Travelling with babies: 8 handy tips

If you’re a parent, few things are likely to scare you more than flying with a baby. You may have heard of the horror stories of brave parents who have gone before you or perhaps you are a tried and tested veteran of the skies. Whatever your situation, travelling with pint sized family members can be a stressful experience.

We want you to have a seamless and enjoyable experience in the air, no matter who you're travelling with. That's why we’ve pulled together a list of eight easy tips to help take the stress out of flying with your littlest loves.  

1. Read the infant policy

When it comes to both travelling and children, knowledge is power. Reading the airline's policy for travelling with babies on their website before your fly is an absolute must; you’ll know what you’re entitled to and what you can expect once you get on board. For instance, did you know that under Virgin Australia’s infant policy, a baby is classified as a child under the age of two and must travel with a person who is over 15 years of age? Or that babies now have their own dedicated check-in baggage allowance?  Do your research and if necessary, give the airline a call to ask any additional questions you have. It’s best to be empowered with all the information you need before you reach the plane to avoid any last minute angst.

2. Pack as leanly as possible…but don’t forget the essentials

Packing for holidays with a bub is a delicate balance between having what you need and not over packing. While on the go, it’s imperative that you can access anything you need with as little fuss and effort as possible. This necessarily means packing leanly and efficiently. It’s particularly critical to get your carry-on bag right.  Make sure you allow two changes of clothes for  poo-namis or spews  (and a clean shirt for you, just in case!) and disinfectant hand wipes to deal with dropped toys, spews or any nappy leakages. Ensure you have the required number of nappies your baby would usually need over the flight time, plus two spare. Given the difficulties with changing a bub on board, try and find a roll out change mat for your bag that stores a nappy, some wipes and a change of clothes (Kmart currently sell a super compact change mat that's perfect for travel).  Have milk and food in side pouches so it's close to hand. Be savvy with how you pack and ensure you have the items you’re mostly likely to use at the top of your bag where you can easily reach them.

3. Board early

Most airlines will sit guests with infants towards the rear of the aircraft so it’s important you ask to board early to avoid using stairs at the back of the aircraft. Even if you’re at a regional port where stairs are unavoidable, boarding first gives you more time to get you and your baby settled before the throng of passengers come on board.

4. Have a drink or a dummy ready for takeoff and landing

Whether you feed your babe using breast, bottle or sippy cup, having a feed prepared for takeoff and landing helps little ones cope with potential ear discomfort. While our adult Eustachian tubes usually do a good job of equalising the differences between middle ear pressure and outside pressure, this doesn’t always work for bubs whose tubes are relatively narrow. Sucking on something helps their tubes do they job. If it’s not your baby’s usual feeding time, try a dummy or any toy they would normally suck on.

5. Know the onboard bathroom limitations

It’s no secret that on-board loos (particularly in economy class) are designed to provide the bare minimum of service. Unfortunately for travelling parents, this includes the change table facilities. Their necessarily compact size can make it tricky to change the bottom of a wiggly baby (particularly if you’re dealing with a poo-nami, YIKES!). Come prepared with a portable, lightweight change mat packed with the essentials so you don’t need to bring a bag in with you (see tip 3). Never put a dirty nappy (even a wet one) in the loo bins; these aren’t emptied every flight and can end up stinking out the toilet. Let a crew member know what you’re doing so they can be prepared to open the main bin cart in the galley for you to deposit your little bundle of joy’s, eh, deposit. 

6. Bring non-offensive sounding toys

Keeping bubs entertained on a flight can be tricky. Bring some toys that will keep them occupied but which won’t tick off your neighbouring passengers. Remember, you might need their help at some stage during the flight (see tip 8) so you need them on side. Rattles without bells, teething toys and hardcover books are handy.

7. Disembark last

Unless there is a critical reason why you need to be off the plane in a hurry at your destination, don’t rush it. Let the plane empty out before you so that you can once again take advantage of exiting through the front door and using the aerobridge where it’s available. It’s also nice to take your time, and make sure you haven’t left anything on/under the seats or inside the lockers.

8. Ask for and accept help!

Cabin crew and passengers on your flight want your baby to have a great flight almost as much as you do, albeit it for different reasons. This means there are plenty of willing helpers within arm’s reach. Granted it's not great form to hand a helpful stranger a dirty nappy or your vomit-covered baby. But, if you need a hand getting your bag up to the overhead locker just ask. Likewise, if someone offers to grab your checked suitcase off the baggage carrousel, say thank you and acquiesce. People feel great about lending a helping hand and there's nothing to be gained by trying to be a gladiator. 

So there you have it. Follow our simple tips to take the stress out of flying for you and your babe the next time we welcome you on board.

Words by Rebecca Walker. - Published 16 October 2019
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