Traveling with an Infant: Flying

I know we don’t want life to stop when we have a baby, that can mean still wanting to go places. But with an infant flying and long drives are no longer as straight forward as they once were.

I recently got back from a trip home to New Zealand so my baby boy could meet his grandparents. I am a fairly seasoned traveler, but I was a little bit nervous traveling with bub for the first time, and my partner not being able to come meant I was doing it on my own. Before I get into everything I learnt, may I say that Quen was an angel. It is only a three-hour flight, but on the way there he slept 2 hours of it. YES!!

Note: I am going to talk about general things I learnt and what needs to be done/ is handy when flying with bub, I am not going to talk about COVID precautions. Please check what is required before entering the country you are going to.

Let’s start with booking- Along with your ticket you must book bub one too, but they won’t have a seat as they will sit on your lap. There is the option of booking certain seats that have a bassinet available, this is available on many planes now. You can also book a extra seat to give you the room as you will have extra luggage you have to carry around but this will cost more. Then there is the option of isle where is it easy to get up and down if bub is restless or upset making it easy to pace and sooth, or window seat where you have more privacy if breast feeding. If your partner is with you than the choices are to be in the same isle, booking out the isle or choosing 2 isle seats next to each other making it easy to help. I personally chose isle seat as I don’t like sitting down for too long anyway, but I know Quen can be very restless and I didn’t know how he would manage the flight. When picking the flight, chose the quickest and easiest rout possible. Direct or minimal layover is key. Chose the time of the flight to be either in the morning when most babies are happier or when bub is about to have a nap/sleep. Our flights lined up with his naps, while he slept, I was able to relax and watch a movie.

Packing- Of course make sure you have all your passports. Yes, they need their own passports. Some countries need more information if flying without the other parent. Most airlines allow for additional check in and/or carry-on weight when traveling with an infant. They understand how much more stuff you need when you have a child. My bag weighed more on this trip than when I moved country. In your carry on ensure you have a change of clothes or 2, depending on the flight length, for baby but also for yourself. We all know how many bodily fluids come out of these little cuties. I found the dummy to be so helpful! If your baby uses one than definitely take a few. These help bubs pop their ears during the changes of air pressure on take-off and landing as well as gives the security when unsure or overtired. I say take a few as we know they will end up on the ground. A few toys, books or activities to help distract them, try have ones that you can hold on to too, otherwise you will forever be picking it up from the floor. If bub is very active and can be hard for them to sit still for long periods and can end up being fussy.

Note: Their little ears can be very sensitive. If they have been sick before the flight have them checked for any infections as the pressure changes can cause damage their ears.

When checking in, most airlines allow 2 large items for baby that can be a pram/ capsule/ porta-cot/ bassinet/ or car seat.  If you want to check in your pram there is often small prams that the airline offers you and will collect when boarding. Or you can use a pack to carry bub around which enables you to be hands free. This can be a hassle when going through customs or sitting down and getting up again several times while waiting at them airport meaning repeating the process of putting bub in the pack or just carrying them around. The pram or pack must go through either the scanner or x-ray separately and you will need to carry bub through.

Through customs your carry on in most countries allow formula, breast milk, juice, sterilised water, puree, and snack foods for baby within a reasonable amount for the flight or any delays. The flights have some baby foods and formula, but it may not be the right type so do not rely on them. Using feeds for take-off and landing can also help pop bubs ears but also distract them if they are scared.

Other things to consider packing. Have bub drink bottle as flights can be very dehydrating and they will need to sip on water. Have a plastic bag for any wet or soiled clothes. And hand sanitizer to ensure you don’t transfer any bug you touch on the plane to bub.

When dressing for the plane ensure bub is in layered clothes making it easy to adjust to temperature in airport and on the plane. Before boarding I went and changed bubs nappy in the parents’ room as there was plenty of room and didn’t have to worry about turbulence during changing.  Quen doesn’t like lying still while having his nappy changed, and I am not too keen on him falling off the change table.

During boarding you have the option of boarding early allowing you to set up and get settled without a row of people standing behind you impatiently waiting. Or you can board later and allow as little time as possible that bub being confined on the plane. Each person has their preference, I found I preferred boarding early and being able organise myself.  

When on the plane ensure you have their dummy or feed ready to go for take-off, the pressure changes are often what causes babies to scream as it can hurt. During the flight stay calm and make it fun for them. Going on a flight can be scary if you don’t know what is going on, especially if there is a lot of turbulence. Or worse it could be really boring for them. Games, music, toys and just being silly with them can help distract them and help time pass. Other passages often help too!

Flying with a baby can be stressful and daunting but being prepared can help make it a bit easier. Let me know any helpful hints you learnt for traveling with a baby.

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