Are you planning air travel with your newborn for the first time and are worried that it might be a very difficult experience? Don’t worry. Travelling with babies doesn’t have to be as stressful as you think.
In the current times, travelling has become quite a tedious and stressful affair what with increased security checks and long wait times at most airports, and travelling with a baby can be one of the most unnerving things parents have to do, especially their first time with a newborn.
Our daughter has not yet turned one but I am happy to say that we have already flown long distance six times with her. All our trips have been long distance (Sweden to/from India), both with and without awkward transit connections. We have learnt a lot from our experience and here are some tips that will help make your flight with your baby much easier (in no particular order of importance):
- Keep your luggage (both check-in and hand luggage) light.
By keeping your luggage light, you will be able to focus on the most important part of your belongings – your baby. Having a lot of luggage will only stress you out about managing it. Would you want to be arguing with the airline about crossing the weight limit? Aim to travel without any hand-luggage, or as little of it as possible, and carry only the baby’s diaper bag, as it would also free you up to take care of your baby during your journey.
- Choose an airline that is known to be child-friendly.
The first flight we took with our baby was Qatar airways and their flight crew were so helpful and so nice to our baby that it took away half our stress the moment we boarded. They came and interacted with our baby a few times during our flight, asked us if we needed anything, happily helped us when we asked for hot water for the baby, and repeatedly told us how lovely our baby was. It makes you feel happy as a passenger when you see the crew appreciate your situation and be helpful. But there are certainly a few airlines that don’t care about the passengers’ comfort. I would strictly advise against flying with them.
- Don’t choose connecting flights with very short transit times.
Choose a transit that allows you to catch the connecting flight without having to rush from the moment your first flight lands. Your baby is a little human being with lots of needs. It might be suffering from a soiled diaper or be extremely hungry at the time of transit and it would be awful to ignore the baby’s needs just because the transit time does not allow one to. On our last such trip, we had a connecting time of just under 4 hours. Though this sounds a bit high, we actually did our transit quite conveniently, ensured our baby was comfortable in her new diaper and was not hungry, and then sat at a really nice restaurant at Doha airport and had nice food and coffee and basically felt really good about the trip.
- Book a bassinet seat and get it confirmed early for the baby.
Especially if it is a long haul flight, but even if it is only a few hours. Having a bassinet allows the parents to free themselves to relax when the baby is asleep and it also makes the baby feel cozy and in a bed. Remember to book early because there are only a handful of bassinets available on a flight and you need to secure your’s fast. Call the airline and request a bassinet seat for your baby as soon as you have booked your flight. On our first trip, our baby fell asleep right after takeoff and slept through the first leg of the journey. We put her into her bassinet and had an extremely comfortable flight.
- Arrive at the airport with plenty of time at hand. Don’t rush!
The worst thing you can do in your entire journey is to rush it. You may not realize it but time-stressed parents make the babies stressed as well. So, reach the airport early and get done with check-in and security-checks early so that you avoid the longer queues as it gets closer to the flight timing. Keep sufficient time at the airport to take care of the baby and of yourself as well. You cannot know how many times the baby will need a diaper change or a feed on a given day.
- Carry sufficient number of diapers in hand baggage and then some extras for unforeseen delays.
I read somewhere that one should follow the rule of one diaper for each hour of the total travelling time, including travel to/from airport, waiting at airport, connection times and any possible delays. We followed this rule on our first trip, and though we never needed to change diapers every hour, we did have some emergencies at times so we thought this was a good enough rule.
- A feeding cover/blanket for the mom might be a good idea to protect from preying eyes.
Many moms feel insecure feeding their baby in public places and it would be a great idea to carry a feeding cover or a baby blanket that can be used for privacy when breastfeeding the baby. We carried a feeding poncho on our first trip, but on subsequent trips, we realized that a baby blanket does the job equally well.
- Create measured portions of milk-formula and other baby food for quick use in an emergency.
Imagine that your baby has started howling out of hunger and you are in a situation where breast feeding her, or measuring formula powder from its box is highly inconvenient. For such emergencies, I would highly advise carrying at least a couple of portions of measured formula powder which you can quickly mix with hot water to make milk for the baby. We bought some small containers from Tommee Tippee which hold measured formula powder and can be held inside a bottle to save space as well. In emergencies, we just dumped the formula into water and the baby’s milk was ready.
- Keep a thermos for hot water for making baby milk/food.
Despite security check rules, we have always carried a small thermos with hot water and not once have we been asked to throw the water away. One time, my wife had to drink a bit of it to prove that it was nothing dangerous, but that was it. It is better to risk throwing away water at security check if asked to do so, than not carry any at all and be at the mercy of ‘friendly’ restaurants at the airport to provide you with hot water for your baby’s milk/food when you need it.
- Prepare the Diaper Bag one day in advance.
Remember, your baby is the most important member of your travelling party and her convenience is of utmost importance. Prepare the diaper bag one or two days in advance and do not risk forgetting important stuff in the stress of the last day.
- Have an easy day before your flight.
Don’t leave any packing for the last few hours before you leave for the airport. Don’t keep any last minute tasks that might burden you. In short, plan your time so that you don’t get tired before your journey even starts. Eat well, but do not overeat or stay hungry. Be comfortable at home, relax and set that easy tone for your trip. Treat your baby with love so that it is also ready for the journey.
- Familiarize yourself with children facilities at the airports of departure, arrival and transit.
Read the websites of the airports and see what facilities they have for kids. Most airports provide a stroller for babies and it can be a life saver. Find out other facilities, like play areas for kids, changing stations, etc. in advance and use them. Keep track of what is available where so that you are not stressed and confused at the airport. Also, keep an eye out for strollers when you land at an airport. One time, we missed that the strollers were kept at the arrival gate as soon as we crossed the aerobridge. We kept walking and found no strollers after that and had to wait in line for the immigration check for over an hour with the baby in our arms and nowhere to put her down. It was extremely tiring and we learnt the lesson the hard way.
- Dressing up the baby.
Don’t bother dressing up your baby as if she was going for a party. Focus on making her comfortable. Babies are most comfortable when they are in their sleep clothes. We always make our baby wear her one-piece sleep-suit and carry a blanket and socks to keep her warm since flights can get a bit too cold for comfort as time progresses.
- Change of clothes for the baby.
Needless to say, but easy to forget. Even on short flights, have a couple of change can be handy in cases of diaper leaks or other ’emergencies’.
- One Change of clothes for self
Interestingly, the easiest thing to forget. We have had multiple instances of having our own clothes spoilt by our little one who had had a little too much milk.
- Toys for calming a baby in distress
It could be her favorite toys, or a rattle or a nursery rhyme on your phone. Whatever helps distract your baby when it is crying.
- Be extra nice to people you come in contact with.
The reason here is that most passengers who do not have kids might find it difficult to empathize with your situation and some might feel easily irritated if your baby is crying a lot. Of course, you don’t need to apologize for your crying baby, but when you start a trip and say polite hellos to the people around you and be slightly nicer to them, you have a higher chance of gaining empathy from those around you instead of angry looks if your baby causes a lot of trouble.
- Your passports and travel documents are necessary.
- Travel business class, even in economy.
This is a bit difficult to understand, but please bear with me. This is more of a psychological thing. What comes to your mind when you think business class? I think comfort, privileges and ease. So, on the days of our travel, I make sure I treat my wife to good food while waiting at the airport. I make use of whatever airport facilities can help me with an easier trip. A nice coffee for the Mrs.? Your partner’s favourite dumplings? How about taking time out to play with the baby as if today is no different? Anything that makes the trip easy and enjoyable. Take things easy. Tell yourself that you are not cattle in a mass of travelers and remember to relax. Even in the rare case that your airline does not give priority boarding to travelers with children, don’t pick up your stuff and queue up way before time only to wait for eternity for the boarding to start. Relax! And get in the queue when it is almost finished.
And remember, flying with your baby does not have to be a stressful experience. Treat it the same way as you would going out for a nice dinner, which means make it an experience you would want to remember. Look forward to enjoying the flying part as much as the destination.
Do you think I have missed anything? Do comment below and let me know what you think can make travelling with babies easier.