Flying with a baby can be overwhelming, especially if you are flying long-haul and need to make stopovers and pass through passport control and security several times. If you follow these recommendations we promise your trip will be so much easier.
It is not the same if you are flying with a baby or if you are flying with a 3 year old but these tips work for little kids in general. This is pretty obvious but just in case: a small kid needs the same documents as an adult to travel. A valid passport and visa if required to enter the country are a must, follow this link if you’re unsure whether you need a visa. If you are traveling on your own (not with the other parent) you may want to take with you a consent letter where the other parent says they are okay with you leaving the country alone with the child, you know, just in case (we’ve only needed ours for our trip out of South Africa).
1. Try to book a night flight.
This of course unless you’re flying with a baby that is less than 3 months old and hasn’t really learned to tell night from day, in that case it probably won’t make a difference but otherwise, book a night flight! The only few times we’ve booked long haul day flights we ended up regretting it. Kids need to be active and move around, and although you may be willing to do that with them it is just that much easier if they are tired and will sleep at least for a good portion of the trip.
2. Always bring snacks and entertainment.
Some kids are fussy eaters and the food in the plane is not always the best, bring something you know your kid likes. We always bring some sort of crackers, berries or a sliced apple, and when Julia was younger, a bit of oatmeal in a small cup and we got hot water from the stewardess. This makes the trip a bit more familiar for them and you don’t have to deal with a parent’s worst nightmare: a hungry kid and nothing to eat!
I always make Julia pack a kiddy back pack with toys and books that she likes. Bring small things. Julia loves to bring a pack of stickers, some crayons, Play Doh and little toys. This will keep her entertained for hours, especially if we fly during the day or if she doesn’t fall asleep right away.
3. If your baby is below 10 kilos book the baby cot.
Many airlines let you book the baby cot for free, others will let you do it at a fee. Either way it doesn’t matter, if your child meets the weight requirements call the airline as early as possible and request to get those seats. It is so comfortable if you can rest your arms and actually watch a movie or sleep a bit if you’re baby is asleep.
If you‘re flying with a baby that is very tall or weighs more than 10 kilos, the baby cot is not an option for you. In this case book seats with extra leg room. We actually made a little bed on the floor for Julia once using the blankets provided by the airline. Of course, during turbulence your child can’t lay on the floor, but under normal conditions you should be fine to do that.
4. Eat before the flight.
Many times night flights are quite late in the evening, way past children’s bedtimes, if that is the case it is very likely that they will fall asleep as soon as they get on the plane. If this happens you should try to get some rest too! Meals may take a while to be served after take off so make sure you’ve eaten before boarding the plane. Not only will your meal be likely better, but then you can sleep as well (pack an eye mask just in case, because they will turn lights on for meals).
5. In between layovers let your child run free!
Of course I don’t mean that they should run free where you don’t see them but many airports have playgrounds or areas for children. Find them! Research the airport that you are going to so that you know where you are going during your layover. This really relieves the stress from flying on them, and cuts the trip a bit shorter. Don’t make them sit on a pram the whole time or they’ll go crazy.
If you are flying with a baby that doesn’t walk yet pack a blanket that can extend a bit big and bring a few toys with you. Find a place close to your gate where you can put the blanket on the floor and just let your baby roll on it. This really saved me the times that I had to travel with Julia by myself when she was little.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
This is probably the best and most important tip to keep in mind. If you are lucky, you are flying with another adult (your partner, a friend or another family member) that can help out so you can actually pee, eat, or rest a little. But if that is not the case be sure that people are always willing to help. And if you don’t feel like approaching your neighbor asking them for help, you can always ask the flight attendants.
When I’ve flown alone with Julia I’ve asked flight attendants if they can help us find a three or four seater just for ourselves and I have also asked them to watch Julia while she sleeps so that she doesn’t roll off the seat while I go to the toilet. I always help other parents in need, so don’t feel the pressure of having to do it all on your own because you definitely don’t have to!
Whether you are flying with a baby alone or have another adult coming along with you, long haul flights can be scary, but that shouldn’t keep you from flying with a baby or traveling with your kids. You can be a family that travels with kids even if the trip is to the other side of the world. Once the flight is over then the easier part comes and everything becomes less stressful and simpler.
Do you have any experience flying long haul with small children? Do you have any other tips to share with us?