Monday, April 9, 2012

My top 11 tips for flying with a baby

My kids just turned 5 and 9, so it's a few years now since I've gone on a flight with a baby, but I remember it well. In some ways it's easier than flying with an older child: a baby will likely sleep on board (eventually), and won't get bored and antsy and kick the seat in front like a toddler or preschooler. Of course, there are challenges: feeding a baby, changing a baby, and soothing a crying baby isn't always easy on board an airplane!

Here are my top tips make air travel with an infant a little easier. 

1. Get a cot or bassinet - On longer flights, many airlines offer free cots or bassinets for infants on a first-come, first-served basis. Each airline has different rules and availability for this perk, so check when you book your flight to see if you can secure one. It's a fantastic option if you can get it, and makes the flight more comfortable for you and your baby.

2. Check your airline's policies for bringing strollers & car seats ahead of time - Just like with the bassinets, each airline does things a little different when it comes to bringing strollers and car seats. Some airlines allow them on board, some allow them to be checked at the gate, and some require you to check them with your luggage. To reduce stress on your day of travel, it helps to know the policies before you come to the airport!

3. Organize your hand-luggage - I found it worked well to kind of keep two separate carry-ons: one for diaper changes, and one for feedings and toys and everything else. If two adults are traveling with a baby you can split the items between you. If you're traveling by yourself, you can pack things so that the diaper items can be taken out and easily brought with you into the bathroom. Airplane bathrooms are so cramped that it's nice if you don't have to bring a big bag with you in there. A diaper change kit or well-designed backpack can be a big help!

4. Bring extra supplies in case of delays - Delays are a fact of life when you travel by plane. Prepare yourself by bringing enough diapers, formula, and other supplies for at least a few extra hours, maybe more.

5. Use a baby carrier - This is a personal preference of mine, and I know other people who prefer to bring a stroller. When my kids were babies, I found that a baby carrier was practical because it left my hands free while keeping the baby comfortable when checking in or dealing with luggage at the airport, and it could also be used on board.

6. Bring some items to help make your trip easier - For example:
  • A pacifier clip if your baby uses a pacifier, 
  • an empty plastic bag to put soiled diapers or clothing in if needed,
  • a nursing cover for breastfeeding,
  • portable baby toys with clips or straps to secure them, and prevent them from getting lost or dirty.

7. Check with your doctor about age appropriate medications - Before you leave, check with your doctor what medications you can use for things like sinus congestion or a stuffy nose, should you need them on board. Also bring along something for pain- and fever-relief, and hope you won't need to use it!

8. Help your baby avoid discomfort from ear-pressure - Breast- or bottle-feeding at landing and take-off, or offering a soother, can help equalize the pressure in your child's inner ear.

9. Choose your seat - If you're breastfeeding, the aisle seat might not be great for privacy, and people might also bump into you when they walk by. The window seat is the one that offers the most privacy. However, the aisle seat works well for easy access to the bathroom, and also makes it easier to stand up and walk around with your baby if you need to.

10. Check your airline's policies for baby-food & formula - Some airlines offer to warm bottles of formula for you on board, others don't. Certain airlines may offer certain baby foods on their flights, and some can even supply you with diapers and other items. Check ahead of time to make sure you know what goes on your flight. (Some information can be found in my post Flying with kids: all about kids' meals.) In spite of all the current restrictions on bringing liquids on planes, travelers with infants are allowed to bring formula and other types of baby-food on board.

11. Bring a change of clothes - Most parents with infants will carry a change of clothes (or more than one) for their baby, but it's a great idea to also bring a change of clothes for yourself. Accidents (and spit-ups) do happen, and it's nice if you have a clean shirt to put on if it does.

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