Whether you’re teetering on the edge of clicking ‘book’ for an exciting overseas adventure with your little one or you’ve got something already confirmed and you’re now starting to panic, these pearls of wisdom are for you.
And as a side-note, if you are worrying about the unknown, dreading the flight and pretty much convincing yourself out of it, that’s completely normal – don’t beat yourself up over it. It probably doesn’t help that people are probably telling you you’re mad for even considering a flight with a baby – that’s what happened to me and I can totally understand why that might put you off travelling with them (especially if you weren’t a big traveller pre-baby).
Despite what you may have heard travelling with a baby IS possible (and can be fun, honest!). As you’ll know if you’re a regular here, by the time Nova was six-moths we’d ventured to the Netherlands, Jersey, Greece, Mallorca and Canada. Nova is my first (and only baby) so I didn’t know what to expect at first and the way people were going on (and on and on) to me I suspected we might not ever make it out of the county, let alone country!
The ironic thing is, most of the people who insisted on imparting their unhelpful advice usually did so, without being asked, often didn’t even have children and if they did, often hadn’t even tried it. And to be honest, since when was it better to live your life through someone else? I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather try things for myself – even if it doesn’t turn out as I’d hoped, I’d much rather give it a go than live life wondering.
Annnd I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that an experience could be completely different from one day to the next. There are so many variables and that’s the fun thing about life (and babies) – the variety. Even if you have a crappy experience, it’s only X amount of hours out of hundreds in your life and more so, the next time could be a zillion times better.
You can do it. Promise!
Tips for Flying with a Baby
Although little ones can be unpredictable, there are a few things that you can do to give you the best possible chance of a smooth and dare I say it, easy flight. These are my tried and tested pearls of wisdom for travelling with a mini-explorer (particularly who is less than a year old)…
Short-Haul (Up to 6 Hours)
♥ Pack in Pods
Organisation is your best friend. Pack your baby gear in pods, so that rather than having to lug your whole bag out of the cabin or to the cramped loo, you can just grab the relevant one when you need it. I use the Pacapod changing bag, which uses this concept, but you could easily make your own version with another change bag and make-up/wash bags.
Make your life even easier by packing in clear pods. On flights I use large freezer bags – one for medicines, one for toys, one for clothes etc. It may sound over the top, but it makes it so much easier to find things.
♥ Wear Something Comfy
Unless you book (and pay) for a separate seat most airlines will assume a baby who is less than two years old will sit on your lap for the entire flight. I feel like I’m stating the obvious here, but wear something comfortable.
Leggings, harem trousers, palazzo pants all work well. Jeans not so much as they can be a bit stiff. I’d recommend layering a basic, stretchy strap top underneath a thin top as I find it gets quite stuffy on planes and it feels even hotter on there when you have a little one on you. This also works well if you’re breastfeeding – you can just discreetly lift the top layer up and pull the bottom one down.
Obvs it is personal preference, but I’d 100% recommend flat shoes. Carrying a baby up and down those rickety steps from the runway to the plane is difficult enough without adding heels into the equation.
♥ Back Up
Whatever you choose to wear, stick a pair of leggings and a thin, basic top in your hand luggage. It’s more likely that you’ll end up with milk/food/sick/all on you in such a confined space, so don’t get caught out. Just don’t waste valuable packing space or weigh yourself down with something bulky.
If your flight is more than four hours and you can afford it, consider upgrading to premium economy or better, just so you can enjoy more space to stretch your legs, let baby wriggle about a bit more and to have easier access to all your baby gear.
At the very least check what the price difference is because sometimes it’s really not as much as you’d think. And also it’s worth politely asking for an upgrade when you check-in. The family in front of us on the way back from Canada managed to snag seats in economy comfort. Their baby was super little, maybe only a month or two, so maybe the cuteness factor helped.
♥ Toy Rotation
Don’t use all of your toys in one go. Wait until they’re bored of one, then whip out another to really nail the art of distraction. In my experience a mixture of old favourites and newbies works well.
And don’t forget that the plane itself will entertain them. Nova has amused himself for ages scratching and pulling the seat cover. If it isn’t bothering anyone, go with it!
♥ Prepare for the Worst
Pack an extra bottle, formula/food and nappies for your flight just in case you’re delayed. Sometimes a delay takes place when you’re already on the plane so you don’t want to get caught out.
Long-Haul (6+ Hours)
All of the tips from short-haul trips (see above) apply, but the following should also help…
Most airlines will provide a bassinet free of charge. It’s like a mini cot that attaches to the wall in front of your seat, so that your baby can have a snooze. There are only a limited number of them because they attach to the walls at the front of each section on the plane – you know the areas where you’ll usually find extra-leg room seats.
So, book your bassinet as soon as possible. With airlines like KLM you can do this via the online portal to your booking. You simply tick a box to select one. Easy peasy.
Even if you don’t think your baby will sleep in one, book it. Firstly, you might be surprised that they do (this happened with Nova on our way to Canada) so it’s worth trying as it gives you a bit of space and time to do your own thing, whether that’s having a nap, going to the loo, watching a film or whatever.
It also means that you’ll have a bit of extra legroom, which baby or no baby, is always a good thing.
♥ Home Scents
Bring a blanket or bed sheet from home. The familiar scent may feel reassuring for your little one – it’s at least got to smell better than the corporate airline blankets, right?!
♥ Strategic Seating
I would definitely recommend going for a two-seat combo at the side of the plane, as near to the next class cabin as possible. You’ll have less people milling about near your seats or trying to use your extra legroom as a walkway.
On one of the legs of our journey we were in the four-seat combo in the middle of the plane, right near the toilets. It meant that we had more people walking past or hanging around our seats which made it more difficult when we were trying to get Nova to nod off. It also meant it was harder for us to relax when he was napping as we had to keep an eye on over-friendly people who wanted to peer in his cot or worse, touch him. Yes, I’m being serious.
If your baby likes a bit of white noise to drift off, you’ll probably find the hum of the plane works well. I’d strongly using the same music or white noise as you do at home just for a bit of consistency though. I have the Spotify Premium account, which means I have access to a whole library of uninterrupted music on my phone. If you’ve downloaded an album or playlist to your phone you can play it offline too. Nova loved listening to his tracks! He recommends Best of Rockabye Baby (lullabye renditions of songs by the Foo Fighters and other cool artists) and Lullaby Baby 2016 (acoustic tracks).
♥ Home Shows
If you have a Kindle or Tablet it might be worth downloading a few episodes of Peppa Pig or whatever their fave show is. It’s probably not needed on a short-haul flight, but for a longer one it can be a good tool to whip out when you’ve exhausted all of the toys.
They have children’s programmes on some of the in-flight entertainment systems, but it can sometimes be tricky to angle the screen for your little one. Plus, have you ever tried to put headphones on a baby?!
♥ Makes Friends
It is worth giving the staff and nearby passengers a friendly smile. After all, they’re going to be your company for the next six+ hours, so if you can get them on side from the start they’re more likely to help you *if* things start to go a bit pear-shaped.
On our way to Canada Jay was sorting the stroller out while I carried Nova and our bags onto the plane. It was one of those never-ending walkways and a kind man carried my bags for me, delivering them all the way to my overhead cabin. As much as there are moaners out there, there are also some really lovely, helpful people out there too.
Above all, my biggest piece of advice for travel-lovers is to be a ‘do-er’. Book the trip, go somewhere, enjoy your time together and make memories.
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Have you got any tips or advice to add to this list? Leave a comment below!
This post is in collaboration with KLM as part of #CharWithKLM