As a Brit living in Aus I am very familiar with the 24-hour flight that needs to be endured to get from one side of the globe to the other. In my first 8 years of living here I would do the flight alone or with the Hubby so it was easy – just think about what I was going to need, turn up, sit down and wait it out!
Then I had a baby. This meant that not only did the need and desire to make the trip home increase but so did my luggage, planning and stress!
Since having my first baby I have now done the trip multiple times on my own with just him and a couple of times on my own with him as a toddler as well as his baby brother
Through this I have learnt what is essential, what to avoid and what not to worry about when it comes to travelling with a baby under 1 on a long-haul flight.
Make sure you have enough food. Depending on the age of the baby my number one tip would be to ensure you have enough milk and/ or snacks to last the entire duration. I was lucky enough to be able to breastfeed both of mine so it was easy. However, once they were on solids I had to make sure I had enough food to last them the whole flight. Most often airlines will provide some kind of baby meal – pureed fruit or something- but I have been on flights where they haven’t so definitely don’t rely on them.
Prepare for delays. When packing, I usually work out what food and essentials that I will need for the estimated travel time then add almost half that again. Everyone knows that delays when travelling by air are not uncommon so you need to be prepared for this.
Have extra nappies. I cannot imagine anything worse than running out of nappies on a flight. If the journey is 24 hours long then in the days leading up to your travel work out how many nappies bub goes through in a 24 period. Take this amount plus extra. Remember they need to be drinking lots of fluid on the plane so nappies could get full quicker plus, as mentioned before, you need to be prepared for delays. I always have a separate little bag that I would use for toilet trips that would have the nappies I knew I would need then I would pack a couple extra in the bottom of the main bag “just in case”.
Wipes wipes wipes! Things can get messy on a plane fast! You don’t have much space or resources for cleaning up any spills so just keep it simple and always have a packet of wipes close by.
New toys. Some new toys to play with will keep the kids entertained that little bit easier. Don’t go nuts on anything fancy and remember to keep them small and light. I usually hit the dollar shops or Kmart and find a few cheap and cheerful items that I can then gradually pull out throughout the journey. Another tip I have heard is to also wrap them up, just to add to the fun!
If bub can walk, thongs! If your little one is walking then either get a pair of thongs they can easily slip on and off or at least some socks. The toilet floors are often wet and you know they are going to be climbing all over your lap once you get back to your seat. Also, those plastic cups that they serve the inflight drinks in easily end up on the floor, get trodden on and are then razor sharp. This is where I prefer an easy pair of slip on shoes.
Couple of sheets/ blankets. Airplanes can often get chilly and you don’t want them waking up from the cold. I also find the blankets they provide are great but due to their size and the fact that they all look the same they quickly take over the small bit of precious space you have got. For a smaller baby being able to put a small sheet or blanket down so they can stretch out is also great.
Something familiar. A favourite toy or blanket is perfect for any baby that may get unsettled when travelling. Having something from home that smells familiar can be a big reassurance for them.
Book the bassinet. Make sure the second you book that flight you ask to be allocated the bassinet. Airlines won’t guarantee that you have it but you stand a good chance if you get your name down first. I always try and check in early and reconfirm with the check in clerk that I have it. Also, different airlines have different weight restrictions for the bassinet and so it’s well worth researching this before you fly. Some only allow babies up until 6 months old and others until bub is 2 years!
Inflatable pillow. Just before I travelled last time I discovered this simple yet genius invention! It’s basically an inflatable pillow that fits in the space between the seat your child is sitting on and the back of the seat in front of them. This means that they can pretty much lie flat to sleep. If you have more than one child without a bassinet you can get 2 of these pillows and make a sort of double bed that they can really spread out over.
CoziGo. Another clever invention is the CoziGo. If your baby gets distracted easily and needs darkness to go to sleep then this could be amazing for you. It fits like a tent over the bassinet so that baby feels secure and uninterrupted.
Pram to gate plus pick up at aircraft door. When you check in ask to either keep your own pram or borrow an airport one to keep until you reach the departure gate. Depending on the airport where you are transiting or arriving you may also be able to either get yours back or again, borrow one as soon as you step off the plane. This was such a saviour for me with all the hand luggage and a tired and irritable baby.
Think about how you will handle your luggage at the other end. For me one of the hardest times of travelling alone with a baby has been between getting off the plane at my destination and getting out of the airport. When arriving at Heathrow I was not able to get my pram until the baggage carousel, this meant a long walk from the plane, through passport control, to the baggage hall with all my hand luggage and arms full of restless, fed up baby! You also need to think about how you will manage getting you luggage off the carousel and then also out to where you are meeting someone. A baby carrier is ideal here. Also, don’t be afraid to ask someone to lift your case off for the carousel and on to a trolley for you.
PJ’s and book to do bedtime routine. I always take Pyjamas and a book to do the whole bedtime routine to try and settle them for sleep. There is only so much of it you can do but I find it helps them get ready for sleep that bit easier.
Something to suck on for take-off and landing. Babies can really suffer from sore ears on a plane so make sure you take something for them to suck on for take-off and landing. This can either be a breastfeed/ bottle feed/ dummy or some kind of lolly. Also, make sure you don’t give it to them too early otherwise they will be finished before the critical time!
Get everything you need within arm’s reach before seat belt sign goes on. As soon as I get us to our seats I get everything out I think I might need before the seat belt sign gets turned off again.
Panadol. Have this ready in case of sore ears.
Don’t stress about the noise. You have got to not stress too much about the noise your baby is going to make. The cabin is actually quite noisy anyway so that will drown out some noise. Also, everyone knows babies can be noisy and that they have just as much right to be on that plane as everyone else. Plus, the more we tell them to be quiet then often the more frustrated and therefore noisier they become.
Make friends with the cabin crew and ask for help if needed. I have always found the cabin crew to be friendly and helpful. They understand how hard it is to travel alone with a small child. If you need help just ask, that is part of what they are there for.
Throw all “ground rules” out the window. I pretty much have my own rule that once we are in the air any rules that apply on the ground are void. Flying with small children is one of those situations where you just do what you can to survive!
Take extra bags for rubbish. Rubbish seems to build up fast on long distance travel. If the small area I have gets cluttered then I start to feel stressed. I always take a couple of plastic bags so that I can keep the area somewhat clean and tidy.
This article is a guest post from Rebecca at Imperfect Mummy.