Our love for travelling never ceased even after having a baby and our Baby J is travelling around the world with us since he was 4 months old. Many of our family members and friends keep asking us how do we manage travelling in flights with Baby J as it is difficult to manage their routines in the flight.
Even we were damn nervous when we boarded the first ever flight with Baby J. We kept thinking how will he be in the flight, will he sleep? Will he cry? And so on. We survived that flight well with little preparation before the flight & it helped us a lot and post that there’s no stopping to our trips with Baby J. We flew with him in a long flight to USA from Mumbai in a very easy manner and fun way. Flying with toddlers is hard, because they are always mobile, totally intolerant and powerless of all reason at the most unfortunate moments. So, you need to do some preparations beforehand for smooth travel.
Here’s what we have learnt a long way and sharing our favorite tips on how to survive Air travel with Infants/Toddlers.
One way that we prepared Baby J was to create an excitement about airplanes in our home couple months in advance. we found videos of planes landing and taking off on YouTube and played those for him. we taught him to identify the wings, tail etc. of planes, bought her a toy airplane that he became very attached to. He is now crazy about airplanes and loves everything about them. He enjoyed the flight esp. the landing and takeoff. He loved being “up in the sky” and we bother less now about how he would be in plane.
Always make them prepared how are you planning to go in the plane. Inform them about the different airlines and let them know which one they are flying into. It helps them make their own mind to fly & of course curiosity to know something new is high always.
Plan flights during baby’s naptime or bedtime:
We prefer to book flights which are either early mornings or afternoons which is usually Baby J’s sleep time. We try to keep him awake and engaged at the airport so that he asleep fast as soon as flights take off. It is easier for us and everyone around when baby is less awake on plane. Prefer to choose middle seat for baby so that he/she can have his own space to sleep.
Booking a suitable flight will completely depends on your baby’s sleeping patterns. Don’t worry if you can’t find the flight that works during your baby’s normal sleeping hours. Try and encourage your baby to take mid-morning nap or late afternoon nap. This can help too.
Get to the airport early:
It is important to reach airport early as it is time consuming to get through the airport security as last-minute rush could be disturbing for the child.
The extra time at the airport will give your child a chance to explore the airport. You can ask if there’s any play area at the airport where your child can have fun time before onboarding the flight.
When possible, check in and secure your seat assignment online before you leave for the airport. Don’t forget to print the boarding passes & put them in your carryon! That means, when you reach airport, you just have drop your baggage at the counter and head to security. What we normally do is:
- If the baggage drop queue is long, one of us (parent) waits in line to check the bags & the other one takes Baby J to the open spaces at the airport to explore. Find some empty place to let the kids run a little. Remember to stay close in case the gate agent needs to see each of the passengers or check id.
- When Baby J was infant, we never checked in stroller. It was easier to put him in stroller n reach to the gate. Most airlines will allow you to push your stroller all the way to the gate. They’ll then check it at the gate and give it back to you outside the plane door when you deplane.
- Make sure that your stroller has a tag with your name, address, and phone number.
- Check with your airline in advance about baggage restrictions.
Book bulkhead seats (Front row seats):
Most of the airlines will give front row seats for the parents who carry lap child. These seats are usually available on first come first serve basis and are free of cost. When we flew to Washington DC, we booked the front row seats as it has more leg room and gives some space to your infant if he/she wants to sit down and play. Airlines also provide bassinets for babies for you to put them to sleep. Each airline has specific rules on age, length, and/or weight limits on the child using the bassinet so speak with the customer service rep when booking for specifics for that airline.
If you don’t see these seats empty while checking online, arrive at the gate early and talk with flight attendant. If you book a flight that isn’t full, most airline attendants will move things around for you One tip, when you go to talk to him/her, bring your baby with you. It brings your challenging scenario to “life” a bit more.
Take age proof, if baby is less than 3 years: Baby J has been on dozens of flights and we’ve NEVER been asked this. however, it is beneficial to keep this handy with you, just in case if airport security staff needs to see. Keep a photocopy of Birth certificate of your baby in your phone that would work.
Bring extra diapers (Infants) & Extra pair of clothes:
You want to be prepared for on flight blowouts. Make sure to bring an extra pair of clothes in case your little one makes a mess. Not just for the baby but for you too, just imagine if by chance they vomit all over you and you must sit in your soiled cloths the remainder of the flight.
Always keep extra diapers in your carry on. If you have a layover be sure to account for that as well & pack diapers accordingly. We suggest packing the diapers and wipes in a Ziploc bag so they are easy to access when it’s time to change your baby.
Bring Special Toys and Books:
This goes without saying but pack toys and books for plane. We prefer to pack items that are small and can be sorted, stacked, or otherwise moved from place to place. For us, Baby J’s toy list includes some flash cards, small deck of books, small coloring book with disposal pack of crayons and story books. Make sure you don’t pack musical toys and its noise may bother the passengers around you. It is good to keep kids entertained and engaged in the flight.
Bring Snacks / Baby Food:
Always pack your own meals and snacks when traveling with kids. We prefer to carry some of Baby J’s fav fruits or snacks along with fewer home meals like paratha or bread butter to feed him. You can pack some dry fruits/Granola bars/ dried fruit pieces/ biscuits etc. Nothing makes kids grumpy faster than being hungry and having nothing to eat. If you cannot bring something from home, pick something up in the airport. If your child requires special utensils (E.g. a baby spoon) bring one.
Take Off and Landing:
Remember babies can’t stop their ears from popping due to the pressure of the plane when taking off and landing. If you are breastfeeding, feed baby on takeoff and landing. If you aren’t, be sure to give them a bottle or a pacifier or put some cotton in their ears to stop the excess pressure. In my experience, if they are sleeping they will be fine and it’s best not to wake them.
Board at family boarding time:
After first class and priority boarding, airlines typically give families (with kids) the chance to board before the rest of the plane. This can be great because it gives you access to the overhead compartments and gives you a chance to get settled in without feeling rushed. However, if you’ve got a squirmy baby or an overactive toddler, boarding before the rest of the plane just means you must sit in a tight space for a little bit longer. Depending on your child, you may want to wait until the last possible moment to board.
Waiting for Flights and Layovers:
We are huge fan of letting our little one explore the airport as much as he wants in any way he wants while waiting for flights. It helps burn off energy and it makes him feel in control for a while.
As much as they explore and run around, chances are they are going to feel tired and sleep majority of time in the flight. Explain them about different gates, let them see new things around at the airport. It will anyway enhance their skills and knowledge.
In flight, we often set expectations about what behavior we expect from him in the flight. This helps them to understand the situation. Acknowledge, that it’s hard to sit still for so long and tell them that you know they can do it and that you will help them when it gets difficult. Remind them about all the fun things you will get to do when you land at the destination. This will also help them to engage in the conversation with you for long time about the new things. If Baby J gets bored, we try to speak to other children in the flight and make him a new friend. This usually works well and often results in the kids entertaining each other.
Surviving Long Flights:
Long flights can be rough. It helps to let the little ones explore the plane when they are bored. We always take Baby J to talk to the other kids on the plane, take him back to help the flight attendants, and let him check out the bathrooms. Window seats also provide tons of entertainment. If all else fails most flights offer free movies or games that you can access on the TV which will probably keep them entertained for long time.
So, there you have it.. Our top tips when traveling with toddler/ Infant. How about you? What are your travel strategies with your little ones? Share with us!