Table of Contents
- Are you heading on your baby’s first flight soon? Here are some of of my personal tips, having flown with Kaleya for more than 50 times.
- Our Baby’s First Flight
- Tips for Your Baby’s First Flight
- Start them young
- Don’t stress and keep calm
- Choose a child-friendly airline
- Choose an appropriate flight
- Book your seat in advance and ask for a bassinet
- Check in early for your flight
- Bring lots of entertainment for your baby
- Pack essentials for babies, but don’t overdo it
- WHAT TO PACK ON BABY’S FIRST FLIGHT
- Protect their ears during takeoff and landing
- Keep your baby hydrated
Are you heading on your baby’s first flight soon? Here are some of of my personal tips, having flown with Kaleya for more than 50 times.
I know how it feels: you’ve been a traveler all your life, and you can’t wait to start traveling with your baby! But wait… is it going to be easy? Or is it going to be a nightmare?!
My daughter Kaleya is now three years old, and we’ve been traveling with her since she was one month old. Her first flight was from Madrid to Singapore and since then she’s been to over 30 countries. Traveling with her has been the most rewarding experience for me: it’s amazing to see how much she learns as she discovers new things and new places.
Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not saying that traveling with a baby is easy; it can be hard work and most of time you don’t even get to rest. But as long as you plan ahead and make some adjustments, traveling with baby can very fun and rewarding.
To help you plan your trip with your baby, I’m sharing our experience of flying with Baby Kaleya as well as some tips here with you.
Our Baby’s First Flight
I’ll be the first to admit I was pretty nervous about flying with baby, especially since the baby’s first flight was a long-haul journey from Europe to Asia.
Even a seasoned traveler like myself got pangs thinking about the flight with her: Would she scream the entire time? How would it be feeding her? What if she didn’t want to be in the plane’s bassinet?
As it turned out, I shouldn’t have worried so much. Kaleya fell asleep before the plane took off on her first flight, and miraculously passed out on the flights to and from Madrid to Singapore. During takeoff and landing, she either nursed quietly or sucked calmly on her pacifier. The changes in pressure didn’t seem to affect her at all.
Choosing to fly with my favorite airline Qatar Airways definitely helped (they didn’t pay me to say this!). They’re known to have the best bassinet seats, and they indeed had lots of legroom and space. The aircraft’s toilets also had changing tables that worked well. Qatar even gave out toys to babies as well as kits to bigger kids.
We were seriously treated like VIPs, especially since we had the privilege to cut the check-in and security line and also board along with the business class passengers (that alone makes me wanna travel with baby ALL the time!).
That said, she did have an episode on our flight from Maldives to Singapore. As much as we tried to sooth her, she just couldn’t stop crying. Thankfully we were close to landing and she calmed down as the plane made its descent. To be fair, we were flying for four hours on a small aircraft with very tight legroom. She probably wanted to move and crawl around, but there was just no space. It was no wonder she didn’t feel her best.
Tips for Your Baby’s First Flight
I wrote this article when Kaleya was just a few months old, but I’ve since updated these tips for your baby’s first flight, based on my experience of flying with Kaleya over the past three years.
Hopefully these tips that we learned along the way will help make your first flight with your baby a smooth one.
Start them young
Based on what I’ve read and observed: the younger your baby is, the easier it is to travel with him/her.
Newborns and young babies of less than six months old are particularly easy to fly with, since they sleep a lot, can’t move around and require nothing more than milk.
At five months old, Kaleya is not completely mobile yet, still on a liquid diet and has an established routine of eat and sleep times. She is alert enough to signal to us what she wants and is easily distracted with toys.
We can easily carry her around in a baby carrier and she’s pretty content to ride in a stroller. She can sleep literally anywhere (in the airplane bassinet, on the sofa in the hotel, on the daybed in the Maldives’ resort etc).
We want to make use of this period to travel with her as much as possible. In fact, I wish we had booked our baby’s first flight even earlier — it really was easier than I expected. Plus, the more you travel with your baby, the faster you and your baby will get used to it. It’ll only get more difficult as she gets older and can move around more.
Don’t stress and keep calm
The biggest concern for most mothers (including myself) is keeping the baby calm and quiet. Even the most experienced mother gets frantic when her baby screams off the roof, especially with people giving you the stinky eye and the annoyed look.
I’ve learned that the key is to stay calm and not stress out too much. Your baby will sense your stress and she’ll get even more aggravated. Just keep your composure and try to do everything you can to sooth her. Remember not to worry too much about what other people are thinking — your baby should be the priority.
Most people say that it’s not the baby’s crying that annoys them, but rather the seeming indifference of their parents toward the discomfort they’re causing other passengers. So as long as you try everything you can to soothe the baby, people will understand.
Be polite and say sorry to people around you. Infants can’t apologize for their actions, but you can apologize for them.
Choose a child-friendly airline
Do you research before booking your flights on airlines that have bassinet seats. Many budget airlines don’t have bassinets. Bassinets are extremely useful especially on a long flight.
For international flights, Qatar Airways and British Airways are reputed to have the best bassinets. We’re very glad we chose to fly Qatar, it made our baby’s first flight such a memorable one. In the United States, I’ve heard that the best airline for kids is JetBlue, a no-frills carrier that flies primarily between New York’s JFK and cities in Florida and on the West Coast.
Many airports now provide play facilities for young children as well as nursing rooms. We found Madrid Barajas Airport’s children play room (in T4) very impressive – it was clean, big and near the boarding gates. We were also amazed to see that the customs security checkpoint had an exclusive line for families traveling with children, which made going through security so much faster and easier.
Choose an appropriate flight
If you’re travelling long haul, consider a night-time flight. There’s a higher chance of your baby sleeping through the flight. The cabin lights will be dim and there won’t be too much noise or movement on the plane. Kaleya slept well through her first flight from Madrid to Singapore, as well as subsequent flights from Oslo to Los Angeles and from Brussels to Jamaica because we flew at night.
For short-haul journeys, we found a lunchtime or afternoon flight to be better as that would be the time Kaleya usually had her downtime either eating or snacking.
Book your seat in advance and ask for a bassinet
When booking your flight, be sure to call the airline to make sure you get a bassinet seat. Book your seats fast as you may not get these seats if there are more than four babies on the plane.
If the plane has no bassinets, make sure to get a seat as far forward as possible, because the back of the plane is noisier, vibrates more, and is less convenient for deplaning than the front. Certain budget airlines charge for seat allocation, but it’s well worth paying the extra fee to make sure you get a comfortable seat. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to book the first row seat or exit row seat when traveling with baby.
Check in early for your flight
Always check in online at least two days before the flight. I cannot emphasize this enough. I missed a flight on Iberia once because the flight was overbooked and I was bumped off the flight as I was the last person to check in (and I didn’t even get compensated by the bloody airline for this!). Checking in online will also help you save time and avoid the last-minute rush at the airport.
On the day of travel, get to the airport early (even if you’ve checked in online) to drop off your bags and make your way slowly through security and customs. Traveling with a baby often means you move slower and you have more baggage than usual, so it’s always good to be early.
Bring lots of entertainment for your baby
Babies (or kids in general) aren’t wired to stay still and keep quiet for so long. It’s normal for them to fidget and get restless after a short while. Toddlers usually can be entertained with the in-flight entertainment system, but babies will need a lot more attention.
Use the on-board equipment wherever you can. Most babies will be fascinated by the safety instructions card and the sick bag. Bring lots of small toys from home — those won’t take up much space. You can even wrap them up to add to the enjoyment.
Pack essentials for babies, but don’t overdo it
Little travelers need a surprising amount of stuff — from toys to diapers, milk powder and many more.
But the reality is that you don’t really need to bring many things that are considered “essential items”. You can usually buy most of their necessities on the road (unless you’re in a remote place or in the wilderness) and you can often repurpose the things you already have (eg. muslin cloth can double as a nursing cloth).
Remember that packing light will reduce stress and make you – and your baby – happier.
WHAT TO PACK ON BABY’S FIRST FLIGHT
On your baby’s first flight, just make sure you bring what the baby needs on the plane and you should be all set. In my carry-on bag, I made sure to bring a change of clothes, a sweater, 5 diapers, wet wipes, a toy or two, two bottles and formula powder. If your baby has started solids already, the small foil packets of food are so much easier to travel with than jars.
These are some larger items that I definitely don’t recommend packing: Portable crib or bassinet, baby bathtub and car seat. These are unnecessary and troublesome to carry around especially if you’re flying solo with the baby.
Bring a baby carrier to wear your baby: it’s a convenient, hands-free way to keep baby close to us in crowded places. We recommend using the BABYBJORN Baby Carrier, Kaleya loves being in it.
Getting a lightweight stroller also helps to reduce your baggage. We brought the Chicco Liteway Stroller which is small and easy to stow away. The stroller can be gate-checked or stored in the overhead bin of an airplane. When checking it in, be sure to ask the staff where to collect it after the flight. Our stroller was checked in all the way to Singapore and we didn’t have access to it during our transit in Doha. The Doha airport however has strollers that you can use for free.
Here’s a look at my baby packing list.
Protect their ears during takeoff and landing
During takeoff and landing, the changes in air pressure can cause discomfort to your baby. Make sure to keep the baby sucking on something to relieve ear pressure — whether it’s a pacifier, a bottle, a toy or your nipples (!). I was particularly nervous about this, but Kaleya didn’t seem to be bothered by this.
In general, try to coincide the flight departure time with the baby’s feeding time or napping time. This way she’ll be too sleepy to care about the air pressure change!
Keep your baby hydrated
If you’re breastfeeding, it should be easy to latch on the baby during the flight. For bottle-fed babies, work out how much milk you’ll need during the flight.
When flying with a baby, you are allowed to carry all the baby food, baby milk and sterilised water you want – even if this is over 100ml (the usual limit on liquids going through security). Sterilised water must be in a baby bottle to be allowed through. The security staff at the airport might ask you to open the containers to screen the liquids and ask you to taste them.