Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Long-haul Lifesavers: My Top 10 Tips for Flying with a Baby

Happy New Year all. I will be back to writing this blog, I promise. I’ve enjoyed an online hiatus over the holiday period.

We had a fantastic time in NY and beat the most recent snow dump to successfully touchdown in London on Saturday morning. Now that I’ve regained some semblance of order in our lives, I’m here to share some of my top tips for surviving our long-haul flights with a baby.

The 7-8 hour flight to NY is no epic journey to Australia, but it’s no walk in the park either. Before our trip I regarded our transatlantic crossing with a mix of mild trepidation (stories of screaming babies loomed) alongside resignation (plane journeys are a feature of our transatlantic life so we’d just better get on with it) alongside excitement (even with the added stressors travelling with children brings, I’d travel any day).

And in the end, we had our hairy moments, but it wasn’t so bad. So I have you, my top ten tips for surviving a moderate long-haul flight with an 11 month soon-to-be-no-longer baby. Thanks also to the lovely RE who shared some of these tips with me – her little lady was born the day after LLC and they recently braved the even longer trip to Brazil.

  1. Request bulkhead seats with access to an air cot for baby – Virgin Atlantic who we originally booked with took down this request but would not confirm it prior to our arrival at the airport. British Airways, who we ended up flying with post cancelled flight, confirmed bulkheads at the time of our booking.
  2. Take a night flight if you can and make use of the air cot – our red eye back from NY proved much more relaxed than our outward journey because LLC slept most of the time in the bouncy-chair-like seat provided to her. Get your little one in the cot/chair before they become over-tired, ideally after you have given them milk. We waited too long on our flight to NY to transfer LLC and she was having none of it, where on the way back, we strapped her in right after take-off. LLC enjoyed her elevated status and “observed” before assuming the seven mile stare and conking out. I was amazed she slept on her back strapped to the chair but she did. Be-warned that you’ll have to take them out if there is turbulence though. 
  3. Offer milk during take-off and/or landing - If you are breastfeeding you’ll enjoy avoiding lugging bottles and formula on-board. I found it easy to breastfeed while LLC was strapped on my lap in the baby seatbelt (though the effectiveness of that seatbelt is another story). If you bottle-feed, they may make you taste your bottle of sterilized water at security but it is fine to bring this and powdered formula on-board.
  4. Bring some fruit and vegetable sticks along - If you aren’t offering milk for take-off and landing, these can be sucked on and really work well for relieving air pressure from delicate ears.
  5. Bring a cozy blanket for baby to snuggle up and snooze in – the ones provided on the plane are way too big, and probably dirty.
  6. Bring lightweight distractions/toys – soft & bendy books, hand puppets, small stuffed animals and toy keys, etc are good options. You don’t want to weigh yourself down with heavy awkward toys and baby is likely to be stimulated by all the new sights around her.  Apply the same rule to yourself.
  7. Bring disposable bibs – avoid messy, dirty bibs in your diaper bag. You don’t need the hassle. I found some cheap, disposable and effective bibs in Boots.
  8. Avoid bringing along messy food if your little one is able to self-feed – things like Cheerios worked a treat, kept LLC fed & entertained and were not messy (why does the UK not sell plain old American Cheerios??! Does anyone know why they are all so sweet here?).
  9. Wear comfortable clothes – I used to enjoy looking nice while travelling but if you face a large portion of a flight with a lap full of baby, comfort and breathable clothing are of the essence.
  10. Don’t stress – ha! I’m all smug now, huh? On the flight out my stress levels spiked whenever LLC would fuss but on the flight home I sat next to a mother with three children under 5, one of whom was younger than LLC. All parents of young children are in the same boat and it’s likely to be a little tricky and hairy at times. So breath :)
Do you have any top tips to share about travelling with a baby? I’ll have to create a toddler version of this in due course.....
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