We recently travelled with our 8 month old to Australia. It was a great idea that we had when I was still pregnant and once the baby came we started to think that we’ve made a terrible mistake! It’s hard enough dealing with a baby at home in your own space and now we must all trundle onto a plane, squished amongst other people trying to sleep and “have a relaxing flight” while dealing with not-so-quiet, not-so-keen-on-sleeping tiny human… it was something I really struggled to wrap my head around.
That all being said, we did it and we all survived and I’ve got some long-haul travel tips to share with you as a result!
- If your baby is small enough, be sure to book bassinet seats. I think that they cater for up to 11.8kg. It’s an awkward setup for actual sleeping as it’s difficult to transfer a sleeping baby from your arms up into the bassinet without a glitch, but once he’s in and settled, you’re free!
- If you’re booking bassinet seats, they’re often right by the galley. Book the seats furthest from the entrance of the galley as it can get quite noisy there and at night people are coming in and out, sending spotlights of blinding light onto your sleeping baby.
- Use a good travel agent to make sure that you get the right seats, are checked in on time and that everything is booked correctly. It doesn’t cost any extra and takes away a whole bunch of stress. We use Nicci Hayden from Travel Counsellors and she’s great!
- Allow a few extra days either side of your arrival at your destination and home to cater for jet lag. Don’t go back to work the next day (or few days) when you arrive home – that is a terrible idea.
I’m a super organiser. So packing is incredibly stressful for me because how do I know that I have everything that we might possibly need? My husband and I were both hit with a stomach bug just before we left and I was having sleepless nights about the baby getting it on the plane and dealing with that and running out of nappies and soiling his clothes etc. I worry too much! We had a 2 hour flight from Cape Town to Joburg and then a 2 hour wait before our long haul flight there which was 11.45min. The long haul flight on the way back was 14 hours. Qantas doesn’t allow carry-on baggage for an infant, but does allow a nappy bag for nappies and baby food. We had one nappy bag with all his food, bottles and cloths and used one of our carry-on bags for toys, extra clothes, toiletries etc.
Here’s what I packed for each flight for him:
- 2 packs of wet wipes – 1 in his food bag and 1 in his nappy bag
- Silicone bib for feeding
- 4 bibs
- 20 nappies (way too many, but I was thinking of a possible diarrhoea situation)
- 2 changes of clothes (short sleeve and long sleeve baby grows)
- 2 large muslin cloths
- 1 baby blanket and his sleepy doo-doo (taglet)
- 3 toys that make use of multiple activities, e.g. those soft and squishy baby books that have things to touch and crinkle and feel etc.
- Toiletry bag with Panado, syringe, aqueous cream, Telement drops (a drop on the dummy helps him to suck it when he’s screaming his head off), saline nose spray, thermometer.
- 8 pre-measured portions of formula. He didn’t need this many but I packed extra in case of delays etc. Formula containers are great because they save space. It’s difficult to predict how much milk and food he will need because you’re flying through time zones and the whole notion of breakfast, snack, lunch, snack etc goes out the window. I worked out that I should feed him every 3-4 hours, alternating milk and solids and that seemed to work out okay.
- 6 bottles so that I didn’t have to wash any. On the flight there I only filled a few with boiled water, thinking that they might confiscate the water but they seemed to be okay with it, so I filled them all on the way back. You can also fill with boiled/filtered water on the plane.
- 5 baby food pouches. We used the Woolworths ones as they’re the more natural and organic than the other brands. Again, he didn’t need this many but if a flight is delayed or cancelled you don’t want to be running around trying to find baby food. We discovered on our flight home that you can actually order baby meals and this would have been handy. It seemed like it was a little pack with a baby food pouch, yoghurt and juice at every meal that was served.
- This one is key! A small roll-up changing mat bag inside his nappy bag. I packed this with just one nappy at a time, a tiny talcum powder bottle and a tiny wet wipes pack. I took this out each time I needed to change him so that I didn’t need to lug the whole bag with me each time we did a change and then put a new nappy in when we got back to our seat. Those bathrooms are tiny and awkward and this tip was a winner for me.
At the airport
You’re going to be running around at some point, no matter how organised everything is, so just accept that up front. You might have a poo nappy as you’re about to board and need to run off to sort that out quickly, or on arrival back to SA you will need to collect your baggage (even though you were told it was checked through to your final destination) and re-check it in after a delayed flight and there’s only one counter open with a queue to high heavens and you’ll need to run off to domestic departures and find someone to help get you to the front of the queue so that you don’t miss your next flight… you know.. that sort of thing!
Here’s how to make it all easier:
- Get there early. If you have baby items to check in, like a stroller or a car seat, you will need to drop those off at the oversized baggage counter and that means an extra queue.
- Check in your stroller. You don’t want to be lugging that around and it’s always a gamble as to whether you’re going to get it back as you leave the aircraft or if they’ve decided to send it on the baggage carousel or oversized baggage collection point. You shouldn’t need to worry about that.
- Use a baby carrier. That way you have hands free and baby is contained and happy. If he likes to sleep in the carrier: bonus!
- Wear layers of breathable cotton. You’ll sometimes be hot and sometimes be cold and a lot of the time have a baby attached to you or sleeping on you, so layers of breathable clothing really helps when you’re sweating on each other trying to keep a baby contained or asleep.
On the flight
- Wear elasticated tights/pants that are easy to pull up and down with one hand. Even if you’re travelling with a partner, you may be in a situation where you need to go to the teeny tiny little toilet with your baby.
- Don’t worry about what other people think. If your baby is screaming, he’s screaming and of course you’re going to do everything you can to make him stop, but you don’t need pressure from others added to the mix. Just ignore it. Most people are really understanding with babies on flights.
- Introduce your baby. It helps to introduce your baby to everyone around him on the flight so they all go “aw sweet, what a cutie, we love him” before he potentially keeps them awake 🙂
- If you’ve got an overnight flight, chances are that your baby is going to sleep through it all, hoorah! If it’s a day flight, you might have to accept that you’ll be entertaining a baby for a loooooooong time. Try to get him to sleep when he shows signs of being tired but also accept when he’s not going to sleep and just go with it. Keep him entertained with his toys. We put our little guy sitting in his bassinet with his toys for a while when we had had enough of trying to get him to sleep and just wanted to relax for a bit. Remember that it is temporary!
When you arrive
- Get the baby into a routine as soon as you possibly can. If you arrive early morning, give him breakfast even if it feels like you just ate lunch. Get him to bed at the destination bedtime and go to bed early that night so that you get a few hours in before the midnight/2am wakings start.
- Jet lag is a special kind of hell and you just have to go with it. We didn’t find any special tips for this (we’re on Day 6 and it’s getting better but we still don’t feel normal or well rested yet) other than to try and get him into the destination routine as quickly as possible. When he wakes up at midnight wanting to play for 2 hours, just go with it, play with him until he gets tired again and try and get back to sleep as quickly as you can once he does. Trying to force him into sleep when he is actually wide awake is just too frustrating for everyone. It will pass. It can take up to a week. We found that we had a few bad nights on arriving in Australia and are still dealing with it now coming back to SA.
And that’s all I have to share with you on this. I hope that it’s been helpful and if you’re preparing for a long-haul trip ahead – good luck, you’ve got this!