Top Tips for Traveling with a Baby
I’m a big advocate of traveling with babies. I don’t think you should let having a child stop you from doing what you want to do. Obviously it will alter your plans slightly, I’m not suggesting you go sky-diving with them strapped to your back or anything, but over the years I think there’s been a lot of fear built up around being on a plane with a baby that has put a lot of people off.
To be honest, we’ve all been there. Stuck on that long-haul flight with the baby who never stops crying. It’s very easy when you’re childless to tut loudly and roll your eyes disapprovingly at the parents who should know how to keep their offspring under control. And I think this is most people’s main fear; the fear of upsetting others. To be honest, I couldn’t care less if my screaming baby is upsetting anyone else. It’s not exactly a barrel of laughs for me either. At least they can stick on some noise-cancelling headphones and zone out watching the latest action movie featuring a shirtless Bradley Cooper. What I would give for that.
But in all honesty, we’ve been extremely blessed on our travels so far. His first trip was to San Francisco when he was 5 months old. As 11-hour flights go, it was one of the most relaxing I’d ever had! The distraction of looking after a baby took away any of the normal anxieties I have around flying and he was perfectly content the whole time, even sneaking in a couple of cuddles with kind old ladies on the way!
Here are my top tips for traveling with a baby:
1. Share the load
My husband & I took it in turns during the flight to look after our son so that we could each have some downtime. That way we wouldn’t arrive at our destination completely exhausted. We did this in 2-hour slots – plenty of time to watch a movie or have a substantial nap. We flew with Virgin who provide SkyCots for little ones so our son sat up playing in it and could easily snuggle down to sleep if he wanted. (If you’re flying with an older baby, be sure to ask the flight attendants about empty rows or spare seats as you might be able to stretch out a bit!)
2. Stagger the toys
If you’ve got a whole bag full of toys for the flight, don’t get them all out in one go. Keep things fresh and interesting by introducing a new toy once an hour, or whenever your little one starts to get restless. One of our friends even gift-wrapped the toys so their child felt that excitement of unwrapping too (although this will obviously leave you with lots of used wrapping paper to deal with).
3. Technology is your friend
Before we had a child I was one of those people who always said I’d never put an iPad in front of my kid to keep it quiet as I considered it lazy parenting. Now I realize how stressful and demanding parenting can be I think it’s perfectly acceptable to stick In The Night Garden on to get five minutes of peace. There are tons of apps out there designed for children of every age and lots of TV shows and films available to download on iTunes. BBC iPlayer is also wonderful but bear in mind that you can only download programs when you’re in the UK and they have an expiry date so might not last until the return journey!
4. Keep calm
Keeping calm is definitely a big advantage. It’s easy to get yourself into a flustered panic when your child is screaming at the top of his lungs and you’re getting daggers from the rest of the passengers. But getting stressed out is only going to stress out your little one even more. If you can stay relaxed and hold your baby to your chest, it will hear the steady, calm pace of your heartbeat and start to settle. Try walking up and down the aisles to soothe your child. Go towards the back of the plane where the engine noise is a bit louder – babies love white noise and this is no different.
5. Get creative
When you arrive at your destination, you might have to get creative with the things you’ve planned to do. If you’re visiting a city, plan your route so that you pass plenty of parks or rivers so that you can stop often for your little one to get out of the pushchair once in a while. When we were in San Francisco we discovered an outdoor swimming pool that we visited a couple of times. It was hidden away in a local neighborhood and we would never have found it otherwise. If you want to visit a museum or art gallery and are worried that it might be too quiet if they decide to suddenly have a meltdown, try and plan your visit around their nap times.
6. Be prepared
If you’re well prepared then it should be smooth sailing. Take some time to really think about your hand luggage. You don’t want to be saddled with too many bags as it will be stressful enough juggling everything anyway. We always pack enough food/drink/spare underwear etc. to last us for the first 24 hours after we land in case anything happens to our hold bags. That way it won’t be such a crazy panic if anything did go missing.
Good luck and happy travels!