Traveling on a long haul flight with a baby would have to rank among life’s more stressful activities. However with modern families often scattered around the world making a visit to Grandma can often mean the necessary evil of getting on a plane with your demanding bundle of joy.
It won’t be easy – but there is actually a lot you can do to prepare for what can seem like a particularly daunting task
First things first; Don’t assume anything. Make sure you have a passport for your baby and that the airline know they are traveling with you. Some companies let infants travel for free while others charge 10% of an adult ticket for children under 2 years of age.
If traveling extra long distances, consider going premium economy or business class if at all possible. Not having to queue and having more leg room or a flatbed might seem like expendable luxuries, but the extra cost will be worth every penny if it makes your life easier with a baby.
Check with the airline to see if you can be given a bulkhead seat and ask for a bassinet. The bassinet may not automatically be provided especially if there are other families flying. It’s better to do this when booking your tickets rather than at check-in to save any last minute confusion or holdups.
If your baby is formula fed, take as much milk as you think your baby will need and then double it. Today’s hypersensitive security means you could be asked to drink randomly from cartons or bottles which might mean you have to throw some supplies away before boarding, or even during transit security checks. Plus you can’t be sure there won’t be flight delays and a hungry baby
Travel light is a mantra for every savvy passenger but that goes double when traveling with a baby. You will already automatically have lots of essentials to take so forget the heavy books, flight pillows and bags of sweets. Take baby paracetamol and a thermometer just in case, but ignore anyone who tells you to drug your baby with ‘natural herbs’ to make them docile on the plane.
Don’t feel guilty or apologetic towards other passengers if your baby is crying or distressed during a flight. It’s an unavoidable fact that babies cry and you obviously can’t leave the plane so there’s no point in fretting about it. You might just be pleasantly surprised by the kindness of strangers and airline staff especially if you are traveling alone!
Babies are not immune to jet lag and dehydration on a flight. Try to ensure they get enough to drink by keeping a sipper bottle of water with you and offering it as often as they will take it. Sucking on a dummy during takeoff and landing can help equalize little eardrums and help them ‘pop’. Finally, be aware that you will usually be asked to hold your baby in your lap with a seat belt every time the seat belt sign is switched on during turbulence. (even if it means waking them up!)
Good luck, be prepared, and don’t expect miracles, although you never know, planes provide a brilliant source of white noise and motion so they might just sleep through the whole thing!