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I’ve been talking about this article for awhile now. After realizing that I’ve been procrastinating my “Traveling With Baby” post, because I was overwhelmed, I decided to chunk it out. Welcome to the first edition! Let’s begin with the airport and the airplane… First, you’ll get the story, and then I’ll break down my tips. If you’re solely looking for my tips, please scroll down to the bottom of this post and check the bullet points. I urge you to read this though, because parts of it are kind of funny 😀
We had a fabulous family vacation in February 2017. My in-laws took our entire family (6 of us), my sister-in-law and her family (4 of them) and themselves (obviously) to an all-inclusive resort in St. Lucia. I’ll do a review on the actual resort later, but for anyone interested, we stayed at Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa and we really enjoyed our time there.
So. Our family of 6 (at the time of travel) consists of Jeff and I, my step-daughter (15), my step-sons (twins – 13) and our daughter (8 months). As you can imagine, the most difficult part of this travel experience was planning for and around Aurora – the baby. Jeff had never taken the older kids traveling as babies, so I didn’t have his expertise to rely on here. I did a lot of research on Pinterest and Google and I’m here to report what worked for us and what didn’t!
Our flight was to take-off at 10am on a Saturday morning and this meant that we needed to be out the door by 6am sharp. Aurora’s regular wake time was about 7am, so this meant that we were going to have to wake her. She also nursed for a bit when she woke up every day, so I had to account for that. Basically, everyone woke up at 5:30am (1/2 hour before we had to be out the door). Our bags were almost fully packed and ready to go at the front door. I had my ongoing scribbled-up list sitting out, so that we would remember to add the few things from Aurora’s room that we would need in the morning. Exercise ball (deflated), mini iPod stereo, iPod and sound machine. No problem.
I kept Aurora in her sleeper, so she would be comfortable, and off we went!
The airport was an hour drive from our house. This next part is pretty hilarious… Jeff proceeded to unload all of the suitcases from the back of our van, while the kids were getting out and I was getting Aurora into my Boba Baby Carrier 4G. A suitcase was missing. I repeat: A SUITCASE WAS MISSING. And not just any suitcase. The largest suitcase, with my stuff and Aurora’s stuff – namely: diapers, swim diapers, all of my clothes, the air pump to inflate the exercise ball, pool inflatable thing for Aurora to sit in, etc.
After getting over the initial shock, I called a couple of friends to see if they could go to our house and drive it to the airport. One friend was out of town and the other one actually suggested lining up a taxi to bring it to us (this would have cost $100 – totally worth having the suitcase). Jeff called the older kids’ Mom and asked if she was able to bring it. She was in another city, about 45 minutes away, but agreed! With a bit of super fast driving involved, she made it to the airport, with about 10 minutes to spare. So, before you leave the house, double-check that ALL suitcases are inside your vehicle!
Having a baby carrier was essential for us. This is recommended all over the internet when you search about bringing a baby on an airplane. Aurora actually fell asleep in her carrier right before take-off (she has never fallen asleep in her carrier – ever), which was perfect. Please check with your airline (call them if you have to) about baby carriers on flights. We traveled with Air Canada and on our way there (before take-off, but after Aurora fell asleep), I was told by the flight attendant that I had to remove the carrier and would not be allowed to use it on the plane (?!). I carefully just un-clipped the part behind my neck and pulled it down onto my lap.
On the way home, the flight attendants didn’t even mention my use of the baby carrier. I’m not sure if it was because Aurora was crying for about 2 hours straight, or if it’s just the flight attendant’s discretion? They even offered to have me come into the back galley area to try and calm her down back there – this worked and she fell asleep!
Another fabulous thing about the baby carrier, was that Aurora nursed in the carrier while I was walking through Toronto Pearson Airport. That was crazy to me! She had never done that before and we had not practiced it at home. Because this could happen to you, I recommend practicing nursing in your carrier – it seems cumbersome, but once you get the hang of it, it’s very easy.
I suggest packing an aden + anais Swaddles blanket or nursing cover in your carry-on luggage. I didn’t end up using a nursing cover, but I did use an aden + anais Swaddles blanket to make Aurora feel cuddled when she napped and I used a second blanket on the way home to sort of drape over her to darken her sleeping area. She’s a light sleeper, so I tried to block out as much light and interference as I could.
If you’re concerned about where everyone will be seated on the airplane, I would highly suggest reserving your seats ahead of time. I would urge you to do this if you’re traveling with another adult and your baby. You want the other adult nearby and not rows behind you, having to climb over 1 or more other passengers to come and assist.
The way that our seats were reserved was that Jeff and I had aisle seats “beside” each other and we each had one of the twins beside us in the middle seats. My step-daughter sat with my in-laws. This worked out really well, because we could pass Aurora back and forth to give each other breaks. Having the twins beside each of us was great too, because it gave her even more of a change of scenery.
Since Aurora was 8 months old at the time of travel, we wanted to pack some things to keep her occupied and content during our 5 hour flight.
Some excellent in flight entertainment ideas that worked very well for us:
- An old magazine (to be ripped and torn up) – you only need one (not 3 like I thought!)
- About 3 or 4 new (inexpensive) toys, wrapped in wrapping paper for her to open and discover (make sure you have a couple in your checked luggage for the flight home)
- Mum Mum crackers and food purée pouch – or other snack, age dependent of course
- A baby spoon – she liked to chew on these
- Shaker rattle that we already had and she really likes
- A bath toy for her to chew on
- Exploring the “Kids Mode” on my Samsung Galaxy S4 cell phone
- A couple of toys from Grandma here and there!
I was thrilled to see that there was a fold-down change table in the airplane bathroom. Amazing! I was ready to somehow lay this child on my legs and change her that way… I hope you never have to do this. No complaints from this Mama on the in-flight diaper changes.
As for take-off and landing with the ear-popping… I really don’t think that this affected Aurora. During the first take-off, she was sleeping, so that was great. The rest of the times we took-off and landed, she maybe got a bit restless, but it’s a pretty loud experience, so it could have been the noise. She was crying when we were landing back in Canada, but that was from a difficult flight home (fighting sleep). I never once noticed her tugging or touching her ears. I have tips on suggested ways to handle ear pain below.
The flight home was over Aurora’s bedtime. We took off at about 5:30pm and Aurora’s bedtime at that time was about 7pm. At home, we have our usual bedtime routine: bath, nursing, 3 stories and then nursing again. On the plane, we had a couple of books packed with us, but we were climbing an uphill battle to make this seem like it was just her usual bedtime routine. She was tired and fighting sleep, and therefore cried. She cried a lot.
Our flight on the way to St. Lucia was so good. I couldn’t believe it had gone so well. So when Aurora had a difficult flight home, I understood. I wasn’t upset with her, because I knew she was tired. The other passengers on the plane also seemed to be empathetic with us (instead of shooting eyeball daggers in our direction), which was nice 🙂
In our case, it wasn’t just our immediate family traveling and the trip itself was gift(!), so the flight times weren’t really a consideration for us.
If you are planning a flight yourself, consider flight times:
- Your baby is a good/easy sleeper: plan flight times over their bedtime/nap times, so they can sleep on the plane
- Your baby is a poor sleeper: plan flight times away from bedtime/nap times, so you can keep him/her active and engaged with activities instead
Since we were in a warm climate, we dressed Aurora according to the temperature in St. Lucia on our way home. We had pants and layers, but we felt it was important to keep her dressed comfortably, especially since she’s a “hot” baby to begin with. I packed a light sleeper and another change of clothes in my carry-on and when we started her bedtime routine in flight, that’s when we put her in her sleeper. Sleepers are my go-to for comfort and I recommend them 100% for babies on airplanes.
Another thing that you’ll want to research for your specific airline, is their food allowances for babies. Aurora wasn’t really “into” solids at 8 months. She was mostly tolerating puréed food pouches and enjoying Mum Mum rice crackers. I packed a lot of rice crackers, 1 food pouch for each flight (of which she would eat about 1/4) and of course breast milk.
Speaking of breast milk, before we left for this trip, I could not nurse Aurora in public, because of her “distractability” and because of my fast let-down. I always nursed laying down beside her in a bed. As a result, I packed my Medela Swing Breast Pump, frozen breast milk pouches, empty breast milk pouches (for the flight home) and a couple bottles. Something magical happened on the first travel day and Aurora breastfed no problem! I didn’t use the breast pump once on our entire trip.
Here is my list of tips for airplane travel with an 8 month old baby:
- Have a list at the front door for last-minute things to add before leaving the house
- Make sure all suitcases are in the vehicle. Double-check!
- Bring baby in sleeper – don’t bother getting them dressed
- Baby carrier – I have a Boba Baby Carrier 4G and a BabyBjorn (2nd hand). The Boba was integral to the success of our airport and airplane experience. Ask your airline ahead of time if you are allowed to use your carrier in flight. If you’re breastfeeding, practice nursing in the carrier at home. We also used our carriers all over the place while at the resort!
- Nursing cover or aden + anais Swaddles blanket – either for nursing or to shield light if baby is sensitive when sleeping
- Going through security – disclose breast milk and ice pack. This should not be a part of the “allowable liquid”, but all airlines are different
- Upset baby – ask if you can use galley area in the back of the plane. The baby sees less people and so do you!
- Flight Times – arrange during waking hours if you have a difficult sleeper or over bedtime or nap time if you have a good sleeper
- New inexpensive toys, wrapped in wrapping paper – all babies like the crinkly stuff, right?
- Snacks/food – there is nothing on the plane for a baby to eat. We brought Mum Mum crackers and puréed food pouches. You may also find fruit in the airport.
- Milk/formula, Medela Swing Breast Pump, bottle – they can give you hot water on the plane for mixing formula
- For potential ear pain during take-off and especially landing, try to nurse or use a pacifier. Or maybe you can get your baby to sleep before this happens and they will sleep through it 🙂
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