Beads of sweat begin to swell on your brow and angst is plastered on your face. You should be excited, but you begin to feel like when you were a kid, that one time your Mom sent you off to stay with your Great Aunt Gladys. That one bubbly aunt who would sit at home all day watching the Murder She Wrote TV series while sending you off to the kitchen every 30 seconds to snag her some more “diabetic cookies.”
Your baby’s cooing snaps you back to the crowded airport. Packing for the baby, the disapproving looks from other passengers 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 your wee one doesn’t have to mimic the chaos from Snakes on a Plane.
You can maintain your sanity, your baby’s well-being, and feel like an accomplished Mommy traveler with these five helpful tips.
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 ones around, especially on trains, buses, etc. I found a used Chicco Liteway on Facebook Marketplace for $25. 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.
Soothe Your Baby
At take-off and landings, nurse (or bottle feed), your baby to help eliminate the pressure in his/her ears. Not all babies experience ear pain on airplanes, but don’t take that chance. 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 her woes by bouncing her on your shoulder or lap. Remember to stay calm and not stress about the other passengers. We were all babies once and they can live through it. If they can survive the likes of their Great Aunt Gladys’ house, they can handle a baby’s cry.
What has worked for you and your baby?