the smaller the baby, the bigger the bag”? Well, that is true! An infant needs so many things. When we travelled, my husband and I shared a suitcase and the little one had a suitcase and a half. Oh my! How things have changed. We did not bring a stroller because my brother-in-law lent us a stroller that they were not using anymore. If you must bring one however, make sure to bring a light but sturdy stroller. Put the items inside your diaper bag in a clear plastic bags (Ziplock bags are the best!) and segregate depending on your need (one for diaper change, one for toys, one for extra clothes, one for feeding) so you don’t have to spend so much time searching and fishing for each item inside the bag. You can just simply grab and go! It is also best to come up with a list of items to bring when packing so you don’t forget anything. Of course, please don’t forget to pack an extra shirt for yourself as well in your carry-on bag.
4. Manage your time efficiently.
Check-In online so you won’t need to line up and spend precious time at the check-in counter. The bag drop counters usually have shorter lines. A baby can be heavy even if you use a baby carrier and you don’t want to expose your baby in a crowded place. Before you flight, call the airlines and ask about their bulkhead seat reservation and request a bassinet as well. For Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways, you can call beforehand to reserve the bulkhead seat but the bassinet can only be requested upon check-in so make sure to check-in early as well. Airlines also allow passengers with infants or children to board first so take advantage of that privilege so you can be sure that all your hand carried bags are stored on the overhead bins directly on top of your seat. You don’t want to be the last to board because you’ll surely run out of baggage space near your seat. Allot enough time as well to go through immigration so you don’t miss your flight. Always expect the unexpected so you don’t get stressed by the little glitches along the way.
5. Bring your baby’s favourite toys or pillow.
If your baby has a favourite plush toy or a favourite pillow, bring it! When we travelled, I brought my daughter’s favourite pillow, her comfy swaddle blanket and a few of her toys. Bringing your baby’s familiar items will make him/her adjust to the new environment/place easier. If you still have space in your bag, tuck in a little book so you can read to your baby during the flight. Your soft voice will calm him/her down for sure.
6. Takeoff and Landing
Children, especially small babies, do not know how to clear their ears yet to reduce the pressure when an aircraft takes off or lands. If your baby is awake, you can help them relieve the pressure by nursing them or feeding them through a bottle. For our case, her pacifier helped do the trick. Based on my research, milk also works as a mild sedative so feeding your baby will make them drift to sleep. I would also suggest changing diapers before takeoff so your baby will be comfortable in her bassinet.
7. Fight the jet lag.
I’m used to changing my body clock so jet lag does not bother me at all but this was one of my big worries for my baby. If you’re crossing time zone, make sure to adjust your baby’s sleep schedule accordingly leading to your departure. Then again, babies can be babies, so when they want to sleep just let them doze off anytime they want. However, if you want to stick to nap and sleep schedule, then by all means do so. Just make sure to not sacrifice your baby’s well-being. One way to adjust your baby’s body clock is to expose him/her to sunlight or in a well-lit room and to keep him/her busy.
8. Adjust your mindset.
Just as much as you need to manage your time efficiently, you also need to adjust your mindset accordingly. Your trips will be twice as long with a baby, you will be relatively slow because you would not be able to run around without caution with a baby, you will need little breaks (several in fact). Your baby’s comfort will be a big priority when you travel.
9. Dress your baby appropriately.
Layering is the answer on how to appropriately dress your baby when traveling. Zippered onesies is also better than button-ons or snap-ons. When you’re going to airport security or when you change dirty diapers, you want to be able to do it fast and easy.
10. Vaccinate your baby.
This last tip may not appeal to all parents but I strongly suggest this. Make sure your baby’s vaccines are complete and up-to-date before your international trip. Make sure to inform your pediatrician about your coming trip, so he/she can provide the necessary vaccinations. If you are travelling to tropical countries, anti-dengue vaccines might be needed or anti-Japanese encephalitis. Flu strains may also be different from one country to another so equip yourself with the knowledge as well. It would be handy to bring your baby’s vaccination tracking book as well.
So those are my 10 tips on how you can survive a long-haul flight and travel with an infant. I hope you picked up at least one or two or maybe three that would help you when it’s your turn to travel. If you have additional tips to share, please feel free to leave a comment. Mommies stick with mommies right? Let’s all enjoy a life of travel and adventure with our families. Have fun exploring the world!
About the Writer
KESSA THEA NIELSEN
Kessa has retired from the corporate world and is now a full-time, stay-at-home mom who dabbles in blogging, graphic design and daydreaming about her next travel destination. Kessa grew up in the southern part of the Philippines and moved to the country’s central business district after finishing her degree in Accounting. She loves to cook and bake and watching Masterchef is her guilty pleasure. She’s married to a Danish national and is a doting mom to her daughter who’s a bundle of energy. She loves hiking in forests, supermarket shopping, mixing spices, kneading dough and collecting beautiful stationery and porcelain.
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