How to survive air travel with a baby
Flying with children of any age can strike fear into their parents and the other passengers alike.
When you arrive at an airport with babies and children in tow, the dismayed looks on the other passenger’s faces says it all – “please don’t sit near me”. You can almost hear their thoughts and hearts fall into their shoes.
Respect your fellow passengers!
Not everyone appreciates children on planes and that’s their prerogative. Not everyone is as enamoured with your darling as you are. Please don’t be defensive about this, show them you are aware and sensitive to their feelings by trying your very best to be as unobtrusive as possible. Not easy, I know, but empathy towards others is a Good Thing.
Taking a long flight with children is indeed a trial, but flying with a baby is easy in comparison to flying with children in other age groups. It’s when babies become mobile that it gets difficult!
Eat, sleep, cry
The main thing to remember is that babies have three basic modes: eat, sleep and cry.
If you hope for the first two and expect the third, you should be less anxious. Your anxiety won’t help anyone, to be frank.
Here are some tips to help you cope with a flight with your baby and alleviate any potential suffering to all passengers, including you and your baby.
16 tips for surviving a flight with a baby
- Contact your airline to find out everything you can about how they can help you and your baby have a comfortable flight.
- If you can afford it, pay for an extra seat for the baby. You can strap in a forward facing car seat but check that your airline permits this – some even carry their own version. This allows you a little freedom, secure in the knowledge that baby is safe. Alternatively, consider upgrading to at least premium economy seats to give you some extra space to manoeuvre.
- If you need a bassinet book it well in advance of your trip as they are limited. The drawback with these is that they are situated on the bulkhead seats which are located next to the toilet, so will not be peaceful.
- Carry your baby in a sling as you won’t be able to take the pushchair / buggy onto the plane. This will also allow your hands to be free to carry on a bag.
- Pack more nappies / diapers than you think you’ll need. And lots of wipes.
- Include your baby’s blanket or sheet for familiarity. The smell will be comforting.
- Take several changes of clothes for the baby, and at least one change of clothing for you…
- Feed your baby on take-off and landing. A baby’s Eustachian tubes are tiny and the change in pressure can cause pain. If it’s not time for milk, or your baby refuses to feed, then a bottle of water will help.
- If you’re breastfeeding, just keep feeding!
- If you have a pacifier / dummy, use it! The sucking and comfort it brings will help in all respects.
- An overnight flight is easiest, especially if your journey is going to be long. Put night-clothes on your baby as normal and follow any routine you have for getting the baby to sleep. Actually, try anything at all to get baby to sleep! Forget about your own rules for this trip.
- Don’t expect to get much, if any, sleep yourself, especially if the baby is on your lap. A sling will help.
- If your baby is weaned, ensure you have plenty of snacks in your bag to hand out at opportune moments.
- Bring a selection of quiet toys – books, puppets etc and a few new ones for extra distraction value. Things to chew and bright or shiny things to look at are all good ‘toys’. If nothing else seems to be working, let the baby pull the in-flight magazine to pieces!
- One of the trickiest aspects of aeroplane travel with a baby is your own comfort. Going to the toilet while holding a baby is somewhat awkward. Wear clothes you can pull down and up again with one hand!
- Eating your meal is also an interesting experience with a baby on your lap. If you are lucky an airline attendant may help you, or a nice fellow passenger, but don’t expect it. Take your own easy-to-eat snacks to supplement the meal that will probably end up spilled all over you.
If it all goes horribly wrong and your baby screams throughout the flight regardless of your ministrations, all you can do is apologise to the other passengers and remember, you will probably never see any of them ever again!
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It’s a good idea to check with the airlines about any company specific policies – one airline I flew prohibited the use of baby slings/carriers on board. And if you don’t use pacifiers/dummies normally, don’t worry about using you pinky finger (or bottle, etc) to encourage sucking during the ride – one-time comfort attempts won’t be habit forming and will make everyone feel better when the airpressure changes
Thank you for these excellent points. Yes, airlines do have different rules and sometimes change them with little warning, so always check before heading to the airport. More information can be found here: http://expatchild.com/flying-with-baby-what-to-expect-onboard-plane/
I’ve flown close to babies who cryed nearly all night long. But what
you’re gonna do about that? I don’t understand fellow passengers who
complain about that (actually I haven’t personally seen anyone doing
that).However, ear plugs can help a lot.
Thank you for your comment.
For long flights I used to pack a bag with little treats for the kids, all nicely wrapped. Every hour they were allowed to open one. Our longest flight was 17 hours, that’s how I was able to explain how long the flight was. Are we there yet? When the bag was almost empty, we were almost there! The treats I saved before from a McDonalds toy, to a box of raisins, all cheap disposable things. I also had some balloons, great to play with on an airport, just pop them when you move on. During transfers the boys had a small label in a keyring attached to their jeans with info of our next flight, just in case.
Excellent suggestions! I have done much the same in the past with the little toys and sweets. I particularly like the idea of the keyring ID!
Really great tips!
Hi, Just found your website and blog. We hope to fly to Singapore next year with a baby and a 5 year old 🙂 I know mad but will certainly check your tips. You mentioned if everything goes wrong apologise, I read an article about a couple with twins on a flight, they put a little bag of sweets on each chair when they got on the plane with a note attached to say they apologised beforehand for any inconvinience. Classic!
So glad you found me 🙂
Yes, I saw the article about the couple giving out sweets to all the passengers. Interesting option!
I’ll be writing up an article on dealing with older kids soon which I hope you’ll find useful (and not too scary!).
Hope you enjoy your trip to Singapore. I’ve many friends living there who love it.
That’s a great idea! Hope your flight went well.