I was one year old for my first plane trip. I don’t remember the experience of course, but there is one story from that journey that is worth retelling.
My parents, who were very experienced travellers, decided it would be a good idea to give me some Gravol prior to our overnight flight overseas. They reasoned that the medicine would knock me out and I would sleep well on the plane. Unfortunately, our plane was somewhat delayed and all the medicine did was knock me out for a good sleep in the departure lounge.
I spent the six+ hours of the actual flight running up and down the aisles with my exhausted mother in tow, enduring angry glares of other passengers trying to sleep. My father had sought refuge some aisles back, and found some free seats to lay down for what was probably a decent nap, something that my mother has never forgotten.
Needless to say, even with the best of planning, you never know what can happen when you’re travelling with a baby (or with children in general for that matter).
These days, most parents (hopefully) share the child-related duties and both mom and dad can catch some nap time. (If not, it’s time for a little chat, non?).
So tiny but they need so much
Babies are wonderful. So little yet in need of so much ‘stuff’. Diapers, toys, strollers, car seats, bottles, baby food, picture books, etc, etc. It is no small feat to trim down baby’s material needs to a bare minimum that will allow you to travel ‘lightly’ with baby in tow.
If you are a breast-feeding mom, travelling with baby is even easier. Baby and his food supply are never that far from one another, and when baby is hungry, that need can be instantly met, nearly anywhere, anytime.
If you’re bottle-feeding, it’s perhaps a little more labour-intensive, but don’t hesitate to ask assistance from airline staff in heating bottles and/or baby food. They’re usually more than happy to oblige in keeping your baby happy.
Travelling with babies is easier than with toddlers
Yes, it’s true. Travelling with babies before they begin to crawl and walk can be ‘child’s play’, compared to the toddler years, when they won’t sit still for more than 5 minutes. If under 2 years of age, children fly free, which is great. But the catch is that they have no paid seat, and thus sit on your lap for the flight. On a long flight, this can be very tiresome. If at all possible when booking your trip, request the bulkhead, which is the first row of seats behind one of the galley partitions on the plane. You have extra leg room in this row, and on some planes the staff can even hook up portable cribs in which your baby can sleep (if the child is under a certain weight).
If the flight isn’t full and you have an empty seat beside you, you’ve hit the jackpot! Baby can lie or sit down on her own seat and you didn’t have to pay for it. If you have seat mates in your row, keep an eye out for nearby rows with some empty seats and request to move to that row after the doors have closed. Middle seats are less popular than window and aisle seats, so that’s your best bet if you want to change places.
Young babies can’t get up and wander around the enclosed confines of a plane, and when not sleeping, can be amused with stories from board books, their favourite toys, songs and even other passengers who make funny faces for them or even offer to amuse them for a few minutes, perhaps giving you time to eat or even read! Don’t turn down offers of help from airline staff or other passengers. It may be the only way you’ll even be able to have two hands free to eat your in-flight meal, if there is one.
Never too young to learn travel etiquette
Families with young babies and toddlers can earn gratitude from fellow passengers and staff by trying to keep their baby as quiet as possible – as impossible as that sounds! Nobody likes to fly next to the screaming baby for 2, 4 or 6 hours. Ditto for babies kicking the backs of seats. If you wouldn’t appreciate that behaviour, then don’t imagine your fellow passengers would either, no matter how cute your baby is. Good travel habits should start early. Remember the golden rule – do unto others as you’d like done to you. Consideration and politeness go a long way.
Be prepared when things go south
Sometimes despite your plans and efforts, difficulties can arise, especially if your child has problems with their ears during the flight, or happens to be ill when you’re flying.
Plan a breast or bottle-feeding session for your baby for the plane’s descent. The swallowing action will help your baby’s ears gently pop, and alleviate the pressure that can hurt their ear canals as the plane descends. For older toddlers and children, sucking on a hard candy, lollipop, or chewing gum will help their ears pop. It works for adults too.
If your child has an ear infection or serious illness, consider rebooking or cancelling your flight altogether. You will have to determine how ill your baby is, and how extensive your flight and holiday plans are. If you decide to fly and travel, visit your family doctor and have the necessary prescriptions filled prior to leaving so baby’s medication is easily accessible before and during the trip. Buying some Modafinil, Tylenol, Gravol or other pain medication is important, even if you’re baby isn’t sick. It’s always good practice to be prepared.
If you’ve arrived at your destination, congratulations! You survived your trip with baby. Now be sure to relax and enjoy your vacation before you gear up for the flight home.
Photo Credit: Canva
Have you travelled with your baby on an airplane? How young was your baby, and how did the flight go? Share your experience below.