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Beads of sweat begin to swell on your brow and angst is plastered on your face. You should be excited about your trip, but your stomach is churning as if you were starting your first day of high school.
Packing for the baby, the disapproving looks from other passengers on the plane, and the disruption of your child’s sleep schedule are only a few of the worries that take over your mind when preparing for your big flight abroad.
But, traveling with an infant on an international flight doesn’t have to mimic the chaos from Snakes on a Plane.
Traveling with a newborn baby seems scary and impossible.
But, international travel with a baby is totally doable, mama!
To maintain your sanity, your baby’s well-being, and feel like an accomplished traveling mom, check out these five helpful tips on flying with a baby on an international flight.
Call the Airline Directly to Book the Flight
On all international flights, you must always inform the airline that you will be traveling with an infant on your lap, or if you would like to request a bassinet. Request the bassinet early, most planes only have one or two. Many airlines permit you to bring one free bag, like your diaper bag, (there are weight restrictions), in addition to one collapsible stroller.
All airline infant policies vary with regards to baby bag allowances, bassinet availabilities, flight fees, etc. so be sure to confirm with the airline as soon as you start looking at flights. Lastly, don’t forget, if you are traveling internationally with your baby, passports are required. It doesn’t matter how young they are. Birth certificates are only valid for domestic travel.
Schedule the Flight Near Baby’s Bedtime
If you are headed to Europe, it is best to take an evening flight. Oftentimes, that means you’re landing somewhere in Europe early to mid-morning. This timing allows your baby’s sleep pattern to better adjust to the new time zone. Minus a wee morning feeding or two, hopefully, Mama got a little rest too. Well, as long as Daddy wasn’t snoring (or farting) all night.
Resist Overpacking the Diaper Bag
You do not need to pack everything your baby has ever used, worn, or sipped. Seriously. You barely have enough arm space for a diaper bag, along with the baby, stroller, baby carrier, etc.
Try to gauge the number of diapers you may need based on how much your infant uses daily. On an 8-10 hour evening flight, I packed 10 diapers, small pack of wipes, milk or formula (be advised TSA may screen the liquid to check for explosives, etc.), baby Tylenol, two toys, a nursing cover (which doubled as a burp cloth), and two baby outfits. I fit all of this into a small backpack because I did not want to have to carry a heavy, gaudy bag throughout our trip.
You don’t need plastic bags for dirty clothes, blankets, or paper towels for the changing table, you can easily get them from a flight attendant. Of course, you may still pack whatever you may need in your checked luggage.
Just remember, less is more and there are stores at your destination to buy more diapers, treats, etc. If you are venturing somewhere off the beaten track, locate nearby markets and plan accordingly.
Use a Lightweight Stroller at Airport (and During the Trip)
When TSA, and other airline personnel, see the stroller, it’s like you’re the Queen of Sheba. Almost every time they see a baby in a stroller, they whisk you away into another entrance for ease, maneuverability, and because…. you have a baby!
No one wants to hear a screaming baby, especially when you’re conducting serious business like TSA. Lastly, invest in a lightweight umbrella stroller because it is not fun to haul the big strollers around, especially on trains, buses, etc. I found a used Chicco Liteway on Facebook Marketplace for $50 or you can find one for under $100 on Amazon. It can carry a small diaper bag, reclines for nap time (if you’re out exploring), and holds the Holy Grail, a cup of coffee. It is my go-to stroller for all of my travels near and far.
Soothe Your Baby
At take-off and landings, nurse (or bottle feed), your baby to help soothe her and eliminate the pressure in her ears. Not all babies experience ear pain on airplanes, but don’t take that chance. As a last resort, there are baby ear drops, baby earplugs, and even baby ear muffs for the airplane.
According to pediatrician Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H, “your baby is more likely to experience ear pain if she has nasal congestion from a cold or allergies, which can cause swelling of the Eustachian tubes.”
If you believe this to be the case, ask the pediatrician whether you should give your little one a decongestant for the flight. It can take about 20 minutes for the plane to reach cruising altitude, so if your baby does manage to get fussy during that time, soothe your infant by bouncing her on your lap.
Remember to stay calm and not stress about the other passengers. We were all babies once and they can live through it. It’s not like there are snakes on the plane, right?