The last international flight I took before kids was so easy.
Sure, the early-first-trimester morning sickness made the 12-hour trip a bit uncomfortable at times, but the preparation was so easy.
Some clothes, a magazine, a travel toothbrush…done.
After having my first daughter, my husband and I questioned whether we should stay grounded for awhile.
Despite hearing the horror stories of rude passengers and inconsolable babies in flight, however, we decided to continue with travel as a family.
I’m so glad we did.
To-date, we’ve taken our children to 15 countries and countless cities across the world.
My two-year-old can tell you where to find her favorite carousels (Innsbruck Austria and Nice France, for the record).
And both girls pepper their vocabularies with ‘Opa!’ and ‘buongiorno’ and ‘merci’…usually in the correct context.
Based upon my own firsthand experience, I can tell you that surviving air travel with an infant is possible, but it does take major preparation and planning to pull it off with your wits intact.
I reached out to other brave traveling parents for sage advice on flying with infants.
While we all agree that flying with infants (and toddlers and grade schoolers, for that matter) can be trying, it’s so worth it to share the world with our children.
The tips these mamas shared below may not solve every travel dilemma but it will make the trip so much easier:
Choose flight times wisely
Successfully flying with an infant begins the minute you begin searching for flights.
Consider your baby’s routine, then look for flights that will allow you to stick with that schedule.
The entire experience of traipsing through a busy airport and loading into a strange airplane is enough to put a few hiccups in said schedule, but make sure you aren’t putting off a nap or expecting baby to wait for a nursing session or bottle.
Especially for very long international trips, pick an overnight flight when baby may be sleeping longer.
And don’t be afraid of connections.
During a long layover at New York’s JFK, I spread a blanket on the floor and let Harper, who was crawling at the time, play and get the wiggles out before re-boarding.
Pack a smart carry-on
From fussy boredom to a diaper blowout, anything is possible when you’re flying with an infant.
It’s always smart to pack infant care items like pain reliever, gas drops, extra diapers, wipes and replacement clothing (and maybe an extra shirt for yourself).
A bottle (or breast) at-the-ready is good to have for cabin pressure changes.
Fellow travel-savvy moms Hyatt Hodges and Holly Merrill recommend shopping for a few new board books, rattles or other age-appropriate toys to pull out when babies get bored or restless.
The newness of the item can buy you some time before a meltdown.
And whether you are breastfeeding or not, a nursing poncho is a brilliant item to pack.
I’ve used mine for countless “off label” uses like playing peek-a-boo, as a light blanket and to shield little eyes from bright light.
Prepare baby for the flight
Babies may be new to the planet but they really are capable of understanding more than we give them credit for.
Holly Merrill has great success with talking up the trip, explaining who the family will visit and what they’ll do.
Print off a picture of grandma or the Eiffel Tower and use it to build excitement. When your baby or kids become antsy, pull out the picture and discuss it.
Don’t forget comfort items like a favorite stuffed animal, blanket or pacifier.
And, as a general rule don’t even try wean or potty train as you are traveling
. Mixing a new experience like flying with a major developmental milestone can be the recipe for a meltdown (maybe your own).
Bring a good attitude
We’ve all heard the saying “attitude is everything.”
It’s true in life and especially on airplanes.
You may be frazzled and nervous but take time to be polite to fellow passengers and airline staff.
While flying domestic alone with her two children, Vickie Adamson’s infant had a diaper disaster.
She had been sure to thank the flight attendant for help with seating at the beginning of the flight.
Although she didn’t ask for the help, a flight attendant cheerfully volunteered to escort the family back to the bathrooms and helped occupy Adamson’s toddler while she cleaned the baby.
You may still find yourself surrounded by passengers who aren’t happy to have infants on the plane, but a good attitude and polite words can be a little salve when things go wrong.
Make yourself aware of guidelines
Infant travel guidelines vary from country to country and even airline to airline.
If you’re purchasing a ticket for your infant, double check the rules on car seats and–above all—make sure your car seat will actually fit in an airplane seat (my baby’s seat did not!).
If you’re traveling with the infant on your lap, ask for an infant seatbelt attachment, or buy your own.
It probably goes without saying, too, but be sure baby’s documents are in order for international travel.
Check visa requirements and be sure you have a passport for your new bundle of joy.
Share with Motherly: What are your tips for surviving international air travel?