Are you crazy? You are traveling on a plane to the South of France with a four week old baby? What about the germs? How will you cope? These are some of the things my husband and I first heard when we decided to take our daughter to Nice, France when she was a month old. We wanted some sunshine and we decided that rainy London wasn’t good enough for us to spend the summer even if we had just had a baby!
I have to say that the one thing I hear over and over from fellow moms is their fear of traveling with an infant. It seems to be the one scenario that really stresses them out and worries them. Perhaps it’s the idea of being on a plane so high up that their life is literally in someone else’s hands but I think it’s the fear of the unknown. Sure, many new moms and dads are frequent flyers so you would think that flying for them is second nature and in turn doing it with an infant is not a problem. That’s where you would be wrong. Almost every person that has been on a plane has at some point or another shared that flight with a screaming child (baby, toddler, etc.). For many that can be a scaring experience. So much so that when they have a child and it’s their turn to fly they are plagued with insecurities of how the flight will play out.
My daughter is 7 years old and she has been to almost ten countries already (Morocco, Ireland, France, Italy, Mexico, etc.). She is a seasoned traveler and behaves impeccably. Of course it wasn’t always smooth sailing, we had to train her and teach her the do’s and don’ts of flying. Every parent is entitled to a holiday, to leave their everyday lives and go experience a little piece of paradise even if it is just for a few days. I hope that this list helps either reassure you in your travels with a child or gives you some ideas of how to cope.
- Adjust your expectations:
The biggest mistake you can make is to think too optimistically. I’m not saying you have to dread the journey and only look forward to the destination. I’m saying that it is important that you are aware of the possible issues that may arise during your trip. If you can envisage what could possibly go wrong during the flight it will help calm your nerves. You will be aware of how to react when certain problems arise.
- Expect the unexpected:
I know you expect your baby to poop and pee during the flight and you will come prepared with wipes and diapers. Just make sure that you come prepared with extra diapers that you would normally use in that space of time. Trust me, when you are traveling for some reason children seems to wet and soil themselves more than normal. You do not want to find yourself with your last diaper in your hand hoping that your little one has no more surprises for you.
You never know how a child is going to react to a flight. The altitude, crowds of people, sound of the engine, being restricted to one area may affect them more than you anticipated. Make sure you have some sort of medicine in case your child should need it.
- Travel comfy:
Even if you are a super trendy mommy I would recommend you travel in the most comfortable clothes you have. Even clothes you don’t care if they get spit up on, pooped on and spilled on.
Dress your child in clothes that are easy to remove and are comfortable and warm.
Make sure you bring your infant carrier with you on the plane. I find the best time to strap a baby on is as you are boarding the flight and having to give up your stroller. The carrier will also be a life saver when you are walking around the aisles with you child. Your arms will need a break and it helps if you can strap your little one to your chest as you move about the cabin. If you have an infant the closeness will help comfort them. If you have a toddler being able to look around will satisfy their curiosity.
- Make good use of your time:
Don’t worry too much about staying in your seat while everyone else is boarding. If you can go to the back of the plane and let your child look around at all there is to see. There will be enough times when you are restricted to your seat. Don’t be too eager to sit down.
Before you take off make sure your child doesn’t need a change of diaper. You don’t want a wet and uncomfortable baby while you are taking off.
- Pack wisely:
Like I mentioned before it is better to over pack diapers than to run out. Another important thing to bring is extra clothes. I normally always have a spare outfit in my diaper bag but on a flight I recommend having two outfits.
Here are a few items that I found really helped out:
- Travel pillow (you can place this under your arm to help you support your child)
- Breastfeeding cover (not only is this essential if you are nursing but even if you don’t it will help shield your infant from the airplane lights which tend to stay on at all times, unless it’s an evening flight)
- Plastic bag to dispose of dirty diapers, wipes or used up food pouches. You don’t want to have to get up every time you have to throw something away.
- Soft, thick and warm blanket. They tend to blast the A/C on planes and the last thing you want is a cold baby. Kids tend to sleep better and be comforted if they are in a warm and cozy environment. The best way to do this is to wrap them up in the blanket while you hold them. More times than not they will fall asleep right in your arms.
- Bring enough food and snacks for your child. It’s better to have more and not need it. Food pouches are excellent for flights. Any type of finger food that your child can be distracted with is also a must have. If there is one food that your child loves make sure you bring it and save it in case of a breakdown.
- Bag of fun: buy a new toy for the special occasion. Something that will keep you child engaged for as long as possible. I recommend taking some of their normal toys too and packing them away a week before the trip so that it’s a special treat when you pull them out of the bag.
- iPad’s are your friends. Don’t for a second think you are a bad parent if you bring an iPad as a source of entertainment. Even for a baby watching a video will be a great distraction. They may not be engaged for very long but every second counts when you are up in the air.
- Don’t forget to sing to your child and try and have some fun with them.
- Set up your area:
It is policy that you have to have all bags stowed away under the seat in front of you or in the cabinet space above. You should, however, make sure you have everything you might need during takeoff and landing within your reach. Have the wipes, diapers and pacifier in the pocket in front of you. Have the blanket on your lap and a toy handy. If things go chaotic quickly you won’t lose anytime trying to find the essentials.
- Feed a child during takeoff and landing. It helps so their ears don’t pop.
- If you are traveling with your hubby then send him on the plane first to set up your area and pack away your bags. While you stay out by the gate as long as possible. If you have a toddler, let them run around as much as they want during this time.
Don’t let yourself be judged. Of course if your kid is the one crying and kicking up a real fuss you should give an apologetic look or say you are sorry but don’t for a second let it get to you. If people want to judge and be mean ignore them. Remember that your child takes queues from you. If mommy is stressed and anxious your child will probably pick up on that and react to it. Try and stay calm and be forgiving of yourself. You are doing a much better job than you give yourself credit for. If you ever feel overwhelmed by the experience don’t forget that the airplane toilets are great for locking yourself away and having a good cry!