Monday, 4 March 2013

crossing the pond...with a baby!

This post is long overdue. It has been 4 months since we traveled across the Atlantic with baby Nate and our trip was fantastic! But before we left, I was very nervous about the flight. The thought of being stuck in a small space with a screaming baby and 300 strangers terrified me. I googled frantically for any tips I could find before we left and tried to prepare for every scenario, but actually, it wasn't so bad. 

There were a few things that I wish I had known before-hand though, so I thought it would be a good idea to jot down my thoughts here in the form of some top tips. Maybe it will help another nervous parent about embark on a long-haul flight with a baby. These tips are based on my personal experience travelling with British Airways from London to Florida with a 4 month-old. What worked for us might not apply to your situation, for example if you're travelling on a different airline or with an older or younger baby. Just thought I would clarify. Right...onto the tips...

~ Tips for flying long-haul with a baby ~

{1} Don't panic 
I was worried about what the other passengers would think when Nate inevitably starting wailing during the flight. In fact, he didn't give us much time to adjust and had a major crying fit for the first 10 minutes of our outbound flight (!) but really there was nothing to worry about. There were lots of other babies on the flight, and you know what, Nate wasn't the only one crying! I think the most important thing to do is to stay calm and remember that there will be other babies on the flight and that your baby will cry. The noise of the airplane muffles some of the crying and with a bit of rocking and soothing your baby will stop eventually. So don't panic.

{2} Time your feeds just right

For our outbound flight we arrived at the airport way too early (see point {5}) and I because we had been at the airport for so long Nate was getting cranky and hungry and I fed him before we boarded the plane to keep him happy. Big mistake! The major crying fit referred to in point {1} was because I was trying to feed him on take off when he simply wasn't hungry - his ears were popping but he didn't feel like eating and he went into meltdown! 

On our return flight, we timed it just right. We arrived at the airport on time (2.5 hours before take off) kept Nate entertained and awake while we waited, but didn't feed him. Then as we took off he fed like a champion and fell asleep in my arms. He didn't even notice the plane taking off. So it's all about timing here. Make sure your baby is hungry when it comes to take-off and you should have no problems.

{3} Pack lightly
A 4 month old baby doesn't really need many things to play with so only bring one or two of your best toys in the change bag. Then just bring the essentials: nappies (1 nappy for every 2 hours is plenty - we had 5 nappies for our 10-hour flight and didn't use them all), wipes, a change of clothes, 4 or 5 muslin squares/burp clothes, and (if you are bottle feeding) pre-sterilised bottles and ready-made formula. That's it! Don't go overboard because remember you have to lug this bag around the airport too.

The travel system came everywhere with us
{4} Put your car seat on wheels
Depending on your destination you might not need a car seat, but we were going to Florida and would be driving everywhere, so it was an essential piece of equipment. Remember that even if you aren't planning to drive around much at your destination, you will still need a car seat for things like taxis. 

We wanted to take our own car seat because we knew Nate was comfortable in it and it was safe, but we didn't want to take a stroller AND a car seat, so we used our travel system wheels with the car seat attached and it worked really well! We have the Zoom travel system and we took the seat unit out and replaced it with our car seat. Simple. We were able to store most of our carry-on luggage underneath, and used it in the airport all the way up until the gate, where we checked it right before we boarded. It was also easy to get in and out of cars because we just lifted the car seat off the wheels and put it straight into the car.

{5} Don't arrive too early
The temptation when travelling with a little one is to arrive super early to allow for nappy changes, feeding and whatever else might happen, but it is not necessary! Once you are at the airport and have checked your bags there isn't much to do with a baby and it can actually make things worse if you are there for too long. So stick to the normal airline guidelines and arrive on time, not early.

{6} Beware of the seat-belt sign
If you are travelling with a baby, most likely you will be sitting at the bulk head and will have a sky cot or bassinet provided. (Side note: make sure to phone your airline as soon as you book and double check you have been put in a bulk head seat, otherwise you won't be able to use a bassinet. BA gives you the option of a flat cot like the one below, or a more upright chair. Think about which your baby would prefer. On our outbound flight we asked for the chair, but Nate never got comfortable in it, so we opted for the flat cot on the way back which was much better.) 

The sky cots are amazing and Nate was very comfortable in his. However, what we didn't realise before we flew was that whenever the seat-belt sign came on, we would be forced to lift him out of the cot and put him back on our laps! Now this wouldn't be an issue if the seat-belt sign never came on, but of course during our flight it was on and off, on and off and Nate was being woken up each time and crying with frustration (I don't blame him!). After the third seat-belt sign interruption, I gave up and let Nate fall asleep in my arms. I leaned back with him snuggled there and got comfortable...we slept for a couple of hours like that, despite the seat-belt sign blinking on and off in the background. So my tip here is to use the bassinet with caution, especially on a flight where you think the seat-belt sign might be on frequently. If you can get comfy with your baby nestled into your arms, keep him there because you might actually get more rest that way.

Sleeping peacefully in his cot...before the seat-belt sign came on
{7} Hire whatever you can at your destination
If possible, rent as much of the big equipment as you can at your destination. We were visiting family so we asked my parents if they could borrow a travel cot (pack 'n play) for us to use. They also borrowed a swing and a bouncy chair which came in handy. Many hotels or travel companies can arrange for high chairs and travel cots to be available upon arrival and it really helps to not worry about these things during the journey. 

{8} Go with the flow 
If you have a strict routine with your baby, this will be out the window once a full day of travelling and jet lag sets in, so just try and go with the flow during the journey as much as possible. I recommend feeding on demand during the flight because babies can get dehydrated and just let baby sleep when he wants and play when he wants. You will have time to get the routines sorted out at your destination and again when you get back home. 

So there you have it, my top tips! I hope they are useful. If I didn't cover something that you would like to hear more about feel free to leave a question in the comment section below. Or better still, if you have flown with a baby too, leave me some of your top tips!  

Travelling on a long flight with a baby might seem daunting, but it is so worth it once you get to your destination.  

1 comment:

  1. That pic of Nate in the bassinet is TOO CUTE, he has such a great little mischievous-looking grin! :D
    Thanks for all the tips too, Aurora will be much older when we travel this summer, but we're heading from Norway to Denver so I'm pretty anxious about the trip. Uff da.