The keyword when traveling with a baby is definitely preparation. Nothing as horrible as running out of diapers at a 10 km height with still hours of your flight ahead of you. Or a hungry baby, and nothing appropiate to eat nearby. Even though traveling light in general is the best when you also have to carry a little child, babies on board bag is never the one you should save weight on. Always – always – expect the unexpected.
A sudden outburst of diarrea. Your child all of a sudden not wanting any of his usual snacks, and he/she can only be satisfied with one kind of food. Someone getting sick all over you, or simply a formula leakage. Or your drink gets spilled, because you’re a bit cramped while trying to eat with a baby on your lap. Anything can happen.
How can you best prepare for everything? Luckily with most air companies, 10 kgs of lugage are allowed for the little ones. Make sure to get the best use out of them!
What to pack
Pack the double amount of diapers you would normally use in this specific amount of time. Why so many? Well, you never know what might happen. The worst case scenario would probably be a huge delay, a couple of hours or maybe even a day. Better to avoid any diaper struggle when you can’t find clean diapers anywhere.
The same counts for wet towels. You can use them for everything, even for yourself. Why would you want to go frugal about something this convenient?
A change of clothes is a must as well. Who knows what might spill all over your or your childs clothes. Nothing worse than having to sit through a long haul flight with dirty, smelly stains on your clothes. Also, make sure to bring different layers. I never know what to expect from the temperature in an airplane. One flight it’s freezing, while the other flight it’s boiling hot. You won’t be happy if your baby is stuck on your lap, both melting in your warm comfortable outfit.
When I’m flying, I look forward to the meals. Some might call me crazy, but I simply love airplane food.
For the little ones traveling without their own chair, usually no meals will be provided. I advice you to check the website of the company you fly with. As every company has different guidelines. Most mention something about babyfood in limited amounts. To me, this sounds as they míght have a few portions of babyfood. Probably a ‘safe’ age, fit for most babies, like from 6 months of age. Nice for the smallest children, but it might not please a toddler. Also you can’t rely on the babyfood being available.
So, what about a normal meal for a toddler who can already eat everything? Yes, might be! It’s a good possibility. On lots of flights one of the meals we could choose from was simply pasta with sauce and soft vegetables. Yet, I’ve experienced that KLM did offer a meal to a toddler. Aeroméxico didn’t. They acted as our daughter did not exist and never even asked how she was doing, and if she would like any of the things they could offer. This would mean we had to share our tiny meal with her.
Luckily we came prepared and brought two different meals, formula, soy milk, cereals, soy pudding, cookies, fruit paste and much more. Way too much for the flight and Sophia prefered her milk bottle, but she did not suffer from hunger.
Tip: wait with the milk bottle or snacks until you’re ascending or descending. That way your child will be swallowing and probably won’t get affected as much by the painful pressure on the ears. If you’re lucky, it might also ease them and help them to sleep.
How are you going to prepare formula with clean water, if you can’t bring over 100ml of liquids on board? I have good news for you! When you are traveling with a child under 3 years of age, usually liquid regulations don’t count. Rules and comprehension probably depend on which airport and which country, but as long as it’s something that’s clearly meant for your baby or toddler, it will be alright. In Belgium airport security staff revised all of our products and ran a little test to see if we didn’t smuggle anything dangerous or illegal. While in Mexico it suffied to give the bag a quick visual check.
So don’t be afraid to bring your childs favorite fruit juice or something.
The water and formula are a bit more complicated, though. As on board kitchens aren’t equiped with a microwave. You can fill the bottle with hot water meant for tea though. Filling the rest of the bottle with cold water, will get you the perfect temperature for your childs liquid meal.
A plane always makes so much noise – a perfect equivalent of white noise! I’m a sleeper on airplanes and I find the sound very soothing. It’s a bit different when I’m on the plane with a baby, though. My priority is to get her to sleep, I wouldn’t want to be sleeping while she is wide awake.
When your child is too big for the cribs, it might be possible to let them sleep on the floor.
What?! And what about my feet? What if accidentally kick my baby?
I thought the same thing. But as the KLM steward confidently told me I could lie her on the floor, and they would arrange blankets and everything to make her comfortable, I decided to give it a try.
Good thing we brought the Deryan Traveller: an inflatable mattress for babies! Right after take off, Sophia was asleep. We inflated the mattress, lied her down and tucked her in with a blanket. Sophia had her favorite stuffed animals with her. She almost didn’t notice she was actually on the floor of an airplane.
Sophia was really comfortable on her mattress and with the little pillow. Our feet weren’t a problem at all. So whenever you travel on the plane with a baby, bring something that could help you support your childs weight when she is asleep.
Do check with the airline if your item is accepted! Not all of them are safe enough to use on board, thus you might be told you can’t use the convenient tool you had brought.
If the paragraph above didn’t work, you’ll most probably wish you have enough to entertain the little one. As he or she won’t be able to move around a lot, you will have to make sure to keep their minds occupied and focused on only the area you are seated. If you’re, just like me now while writing this, sitting next to your child running around, making a lot of mess and going from one toy to another, to yet another, in only one minute, you will probably wish you never booked that flight.
Don’t worry. Sophia is also hard to be pleased. Make sure to bring different kinds of toys. Is there anything you noticed he or she can completely lose theirselves in? Their favorite Youtube or Netflix video? A puzzle? Some kind of game? Bring it!
Oh, if your child is traveling on your lap, forget about your own on board entertainment system. It’s nearly impossible to watch a movie with a child dancing on your lap. Better check out the kids section. There might be a nice game, or at least a couple of movies that will get your child’s attention.
We carry an extra phone with us, with her favorite videos on it. Also with a few games that she likes. We usually switch these, other games and the on board entertainment system. Until she gets bored and we start all over again.
Tip: don’t ever forget to bring your child’s favorite stuffed animal, doll or anything.
Last but not least, the chairs you reserve. After online research I believed most airline companies will make sure there won’t be anyone seated next to you and your family. So you won’t bother any neighbours and vice versa. I had also read about picking a chair on the window side and the other chair on the aisle.
I’m glad I never took that risk when I went on a plane with a baby. Both flights were full, or the stewards didn’t bother changing anything. So at least Luis and I were seated next to each other and not separated by a stranger.
What do I advice you to do?
The moment you do your check-in, mention you’re going to get on the plane with a baby. Your ground steward can check who else will travel, and which seat will turn out best. Sometimes they can actually change you into other seats, so that the third chair will stay empty. Beware: they can’t make any promises, until everyone checked in. But at least they can try to do their best.
On some airplanes there are cribs available. Those will be in a front row, where you can hang them on a wall. Check this with your ground steward, if your child is under a certain age or size, he or she can probably lie down in the crib. This means no sleeping arms after carrying a sleeping child for hours! During turbulation you’ll have to carry him or her anyway, but it’s a great help with the weight.
The weight, responsibility and continuous care for your child is what makes it exhausting to get on the plane with a baby. If you didn’t book an extra seat, you might find yourself hours and hours with a desperate, impatient little human being on your lap.
Is it worth the money not to book a seat? It absolutely depends on your wallet. If you can miss the money I wouldn’t bother and get that extra chair. It gives you a lot more space to move, which give your child more freedom as well. But if your short on money, you’ll just have to think it through. What is the worst case scenario? Come prepared for that. And simply try to manage to survive this long haul flight.
What’s your prospect?
You can’t do much about what happens on the plane, but you do have a large influence on what happens afterwards. Imagine that worst case scenario, knowing you still have hours of travel to go because you wanted to save money on a hotel or accomodation close to the airport as well? Or going someplace knowing you won’t be comfortable?
What soothed me throughout the flight was the knowledge that we would just have one ride and then be able to crash on our big comfortable hotel bed.
What is your prospect? Does your foresight relax you? Or bring you more worries? In the last case, try to change up your plans a bit, so that you can actually relax and recover from this heavy flight. Believe me, this rest will be needed as much by your baby/toddler as by you!
The flight has probably been very impressive and confusing for a child that isn’t able to understand yet what is actually going on. Try to explain it as much as you can, and show images of airplanes before you go. Tell them about what’s going to happen. If it actually clicks, it’ll be a very magical experience!