I often hear parents saying that they are scared of flying with their little ones. I also know that many prefer staying home instead of 'taking the risk'. Of course I undestand the worries (been there too), especially if it's the very first flight. But I think it's better to invest the energy into preparations instead of wasting it on thoughts 'what if'. For the past two years of being a mom I got some experience on traveling with a kid and can honestly tell you that flying is actually the easiest part of every journey (but this is another story).
So let me share with you my 5 simple tips on flying with an infant, the ones I have been following since our daughter flew for the first time in her life when she was 3 months old and the ones I follow since, slightly adjusting the conditions as she keeps growing.
book your flights wisely
Noone knows your kid better than you do. I know that at toddlers age it's difficult to plan with exact times and schedules, simply because they tend to change every two weeks. But there are still some milestones you can take in consideration. Does your baby sleep during the day and is active at night? Or the other way around? Are there nap times involved?
As I wrote earlier our daughter boarded her first flight at the age of 3 months. By that time we already figured out that she slept during the night, had 2-3 day nap times and fell asleep right away after feeding. Her first flight took only 2.5 hours and we deliberately booked it during the morining hours so that the little one had her first nap during the flight. And it worked out. I nursed her before the flight and she was happily snoozing on her dad's lap most of the flight.
When kids grow older the behaviour changes and day-night and nap times are usually coming to a certain times. By the age of 2 our daughter had 1 day nap and slept from 19 p.m. until 06 a.m. So when going from Germany to Australia we booked the night flight and had no troubles at all. The flight was going with 1 stop-over and took 7 hours + 14 hours. For the first 7 hours Düsseldorf - Abu Dhabi the flight times were during the day, but we timed it with the day nap. The second flight Abu Dhabi - Sydney was a night flight, where our little traveler slept 10 out of 14 hours. So no complaints here.
Don't forget about time zones! Always book your times according to the time zone you and your kid are used to at the moment.
don't take too many things on board
Some parents think that the more the better and bring everything they have at home on board.
I believe that it's better for both sides to concentrate on kids needs than on having your hands full and thinking whether there will be enough storage space for all the stuff. You won't need much anyway - there will be no time for using it all.
Since our first family travels I have transformed my camera backpack into the changing bag replacing heavy camera and camera lenses (which I know carry inside a hand luggage suitcase) with kids stuff.
Here is what I pack and take with me on board - if the flight is short I pack less, if the flight is long I pack a bit more. But it all has to fit in that one backpack.
- diapers - I try to pack a couple of these in case the flight gets delayed or there is an emergency diaper situation (you know what I'm talking about =)). I find it very convinient to pack diaper pants, which are easier to deal with than regurlar diapers.
- 1 travel package of baby wipes
- 1 small package of tissues
- 1 washeable bib
- 1 set of changing clothes
- extra pair of socks
- 1-2 small sized books (usually one old favorite one and one new one)
- 1-2 toys (same procedure as with books. One favorite and one new one). On long flights most airlines have enertainment stuff for elder kids - like colouring books and little surprises, which are coming quite handy. You can always ask the crew and usually they are more than happy to provide you with what they have.
- snack (I'd usually take and apple, a banana, a sandwich or some cookies and a bottle of water. Nothing too big, but always a little storage in case of a hunger attack. When our daughter was a toddler I would also pack a glas or two of baby food and 1-2 smoothies for babies.
- Nose spray in case of air pressure
- 1-2 pacifiers
- Even though our daughter is not allowed to play with Iphone I would usually install an app with some animal pictures or something similar to use in the emergency case when nothing else works - but so far I haven't used it.
- 1 set of pencils and a small notebook
Additionally I would take:
- Ergo baby or sling. These were useful for up to 1.5 years.
- Portable stroller.
As long as you are innovative and invest your energy into listening to your kids needs instead of your inner worries everything is going to be alright! Invent stories out of board magazines or emergency cards, walk along the aisle, watch out for tiny cars and houses outside the window or draw something together. Kids are excited to be on the plane - help them to get the best impressions out of the flight!
always keep your essentials at hand
There are some things you want to keep next to you at all times - a pacifier, a bottle of water or milk, nose spray. Your kid might need these (not all at once though) during take off and landing in case of air pressure. It is advisable to nurse a baby, to give it something to suck upon or drink during these times when the air pressure is on it's strongest.
So be sure to keep your essentials at hand - I have a small pouch where I store all these items (exept for bottles) and place it in the seat infront of me. If you are using baby formula, ask the crew when boarding to fill it in with warm water to be ready on time before taking off.
bring along help
By help I don't mean an extra pair of hands - even though that's usually the best.
I mean extra helpers like stroller or a sling. Until our daughter turned 1.5 year old she was falling asleep only with the help of ErgoBaby. So I would either do a little dance before the flight and bring her on board snoozing or do the same dance inside the aircraft. This helped a lot, since as most of the kids when tired she was getting agitated and there was no way she fell asleep by simply being on my lap.
Same goes for stroller - we always take ours on board, because you have your hands free up to the aircrafts door and the same goes for getting off the plane.
If you have any 'little helpers' which you could use to make the flight easier (for you) by all means bring them along.
wear comfortable clothes and stay active
Comfortable clothes goes for both parties - for parents as well as for kids. You don't want to wear high heels when changing babys diapers inside an airplane lavatory. Same goes for the little ones - dress your little traveler into the most convinient clothes!
I usually plan our outfits before the flight - placing everything infront of me on the sofa.
I try to dress the little one in easy to wash and to handle clothes. Something with a hoodie goes on top, because in flight aircons can be pretty nasty.
I also take an extra pair of socks for the whole family for walking inside the plane.
And please remember, no matter what you pack orwhat flights you have booked, try to stay as relaxed and calm as you can. It's just a flight, it's not the end of the World!
Do you have any tips on traveling with a kid? Feel free sharing them in the comments below - would love to know your way of hitting the road as a family!
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