Surviving a flight with 9mo baby
[Photo credit: Daddy]
I was so excited about going to America, but less excited about flying with a 9 month old Baby. I’ve heard good and bad stories from other parents about it and viewed it as a hurdle we needed to jump before the fun could begin.
As it turned out, Baby was really good. She slept for 4 out of the 7 hours on the first flight and for the whole 8 hours of the return flight (James made her crawl laps of the departure lounge before we took off to tire her out. She had met pretty much everyone on the flight by the time we boarded). For this reason, she was the first one of us over her jetlag when we returned to the UK. The key, we’ve learned, is the feeding schedule; keep it on local time and their internal clocks seem to adjust really quickly.
Anyway, I read loads of blog posts and forums about flying with a baby before we left, so I thought I’d add to the heap. A few things that are helpful to know: most airlines allow you to check TWO baby-related items in the hold, like a stroller and a car seat or travel cot. Also, the rules now seem to be that you can carry a bag and one personal item through security, so the days of trying to fit everything into one bag are over for now.
Here is my advice based on the experiences we had:
1) Check the stroller with your other bags. We learned this lesson when we did our test flight to Ireland (read “Travelling with Baby”). Instead of using the stroller in the airport and checking it before you get on the plane, check it at the same time you check your other luggage and check it in a stroller bag. The reasons are many-fold: first, we found that keeping the stroller with us encouraged us to carry more baby stuff than we realistically needed onto the plane, which is fine when you are departing, but a real pain when you are arriving, as you will most likely only be reunited with your stroller at baggage claim. Use a baby carrier, like my favourite – the Kari Me – for carrying the baby instead; second, we were able to put more items in the hold. Almost every person we saw in America gave us “only a couple of books” because they “knew we were travelling.” We had the equivalent of a Waterstone’s depot with us by the end of the trip. Don’t get me wrong, I love books, but I would encourage people to use www.amazon.co.uk in the future when they want to give us some. Anyway, we were able to pack all the books, plus our Little Life Travel Cot and loads of other bits and bobs that just wouldn’t make it into our luggage allowance. Yes, there was a hole in the bottom of the bag by the end of the trip and one of the handles was hanging off, but the Maclaren travel bag is only £35 and I can repair it with a needle and thread.
2) Bring a few toys, but don’t go overboard. We had read that it’s a good idea to bring some new toys along that your baby has never seen before and produce them on the flight (Ta Da!). I bought the Early Learning Centre My First Gadget set with fake remote, fake smart phone, and fake key ring. What she really loved were the plane headset and the cup off my lunch tray.
3) Request/book a bassinet seat. These are the seats at the front of each section of a long-haul plane with a foldout table in front of the adult seats. The plane has reclining chairs for older babies that strap onto the tray, which is fantastic for most of the flight, but a bit of a pain whenever there is turbulence, as you have to take the baby out of the seat and hold her in your lap. This always seems to happen just as you get your baby to sleep.
4) Load up the iPad with baby apps. If you don’t have one, borrow or buy one; they are great entertainment for baby (and for you when baby is asleep. I highly recommend downloading Modern Family to watch. Hilarious!). I’m going to do a separate post on my favourite iPad apps for babies.
5) Time feeds for take-off and landing, if possible. This is the help them pop their ears. If not, get some pacifiers for them to suck on, even if your baby doesn’t usually like pacifiers.
6) We were able to bring pre-mixed formula through security. We’ve never had a problem taking formula through security on either of our flights. If flying from the UK, bring an extra carton because James had to taste one and discard it. In America, they have a nifty system where the wipe down the cartons and then test the wipe for explosives residue. At Terminal 5 at Heathrow, you could get pretty much everything in Boots on the other side of security, including Ella’s feeding pouches. For baby-led weaners, we bought food for Baby at Pret-a-Manger and took it on the plane.
7) Simplify your nappy changing carry on. A friend recommended that we buy the B.Box Nappy Changing box for flying, so that we could just grab it and go to do the deed (changing a nappy in an airplane toilet is a new form of Mile High Club, as far as I’m concerned). As far as how many nappies to bring, the formula we used was one nappy per hour of travel.
That’s just about all the advice I have for flying with a 9 month old baby. For your own sanity, I recommend bringing some noise-cancelling headphones. If anything it helps to block out the sound of other people’s crying babies when yours is napping.
If you have any additional advice, please leave it in the comments section below.
Here are some sites with info on travelling with a baby: