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Both of our girls travelled on their first trans-ocean flights as babies, between 6 & 12 months old. By this age we were settled into parenthood and ready to tackle our next adventure! Calais went trans-Atlantic at 10 months old from Toronto to Iceland. There was two of us and one of her. She also was an incredibly social baby and spent time sitting with other passengers. No stranger danger here!! If someone’s willing to hold my baby on the plane… all the power to them. Kacela was a bit younger when she trekked from Vancouver to Hong Kong at 6 months old. The trans-Pacific flight was long, but completely manageable because we were prepared. Here is my tips for flying with a baby. It will help make your trip a breeze, without having to rely on other passengers.
1. Choose your seat wisely
This is the last chance for the basinet. Once your baby is older than 12 months they tend to get a bit too big, so take advantage of it while you still can!! If you are on an international flight they will often have a basinet available. You do have to book in advance as you need a bulkhead seat, and it sometimes costs a bit extra, but it is worth it to give yourself and baby some space while flying.
If you are on a flight that is longer than a couple hours and doesn’t offer a basinet, ask for a bulkhead seat, even if you have to pay a few extra dollars for it. Once up in the air you will have space on the floor in front of you where you can lay out a blanket or your change pad for baby to sit and play. Any time with your little one not on your lap is good time!
One more seating trick
Book an aisle seat and window seat at the back of the plane. With this arrangement there is a good chance that the middle seat will remain empty. You can also ask at check-in if they can fill that seat last. Often airlines are very good about putting empty seats beside someone with an infant or baby on their lap. If baby can stretch out in their own seat once the seatbelt light comes off it makes for a more pleasant flight for everyone.
2. Minimize carry-on luggage
Baby is becoming heavy and mobile at this age. It’s enough work just carting the little one around, let alone an arm-full of luggage, a stoller, a car seat, etc, etc. I prefer to wear a good carrier (The Ergo Performance Baby Carrier is still my favourite!) and to send the stroller with my checked baggage. If your baby will nap during a reasonably long layover then consider gate-checking the stroller so you’ll have it. Alternately, turn the Ergo around so she is worn like a back-pack, put up the head-support, and let her sleep while you go about your business hands-free. Who needs a stroller!
I also suggest bringing ONE piece of carry-on luggage (no personal item) with baby necessities, headphones and a tablet for yourself. If baby does fall asleep a tablet with the Kindle app is easy to use one handed over a sleeping little one. I’ve tried a paper-back book before. I didn’t do very well with it! Thinking about bringing more entertainment for yourself? Don’t bother!! A movie or book is about all you’ll likely be able to manage without disturbing your baby.
3. Board the plane LAST
I can come up with a reason at any age to board the plane last! This doesn’t mean you are running to the gate as they are doing the “final boarding call”, it means you’re sitting by the door, prepared to board, waiting for the announcement. Remember that on most flights the jetway gets backed up with passengers. You’re either waiting in line in the airport, waiting in line on the jet-way, or waiting in your seat for all of the other passengers to board. Save some of that wait time and let baby play in the airport for a bit longer. The plane won’t leave without you, especially if you are at the gate, ready to go, and allowing the other passengers to board and get settled ahead of you.
4. Feed for take-off and landings.
At this age feeding could be a breast, bottle or snacks. It really doesn’t matter which method you use as long as your baby’s jaw keeps moving while the cabin pressure changes. Little ones are usually happiest after eating. Feeding during take-off buys a bit of happy-baby time during the flight.
5. Bring those Liquids
You’re allowed to bring liquids and gels for your baby on the plane until they are 2 years old. This includes pre-made bottles, water, apple sauce, etc. Take advantage of this while you can! (You can also bring a bottle of water for yourself, just ensure to tell security that it’s for the “baby”!).
6. Wear a fun necklace or earrings (or both)
Baby has to be facing you, in the burping position, for take-off and landing. This can be the most painful part of the flight. A necklace and earrings offer a surprising amount of distraction for baby. I especially like Munchables teething necklaces. They are BPA-free, food grade silicone making them safe for baby to chew on, plus they are super cute! Who doesn’t love a smart, fashionable traveling mama!! (for the record, I usually just put on whatever necklace I had lying around…hopefully my girls don’t have lead poisoning!)
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Wondering what you need to bring with you on the plane? Check out “What to Pack When Flying with Babies” for my suggestions.
Do you have any other great tips for flying with babies? I’d love to hear them!! Please share in the comments below.