Does the thought of flying with a baby fill you with dread and fear but the soft white sands and clear blue water of a far off paradise call your name? Or are you just really desperate to go home and see your family interstate? Looking after a baby in your home environment is a juggle, so the thought of being in a confined pressurised metal tube with hundreds of others is a daunting thought. The good news is, help is at hand and these fifteen travel tips for how to manage your baby’s first flight will have you smooth sailing (or flying in this case) in no time.
15 tips for flying with an infant
1. Organise passports well in advance
2. Choose your flight time wisely
3. Pre allocate seat selection
4. Request a bassinet
5. Take the car seat
6. Over pack nappies in your hand luggage
7. Be smart when packing your suitcase
8. Wear your baby and your bag
9. Find the bathrooms before you board
10. Protect tiny ears
11. Keep things sanitary
12. Keep supplies handy
13. Talk to the crew
14. Stay hydrated
15. Try not to worry
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
#1 – Organise Passports well in advance
If it’s your baby’s first passport make sure you organise it well in advance of travel. Getting the passport photo right can be tricky. From personal experience, I found Teds Camera shop the best. You can find everything you need to know about applying for your child’s first passport here
#2 – Choose your flight time wisely
Don’t book a flight that is late in the day if you know your baby gets cranky in the afternoon. Babies are generally in a better mood early in the day.
# 3 – Seating
On domestic services, lap infants under the age of two can travel on their parent’s tickets. For international services, infants must have their own ticket. All infants booked with a seat must have their own ticket.
Request an aisle seat. Trying to get past other passengers in your row to get to the toilet is difficult. I nearly stumbled onto the lap of one gentleman while I was struggling to exit and my bub dribbled across the heads of the passengers seated in the row in front of me.
#4 – Request a bassinet
There is only a limited amount of bassinets available and with so many families travelling these days, they are in high demand, so request one well in advance of travelling. Also, check with your airline before travel to see if your baby will meet the criteria, as there are weight restrictions. Bassinets on Qantas flights are approximately 71cm long, 31cm wide, 26cm deep, and have a weight limitation of 11 kg. If your infant is too large for the bassinet and is travelling on the parents ticket then they must be nursed.
I highly recommend a CoziGo (previously known as Fly Babee) bassinet cover that blocks out light, giving your baby more chance of a peaceful rest. It also doubles up as a universal stroller cover so comes in handy when you’re trying to get bub to sleep at the airport during transit time. Then once you’re at your destination it also offer sun protection.
#5 – Take the car seat
Research indicates that the safety of your child on a flight will be enhanced with the use of a child seat. Most airlines will let you check in your car seat in for free but approval cannot be obtained at the airport. Infants will need to be booked with a seat by contacting your local Qantas office to make the booking (infants booked online are automatically booked as lap infants without a seat). You can find all the info on approved car seats and more info here.
If you can’t bring your car seat make sure you’ve organised one at your destination and think about how you’re getting to and from the airport. Parking at the airport or close by can sometimes be cheaper and less of a hassle than a taxi or asking for a lift – especially in a capital city.
#6 – What to pack in your hand luggage
Pack a change of clothes for everyone in your carryon. It’s pretty normal to have a spare change of clothes for the baby on hand, but we rarely think to pack a change of clothes for us. Cue seatbelt sign ding and you’re ready for take off. Next minute your child is sick mid-air and their lunch ends up in your lap. It’s happened to me! Learn from my mistake.
Pack lots of extra nappies at least 10 more than you think you will need in hand luggage. Remember to pack extra in case of delays and diversions.
#7 – Packing the family suitcase
The suitcase itself – Get something with wheels. Trying to carry a baby, hand luggage and a suitcase is not adviseable.
Packing Nappies – Invest in good quality nappies and stock up before you go. Brands overseas (especially in Asia) don’t compare with our Australian quality. Best to pack too many than not enough so I average on 10 per day. Roll them up and use them to fill holes.
First Aid – Always bring your own baby Panodol, Bonjela, etc. Always handy to have. Also keep hand sanitiser handy and be sure to use throughout the journey.
AT THE AIRPORT
#8 – Wear your baby and your bag
The Ergo Baby Carrier was so handy and allows you to keep arms free and comfort your baby while we went through the airport process of security, immigration and walking to the gate. I also preferred to ditch the nappy bag and use a backpack, meaning I could be comfortable and balanced, instead of jugging a bulky bag on one shoulder
If you are taking a pram, check it in. Qantas advises that most mainline Australian ports have strollers available for you to use in the airport once you have checked-in your own personal stroller. Staff will be on hand at the boarding gate ready to collect the stroller and to further assist you with pre-boarding the aircraft.
#9 – Find the bathrooms just before you board.
Use the parents room in the airport. All Australian terminals have a baby change room so allow some extra time to duck in there before the flight to freshen up the baby. Also, go to the toilet yourself before getting on board. Don’t think for a second that it’s possible to hold the baby whilst going to the toilet in a tiny plane cubicle and emerge looking like a decent human being.
ON THE FLIGHT
#10 – Protect their tiny ears
Make sure your baby is sucking (milk or dummy) during take off and landing. Little ears are so sensitive to the changes in aircraft pressure. That piercing scream you hear on take off and landing can be avoided if your baby is sucking during this time.
#11 – Keep it sanitary
The second-worst thing to happen on a holiday is getting sick. The worst thing to happen is to have your child get sick. Not only will it take them out of the action, you will have to sit out and nurse them back to health as well. As a rule buy a travel bottle of hand sanitiser and before every meal, dish out some sanitising love to the little ones (and big ones for that matter!).
#12 – Keep supplies handy
A little trick I did which really helps once on board with nappy changes is to keep a few nappies in a snap lock bag with some wipes and keep it in the seat pocket. You don’t want to be rummaging through the overhead locker for nappies and wipes you, want them to be accessible. Wipes are your best friend; they are so handy to have. Not just for nappy changes but also for wiping little faces, wiping tray tables, getting stains out of clothing.
#13 – Talk to the crew
The crew are there to help you and they should offer to assist before you have to ask. Some useful questions to ask the crew are: Where is the closest infant change table? How do I use the extension seat belt? Can you please heat up this bottle? Can you please sterilise this dummy?
#14 – Stay hydrated
Throw the meal schedule out the window and hydrate your baby with extra feeds. It is so dehydrating up there and it can really help with jet lag and recovery if you are hydrated. If you are breast-feeding make sure you are drinking lots of water. If you are formula feeding, then pre measure the formula as much as possible. The crew should be able to help you with boiled water, you just need to let it cool.
#15 – Try not to worry
If you are doing your best to comfort your child and they are still unsettled, please don’t pay any attention to any eye rolls you get from passengers around you. You and your baby have every right to be traveling and really we all need to be a little tolerant and patient when sharing a space with so many others. It’s not a private jet, it’s a commercial airline and we are all human. So please if you are flying with your baby and you are doing all you can to stop him or her crying, do not feel bad. I’m sure a lot of adults feel like crying when flying too.