One of the things that has been really amazing about living abroad is all the opportunities I’ve had to travel. My husband and I are both avid travellers and it was pretty important to both of us to be able to continue travelling after we became parents. While travelling is certainly DIFFERENT it is definitely still possible. Here are some of my favorite tips for air-travel with a new (pre-crawling) baby. Stay tuned for overall tips for travelling with little ones plus tips for air travelling with toddlers.
Feed your baby at take off and landing: Babies ears are affected by pressure just as anyone else, so you need them to swallow. However you feed your baby make sure you are ready to do so for take off and landing. That said my lucky little one has inherited his father’s ability to pass out as the plane takes off and lands, so if baby IS asleep, don’t wake them!
Feed Yourself: This is especially true if you are breastfeeding. Babies (well definitely my baby) can be thirstier on the plane, due to the dry air. I am always prepared with enough food and water to replenish whatever baby is using from me. Easy to eat, high energy and protein snacks are best for this, my favorite is chocolate with almonds but peanut butter sandwiches or a power bar would also be a great choice.
Know what you can bring aboard: In most places babies/young children are exempt from the “no liquids over 90ml” rules. So you can bring liquid snacks for baby, including formula and water. I know for my exclusively breastfed baby I interpreted this to mean water for me. I was never questioned on who would be drinking from the 1 liter of water I had with me! Make sure to allow extra time at security, as all large liquids will need to be checked by hand.
Wear your baby: In general I am a big fan of this rule, but even more so when flying. Being able to wear your little one means you can have a snack or drink, read a book or even go to the bathroom, even if you are traveling without another adult. Plus many babies tend to fall asleep when wrapped properly and securely, giving you some time to relax. Personally I think a stretchy wrap (for small baby) ring sling or woven wrap is best for flying so there are no buckles going in to your back while you sit.
Know the rules: Make sure you know the policies of the airline and airports you are travelling with. The first time I flew solo with my son he was 5 months old and we were meeting my husband in Finland. I had both my stroller with the maxi-cosi and a ring sling to wear baby. I check my stroller at the gate (as is the norm in Brussels) but when we arrived in Finland we found out we wouldn’t get the stroller till the baggage claim. Fortunately I had the ring sling so I was easily able to carry all my things but it had come as quite a surprise. I now always ensure I know the airline and airports policies before we go.
Request the bassinet: If you are doing a long haul flight you can request the bassinet that can be secured onto the bulkhead wall for baby to sleep in during the flight. Personally we never had success with the bassinet, mainly because I was my son’s favorite bed for most of his first year of life, but other people love them. I still always requested them because I am a relentless optimist when it comes to baby sleep (this can and will be a separate post) and because it still meant we got the bulkhead spot.
Pack more than you think you need: This goes for EVERYTHING. Definitely diapers. There is something about flying that makes babies, relax. I tend to pack about twice the number of diapers I think we are going to need. Fortunately only once did we ever come close to using them all, and my husband was on “diaper duty” for most of that trip! Also pack lots of changes of clothing for baby and at least one extra shirt for all adults traveling.
Keep things close by: You want to have everything you need easily accessible. When we travel I have diapers in EVERY bag and in all external pockets of the diaper bag. Pacifiers are also distributed in bags and pockets of everyone traveling. Grown up snacks should also be easily accessible, the last thing you want is for baby to fall asleep on your chest and to realize that your chocolate bar is under the seat in front of you. The same goes for reading material (I became a full e-reader fan after having a baby) and other entertainment. Which brings me to my next point.
Two Words, Fanny Pack: I am bringing the fanny pack back! I started wearing a fanny pack (a cool one I swear) because I was wearing my baby all the time, which was already not great for my troublesome neck and shoulder region. But it really is the BEST for travelling with a kid. For one, it never seems to count as one of my “personal items” which is a real win, as the diaper bag does. It also means I can keep things real close, in my seat, for the entire ride. The fanny pack for newborn travel always included:
- · All passports (unless my husband is travelling with us)
- · My phone
- · My e-reader
- · At least 2 pacifiers
- · Snacks
Dress the part: Now clearly I always look fly because I am rocking my fanny pack, but dressing for success is definitely important for newborn travel. I always wear:
- A breastfeeding top.
- A scarf. This can also be used as an extra baby blanket when baby spit up on all three of the others you packed (true story), a breastfeeding cover (if baby will put up with it) and a makeshift neck pillow for yourself.
- Easy on/off shoes. Especially if you are going through security where you need to take them off.
- Jacket/sweater/pants with lots of pockets. More places for pacifiers.
Always ask: I am a pushy New Yorker (it is my polite Canadian husband’s favorite and least favorite thing about me) and in general I believe it is better to ask for something and be told no then not to ask at all. This is definitely true for flying. Whenever we got to the gate I would ask if there was any row with an extra seat, and if so could we sit there and bring the maxi-cosi. This worked about 50% of the time, and unlike the bassinet my baby would actually sleep in the maxi cosi. Making for hands free travel and even a nap for me! In general I find that people are willing to help you if they can. I once asked an American flight attendant (not always the most helpful of people) if I could have a bit more water as I was breastfeeding and parched. She brought back not only water but a full array of snacks from first class insisting that I needed to take them all!
I was so nervous before flying with my son for the first time and then again the first time we flew alone, now as he a toddler I wish we had done it even more when he was so little, it really was pretty easy! Stay calm, treat yourself and ask for help when you need it. And have a great trip!!!