As the time got closer for our adventures in North America to begin, one of my main concerns after Henry’s overall safety abroad was the flight. Flying with a baby isn’t exactly something that fills any parent with much joy, after all. But it is a necessity of course, so my search began trawling through the internet to find tips to help me prepare for our 9.5hr flight to Chicago with a 10 month old.
Our little Henry is by far the most strong willed baby I am sure I’ve ever met, and I’m sure this will stand him in good stead as an adult, however as a baby it means a situation such as our impending flight and our having to restrain him for most of the waking day was a serious worry for me. He doesn’t sit still for more than 30 seconds at home, gets bored of toys immediately and never watches TV. And when he is made to do something he’s not keen on, my gosh do we know about it! (a phase, right??) As you can imagine not the ideal ingredients for a stress-free flight.
We flew with American Airlines, despite booking with British Airways, and I would be complaining about their terrible service with a frown, lack of refreshments, being made to wait an hour to disembark while Henry wailed his little heart out, the seat belt light being on for 4 hours and constantly being told Henry needed to be restrained despite zero turbulance…IF they had not given us the bulkhead. This was a Godsend!! I had been frantically trying to get it secured on advanced check in which I was continuously calling & being passed around to no avail. But I could have kissed the check in lady at the airport after she managed to secure it for us as I knew just how much difference this would make to us. It meant he had loads of room to crawl about on the floor and play with lots of exciting things whilst flirting with the ladies on our row.
If you are reading this, I am sure you too are looking for help and advice so here are my tips for what helped us with a relatively stress-free flight!
Tips For Flying With A Baby Or Family;
Don’t let the pre-flight stress get to you;
The thought of flying with a baby, or taking a baby on holiday may scare you from even attempting it until they are older. But let’s be honest, a trip down the road isn’t what it used to be when you think of all the paraphernalia you need to remember, how much milk or food they may need and timing it around feeds and nap times. So don’t be put off by it, if you set your expectation that it’s going to be horrendous, then I am positive you will be pleasantly surprised. most airlines really cater well for families with young children.
Get the right flight;
The ideal flight time for long haul is over night to fit in with your baby’s schedule. Unfortunately there wasn’t this option for us so we had to go for a midday flight. try your hardest to get a non stop flight as you not only want to get there as soon as possible, but having to get your child in and out of the aircraft, through terminals and customs adds so much more pressure to you all.
Book the “best” seats;
These may not be the best for everyone else, but if you can book ahead then go for seat at each end of a 3 person row (if the flight isn’t full it’s highly unlikely a solo traveller will book the middle seat) this will give you more room to play with and them to play in! If the flight is full then book the aisle if you have a baby who wants to walk or crawl everywhere, or the window seat if you want privacy to nurse or a leaning post to set up camp for them to sleep on you. You then have the added bonus of having a bassinet which clips on for them to sleep in, but beware this isn’t a failsafe; Henry was too big at 10m so they aren’t going to fit most babies above around 9 months.
Take a bag of tricks;
Buy new, small toys to entertain your little one; the excitement of these being unplayed with before may keep them entertained for longer and keep them small so you can take quite a few.
Pack as many snacks as you can, all sealed so they don’t get taken away at customs! Brands such as Organix and Kiddylicious make some organic, sugar free selections; I bought everything on offer as Henry certainly has an appetite on him.
Milk is your saviour;
Regardless of if you’re breast or bottle, milk will soothe and satisfy your baby throughout the flight. Make sure you have it at the ready for take off and landing as it will take away the pain of their ears adjusting to the cabin pressure. I’m still breastfeeding Henry and my nipples were shredded by the end of the flight and there was certainly no milk left, but they definitely helped with his ears. A dummy or pacifier would work too if your baby takes one. Make sure you pack more milk than you think they could need as it having too much isn’t half as much of an issue than running out! – while we’re on this, make sure you pack more of everything you need such as nappies, snacks & clothes as you never know how long you may be delayed along the line.
Dress them for comfort;
It may sound obvious, but you really don’t want to be fussing with intricate outfits with tights and shoes or similar when dealing with a dirty nappy in a miniature aircraft toilet, so make sure your dress baby in something easy and comfortable.
Take the right equipment;
Some people choose to take a car seat to fly; which would mean the child will need their own seat on the plane, but for us that just looked like far too much to pack and carry with us, so we are renting one along with the car once we arrive at the destination.
Depending on how many flights you are taking (6 in our case) your stroller is going to need to withstand some serious throwing about. Chances are you also aren’t going to want to travel with your big, special pram from home. We bought a Mamas & Papas Barnie stroller for the trip, which compared to my beloved Sola pram I really don’t like much, but it is lightweight, small and ideal for taking on holiday. These days pushchairs like the BabyZen YoYo can fold small enough to put into the overhead locker so you know they aren’t going to get trashed in the hold.
I really hope these tips help you relax a little about your flight, honestly I was really panicking about ours but it was brilliant in the end. Henry actually only slept for 45 minutes in the whole 9.5 hours and I can still say it went really well, we were so proud of him.