After two long years of barely any air travel you might have declared this summer your Summer of Travel. Sure, you’ve got a baby or two, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned its that you never know when that boarding ramp is going to retract and the flight attendant is going to give you a slow shake of the head to all your beach fantasies.
Today, let’s talk flights.
Are you braving a journey on a jet plane with your diapered companion anytime soon?
This one is for you.
Keep reading for my tips and watch this video of my kids and I on a flight.
Why am I an authority on flights with babies? Because almost every year since my kids were born we’ve taken a looooooong 12 hour flight to Israel to see the grandparents. I’ve flown with them at every age and sometimes on my own.
Alright, let’s get to it.
How to Survive a Flight with Baby
- Accept that its going to suck a little. The worst times we have as parents is when we expect our kids to behave a certain way and they don’t. For the flight, expect that you won’t sleep, the kids will whine and you’ll get to the other side.
- Loosen the rules. Allow stuff you wouldn’t otherwise. For me, that means unlimited screens, more junk food and less sleep.
- You’re going to be moving more than you’d like. With little babies, you’ll be bouncing them to sleep in the carrier. WIth new walkers, you’ll be walking up and down the aisles feeling terrified with every turbulent bump that your baby will crash into an arm rest. It goes with the territory.
- Surrender to jetlag. No matter how much you try to time the naps just right, it won’t really matter. Jetlag is hard. But it only lasts 5 days or so. Knowing this helps you to not stress about whether they sleep or not on the flight.
- The hardest ages for travel are 9-18 months. Your baby is so excited to be mobile and just wants to move. But I couldn’t avoid travel during these ages either.
- Aim for a flight time about 2hrs before you want them to sleep. There is a lot of activity in the first two hours (takeoff, drinks, food, etc) and you don’t want to miss your bedtime window. Our preferred time was a 5:00-7:00pm flight.
- Wear slip-on shoes. When the baby is in the carrier you’ll thank yourself for not needing to bend over to go through security and go for a bathroom trip.
- Wear pants with big pockets. This is a life saver. Try not to wear yoga pants or tight pants that won’t store key items like a boarding pass, pacifier, tissues and EVERYTHING else.
- Wear socks. It gets cold on flights and you won’t be able to fix yourself that perfect blanket/pillow cocoon that you once could before baby.
- Pack backups. Pacis, bottles, change of clothes on top of the extra change of clothes, an extra blanket. Whatever you can reasonably carry.
- Prep relieve ear compression:
- For younger babies – Feed during take off and landing to make sure your baby is swallowing often which will relieve ear compression.
- For older babies – Bring lollipops for take off and landing. My kids still ask for them even now that they are older. Sort of a mini-party during the worst parts of a flight.
- Have wipes handy. They will be your best friend on a flight.
- Take empty plastic bags. For dirty diapers, garbage, etc.
- Snacks and more snacks. For long flights, bring lots of options – Sandwiches, goldfish, bars, apples. Don’t forget to bring snacks for yourself. Critical!
- Bring the changing pad. It is almost impossible to do it in the tiny bathroom cabins. I’ve done it but it’s no picnic. If you can, best to do it on your lap in your seat. Have a lightweight changing pad ready to go.
Playing (for toddlers):
- Stickers. These are the best because they are a clean activity and don’t have things that roll away and get lost.
- Painters tape. My favorite trick was always to bring painters tape and put little pieces all over the seat. My babies would spend hours taking it on and off.
- Markers or pencils. If you do bring these, have them in a zippered case and be prepared to lose half.
- Water-marker books. These are great.
- Books. Lots of them. Soft cover are ideal so you can fit more in the bag and they’ll be lighter.
- Bassinet. For international flights its very nice to have the bassinets for babies under 6 months. Book your ticket way in advance for that because they tend to fill up.
- Anywhere but the back. Book a seat not too close to the bathroom because of noise/odor/light. Once your baby is finally asleep you don’t want the bathroom door to wake them.
- Aisle vs window. If you are enough people to take the full row by the window, put baby toward the inside and you sit on the aisle. If you are traveling solo with the baby, go with the aisle so you can get up easily to soothe, etc.
Are you nervous? Don’t be. You can do this. Most of the time you will be pleasantly surprised that it was easier than you thought it would be.
It is a short run and then you’re done.
YOU CAN DO THIS!!
I know because I did it. Seriously watch the video of me doing it alone with my three kids. Smooth travels!
What has been your saving grace on a flight with a child? Comment below to add to this list.
Know someone flying to visit friends, family or just for vacation? Send them this post if they love lists as much as I do.