What Every Parent Must Know When Flying With a Baby
Flying with a baby can be easy and fun, if you do it right. Our family loves to travel. It has always been my goal to not let having a baby affect our travel plans. That’s why at a young at of 14 months, Kayden has already visited Punta Cana (5 hours flight), London UK (7.5 hours flight), and the sin city, Las Vegas NV (4.5 hours flight). By 20 months old, we have challenged ourselves to travel to Asian countries like Hong Kong, Japan, and Taiwan that require 11+ hours of flight. Many friends have asked me how we managed to handle so much flying with a baby, so I thought I’d share some of the tips and tricks here to help lower your travel stress and actually enjoy your well-deserved family vacation!
When is it safe to fly with a baby?
Many parents wait until their babies turn 1 before they start flying with them. However, it is not necessary to wait that long. From the airlines point of view, as long as your baby is healthy and well, it is safe to fly. Air Canada allows babies as young as 7 days old while Westjet does not have a minimum age requirement at all. Really, there are no standard regulations, but I’d highly suggest you to a fit-to-fly letter from your doctor if your baby is less than a week old. And if you are a premature baby, you will have to count from his/her due date, not his/her birthday.
How to calm a crying baby when flying?
Let’s face it, babies cry for a lot of reasons. After going through 10+ flights with baby Kayden, I realized that no matter what I do, crying is inevitable when flying with a baby or a young toddler. So the best way to handle crying is to understand the triggers and try your best minimize them.
1. Unknown environment
The airplane cabin is quite an unique environment. With rows and rows of high-back chairs, an annoying engine running in the background, and a plane full of people, It is not uncommon for babies, especially older babies and young toddlers to be aware of this new, unknown environment and be scared of it.
Solution: Help your baby relax by encouraging them to touch and discover the airplane cabin. Sing some songs, look out the window, and bring some food and toys for distraction.
2. Change in air pressure
The pressure builds up in your baby’s ears when there is a change in air pressure and it hurts! The change in air pressure has a bigger effect on young children than on adults.
Solution: For babies, breastfeeding during take off and landing is the best way to alleviate the sudden change in air pressure. For toddlers, encourage them to keep eating and/or drinking to release the pressure. Sucking on a pacifier or a thumb helps as well. If none of these tricks work, gently press on your baby’s ears should help to distract them and relieve some of the pressure to stop them from crying.
3. Sleepiness and crankiness
If your flight time coincides with your baby’s nap time or bed time, your baby might get cranky due to tiredness. And with so much new things on the plane to explore and all the people surrounding your baby, he/she might not wake to miss out on any action. This would lead to more tiredness and crankiness, and resulting in lots of crying.
Solution: What’s the best way to put your baby to sleep at home? Is it a stuffed animal? Is it a pacifier? Is it white noise? Whatever it is, bring it along with you. For us, the best way to put Kayden to sleep is our Ergobaby carrier with white noise. And I love the hood that comes with the baby carrier as I could use it to block out the distractions. It was our lifesaver when Kayden gets cranky on the plane.
Even adults find it boring in a confined airplane cabin, let along babies. Since your baby cannot enjoy the free movies and games provided on the plane yet, bring some toys and activities that your baby could enjoy.
Solution: Have some new/special toys and activities that your baby haven’t played with before. For us, we don’t have screen time at home, so we could easily entertain Kayden with some children apps on an iPhone or iPad (Highly recommend the Baby Mozart app for children songs and funny sounds). We also like to bring special snacks with us to keep him happy.
Tips and tricks when flying with a baby
Now that we have the crying issue covered, there are other important tips and tricks that would make your trip much easier and more enjoyable!
1. Check in online, pick good (FREE) seats
As many of you know, children under the age of 2 travel for free. The only problem is, they don’t get a seat. This means you would have to hold your baby for the entire duration of the flight. Of course you can opt to pay full fare for an extra seat or upgrade to business/first class so that you have more space; but as parents, we really don’t need to spend more!
A great way that we’ve tested ourselves on all our flights with baby Kayden actually got us a free seat for him 90% of the time. Here’s how we did it.
Most airlines allow online check in 24 hours prior to the departure time. This is also the time when you can pick your seats. Knowing that most adult flyers do not prefer middle seats and most people want to be closer to the front of the plane so that they could get off first, we strategically pick a window and an aisle towards the back of the plane for my hubby and myself, leaving the middle seat empty. As long as the flight is not 100% full, chances are a single adult would not pick that middle seat. And even if someone does, no one in the right mind would want to be stuck in the middle seat with a crying baby; so chances are they would either move to another seat or would switch seat with one of you to get the window or aisle seat. This is a no lose situation for you, so why not give it a try?
2. Get free baby bassinet
Believe it or not, even though you didn’t pay for the baby’s seat, the airline would provide a free bassinet for your little one. This means a lot to parents who didn’t pay for a seat when flying with a baby – you don’t have to hold your baby for the entire duration of the flight! Just call the airline 24 hours ahead of your flight and let them know you have a baby with you, and you will be seated in the front row where the tiny bed would be attached to the wall in front of you. The baby bassinet, however, can only hold babies up to 20 pounds.
3. Luggage and carry-on allowance for babies
This might vary for different airlines, but for Air Canada and Westjet, we were allowed to bring 1 checked luggage for the baby, 1 carry-on item, 1 diaper bag, and 2 of the following: car seat, stroller, playpen. Always check your stroller at the gate so that you have access to it until you are ready to board.
4. Easy airport securities
When you are travelling with a baby, the regular security rule of 150 ml or less of liquid doesn’t apply. As long as the liquid is for the baby (breast milk, water, milk, juice, etc.), you are allowed to bring it with you.
Also, in many airports, you get a special line for people in wheelchairs and people with strollers so you don’t have to go through the regular security line up. This saved us a lot of waiting in line time!
5. Bring extra supplies
And lastly, don’t put all your supplies in the checked luggage. Always bring extra supplies (diaper, food, formula, water, extra clothing, toys, etc.) in your carry-on bags. In case there are flight delays or other unexpected circumstances, at least you have everything your baby needs. Always prepare for the worst.
Fly happy, fly safe!
Traveling with a baby is not easy, and requires a lot of planning. And let’s be realistic here, most of your flight time will be spent soothing and entertaining your baby. But while travel as a parent will never be the same as before, it has its upside as well. You may discover the world is a friendlier place than you knew. There’s no easier way to meet people than with a baby in your lap. We definitely had lots of fun and met lots of wonderful people during our many flights with baby Kayden.
Hope this helps! Have a fantastic trip with your little one!
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