When my parents first announced that our family is flying to the Philippines for a vacation, my heart sank and I panicked. What? Warm weather and sunny days make you panic? Well, no. I for one sometimes wish I still lived in the tropics as much as I love Canada. And usually the mention of a vacation, a month long vacation, would send me packing right away, but my first thought was “I’m going to be flying with an 11-month old baby for 20 hours.” You know in movies when the camera pans out and the person standing in the middle of the screen has her eyes wide open and mouth dropped to the floor and you can just see that she’s crying deep inside as you look into her eyes? Yea, that was me.
As would most new moms, concern washed over me and my overthinking went into overdrive. I kept thinking that my child WILL be the child that cried and wailed the whole flight. What if she doesn’t eat? What if she gets sick? How many extra clothes and diapers should I pack for the flight? A never ending list of questions that I managed to answer once I’ve calmed down. I read countless of blogs and articles in search for advice and tips on travelling with a baby – some were helpful but I had to learn a few on my own. It seems terrifying and overwhelming, but trust yourself and your child. Once my nerves settled and I was more calm, I devised my flight plan.
- As for many things, anticipation can gear you towards proper preparation. By this time, I know my daughter’s routine, what she likes and dislikes, how to soothe her, and which cry means what. With these in mind, I packed her carry on bag accordingly; snacks on this side, favourite toy on that side, favourite book here, and bottle there. I’ve never organized such a compartmentalized bag before.
- We packed 3 sets of change of clothes in large ziploc bags and air vacuumed it shut (like pressed with my hands until all-the-air-is-out vacuum shut). Each bag contained a long sleeve top, an undershirt, thermal pants, and a pair of socks. You’ll be thankful for the ziplock bag when your baby throws up (mine totally did) and you need something to put those dirtied clothes in.
- As for diapering, I packed 2 diapers per hour for the duration of our flight. I find with diapering, it’s better to overpack than be sorry when there’s a poop/pee accident. Airplanes used for long flights have change tables in the washroom, but unfortunately, some smaller aircrafts don’t have this luxury. We took advantage of the washroom when most passengers were asleep or when the queue was down to 2 people max. For less urgent diapering change, I changed P in my seat as she stood in front of me. I actually preferred changing her this way – less hassle getting up from my middle seat and feeling confined in such tiny washroom space.
- This one is pretty important. Have a designated milk/bottle bag. Besides P’s carry on bag, we brought a separate milk bag, which is basically like an insulated lunch bag. Inside were bottles (x the amount of feeding on the plane plus an extra one), milk pods and bottled water. We packed it in my carry on as to not disorganize hers. This made going through security a BREEZE. Before going through the scanner, I informed the TSA agent that we’re travelling with a baby, and that *this* bag is for feeding that included a bottled water and pre-made milk. They scanned it separately, made a quick liquid check, and off we went!
- When choosing your seats, ask the travel agent you’re booking with if they can place you in the bulkhead head seat. It provides more leg space for you, and also a moving around area for the little one should they get restless and the aisle is not available. Just a heads up, there might be an extra fee for these seats. Our airline charges an additional $100 CAD per seat.
- Airplane baby bassinet. Yes, it’s a thing. Yes, you should do it. It’s a tiny bed that hooks onto the wall of the plane made for infants weighing up to or about 20 lbs (about 9 kg). This provides parents a more comfortable flight, especially if you’re flying for 20 hours, more or less. And because newborn infants are in the routine of sleep-feed-sleep, this is perfect thing for smooth flying. But please, please, please, call ahead and request for that bassinet! The earlier and sooner, the better. Don’t think the airline will have one ready and accommodate you if you haven’t made your request. My little girl has sadly outgrew the weight limits and instead nestled in my arms.
- If you have the money and want to pay for comfort, by all means buy your child a seat and bring their infant/convertible carseat. Our plane ticket was nearly $2000 CAD and we don’t have that type of disposable money, instead, we made do what we can. We ensured this flight will be as comfortable as we can make it to be. We got P her own little neck pillow (which she didn’t care for), her blanket, and dressed her in comfy clothes. And though my arm fell asleep many times, I’m sure as hell glad she felt at home on that plane.
- Never underestimate the power of snacks. We haven’t gone back to pureed mush since we’ve introduced solid food to P, making feeding on the plane a main concern. Before packing away the dry snacks for the plane, I made sure we tested them to her liking. Luckily, she’s not a picky eater. She also shared some of the plane food the airline provide. Which goes without saying, check with your airline to see if they provide baby food, as most airlines do.
- Another feeding related tip I learned is to get your child used to room temperature bottles. This prevents the extra step of needing to warm up the bottle or asking for hot water (where you’ll most likely wait for it to cool down, which doesn’t help your hangry baby).
- P just realized she can crawl speedily fast and learned how to stand, so you can say she’s become quite a busy bee with her newfound mobility. Luckily, her need to move around only occurred at the beginning of our flight and when she woke up from her first nap. My parents and sister were sitting behind us (strategically booked our seats that way in case of this very event), so I allowed her to play peek-a-boo with them while she stood on the armrest. She also played peek-a-boo with neighbouring passengers, which worked to our advantage showing how friendly she is, lol. Because when she woke up from nap, she became fussy and cried. She wanted to move around but the seatbelt sign was alit. Thank goodness the neighbouring passengers were incredibly understanding and even tried to play with her to soothe her.
- I was told to bring an iPad/tablet as a means of entertainment. I downloaded an assortment of videos and interactive baby games, only to have them unwanted. I think this would have been a helpful tip if travelling with an older toddler and onwards. Infants can only hold their attention for so long until they move onto the next entertainment. We used our iPad twice, both times lasting no more than 5 minutes.
- Ask for assistance! If ever you’re so lucky with travel with 4 other adults like I did, share the task of watching over little peanut. Even a 10 minute little breather is enough to power you up. If travelling alone, attendants are available to help when possible. Heck, ask strangers! There is always someone willing to help. When we had a layover in Hong Kong, a kind stranger pointed us to the direction of push carts for babies probably due to the fact that we were lugging around 3 stuffed bags, 2 rolling carry-ons, and 1 tired baby. What a sight. Bless her heart. I didn’t even know those things existed!
Adrian and I are quite adventurous and outdoorsy – we love to be out of house as much as we can, especially before parenthood – and I’d like to believe that my dear child has adapted to that lifestyle already. We can go on long drives, hikes trails, go camping, stroll the boardwalk, play at the beach, and P’s perfectly fine. No fuss, no tears, just lots of laughs and exploration. I knew one day soon, flying will have to be our main source of transportation. We flew 4 times in this trip alone, 2 on a larger aircraft for long-haul flights and 2 on small airbus planes for domestic flights. Our dear girl was asleep for the most part of our flight – you can thank the lulling movement of the plane for that. I strongly believe parents transmit their energies to their children, so as long as you keep calm, your baby will be fine. Remember, this is incredibly new to them. You don’t want to cause them to be anxious of this new environment and experience with being panicked and stressed. This also won’t help you if this is your first flight. Take this as a learning experience and enjoy the ride!