Baby Isla turned one last week (seriously, where has the year gone!?) and she is lucky to have collected four stamps in her passport already! In the first year of her life she took five short haul and four long haul flights and was an absolute angel on them all! I have lots of parents who come to me asking for advice when they plan their first overseas trip with baby in tow, so I thought I would put a few of my top tips together for flying with a baby.
1-Think about travelling times
If your baby is small enough to sleep on the go at any time of day, as Isla was on our first trip to Spain, flight times probably don’t really matter. But once baby has established their routine you probably want to avoid disrupting that too much if you can. A baby who is over-tired can be a real nightmare (trust me I know!), so avoid flights that are super early in the morning- a 6am flight will mean arriving at the airport around 4am and depending on your journey time to the airport waking up might have to take place a couple of hours or more before that. Such an early start will disrupt anyone’s body clock, baby or not.
Night flights are generally a good bet as baby can sleep and is less likely to get restless and want to play, although this does depend on the length of the flight. A 10pm-4am flight to Dubai might not be ideal but an 8pm-8am flight from London to Mexico could work perfectly. We were lucky to be upgraded on Isla’s first long-haul flight from Heathrow to Costa Rica and so we both cuddled up on the flat bed and slept all night long!
2- Consider baby’s ears
Changes in altitude are likely to affect your precious one’s little ears, especially if their sinuses are blocked (Isla and I have had a constant cold from October-March, sigh…). It is a good idea to encourage baby to be sucking something during take-off and landing to avoid this where possible. This can be by breastfeeding, bottle feeding, using a dummy or sucking a thumb. We have always given Isla a dummy and have never had any problems.
3- Reserve a bassinet
Having a bassinet can be a lifesaver, especially if you have a night flight. If baby won’t sleep in it (my Isla will only sleep with me!) it is also a great place to keep all of those baby things you brought with you- toys, blankets, bottles etc. Bare in mind that there are weight restrictions, so this is generally for the younger babies only. An added bonus of getting a bassinette seat is that these are often ‘chargeable’ seats as you tend to get a little extra leg room, the down side, however, is that whoever you are travelling with might be seated separately. This happened with my husband and I on each of our four long haul flights which were with three different airlines.
4- Buy your milk and nappies in advance and collect at the airport
OK so you’ve already sacrificed a pair of shoes for baby’s favourite ‘blanky’, but where are you going to fit in those pots of formula and nappies?! These are seriously bulky items that will take up lots of room in your luggage. It might cost slightly more than you would usually pay but it is super handy to be able to reserve your baby bits online and then to collect them airside at the airport. For more advice on what to pack when travelling with a baby you can read this post.
5- Buy some ready-made formula
On our first long haul trip to Costa Rica I was breastfeeding Isla so this wasn’t something I had considered. But I was shocked when I overheard a parent sat next to me on the flight being told by the cabin crew that they would not warm up her baby’s milk. We travelled to Sri Lanka when Isla was nine months old and by this time I was feeding her formula. I was rather concerned at how unhelpful the crew were on my previous flight and I was nervous at the prospect of being without my perfect-prep machine so I opted to order some ready-made formula for the flight instead. OK so this isn’t warm, but luckily Isla isn’t too fussy about this. It was super handy that I could order to collect at the airport as it meant I didn’t have to worry about liquid restrictions at security and it was much easier to use than formula when in a confined space with a baby who decides she wants her milk NOW. Seriously, can you imagine entertaining a hungry baby onboard an aircraft for half an hour while waiting for boiling water to cool down?!
6- Take the baby carrier
They might tell you that your stroller will be returned to you at the aircraft door in London Gatwick, but when you arrive at the tiny Spanish airport in Murcia this could be a different story… there have been multiple occasions when I have expected to retrieve the stroller only to find that it has been taken to the baggage belt. Some airports have long distances to walk and long lines at immigration so having a baby carrier is a lifesaver, personally I love my Babybjorn but there are lots of carriers or slings to choose from, you can read my review here.
So that’s it, my top tips for flying with a baby. Are you planning your first family trip? I’d love to hear about it- leave your comments in the box below! Check out this post for 25 airplane activities for toddlers and preschoolers!