We jumped right into the deep end with our first trip abroad with Monkey Bear. Flying with a baby for the first time was definitely daunting, and even just booking it felt like a baptism of fire.
He was just under 5 months old when we embarked on a 7 hour flight to Dubai. Not including, of course, all the travel to & from the airport, juggling cases, car seats, strollers & more (which makes you just want to never leave your house again and camp out in the garden with a Chinese take-away instead )
But our thought on the matter was ‘sink or swim’. My husband’s brother & his family moved out to Dubai a couple of years ago, so it wasn’t a random choice of place to go. Their little girl had also been born just a few short months before Monkey Bear was born, so the knowledge that the two little baby cousins would play together all week in the warm weather was a lovely thought – strengthened of course by the promise of some much-needed sunshine and R&R for us parents too.
So, I packed, re-packed, took everything out again, re-packed, debated about 20 times what we needed/didn’t need, changed my mind on that list a few more times, and then finally shut the cases and trotted off to the airport in mid-November.
Flying with a baby under 2
Besides obviously wanting to see our lovely family in Dubai, there were two main reasons Dubai was up there on our list.
- Why not make the journey when Monkey Bear is too young to do anything else besides sleep, cry, eat & poo. No running up & down the aisles, no using me & other passengers as a climbing frame, no smacking food into my face …. you get the idea.
- Cost. You see, with a lot of airlines, flying with a baby is very affordable. Typically, children under the age of 2 fly free, as long as they’re sat on your lap. And when it’s a long-haul trip like Dubai, those cost savings escalate pretty damn quickly, to the amount of c. £400+ savings.
Emirates – a first flight blessing
We’d never flown Emirates before, and they were an absolute dream to fly with a baby. Specially-allocated bassinet seats meant we could place him into a bassinet right in front of us, perfect for tiny naps or just giving your arms a release from holding a baby for 7 hours! And the stewards & stewardesses were so lovely with him too, with little gifts, kids packs and more.
This time round
We’re well aware it’s unlikely going to be like Emirates with every flight we take. And this year, for our Italian adventures, we’ve taken 3 more flights with short haul & budget airlines. So, after 5 flights so far with a baby, what tips can this mama offer to anyone about to fly off…
1. Don’t worry about a crying baby upsetting other passengers
We were soooo anxious about keeping him quiet, and him not disturbing others. But there were so many other babies & children on every one of our flights that it didn’t matter. Kids travelling is normal. It’s happening in the skies above our heads in hundreds of planes as I write this. And kids make noise. They cry, they chat, they giggle, they cry some more. Sure, some people are gonna be pretty p*ssed off, but let’s hope those people are few & far between on your flight. So unless you’re letting your feral kids swing from the overhead lockers & run rampage through the plane like extras from Mad Max 2, I think it’s safe to say you’re doing a good job, you’re keeping them under control, and everyone will very likely have a lot of understanding for you. You’re not the only one going through this, and you won’t be the last, so try to enjoy the journey as much as you can xx
Monkey Bear was great on the flight to Rome the other week (despite a 6 hour delay – don’t ask, grr!) but then on a simple 1 hour flight to Palermo he was soooo cranky & noisy & wriggly. There’s probably very little logic, so don’t exhaust yourself trying to find rhyme or reason for your baby’s fluctuating airplane behaviour.
Now that he’s 13 months old and properly weaned, it was slightly easier on me (and my boobs) flying with snacks. I’d suggest taking a small tupperware box on board with a selection of bites – some countries might not let you take fresh fruit or veg through security, so play it safe with baby rice cakes, breadsticks, and other little biscuits. You could also pack small pouches of puree if under 100ml.
3. Sterlising spray & Calpol scahets
If you’ve not already checked it out, take a peek at my post on the Essentials to pack when travelling with a baby
Sterilising spray & calpol all make the list and are all cabin baggage compliant too
Aquaint spray is my absolute go-to, and for plane travel it was a godsend. Grab a travel-sized bottle, or decant a large bottle into a small empty spray bottle and pop into your hand luggage. It’s perfect for on the go sterilising of hands, toys, spoons, teddies, handles, chairs, whatever you need.
4. Change of tops – for baby, and us mums & dads!
We spend so much time getting everything ready for our baba, that we clear forget about ourselves! And trust me, when you’ve been travelling for umpteen hours, have dribble all over you, sweat patches in areas you didn’t know existed, and every colour & texture of pureed food all over you, you’re gonna want (ie. need) a new top – or two! Ladies, resist the urge to travel in a dress, and travel in 2 separate pieces instead – top & trouser/jeans/skirt. So much easier to change your top half that way. And dad’s too. Just because mum might be breast-feeding or likely to need the change more, don’t underestimate the ability for wee to uncontrollably spurt everywhere when you’re changing your little one in the airplane’s tiny bathroom!
This kind of goes without saying. However, when Monkey Bear was only 5 months old, all he needed was a soft toy, a teether, and something to occupy him a little (like a colourful cloth book, a Lamaze interactive toy etc) But now he’s older, boy I had to step this game up a lot! Friends have advised taking a few different toys, but only giving them one at a time, and staggered throughout the trip so that his attention is kept. Older kids apparently benefit from colouring books, ipads/tablets, headphones and staggered bribes in the form of sweets – that’s to come, I guess!
But for babies, I’d advise making sure you’ve got a favourite cuddly toy, a toy that makes a little noise/plays a song (but not too loudly, or you’ll risk annoying the couple in seat 34A & 34B), a small fabric book to flick through and a teether. And on that note…
6. Teething Powders
Again, these made my top 5 list . But take-off and landing can be an absolute b*tch for babies. Their ears are prone to pop, and they can’t swallow on demand or suck a sweet like we do. So, first things first – get the bottle or boob out! It’s so far worked a treat for us. Even if he didn’t need a feed, I’d pop him on the boob and it was there for if he needed it. No noise, no crying, and no pain more importantly. But besides this, throughout the flight they may suffer toothache from teething or just irritability from the change in pressure. Teething powders are fab for this. Try Teetha or Ashton & Parsons. Both are homeopathic, and can actually help soothe a baby regardless of teething issues – perhaps a step to take before calpol too 🙂
For you. Seriously, how many times do we forget about ourselves through all this. There are days when a headache is the new norm for me, and I’ll always try not to take any pills as long as I can. But being on an airplane, constrained in your seat, air con buzzing overhead, and with turbulence kicking in is not one of those times we should all try to ‘muster on’. Nor should it be. Us mamas and dadas need our sanity & full strength to tackle the travel ahead, so have paracetamol on standby and look after yourselves.
These bad boys are so versatile, make sure you’ve got one to hand. I know you know this, but to recap they’re great for
- Covering boobs when breastfeeding if you need a little privacy
- Wiping spit-up and food messes
- Throwing over baby to keep warm
- Rolling up and using as a support /pillow for baby
- Rolling up and supporting your neck, too
- Peekaboo games
- Changing mat substitute if you’re caught short & need to change baby somewhere random
- Blanket substitute if they insist on sitting on a dirty floor
- Dampening and keeping baby cool in hot weather
- ….. And many more!
Getting ready for take-off
So, these are my travel must haves for next time. Our first trip was a baptism of fire – 7 hours there and 8 hours back. Our flights this summer were a mixed bunch. But it’s all kind of enjoyable too. He’s slept a little, cried a little, chilled, wriggled, gabbled and fed.
If all else fails
But remember, if all else fails, hand the most precious thing in your life over to your other half or the kind-looking woman in seat 18B, order yourself a glass of wine, pop an eye mask on, and blast the volume up on your headphones for between 5 – 105 minutes….
… Um right, good luck with that!