I want to start by saying that if you’re worried about travelling with a baby – Don’t be!
Babies are much more resilient than we think they are. Yes, their routine will be “messed up”. Yes, they’ll be in strange places with unfamiliar sounds. But when they wake up at their new destination, all will be quickly forgotten. I swear us parents worry and stress more than our babies ever do!
Smaller babies are pretty predictable. With Sienna, I just focused on the change, feed, sleep; change, feed, sleep cycle, and the hours flew by.
(I’m told that this is a much easier age than when they are toddlers who need more snacks/entertainment/etc. So try to enjoy it 😆)
Before the flight
Your set-up on the plane can make ALL the difference. Take some time to think about your preferences…
For the Toronto-London flights, I made the decision to invest a couple hundred extra dollars to pre-select my seats ahead of time so that I could guarantee the row with extra legroom. *Nothing* seems worse to me than having a crying baby on my lap with a seat reclined into us.
(For the Toronto-Mexico flights, we were on a Sunwing plane which didn’t have great seat options. It was a lot smaller and pretty uncomfortable. We just had to suck it up and be thankful it was a shorter flight!)
Another option is to reserve an onboard bassinet. I called the airline ahead of time to claim it and reminded the flight attendants when I boarded. They attach it to the wall in front of you and if your baby takes to it, it will mean you’ll get some hands-free time while they sleep. Unfortunately, Sienna really hated it… The one provided to us was pretty cramped and I didn’t like having to “velcro” her inside. It’s worth a try as it is a free request.
This is what it looked like 👇
Alternatively, you have the option to purchase your baby their own seat/ticket and bring your car seat onboard. I saw a couple who had done this for the London flight and it looked amazing to have baby in their own comfy space. If this is in your budget – Go for it! Just make sure you check your airline’s policies on this as only certain car seats are accepted.
Finally, you can start praying now that your flight isn’t full(!) This will boost your chances that you’ll either get an empty seat next to you, or your neighbour will be willing to move to an empty seat elsewhere to give you the extra space. Of course, I would never *expect* this! But most people are kind enough to do so and it really does benefit everyone involved.
I recommend checking in your luggage. I know… I used to love that “carry-on only” lifestyle too, but trust me, this makes it so much easier. This way, you can arrive at the airport, ditch most of your bulky stuff at the desk, and just have a small backpack and baby to worry about.
Check your luggage allowance with your airline. You may have to pay for check-in bags. Does baby get an allowance too? We found that baby could have a complimentary carry-on diaper bag and car seat/stroller, in addition to our own allowance.
Stroller + Car Seats
I found that keeping the stroller with me right up until boarding the plane was the best for me. I could wheel Sienna around the airport and not have to worry about baby-wearing until the very last minute when walking to my seat. Very convenient.
You just need to flag the stroller pieces at the check-in desk and they print out all the labels you need. Then, wheel it up to the plane doors, fold it all down, and give it to airport staff to load in below. I purchased these protective bags from Amazon (Car Seat) (Stroller) – to keep my stroller and car seat clean. I’m glad I did because they came back covered in dirt and scuff marks. Highly recommend.
It’s important to think about what set-up you want at your destination.
- Do you need to bring a car seat or can you request one with your rental car or airport transfer?
- Could you bring your stroller’s “bassinet” attachment to act as baby’s bed whilst away?
- Will you prefer to wheel baby around airport like I did, or ditch all equipment and baby-wear?
- Once at your destination, what stroller set-up makes sense? (For example: we decided to only bring toddler stroller seat to Mexico, as car seat attachment would be way too hot.)
Lots to consider!
During the flight
Here are my best tips for getting through the flight itself:
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
99.9% of the people I came into contact with were really warm and friendly towards us. Have faith. Most people are kind and offer their help when they see you struggling. If not, just ask for it. A cute smiling baby helps! Someone on my Instagram suggested dressing them in a cute animal onesie… No one can get mad at a baby cow 🐮
Baby-wearing is KEY for when it’s time to board! When I was solo to London, I strapped Sienna onto me which then allowed me to pack down the stroller and get it into the protective bags. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still very sweaty work(!) but I’m not sure how I would’ve managed without both my hands.
It also helps a lot during the flight. You can wear baby when you need to go to the toilet, or if you want your hands free whilst they sleep on your lap.
Choose a fabric wrap to take up less packing space or something bulkier / sturdier like this Ergobaby Omni 360 that I have, if you want that extra support.
Comfy clothes for you / breastfeeding access
Ditch the airport fashion. You’re going to want to be as comfortable as possible. Ain’t nobody got time for jeans cutting into your belly when you’re trying to console your crying baby mid-flight!
For breastfeeding, I love these maternity tank tops from H&M. They come with extra support so you don’t need a bra. Just pop the clasp for easy access and drape a muslin cloth over yourself if you want to cover up a bit more. Easy peasy.
Pacifiers/Dummies for Air Pressure
Unfortunately, poor Sienna clutched at her ears and cried in pain due to the air pressure… Breastfeeding helped pop her ears but this period of time could last 30-45mins so you do need a backup plan!
Make sure you bring lots of pacifiers. These help a lot as they generate saliva and make them swallow. I bought these pacifier protectors / holders to keep them stored safe/clean. Just go into it expecting a challenge but this too shall pass.
I cannot stress this enough… BUY THIS PORTABLE DIAPER CADDY!
Instead of hauling your diaper bag / backpack to the cramped plane washroom, this is such a compact little product that fits all the essentials that you need. Including a changing mat so you don’t have to put baby directly onto the airplane changing table. My absolute TOP recommendation. We even took it out with us around the resort to save space.
I’d also recommend the portable diaper genie dispenser. This little guy clips on your bag and gives lightly scented disposable bags to put dirty diapers in. Great for when you don’t have access to a trash can.
A change of clothes for both you and baby
Self-explanatory – but it’s so easy to forget about YOU when you’re focusing on what to pack for baby. Trust me: You don’t want to be stuck in spit up/poop covered clothes for a long flight. Pack a full outfit for yourself in the diaper bag just in case.
Sienna is exclusively breastfed so it was nice and easy, however at airport security, I was always asked about the milk / liquids I had for the baby. This tells me that you have an allowance for it, just make sure you take it out separately and show it all to staff.
If baby is eating, bring lots of snacks – but again, don’t forget yourself! You don’t want to be hungry and dealing with a restless baby.
My biggest advice for this is to just accept that their sleep is going to be messed up. Don’t get stressed that their routine isn’t being followed or worry about how the time difference will affect them. What will be, will be. Just roll with it as baby will pick up on your anxiety. You’ll be surprised by how well they adapt to change.
- Request the onboard bassinet if you think baby will enjoy sleeping separate to you. It’s worth a try as it is a free option.
- Pillows are ESSENTIAL! There were complimentary ones provided during my Air Transat Toronto-London route. However, for shorter flights or different airlines, these might not be provided, so grab blow-up compact ones (like this one) or bring your favourite from home just in case.
I’m sure this will be more of a challenge when I have a toddler on my hands(!) but even with a small baby, I found it really helpful to have some of her favourite rattles and teethers to keep her distracted and busy on my lap. When she started to fuss, I could shake a couple of things in front of her to calm her down and she’d soon to sleeping again in my arms. I’m told that buying new things that they haven’t seen before also boosts your chances of them being distracted for longer!
Don’t pay attention to people’s negative reactions
Remember: Baby has just as much of a right to fly as everyone else around you. You have to get from A to B for your own personal reasons, just like them. Baby deserves to visit family. You deserve to go on vacation. If you feel overwhelmed, just repeat this mantra: “This is temporary. This will end. You got this.:
Here are all the products I’d recommend buying / packing to make the experience as easy as possible: