When I was pregnant, I lost count of the number of times I was told my days of travelling were now over (people love to make you feel optimistic about the future when you are pregnant!). Just an FYI for any pregnant ladies out there, if you want to do something post-child, you can!
Anyway, my now-toddler has had three international trips so far, so I can definitely tell you that you can travel with a baby and with a bit of planning, it is not that difficult!
First of all you may be thinking WHY? Looking after a baby is hard enough, so why throw overseas travel into the mix? My first (big) overseas trip post-child was travelling to Europe from Australia, with an 8 month old baby. The trip was due to family reasons, however it made me realise that I should do more travelling during these early years.
Life with a baby can sometimes feel a bit groundhog day, you do much the same things over and over (feed baby, dress baby, clean baby, walk baby etc). Guess what – when you travel, you still do the same stuff BUT SOMEWHERE DIFFERENT. And potentially somewhere exotic/cultural/interesting depending on your destination.
It is a fantastic way to enjoy your baby when you are both exploring together and you will always remember what they were like at that young age (and have some memorable photos too!).
So the purpose of this post was to give a few practical tips to help with a long-haul flight and travel planning with a young baby – based on my experience with a non-crawling 8 month old. I have to say a big thank you to all those other travelling parents who wrote about their experiences and advice as it really helped!
BEFORE YOU GO
- consider your baby’s activity levels – we got lucky and managed to do the return flights to Europe before our baby started crawling, which made it much easier to manage keeping active on the flight.
- start a bedtime routine at least a few weeks before you travel. Basically you just want a set of activities you follow in the same order every night before bed – for us this was a long walk, followed by dinner, a bath, pyjamas and sleeping bag, read some books, milk, and sleep. Trust me this routine will come in very handy for travel!
- choose your flight times carefully – ideally you want the first flight to coincide with baby’s normal bedtime. Consider what time you actually need to be at the airport for international check-in and if the baby will make it through check-in/customs/security before wanting to fall asleep.
- when you book the flights, make sure you ask for a bassinet (if your baby is young enough). Even if the baby doesn’t end up sleeping in the bassinet, you will have a bit of extra legroom with these seats.
- I did a lot of googling when booking the flights to Europe, to see if it was better to fly straight through or have a stop-over. Generally it is recommended if you have a young baby (say less than a year old and still napping a few times a day) chose whatever flights suit you best – for me this is to fly straight through. You may prefer though to have a stop-over and time your flights so you have two overnight flights with hopefully a sleeping baby.
- travel prams – some airlines like Emirates have prams you can use at Dubai airport. However if you are planning a bit of travel while your baby is young, I highly recommend buying a special travel pram. The benefit is you can use them while at the airport, and then fold them up to take on the plane. If you are also moving around a lot on your holiday and its not convenient to hire a pram, a travel pram is a great alternative. We use the Mountain Buggy Nano and its great for taking through airports and using as a daily pram in cities.
- Double check your airlines baggage policy regarding travelling with infants. Many airlines allow you to check in two items of baby paraphernalia (like prams, car seats, portacots) for free. This may save you some money, for example if you are hiring a car at your destination, it may be easier and cheaper to take your own carseat with you rather than hire one.
AT THE AIRPORT
- when you arrive to the airport, once you are through check-in/customs/security start implementing your bedtime routine – obviously you can skip things like a bath but if the baby is used to the routine they should know it is bedtime despite the noise/lights etc in an airport.
- if you are doing more than one flight, when you are at the airport between flights you want to find a play area or somewhere you can put your baby down to play and move as much as possible – that way they should hopefully be wanting to sleep (or at least nap) for your next flight.
ON THE PLANE
- when the plane is taking off and landing, you want your baby to suck on something to help them equalise their ears (otherwise you may have screaming!). A sippy cup of water may work well if your baby is too distracted to breast feed/bottle feed.
- make sure you have at least one change of clothes for both baby and you and also something warm for the baby if it gets cold (like a blanket or sleeping bag).
- a wide scarf or muslin cloth is useful if your baby is in the airline bassinet – you can cover the part of the bassinet over their face to block out the light
- bring some of baby’s lightweight books and small toys – stockpile a few new small toys (opshops are great for this) before you fly and bring them out when a new distraction is needed on the flight. Just don’t bring anything too noisy or that may roll (like a ball) as they will disappear if they get thrown on the floor!
- when booking your flights, it can be a good idea for one of the passengers to book a special meal. These are usually bought out much earlier than the normal meals, and makes it much easier to juggle food trays and a baby on your lap if your meals are staggered.
WHEN YOU ARRIVE
- be prepared for baby jetlag when preparing your travel itinerary – when flying between hemispheres it will take about a week for your baby to readjust to the correct daytime/nightime. The same thing will happen when you return home too so my best advice is have a low-key week the first week of holidays, and don’t have anything too crazy planned just after you get back home.
- to help your baby adjust to the time difference, get them outside as much as possible the first few days, especially during the middle of the day (with sun protection ofcourse). Also sticking to your bedtime routine will really help your baby understand when it is time for bed.
- if your baby has started solids, it can be a good idea to get them used to a common brand of baby food (like Heinz). When on holiday, you should then be able to find baby food they are familiar with, depending on where you are travelling to.
I hope some of this is useful – the main thing to remember is to try to be as relaxed as possible and enjoy your holiday 🙂