How hard is it flying with an infant on lap?
Easy peasy lemon squeezy. True or false?
I must say, definitely true. Flying with a baby or travelling with toddlers on long haul flights is not difficult at all. But some preparations shall be in place at least for you to feel less tired and more comfortable.
How can you be well-prepared for a long haul flight if lap toddlers and babies are so unpredictable? Well, in this article I am going to introduce you to some incredibly useful long haul flight tips and tricks to make your flight restful and stress-free.
Tips For Long Haul Flights With Toddlers And Babies
1. Prepare everything in advance
When you are flying with a toddler, make sure you prepare everything in advance. Make a plan; organize tasks by days if necessary; think about what you should wash, where you should put stuff, and when to pack everything.
It was our fourth time moving from one country to another (third time changing a continent). Last time moving from Prague to London we accidentally threw all our passports with two-month savings, which were supposed to cover us for the first time in one of the most expensive countries, in a trash bin outside the property that locks with a special key. We then happily passed all the keys to our realtor who has left. Sweet as!
It was an extraordinary sight to watch how we were getting everything from our suitcases carrying a 5-month-old baby in the last five minutes before departure. That said, PREPARE EVERYTHING IN ADVANCE!
2. Cook baby food before the flight
I always prefer and recommend cooking something nice for your baby. Baby food on a plane doesn’t exist.
- Firstly, it makes him feel more comfortable eating his favorites during the flight;
- Secondly, homemade food is always better than pouches, in my opinion. As much as my son loved them at his 9-11 months, he was denying each of a kind when he hit his first year of life;
- Thirdly, it is always preferable for fussy eaters (totally my case!).
If you prepare pure that is blended, I suggest you use reusable weaning fill pouch bags. And important to note that it is not possible to store baby food in the fridge on a plane, nor it is possible to warm it up (at least airlines I have taken didn’t provide such service). So, due to the temperature drop, think wisely about what to cook for your baby. If it is the meat I would serve it as soon as possible; I wouldn’t go for fish though. However, getting your mealtime kit is a MUST, really! My favorite of all time is skip&hop on the picture below. It is compact, the zipper is strong, food is hot for hours and hours. You get six containers plus a cooler bag. Highly recommended!
In general, babies and toddlers are getting quite complicated with food and sleep during the flights, just as we are adults, so, our favorite food might turn out to be a win-win for everyone. Also, some snacks are a plus! Kids love them, what can I say?! Though, I am always for a healthy lifestyle trying to give snacks after the main meal in a reasonable quantity.
3. Check with your airline on luggage allowance
Long haul flight with a toddler can turn into a real challenge if you don’t think about what items to take and where to put them beforehand. In our case, as we were moving to another continent, we used all the space that was given to us by the airline. Unfortunately, Aeromexico allows a buggy only as an extra for a baby. No travel cots or booster seats are available, they go as an extra charge, around 100 GBP per trip. So, we have placed both items inside our luggage, being left with only 10 kg of space for our own belongings. Smart, huh?!
It was such a good idea to check on all luggage restrictions beforehand, as honestly, I was 100% sure we can pick one item for free apart from the buggy. Usually, airlines let you choose between a car seat, booster seat, or travel cot, which definitely wasn’t our case.
4. Make sure you bring a baby bag on board with everything he needs and maybe a little bit more
We use a quite big and spacious bag for baby travel. It includes a special insulated on-the-go baby bag, a changing mat, and a diaper bag. Some airlines, such as Aeromexico, let us carry on board a baby bag of 20kg max. So, in this case, our bag was a perfect fit. In general, we pack all Teo’s clothes, medicines, and hygiene items, such as soap, shampoo, baby powder, nappy cream, etc. We also put his plane toys for toddlers – our lifesavers during the flight.
Find out how to create a perfect kids’ flight bag here.
5. Place the most important items on top of everything
It is important to think about what things you are going to use on the plane and arrange them accordingly in your bags. For example, I put changing mat in the baby’s bag side pocket, medicines, and diaper cream – in the front one, changing clothes, diapers, and insulated food bag – inside the bag on top of everything; passports, documents, money, and a pen I put in a special compartment of my anti-theft bag.
This arrangement worked for me just perfectly, as my hubs could understand where to get things from easily.
6. Arrive at the airport earlier than usual
I am the person who is kind of never late, but at the same time who is coming just on time. My experience with a baby taught me that it worked well when I was single. Now time flies like Peregrine Falcon.
According to my experience, turning up three hours before the long-haul flight is just about right. The reasons are the following:
Some airlines do let you first as a passenger with a baby, e.g. Aeromexico, but some don’t, so it is better to be on time at the airport;
No rush whatsoever
You are able to check in your luggage stress-free, let your toddler run around for a while (it is important to burn a bit of his energy before the flight), get some coffee and offer food to your baby in a comfortable high chair, use bathroom service, and what most importantly, let your baby feel relaxed as you will be relaxed.
A great chance to get an extra free seat in a row
If you ask nicely and if there is at least one free seat in the entire plane, you will be given one, as you are traveling with a lap toddler. Usually, the staff makes sure of that.
No stress passing the security checkpoint
Fewer people, and so, more time to go through the security. As you are carrying some liquids and food for your baby, you will be likely checked, meaning some of the bags will be opened, and you will need to re-arrange them at some point (see p.3). Also, consider taking out your laptops, folding and unfolding the buggy – all this while carrying your baby at the same time.
7. Consider the nighttime for long-haul flights
I have heard many stories about taking long-haul flights from other parents. I would agree on one common point – consider taking the night one. Why? Because it increases your and your baby’s chances to sleep and rest during the flight. In our case, our 13-months-old toddler has been sleeping for eight hours straight compared to a regular twelve. But it is because he went to sleep way after his routine hour, 18:00 vs. 22:30. Also, very important! – try to sleep as your baby sleeps. Remember, crossing time zones affect your body just as it affects your little one.
8. Distract and reassure your baby
Taking a long-haul flight usually contradicts the baby’s routine. If it is your first time, there is a chance your little one might feel insecure or even get scared or extremely exhausted waiting for the flight. Some babies are easy-going and fall asleep wherever and whenever they want. It is not my case. Our son prefers sleeping in his cot in his house in comfort.
So, our job was to distract and play with him before we boarded the plane. Luckily, he is getting very excited about being surrounded by other people, that sometimes even forget about his mom and dad.
It can happen that your baby gets exhausted, in this case, staying close to lulling is just the best. In other cases, when reaching the limit, reading a nearby magazine, or watching a short cartoon or baby songs video on your tablet, kids kindle or phone turns out very helpful.
9. Consider reserving special seats with a travel bassinet attached
Every airline offers travel bassinets on board the plane for free. All information on reserving an airplane bassinet and what some airlines hide from us is here. However, seats for parents come with an extra charge for each trip. Make sure you check with your airline the dimensions and maximum weight for the bassinet they provide. In Aeromexico, we were offered the cot with 12kg max. Our son was 13 months old, 80 cm tall, and weighed 9 kg. His height was just at the limit though. Also, all cots are quite narrow which I found not bad, as it limited my son’s movements and so was more secure during the turbulence. We have decided to cover him with a special protective layer from possible turbulence during the entire flight.
10. Let him rest as soon as the lights are off for taking off
This was one of the most important points for me. I even asked a flight attendant how much time it takes for the plane to take off and how long the lights were going to be switched off for. As we had an unlucky experience taking the short flight from Venice to London just before this one, I wanted to make sure this time we have enough time to fall asleep.
Here is why I love long-distance flights:
Short vs long haul flights
During the short-distance flight, flight attendants tend to switch on the light and start their service immediately after take-off. The service requires them time, plus, it all goes for an extra charge. While long-distance flights have no rush at all. They take their time, which definitely benefits your baby.
Same as lights, broadcasting seems to be continuous. Also, it is extremely loud. While on long-distance night flights, the crew tries to minimize noise and avoid annoying sleepy passengers.
- Free water and coffee
One thing I like the most about long-distance flights is that you get as much water as you need. I never knew this as I received a 1.5L bottle in my fifth month of pregnancy. This time I was lucky to have another bottle because I was still breastfeeding. Yay! At the same time, my hubs were enjoying his free coffee with cream and a piece of delish chocolate. Booya!
- Movies availability
Oh yes! What can be better rather than enjoying watching a movie after your baby is fast asleep?! However, don’t go too hard on this, force yourself to sleep when your little one does the same.
- No crib
Of course, with a short-distance flight in economy class, the only possibility you have is lulling and carrying your baby during the entire time.
11. Let him feel comfortable
It is important to make your baby feel comfortable. One of the best tricks can be bringing his favorite little blanket to cover him in a bassinet. It is always a great idea to bring some of his favorite toys, such as building forms, musical touch remote/phone, or fluffy tiny toys. Also, letting him walk around, and chat with other people and the cabin crew definitely pays off. Firstly, because you can relax while your baby is on other laps, secondly, it is just so much fun for him anyway. In addition, bringing his favorite food and a bit of snack will be appreciated by your kid too.
12. Take it easy
Don’t insist on anything. As it is been previously mentioned, we are breaking their routine. The most important is to be relaxed, then your baby will feel more relaxed and happier. Try to offer some food and lots of fluids. Let them get drowned in your cuddles and kisses and have as much fun as possible.
13. Consider a seat for your baby
Airline safety experts agree that the safest place for your baby is in its own seat using special restraint devices, such as a car seat or CARES harness. However, while FAA rules haven’t been changed just yet, it is all up to a parent to decide whether he prefers to travel with a toddler on a lap or not. Read more about it here.
It also comes down to the fact that toddlers are quite different from babies. One can feel comfortable in its car seat, the other can throw the tantrum of the century (again, totally my case! There is no possible chance my son will sit in a car seat without crying, possibly because we never had a car). The bottom line, it is your call.
14. Consider electronics
Although the American Academy of Paediatrics recommends no screen time for little ones until their second birthdays, a little bit of it won’t make harm you and your baby’s sanity. Personally, I am very careful with TV sessions for my son, and mostly, it is all limited to songs in four languages.
However, I found it really practical in two cases:
- On the way to the airport, as my son can’t bear car seats;
- Before taking off, when he was just so tired, and we needed an extra five minutes before breastfeeding him.
All in all, I do not use a lot of electronics, neither I suggest doing it on a regular basis, as kids get used to that so fast. It’s incredible!
15. Consider a carrier
Although we are not a carrier family (and I know I am missing out too much!) but taking a carrier instead of a buggy through the airport might sound like a good idea. Keeping your child close to you from all the noises at a late hour is just what they need. Your baby might even fall asleep easier. Your back will thank you too!
I hope these tips are going to be of great help to you!
Have a safe flight and enjoy your journey!
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Also, check out:
- Dealing With Baby Jet Lag and Adjusting Fast To A New Time Zone.
- All You Have To Know About Airplane Bassinet For Your Baby: what some airline companies hide from us.
- Traveling with a newborn around the world: Simple Tips that will make your trip unforgettable!
- All About Using Car Seats On Planes.
- Cruising with Kids.
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