The thought of flying with a baby in tow can be a scary proposition for most parents, but with just a little preparation, you can make the ride as smooth as possible. Here are some tips to make your flight a great one!
Make Sure All Documents are in Order: Gone are the days when babies could fly on the passport of a parent. Babies need their own travel documents to be allowed to leave the country. If both parents are not flying with the child, it is advisable to bring a document of consent from the parent staying behind giving permission to take the child out of the country. Having all documents prepared and ready to go will help smooth your way through check-in.
Book a seat for baby: Most airlines allow babies to fly on an adult’s lap for free up until a set age. While it’s certainly the less expensive option, it isn’t the safest or most convenient. The safest option for baby is in a separate seat, secured safely in a car seat that is attached to the plane seat. A flight attendant can help with installation. Babies feel safe in their own car seat, and are more likely to nap when snuggled in their comfy seat. This also frees up your lap, making it easier for you to eat, read, or relax. Especially because a baby seat will be a necessity when you reach your destination, and it’s best to have one you know is safe for your child.
Bring a stroller: A proper stroller can make travel a breeze. Travel systems that allow the car seat to attach to the stroller simplify the task of bringing the car seat along. It provides a comfortable and safe place for your child to play and rest, and the basket underneath is perfect for storing carry-ons and diaper bags. Airlines often don’t count strollers toward checked baggage limits, and you can roll them right up to the door of the airplane. Unclick the car seat to bring on the plane when you get there.
Consider a Baby Carrier or Sling: Babies sometimes feel safer in the arms of a parent, and may get fussy during long wait times in an airport or even on a plane. A baby carrier allows you to keep baby close to your chest, while keeping your hands free. Baby carriers are a great way to lull a baby to sleep, or to calm a baby that’s grown tired of the stroller or car seat. Choose one that can be rolled up and tucked away in a diaper bag or at the bottom of the stroller. Also, you should be able to put the baby into the carrier and take the baby out unassisted.
A roomy diaper bag that’s also hands-free: Diaper bags come in all shapes and sizes, but for travel, bigger is better as long as it’s also easy to carry. Cross-body or messenger style bags are better than over the shoulder bags that can slip off, or backpacks that have to be removed every time you need to get something out. Your bag should be able to handle bottles and/or baby food, diapers and a portable change mat, baby wipes, pacifiers, 2 changes of clothes, a small blanket, stuffed animal, and toys. If you are a light packer, the diaper bag can also double as your carry-on.
Something to Soothe Baby for Take-off and Landing: The change in air pressure can hurt little ears, so having something for baby to suck on is always recommended. A bottle or pacifier work well. The sucking action should help relieve pressure and minimize any discomfort babies may feel when the pressure changes.
Feeding Supplies: Unless your baby is 100% breastfed, you need feeding supplies. Insulated bottle bags will keep premade bottles cold. Formula dispensers are a great way to prepare bottles on demand. Dispensers have compartments that hold enough formula to make one bottle in each compartment. If your baby is eating baby food, spoons and sealed baby food bottles are a must. Sealed jars don’t need to be refrigerated and a non-perishable until opened. Bring more food than you think you will need, in case of delay. Disposable bibs are great because they avoid the need for storing stinky, dirty bibs for long periods of time. Though be sure to check airlines’ policy on liquids before flying – they’ll usually have special conditions for babies.
Changing Supplies: Diaper changes are inevitable, and the thought of changing a baby in an airplane bathroom can be scary. A portable change mat is a must for protecting baby from unsanitary surfaces. Pack more diapers than you think you’ll need, wipes, and diaper cream. Change baby immediately before boarding the airplane in the more spacious airport bathrooms to minimize the number of changes needed on the plane.
Clothing: Babies get dirty, and more than one change of clothes is a must, especially if traveling from one climate to another. Choose outfits that are comfortable, in natural fibres that breathe. If the flight is overnight, pajamas can help set the mood for sleep. A small blanket might help take the chill off the cool airplane air, as can a small knit cap. A minimum of 2 changes of clothing is advised. One piece outfits take up the least amount of space and are the simplest to put on in a cramped space.
Entertainment: For older babies and toddlers a show or some kind of entertainment is a must. Too young to enjoy the online entertainment, they need toys that are safe, portable, and interesting enough to capture their attention. Items that make a lot of noise are not great for fellow passengers, so choose items that are quiet, but that have bright colours, moving parts, or other interesting features. Rather than handing over all the toys at the same time, ration them out throughout the flight so that baby doesn’t get tired of them all at once.
Patience and a Sense of Humor: Babies are unpredictable, and even under the most carefully planned circumstances, things can go wrong. Travel throws off a baby’s schedule, and all the extra stimulation of an airport can be overwhelming for some babies. Expect your baby to behave differently from their behaviour at home, and have an extra dose of patience for their fussiness or crying. Flights are long and boring for adults, they can seem even more so to babies. Don’t worry about what your fellow passengers are thinking. Smile and enjoy the fact that you are able to enjoy the opportunity to travel with your baby.