By the time my son turned one, he had already clocked in over ten flights and on many of those I’d been traveling alone with him. Some of those trips, especially in the early months, went very well. Then he got mobile and decided sitting on my lap for four hours wasn’t going to happen. Flying with a baby will always be stressful, but you can make it easier on yourself and your child with some careful planning and packing.
1. Choose a flight that suits your baby’s naptime
Your baby may not sleep on the flight because the new environment may be too much of a stimulant. But if they do, it means less time trying to entertain them. Think about your baby and his nap needs and book accordingly.
2. Research airports for baby-friendly areas
Many airports offer children’s play areas or other baby-friendly amenities. Check in advance to see what your local airport has to offer, as it’s not always obvious once you are there.
3. Bring snacks
Hand-held snacks are your friend. They’re the easiest way to feed your child when you’re both on-the-go and work well to distract them during take off and landings.
4. Make friends with the air attendants
This is a good idea in case you need extra help or other things such as water or food.
5. Pack lightly
Hauling tons of carry on is a hassle, especially if you’re traveling alone. I just carry my wallet and a few essentials in the diaper bag.
6. Don’t pre-board
For all passengers to fully board a plane can take half an hour or longer. Do you really need that extra time to be stuck in your tiny seat? Tip: If you’ve packed lightly (no. 5, above) sparse overhead room shouldn’t be a problem.
7. Pack a variety of silent toys
We like to stock up at the dollar store for toys that we won’t worry about if they get lost.
8. It’s OK to ask for help
Can you go to the washroom while holding a baby? Probably not. Ask fellow passengers or flight staff for help.
9. Buy a seat with more room
Flying is already expensive, and I know the thought of spending more money is painful. But a slight upgrade can make your flight with Baby much more comfortable.
10. Take advantage of express lanes
Do you remember waiting in a huge security or customs line while those ‘lucky’ parents zoomed straight through? Good news: Now it’s your turn.
11. Plan to arrive early
Do you really feel like running through the airport trying to make your flight while juggling your baby? I didn’t think so.
12. Bring a pillow and blanket
If you are lucky, your little one might fall asleep for a few hours. Take a small pillow for them to sleep on — it will be more comfortable for them and for you.
13. Bring small plastic bags
These bags are good for hauling all your dirty goods. Pick up a box of dog-waste bags at the dollar store while you’re shopping for quiet toys (no. 7, above).
14. Extra clothes for you and your child
If your baby has an accident, you (and your fellow passengers) will be happy you thought of this.
15. Sleep well the night before
Get some sleep so you can calmly deal with any situation.
16. Bring your stroller with you
A stroller is handy for the long distances at the airport, and is perfect for hauling around your carry on bags.
17. Organize your goods
Security will temporarily take away your stroller leaving you with your hands full. Make sure your passport and liquids are somewhere accessible, so you can easily hand them over.
18. Use a baby carrier
Using a baby carrier when boarding means you have two hands free to sort out your stuff. It also works well to walk and soothe a crying baby up and down the aisle, or to bounce them to sleep.
19. Eat before you board
Juggling a tray full of hot food on your lap along with your baby? This is just a recipe for disaster. Try to fill up before you both board.
20. Breastfeed, bottle-feed or use a pacifier during take off and landing to reduce likelihood of ear pain
Feeding can be a bit tricky, as flight staff may ask you to hold your child in an upright position during take off and landing, however, I’ve breastfed plenty of times without issue. If flight staff give you a hard time, give your baby a pacifier instead.