7 Tips For Flying with a Baby for the First Time
All quiet, the dummy is in!
If you’ve never flown with a baby or toddler before, it can be a daunting prospect for even the hardiest of parents, especially if it’s a long haul flight. Luckily, there are plenty of brave parents who have already blazed the trail and warned the rest of us about exactly what’s coming.
This post is timely as this news article discussing ‘mid-air melt-downs’ caused uproar this week. Parents of an 8-year-old girl with a rare disorder were told to ‘shut her up’ on a short flight from Ibiza to Manchester. The article invited different opinions about whether meltdowns should be met with compassion or condemnation. We were infuriated by many of the people’s views, which were that of condemnation. We’ve flown many times with our children (now all aged 5+) and yes they have been a bit noisy now and then, usually as babies or toddlers during ascent and descent, but we’ve witnessed many a loud, rude, disruptive (drunken) adult on flights. Adults create way more unwanted in-flight shenanigans than any noisy child that we’ve ever seen. Live and let live, we say! Pioneering airline JetBlue airline released this video in May. It gave discounts to passengers without children. Every time a passenger heard a baby cry, they received 25% off their next flight. Needless to say, most of the childless travellers ended up with a free round ticket!
Rant over and before we head into our top tips for flying, lets answer the question that’ll be on many new parents’ lips: How soon can I fly with my baby? It may come as a surprise that you can fly with a baby as young as two days old, though some airlines stipulate a minimum age of 14 days, either way it’s sooner than most parents think!
So, here’s how to ensure your first baby-on-board flight goes as smoothly as possible:
Research child-friendly airlines
Some airlines will go the extra mile for you and your baby, so it’s worth seeing if it’s possible to fly with these carriers. Research by travel company Travelsort showed that Virgin Atlantic, Emirates and Etihad are among the best airlines for providing those helpful little extras such as wipes, books and toys, so this is well worth looking out for when you’re booking your next trip.
Take baby's stuff on board with you. Ducks optional
Choose an evening flight
When travelling with really young babies, timing the flight as close to their usual sleeping time is the best way to ensure you all get through the entire flight as happily and comfortably as possible. This is why an evening flight is ideal, you can put them down to sleep as soon as you board the flight and – with a little luck – your baby will sleep soundly through the majority of the journey.
Book specific seats
Your seating position on the plane can make a significant difference to the smooth-running of your flight when travelling with babies and young children. Try to choose seats towards the front of the plane if you can. On budget flights, there are usually more toilets at the front of the plane. The rear of a plane is usually noisier and vibrates more due to the position of the engines, which can disturb your baby as he or she tries to sleep. Plus, the disembarkation procedure usually takes longer the further back you are, which can be a nightmare if your baby is starting to get restless or uncomfortable. Extra legroom with babies and children is also fantastic and you can pre-book these seats.
Buy an extra seat for your baby
Some parents choose to only book seats for themselves and seat babies on their laps, or just hope that there will be a nearby empty seat. However, most parents recommend spending the little bit of extra money on buying an additional seat (preferably a window seat) for your baby and taking a car seat to safely restrain them during take-off and landing. Having the extra seat booked is a godsend on really busy flights as it means you’ll have more space to ensure you and baby are both comfortable and not encroaching on anybody else’s space. Out of season, usually on budget flights we’ve always resorted to the ‘leaving the middle seat between us’ strategy that has worked a treat. Those passengers boarding and still looking for a seat usually take one look at a family with a baby and deposit themselves elsewhere.
Breastfeed or bottle feed on take-off
Granted, this is not always possible on every flight, but bottle feeding or breastfeeding during take-off is great for two reasons: The familiarity of the action will act as a soother, as most take-offs are a little rough and are usually quite an unnerving experience for most. The second reason is that the sucking will help keep their ears from getting sore with the rapid pressure changes. If your baby or toddler uses a dummy, take extras. Lots of extra dummies. They always end up under (dirty) seats and getting handed around the cabin and back to the family by strangers!
At two days old, this baby can technically travel by plane...aw!
Take several changes of clothes
This is an absolute must with very young babies, especially if they’re being exclusively breast-fed. If you’re already a parent then by now you’ll know that breast-fed babies tend to produce an awful lot of...well, poop – and it’s often hard to contain! In case of a leak, it’s always a great idea to take several changes of clothes in your carry-on luggage (check if your airline allows extra carry-on luggage for babies, as this is very helpful). Baby clothes are tiny, so an extra few items won’t take up too much space. It’s also not a terrible idea to pack an extra top and pair of trousers for yourself just in case! You will end up a sticky, disheveled mess on arrival! We’ve been caught short many times and ended up covered in liquids of varied descriptions on many occasion. Our babies and toddlers always seemed to choose the plane as an ideal time to have a runny tummy!
We won't lie: you won't look like this after a pane journey with babies or toddlers
Take extra supplies
We’ve touched on clothing, but it’s also a very good idea to take extra supplies of baby food, wipes and other everyday essentials – as much as you can physically fit in your baggage allowance – just in case of unexpected delays. Cancellations and weather problems have been known to leave families stranded for hours and even entire days, so you’ll want to be as prepared as you possibly can.
The more you fly with your children the more of an expert you’ll become in preventing problems, but for those of you just stepping out on your first adventure with baby, these extra little measures will help see you through the experience and – hopefully – ensure you’re all still smiling at the other end.
For a little light entertainment, the How To Dad shows ‘how to stop baby crying’ in this video. Have a watch.
The frantic flight is worth it in the end!