For first-time parents especially, travelling with an infant or toddler in tow can feel like a daunting task. With a little planning and preparation, however, it is not impossible.
Part 1: Booking the trip
The decisions you make here will go a long way. Depending on the airline’s policy, some may not allow babies below a certain age to fly. Check before you book. Opt for kid-friendly airlines that have generous provisions for little ones. These range from wholesome kids’ menus, in-flight activities and having spare nursing supplies on board.
Select your seats carefully and opt for front or back rows if possible. Make sure either you or your partner have an aisle seat for unobstructed movement on board. If it’s a long flight, it’s best to buy your child a seat for the additional space and comfort. Many airlines offer infant prices, so do check with them.
Some people recommend booking a night flight to sync with sleep schedules. If you’re lucky, the child sleeps for the entire duration of the flight. Arrange your itineraries with enough time for any necessary transfers. The last thing you want is having to run across terminals with a child strapped to your back!
Part 2: Preparing to travel
Once tickets are booked, it’s time to pack. The first thing to focus on is safety. For children below three years, FAA-approved child harness and car-type child safety seats are allowed, so bring one. Some airlines provide a bassinet for babies and this can be booked along with an infant ticket.
If your baby is very young, it might be a good idea to get a doctor’s letter certifying that your child is fit to fly. In any case, it’s also good to get your child’s health checked the week before your flight.
You know your child’s temperament best and what kind of situations you need to pre-empt more than others. As a baseline, always pack extra portions of essential supplies. Your “survival kit” should include at least one set of extra clothing for yourself and two or more for your child. Pack extra formula in case of unexpected delays that could sometimes be hours. In addition, bring as many snacks and anti-bacterial wet wipes as you have space for.
Part 3: Boarding
If you are storing baby food in containers with capacity below 100ml, you should place the containers in the requisite re-sealable bags. Take note that during any security checks, your baby must be present and parents may be asked to taste the food.
Board early if possible, so you have ample time to set up your child’s seat arrangements and get comfortable. On the way, beware of other passengers and their luggage in the overhead compartments. Be polite, patient and protect your baby’s head at all times.
Part 4: On the plane
During takeoff and landing, protect your baby’s ears by providing a pacifier to suck on. This helps with relieving any discomfort due to pressure changes.
On the plane, the air is very dry and it’s important to keep your child hydrated with water and milk. The good thing is, milk also has the added benefit of inducing sleepiness.
On night flights, follow your usual bedtime routine. Change into pyjamas, tell a bedtime story or bring out a favourite toy. This gets your child into sleep mode and for yourself, some respite to enjoy the flight.