A lot of people like to travel during the school holidays and for a lot of parents with babies, they may wonder whether to bring baby along for the trip. My rule of thumb for this is simple – if you will miss your baby very much, and may worry about your baby, just bring your baby along. You will probably enjoy your trip better with your baby than constantly wondering how your baby is doing without you.
Phoebie’s first time on the airplane was when she was 8 months old. We were relocating to the US, so her first flight was also a looooong one. Worried, I decided to read up before we left.
In preparation for the flight, these were some things we did:
1. Call the airline we were going to fly with to make sure we had a bassinet seat
2. Get a carry-on bag that is big enough for all the diapers, toys, bottles, medication, sweaters, extra clothes and other baby essentials we were going to need.
3. Make sure any liquid/lotion is in the allowed amount and pack them in a zip lock. (I have once witnessed a parent forced to throw away a big bottle of lotion for her baby because it didn’t meet the requirements)
4. Make sure the carry-on bag with baby stuff is neatly packed so that we didn’t have to fumble through the bag just to get one thing.
5. Make sure Phoebie was okay to be carried in the baby carrier
6. Make sure we knew where the nearest hospital to our accommodation is, in case of emergencies
7. Make sure we knew where the nearest supermarket to our accommodation is, in case we ran out of baby essentials.
Also, if your baby is on semi-solids, you may inform the airline that you would like a post-weaning meal for her. I’m not sure if all airlines provide this, but I know that Singapore Airlines does.
Also, it can be helpful to get feedback from friends or family who have travelled with a baby with the same airline you will be taking. Their experience should prepare you for how helpful the flight attendants will be, should you need help during the flight.
If you are going for a trip longer than one week and find it a hassle to bring a huge packet of diapers, just bring what is sufficient for a few days and buy the rest for the local supermarket.
Because Ben and I travelled together, we just decided we would take turns to carry Phoebie. If you are traveling alone or are worried that you cannot cope at the airport, make sure you request for airport assistance with the airline you are flying with. An airline personnel will help you, from check in, to boarding, to disembarkation.
At the airport:
1. Make sure you are able to carry your baby while checking in, if no one is with you.
2. Ask for help if you are unable to put your carry-ons at the customs check point.
3. You can bring water up for the baby, but be prepared for liquid checks. It is part of procedure, so don’t get worked up and think the customs officer is being difficult.
4. Check in the baby’s stroller at the boarding gate. So while waiting to board the flight, you can still use the stroller, either for your baby or as a “trolley” to push all your carry-ons around.
When Phoebie flew for the first time, I was still breastfeeding her. So to help her with pressure in her ears, I would latch her on during take off and landing. If your baby is on formula, you may get your milk bottle ready before the plane takes off. You can get hot water from the flight attendant to make the milk. If your baby takes pacifier, letting him suck on it will work just as well.
Phoebie did well for the first leg of our travel, from Singapore to Korea. She slept well and I didn’t have to take her out from the bassinet much. Oh, and yes, if there is turbulence during flight, you will be required to take your baby out. It is for your child’s safety.
From Korea to San Fransisco, Phoebie was cranky and uncomfortable. I tried to comfort her but most things didn’t work. Some flight attendants and even passengers offered to help me, but I knew it wouldn’t work because Phoebie was going through separation anxiety. Someone else taking her would probably just make her more hysterical.
One thing I learnt from having a screaming baby in flight (a long one, no less), was to stay calm no matter what. Hey, there was no where I could go and I could only either sit or stand or walk or offer milk. If nothing worked, I could only wait for the baby to be done crying. Never mind that some passengers will stare at you, as though you are being a bad parent who didn’t know how to soothe your own child. Just don’t look at those who stare and focus on your baby. Hum a song softly to your child and hug her close to let her know everything is okay.
Another thing that I learnt was to try as best as possible to get seats that are side by side with the person you are travelling with. Ben didn’t have a seat next to me because the mother beside me was travelling with both a baby and a young daughter (although, I didn’t understand why the airline didn’t put the young daughter with her husband, who was seated somewhere else). Because Ben wasn’t next to me, he couldn’t see or hear me struggling to soothe Phoebie, and wasn’t able to come to my aid. That drove me a little crazy. Okay, a lot crazy.
If you are travelling alone with your baby and is getting frustrated with your baby’s cries, ask a flight attendant to help you with your baby while you go to the lavatory for a few minutes to cool off. Your baby may continue to cry while you do that, but at least you get to calm yourself down. And once you calm yourself down, you will be able to handle your baby’s cries better.
When we were flying, the baby in the next bassinet stood up a lot and his mum just smiled and acted like her baby was doing the smartest thing. When a flight attendant came to tell her not to let her child stand and bounce in the bassinet for safety reasons, the mum just said okay but once the flight attendant left, she didn’t do anything. I was honestly worried that the bassinet would fall off and get the baby hurt, or hurt Phoebie as well. So this is also another thing to take note. For safety reasons, DO NOT let your baby stand or bounce in the bassinet.
In general, the level of “difficulty” when it comes to travelling with a baby is really dependent on how your baby is, and there is no way to prepare yourself. If you are worried about how your baby will do on a long flight, choose a holiday destination that requires a shorter flight. Some of my friends “test” how tolerable their babies are on an airplane by going to nearer destinations before flying long hauls. Perhaps that was one thing I failed to do.
Then again, some adults don’t handle long hauls well, let alone a baby. Just remember to “thicken” your skin before your flight and be prepared for stares from people who are less understanding and tolerant of a crying baby.