Tuesday, February 7, 2017

How I survived 16 flights with my son before he turned 2

I was always that person that got on an airplane and looked around to ensure there were no babies. I love traveling and I love flying so the thought of a crying baby next to me would always worry me. But then I decided to move across the world away from everyone that I know and start a family! Karma! So we have made quite a few trips from Australia to Canada and the US and several around Australia since my baby was born. Also, my hubby can't always come with me, so most of these 16 flights were by myself with the baby!

Note: On all my flights, I have never paid for a seat for my son. If you do have the extra money, this will ensure extra space and peace of mind. Also, I have heard that bringing a car seat is a big help too.

Here are my tips for flying with a baby:

  • Planning -  Bottom line: I really didn't want to deal with an energetic baby/toddler in a small space, so I made the whole schedule to ensure I didn't have to. We have been very lucky with our little guy in that he has a very regular nap schedule. For his first year, he slept 9-11am and 2-4pm most days. Since he was one, it's usually around 12-2pm. Whenever we travel we try to plan our car rides or plane trips around this schedule. So when I went to plan a monster trip from Brisbane to LA to Toronto, I made sure each leg of the trip was during either a nap OR overnight. Even if it meant having a 3-4 hour stay in an airport, we would just have a meal and I would let him run around. This would wear him out and then on the next leg, he would be ready for a nap and/or sleep.  I spent 12 hours in LA at one point to ensure our last leg would fall when he goes to sleep for the night. We took am $8 shuttle into Santa Monica and spent the day at the beach. Worked really well! 
  • Airplane Bassinet - For any trip longer than 4 hours, I would recommend requesting the baby bassinet. This is available on long haul flights on most airlines. For me, I would pick an airline based on the fact that they have these - total lifesaver. To guarantee a seat when a bassinet can be used, you need to book early! You have to get the bulkhead seat and then request a bassinet after you book. I called and made sure I spoke with someone to ensure it would be there. Most airlines say it can be used from newborn to 10 months, or there will be weight/height limits. I used it even when he was 19 months as he was still under the 11kg limit. I would hold him until he fell asleep and then place him in bassinet. He slept 9 out of 10 hours on our most recent flight! It is great as it frees you up for eating meals, watching movies and going to bathroom.
  • Packing - One thing to remember is that you will be running around airports quite a bit so don't pack too much! Since most of my flights were by myself, I really had to remember this one... If you are traveling with your partner or other people, you can bring more for sure. Some airlines will give you snacks or food for baby but I would always bring my own just in case. Lots of those squeeze packs that can be spoon fed to babies and older kids can sip them from the pack. Also lots of granola bars and baby snacks to keep them busy when you need to. If you use a pacifier/dummy, make sure to bring a clip that secures to babies clothes. The worst thing was when it would fall on the ground on the plane or airport... yuck.
  • Empty Seat - If you don't score a bassinet seat, there is always the lottery of getting an empty seat next to you for bub to sit/sleep on. There are a few ways to make this happen. First, if you are traveling with a partner, book your seats ahead of time and make sure there is a single seat in between you. If the flight isn't jammed packed, you will get the extra seat for baby. If you are traveling alone, make sure to arrive extra early to ask the front desk when you check-in for empty seats. Almost all flights I have been on alone with baby, they have given me an empty seat next to me. They know it will be beneficial for the whole flight :)
  • Baby Carrier - We don't use the carrier that much but when traveling alone, it's a huge help. I have the Ergobaby 360 which allows me to hold him facing in for sleeping and facing out when awake. I realised when traveling alone, it would be impossible to pull luggage and push a stroller at the same time. So I put him in forward facing carrier, folded up travel stroller and pushed it on a cart with our luggage. The other great use for it was when I had a short flight and no extra seat. I would ensure we were close to nap time and have him in the carrier facing me. They even let me keep carrier on me (with arms unhooked) during take off and he fell asleep quite easily. This way I had free hands and he was sleeping very cozily on my chest for the flight.
  • Meds - On the overnight long haul flights, I gave him a small dose of Phenergan about an hour or two before the flight. I asked our doctor and they assured me a small dose would be okay. Each time I used it, he seemed to sleep really well. Make sure you do a test run of the dose before you travel to ensure it will have the right effect. Apparently it can have opposite effect on some kids and make them very hyper... you really want to avoid that issue! 
  • Toddler Leash Harness - I really hate these backpack harnesses for toddlers. Like really hate them. BUT my toddler is a runner and there weren't a lot of options when I was traveling alone. There are times in the airport when you need to fill out paperwork, wait in lines and buy things. These are all times when I can't hold him so the harness was a huge help. I know they aren't for everyone but for a very energetic 18 month old it was a lifesaver. 
  • Boarding the Plane - There is always a pre-boarding for families with young children. I found that this was the opposite of helpful. My little guy loves to run around and doesn't do well in small spaces... so boarding early was a nightmare. I soon realised I needed to be on the plane for the least amount of time as possible. I now board at the very very end and let him run around the airport until the last second. It also wears him out more so the sleep comes very soon after take off! When we finally get on the plane, everyone is already in their seats and willing to help you with bags and getting settled. Win win :)
Let me know if you have any other tips or tricks!

Some photos from our travels:
First flight! (5 months)
Always look sharp for traveling (5 months)

Killing a 12 hour layover in LA (18 months)

Sleeping like a baby in bassinet (19 months)