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Possibly the most difficult part about actual travel with a baby is the plane. Most other places you can excuse yourself when your child gets fussy. You have many tools for getting your baby to sleep or keeping him happy that just won’t work on a plane.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t travel or get on a plane.
I’ve taken dozens of flights with Andrew. Some great. Some not so great. I’ve been able to come up with some ways that make flights more enjoyable for us and everyone else on the plane.
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Here are our in-flight tips for flying with your baby
1. Use the bathroom as close to boarding as possible.
The bathrooms on planes are not exactly spacious. If you’ve flown, you know this. But adding a squirmy baby into the already crowded place is asking for discomfort. So I always recommend going to the bathroom, both yourself, and changing the baby as soon as possible to boarding.
If you’re on an airline that has assigned seating, plan to use the bathroom right when they announce boarding has begun– but only if the bathrooms are close by. That way you can use the bathroom, and almost immediately walk onto the plane. If you’re on an open seat plane like Southwest, they’ll usually announce what time they will ask you to get into boarding groups. Go right before that.
If you’re on a short flight, you may not even need to use the bathroom. If it’s a longer flight, this might cut down on the number of times you need to squeeze into the bathroom. But, you’ll inevitably have to use the bathroom on a flight.
For diaper changes, there is a folding table that comes out from the wall. It’s not comfortable, and questionably clean. Try to dress baby in easy-to-change clothes and bring along a changing mat to add some cushion and a barrier between the germs. You can also use the privacy to sing some funny songs and act goofy to distract baby.
For your own bathroom breaks, try to make a nest of toilet paper on the seat so you can actually sit down (these plane toilets are disgusting so I would never sit down directly on the seat). Sitting down will help you balance the baby on your knee while during your business.
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2. Wear Baby While Boarding
I definitely wore Amelia, my second baby, more than I wore Andrew. There wasn’t any reason for it, other than I didn’t think about it. But for my second, I needed both hands free to also handle or help Andrew when we were out and about. The same goes for wearing your baby while getting on the plane. You’ll have both hands free to carry your bags, hand your boarding pass and documents, juggling your stroller or other gear, and deal with whatever happens while getting in your seat. Even if you don’t have that much stuff to manage, if baby starts getting wiggly or annoyed, he’ll be safely snuggled onto you and you don’t have to worry about switching baby’s position with your bags as well.
Plus, if your baby is older or on the heavier side, he’ll start getting really heavy in long lines. I also recommend wearing baby while waiting in immigration lines. I once held Andrew FOREVER at CDG and I thought my arms were going to break by the time I got to baggage claim and could get our stroller.
3. Consider feeding baby during takeoff.
Andrew has never had issues with his ears during our flights but some babies are really affected by the change in pressure. Possibly because I always feed him, he’s able to equalize and doesn’t get fussy about it.
4. Take walks
On longer flights, especially overnight international flights, it’s completely fine to walk around as long as the flight is smooth. This might help your baby go to sleep or just distract from the fact that you’re stuck there for what feels like an eternity. Make sure to pick times where flight attendants aren’t serving drinks or food, or trying to get other things done in the aisles.
I’ve felt awkward walking around before. But trust me if anyone gets annoyed at you for walking around, would get even more annoyed if your baby were being fussy, so choose the lesser of two evils. Also… who cares. You’re caring for your child, do what you have to do and don’t worry about anyone else.
5. Have all of the toys/entertainment.
Even if your baby isn’t really into toys yet, you need to bring SOMETHING. For Andrew, I had a toy cellphone that makes sounds and plays music, our Sophie, a crinkly book, and my phone. At 3 months he loved listening to music and watching cartoons even if it only held his attention for a few minutes. I loaded my phone with downloaded Netflix movies and some music from Moana.
My phone kept him entertained a few times when he just wanted something to look at. These were all just good for distracting him for a few moments if I saw he was starting to get fussy.
Now that he’s a little older he still loves watching cartoons but also loves songs and clapping games and really anything that might be goofy.
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6. Have plenty of snacks/ bottles
I bring tons of snacks when I travel with Andrew. I always have extra bottles and I’m always ready to feed him. While in the air, even if he’s not exactly hungry, eating can distract him for a few minutes to keep him from getting fussy. If your baby is eating solids, bring whatever is their favorite and maybe a few new things (common allergen-free. You don’t want to have a possible reaction to a new food for the first time on a plane).
7. Think ahead.
As a parent, you probably already know this but it’s easier to keep a kid from getting fussy than to stop him once he already is. Or at least that’s how it is with Andrew. I would watch for his cues of an upcoming annoyance and try to head it off. I would distract with a toy, with standing up or moving his position, or even just making funny faces. I tried to avoid anything that makes him uncomfortable. Change his diaper before you know it’s going to bother him. Feed him before you know he’s going to be hungry. Easier said than done, I know, but try to stay one step ahead.
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8. Choose the back.
I always sit in the back of the plane. Less people want to sit in the back because they usually want to get off the plane faster. We’ve had whole rows to ourselves so I can put a little blanket down on the seats to let him stretch out. Even when we don’t have full rows we rarely have someone sitting right next to us (on Southwest at least). I could also stand up if I wanted to and walk or bounce him around without disturbing everyone else around me. The back is just usually the better place for kids.
9. Do what you have to.
This applies to anything with a baby this young. Obviously, you don’t want to start bad habits but with little babies, they don’t really create habits anyway. Just do whatever you need to to keep him happy. You’ll save yourself some anxiety and keep everyone else around you happy (though, I would say to them that they can deal with a fussy baby for a little bit. It won’t kill them).
Do you have any in-flight tips? Let us know in the comments!
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