Surviving long haul flights with your baby

So, one day it happens.  You become the person walking onto an Airbus A380 with a baby.  For years I felt sorry for those people – you know, all sleep deprived and nervous-looking as they stroll through the plane to get to their seats.  The other passengers, whilst pleased to see a baby, are all thinking ‘do NOT sit next to me and if you MUST I hope that’s a quiet baby…’.  It must be awful huh?

Well the truth is by the time you’ve had a baby for a few months and are so used to ear-drum-piercing- screams that you just don’t give a shit.  I always thought I was going to be embarrassed about flying with a baby, but to be honest, you’re so focused on looking after him/her that other people become a bit irrelevant.

That doesn’t make it easy,  but it IS possible.  Here are a few tips to bear in mind that may make flying long haul with a baby a tiny bit better/more bearable.

  1. Phone, phone again.  Ask, ask again
    It is quite remarkable how each airline we’ve dealt with seems to have a different set of rules every time you to talk to someone.  You can easily phone an airline who will say it’s impossible to book a bassinet only to call back an hour later, speak to someone else and they will book one for you with no problems.  It doesn’t end there though as you may get to the airport and find a new set of rules apply from a different staff member.  Phone multiple times before you fly and then get to the airport early to ask again.  On a recent flight we were promised the ‘best seats’ (two together) over the phone and again at check in.  We weren’t convinced so later asked another staff member and they gave us four seats in a row to ourselves.  (Amazing!)
  2. Feed on take off
    I obviously have to give my wife full credit for this one…  We try and book flights that coincide with nap/feed times and try to hold off feeding until take off.  This can help with ear pressure for the baby and hopefully starts the journey off with a snooze.
  3. Sense of humour
    Without this you are going to kill the person you are travelling with (or in my case – be killed).  Bring as much of this as possible – too much sense of humour is better than not enough.  Chances are you will get to wherever you are going and in time be able to laugh at all the issues/disasters currently facing you.
  4. Perspective
    You aren’t the only people on this flight and having a baby or kids doesn’t make you the Most Important People on the flight.  People are flying home for weddings, funerals, operations etc, so be nice.
  5. Change of clothes
    Not for the baby.  For you.  Chances are you have about four sets of clothes for your baby, but knowing that you don’t have your own spare shirt or hoody puts the fear of God into you.  Every time I held Theo facing me I was aware that I was one puke away from disaster.  That’s no way to spend 26 hours.
  6. A book or Kindle.
    I’ve been crossing the Atlantic and Pacific for over twenty years and NEVER have I not watched a film – until the first time I travelled with my four month old.  If your bassinet doesn’t block your screen, chances are you’ll want to listen out for crying the entire flight.  2 hrs of peace and quiet?  Pipedreams my friend.
  7. Eye Mask
    My last flight didn’t provide me with one.  If I hadn’t have brought my own I feel I would’ve broken down in tears.  How can an airline be that cheap?
  8. Equipment
    After re-mortgaging your house to buy a Bugaboo buggy, the first thing my wife said was “we need to buy another pram”.  I thought she was joking.  Apparently not.  Reluctantly I have to say that after multiple flights and travel experiences,  having a fold away pram that goes on as hand luggage was an excellent purchase  (Please don’t tell Katie I said that) – we got the Mountain Buggy Nano stroller.  Great for in transit at airports – especially Dubai and Singapore where you seem to walk for days to get to your next flight. The other purchase which made life a whole lot easier was the Cozigo.  This blacks out the bassinet on a plane and then works as a shade/cover for the pram when outside.  Again, I wasn’t convinced, but it’s been invaluable.
  9. Make friends with your neighbours
    You just never know when and where this will come in handy. I’m not saying you should drink seven Gin & Tonics and tell them your life story, but some kind of polite acknowledgement can go a long way. On a flight which had messed up our seat bookings, people were kind enough to swap seats in order for us to have a bassinet.  Despite contrary stories you may know, people can still be kind and generous.
  10. Travel separately from your partner and child.
    This may be hard to negotiate.


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