PSA: I’m not an expert, this is only my first babe and my first few experiences. We flew over 25,000 miles and boarded 10 flights over 5 weeks. These are my (hopefully) helpful tips for flying with an infant.
1. Book a night flight.
If you’re flying long-haul, book an overnight flight. The first meal will be served, then lights out for most of the flight. Our babe will only sleep in darkness so this is key for us. Everyone is glued on their tv screen or sleeping, so if you need to settle the babe by walking around, there’s a good chance you won’t be annoying anyone. Your baby will probably sleep more than you, but let’s be honest, that’s the reality of parenting.
We mistakenly took an 11-hour day flight from London to LA and Lia refused to sleep in the bright light. She had the best bassinet, but she could not fall asleep. Needless to say, it was the hardest long haul we’ve experience so far.
2. Book/request the bassinet seat.
If you’re flying international and your baby is 25lbs and under (average weight limit), call up to make a request before you fly. Most airlines make you pay to choose your seats these days, but by requesting this in advance and getting to the airport 2.5-3 hours before take-off, we got these seats almost every time. Your babe gets his or her own bed in the sky, you get extra leg room, and have the opportunity to eat and sleep (see photos of different bassinets below).
Also, make sure to double confirm at the desk. Our last check-in agent told us we had the bulkhead seats and we boarded to find out that we had two seats in the middle of a four-seater row. After some tears and a chat with the crew manager, we ended up with three seats and I shamelessly laid down on two with Lia and caught enough zzz’s to survive the 11 hours.
Bassinet on Fiji Airways – mesh sides and covering, latches must be secured when the baby is inside so it’s almost like a little cage.
Bassinet on Virgin – This felt the safest to me as she was strapped in like a car seat and she could stay in it during turbulence.
3. Order specialty meals.
This was recommended by a fellow GLT Mom. If you’re traveling with your partner or any other adult, have one order a specialty meal (this must be pre-ordered days before you fly) and the other has the regular served meal. The specialty meal will come out first so the other person can hold the babe while one of you eats, then swap when the next meal comes around.
Ryan and I both order vegan, so this isn’t possible for us, but it does mean our meal comes out first, so we can try to get the babe to sleep soon after.
4. Packing extra clothes.
Bring extra clothes/pjs for the baby and you (and your partner). There is a high chance a poop explosion will happen or the babe will throw up on you and let’s be honest, you don’t want to sit in that for “x” amount of hours.
Remember to pack layers as it gets chilly at night.
Make sure to bring an extra blanket and a few things from home that will comfort them. If they use pacifiers, bring backup, because they’ll most likely end up on the floor. We packed a few toys, cloth books, favorite stuffed animal, teething toy, extra socks, pjs, sweaters, hats and spit-up cloths.
5. Carrying on bottles, breast pump, etc.
When doing my own research before our big flight, I found out that when traveling with a baby, some of the normal security restrictions don’t apply to you. Meaning, you can carry on more than 100mls for water, formula, breast milk and any necessary medicines. A breast pump counts as a medical item, which doesn’t count towards your carry-on limit.
Also, the crew will ask if you need bottles heating up or storing. You can ask for ice if you need to keep breast milk chilled or frozen. I only breastfed on the flights and one flight attendant gave me an extra large water bottle as soon as I boarded. I always keep my reusable bottle on me and the crew is happy to refill this as many times as needed.
5. Gate check your stroller and car seat or baby wear.
Almost every airline allows this nowadays. You simply drop your car seat and stroller off just before boarding the aircraft and pick them up in the same spot after the flight. Some flights make you pick them up at baggage claim, just make sure to ask when exiting the plane. Also, these items are typically found in the oversize baggage area.
Babywearing makes it easy for you to be hands-free while wandering the terminal. You will have to take the baby out through security and for take-off, but this might be an easier transition if the babe is already sleeping.
Lia’s first flight to Queenstown
6. Board first.
I never understood why people would want to get on a flight earlier to only sit there longer. Well, now I do. When they call for families traveling with kids to board, go. It allows you to get to your seat, stow away your items, take out the baby’s favorite toys/blankets and get comfortable before you have to move for others coming through the aisle.
This photo makes it look easy. And it was for the first two hours, then it went downhill. In the end, we all survived on little sleep and lots of tears.
7. Remember babies cry.
Don’t stress, most people are zoned into their TVs with headsets, plus the loud noise of the plane drowns most sound out.
If you’re traveling with a partner and the babe won’t sleep, take shifts.
Flight attendants are always helpful. Lia couldn’t nap on our long day flight because it was too bright, so they curtained off a little section in the back for us to rock her to sleep.
On budget flights, domestic trips or short rides, a bassinet will most likely not be an option. If the babe is going to be in your lap, remember to use the bathroom before they fall asleep on you. Lia slept on me for the entire 3-hour flight and I regretted this from hour one.
Thanks for reading and I hope this helps those looking to fly with little ones. I’m sure I’ll need an entirely new post once she’s mobile and too big for the bassinet.
If you have any questions or if you have tips I haven’t mentioned, please leave a comment!
I promise even if the flights are hard, the trip will be worth it. Lia entertained us for hours on the flight (better than any movie or book) and traveling with her is a whole new level of fun.