Flying With A Baby Made Easy
Most of us have been on at least one flight with a screaming child that just would not settle down, some of us have shared a row with one, and some of us have had one on our lap. My wife and I certainly did on our way home from a recent family vacation. It is no fun for anyone involved…especially the parents that are desperately trying to calm the child. So how can we avoid over-the-top meltdowns and being the parents responsible for the child from hell? With holiday travel right around the corner, here are a few tips for helping to make flying with a baby or toddler more enjoyable for you and all those other passengers that will be sharing the airliner cabin with you.
Timing of the Flight
We don’t travel very much, but when we do, we try to schedule flights during our daughter’s nap time so she hopefully sleeps for at least part of the time. If you are pretty sure that your child will not be able to sleep on the plane, or in the terminal while waiting to board, then you may opt for a schedule that actually avoids nap time. Airports are usually a little less busy in the mornings, so if your schedule allows, you may want to shoot for a morning flight. Try to avoid layovers, unless the timing is ideal for allowing your toddler a chance to stretch their legs and burn off some energy. Since connecting flights often require a journey to a different terminal, make sure the layover provides enough time to gather all your stuff, assemble your stroller, and hit the restroom for a diaper change.
Keeping a young child entertained and occupied for an extended period of time can be a huge challenge. Especially in the close confines of just a seat or two on an airliner. And with a minimal amount of extra space in a carry on bag, you will probably have to get creative. Try to stick with toys and games that are small and easily stuffed into an already full bag. If the toy makes a lot of noise (i.e. music, crazy sounds, etc.), you should probably remove the batteries at least while on the plane. Some of our favorites include Violet the Dog (LeapFrog), a small teddy bear or baby doll, a familiar and comfy blanket, flash cards (animals, letters, numbers, etc.), and a few favorite books. Depending on the age of your child, you may also choose to upload some videos to watch on your smartphone, laptop, or iPad.
Location of Seat
Huge piece of advice, that we discovered the hard way, is to not sit near the bathrooms. This means definitely avoiding the last 5-6 rows of seats, sometimes the first 2-3 rows, and it may also include seats near the middle of the airplane if you are on a large international flight. These areas have a ton of non-stop noise, as there will be doors slamming and people standing next to your seat the entire flight. The bathrooms are also usually near the busy staging areas for the flight attendants. This is obviously very distracting for a little one.
In general, a seat on the aisle is probably the best bet, especially for a toddler, so you can get up more easily for diaper changes or to walk a fussy child. Alternatively, a seat by the window is probably better if you have a young baby, so you will have a little more privacy for nursing and napping. If the plane has rows with three seats across, book the aisle for you and the window for your partner. Other travelers are less likely to request middle seats and if the plane isn’t full and someone does get assigned the seat between you, they’ll be more likely to switch to another row. If the flight is completely booked you or your partner can trade for the sandwich seat to sit together.
Gear & Supplies
For our carry-on bags go, we usually carry a backpack that has enough supplies for the flight itself, and then stash extras in a small roller bag that we can stow in the overhead compartment. Make sure you have more than enough of all your supplies in case your flight is delayed. That means extra diapers, extra clothes, extra food, extra snacks, extra wipes, and (if you’re bottle feeding) extra formula. For food, try to stick with non-perishables as much as possible. The baby food squeezer packs from Ella’s Kitchen, Plum Organics, and Happy Tot work great for babies and toddlers alike while out on the go. Also be ready to accommodate you and your child for a range of temperatures. Planes at the gate tend to get stuffy while boarding, but once you are in the air, the cabin can get a little cool. Airport terminals also tend to be on the cool side. Definitely make sure you bring an extra t-shirt for you, too, as the last thing you want to deal with on a long travel day is sour baby spit-up on your shoulder!
Common Causes of Fussiness
There are obviously a wide variety of things that may cause fussiness with your child. However, one of the main issues while flying is pressure buildup in ears. Be sure to have a pacifier and/or a bottle ready for take-offs and landings. Another is over-stimulation. A full day of traveling can be both physically exhausting and mentally draining for even the most seasoned adult travelers. The irregular schedule and environment of a travel day is sure to cause a high level of anxiety and fatigue in most young children. Other likely causes of fussiness are more typical, such as hunger & thirst, a dirty diaper, being too cold or too warm, and being generally uncomfortable.
Other Reminders & Tips
Here are a few more brief reminders as you prepare for a day of travel with children:
– Carry birth certificates for each of your children.
– Give yourself plenty of time to get checked in, get your baby fed, and change their diaper.
– For most airlines, toddlers can ride on your lap until age 2. After that, you will usually be required to purchase a seat for them (discounts are often available).
– Typically, strollers and car seats do not count as pieces of luggage.
– Don’t be afraid to ask flight attendants for help while boarding the aircraft, leaving the aircraft, and during the flight.
– If you may need to nurse your baby during the flight, bring a cover up and wear clothing that allows for easy access.
– For an overview of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security process for babies and children, follow this link…http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/children/index.shtm.
Please be sure to share your travel experiences and ideas with our community in the comments below…and GOOD LUCK!!
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