We have been on eight flights in the past 18 months since Lauren came into our life. Most flights went pretty well, but there were times when it got very, very challenging. The worse was when neither Nick nor I got any sleep over an eight-hour overnight flight. Nevertheless, fear not. We have since learned our lessons and have a few tips up our sleeves now.
Here is a list of my top 10 tips for parents traveling with babies and toddlers.
1. Book (well) in advance
For flights during peak holiday seasons, make sure to book well in advance. Call/email the airlines to confirm your baby bassinet seat reservation. Otherwise, you will have to hold your baby in lap throughout the journey.
2. Choose your flight according to your baby’s routine
For a short-distance flight, choose a flight after meal and nap time. Make sure your baby is well fed and well rested. If your baby falls asleep easily, choose a flight that departs half an hour before nap time, so your baby will sleep on the plane.
Some parents swear by night flights for long distance, because your baby may sleep through most of the flight. From my personal experience, it was a disaster. But please don’t let my experience deter you.
3. Priority boarding?
Decide at the gate whether you want to pre-board. Getting on early gives you extra time to get settled, but it also means your child has to sit for much longer. Your child might get restless by take off. A better idea is to have your partner/husband get on the plane with the bags while you let your toddler run around until the final call.
4. Choose an aisle seat
You will have to get up more often when traveling with a young child. Having a seat at the aisle will give you more freedom to move without having to climb on top of others or needing to wake people up.
5. Taking off and landing
To help your baby to equalize the ear pressure during take off and landing, you can either nurse your baby, give him water to drink or make them eat something small. Swallowing helps to relieve the pressure in young child.
6. Buy an extra ticket or take a baby carrier with you
Short distance: Consider taking your baby carrier on board, this way your hands are free to carry hand luggage, fill out immigration forms or any other thing you have to do. It is more comfortable for both yourself and baby than having him/her wriggling on your lap.
Long distance: Consider bringing your child’s car seat. This means you’ll probably have to buy an extra ticket, but holding your toddler for the entire flight can be a drag. It’s also unsafe. Plus, the car seat is familiar to her, and she’s already used to traveling and napping in it.
7. Pack it up
Make sure your diaper bag has extra clothes (in case of spillage), jackets/cardigan (temperature in cabin can be chilly), diapers, wipes, food, milk, pacifiers, toys, and blankets. Be sure to also pack something your baby loves. Sitting in a plane can be really boring and feel too unfamiliar for your baby; pack something that will get his immediate attention and be familiar to him. It could be his favorite toy, book, teddy bear, food or whatever you baby loves.
8. Stay calm at all times
If your baby throws a fit, the worst thing you can do is freak out. When you start panicking, your baby picks up on your tension and can get even more upset. Do what you do at home to soothe a tantrum: Walk around, hum her favorite lullaby, or distract her with a toy. And while it’s only polite to try to keep your child from disrupting the flight, don’t worry too much about what other people think. Apologize, but remember you’ll most likely never see your fellow passengers again.
9. Ask for help
If you are traveling alone with your baby, don’t be shy and ask the flight attendant to help you hold your baby, distract the baby or serve you food first. Whatever you need or feel that could help you and your baby to have a more comfortable flight, just ask for it! Most air hostesses are very nice and helpful.
10. Be mentally prepared
That means always expect the unexpected. This one should not be too much of a stretch, as after all we are parents. Accept the fact that things go wrong, baby gets sick, flight gets delayed, etc. Think of it all as an adventure. This way you are less likely to get frustrated and more likely to laugh things off and have a good time flying with your baby.