My first experience flying with a baby was when Patrick was 4 months old, and we flew from San Francisco to Sydney. I was a little nervous thinking about how he would do on the flight since it is a 14 hours long, but he was such a happy baby overall that it was a pleasant experience for everyone. I’ve broken this post into flying with babies and toddlers with two lists.
Flying with babies
If you’re a nursing Mama, wear a cute and lightweight scarf. Even if you have to plop it in a tray while going through security, it’s handy to have if your baby gets fussy during takeoff and you have to shove em on your boob to get him to start swallowing to save his ears. It’s perfect so you don’t have to go searching through a bag for a cover and you can use it to play peek-a-boo later!
I would take everything you’d normally carry in your diaper bag for a regular trip out (diapers, wipes, scented plastic bags, bottle, onesie, etc) plus:
Extra shirt for you (this was not needed for any of my trips), but I figured on a long flight, I might want to change when I landed. You never know what sort of fun stains you’ll have after a long flight.
Pacifier for ears – yes I said ears. If you don’t use one, be prepared to nurse during takeoff/landing to help your little one’s ears adjust without tears.
Banana or soft snack (if baby is old enough) and be prepared to ditch it if not eaten before entering another country.
Rattle/chewing toys to distract (rattle toy from amazon, sophie)
Their favorite plush toy and blanket for cuddles.
I bought two new chewing toys for our trip to Australia because they were super cheap and something fun for a little baby. I think that the mixture of a new toy plus their favorite snuggle/bedtime toys is a great way to keep a baby entertained on a flight of any duration.
I kid you not – this is patrick after his first flight. We had been at the airport two hours early for our international flight, flew over to another hemisphere, went through customs, immigration, grabbed luggage, and this is him still at the airport, meeting his Nanna and Grandad for the first time:
Flying with toddlers
My Mommy advice for flying with toddlers who have recently been potty trained – for a big flight, you may want to keep a diaper on for the flight. I know it goes against any training you’ve done with your child, but it worked for me and here’s why I did it. I know that sometimes there’s turbulence and the fasten seatbelt sign stays on for a while. You don’t have any control of when that will be turned off, and rather than a big accident on the plane, you can prevent this. I told my son who was potty trained a few months prior to a 14 hour flight that he was going to wear a diaper, but to tell me when he needed to go potty. He needed to go twice, once when it was okay to use the bathroom, and once when we had a huuuge stretch of turbulence. This was a lifesaver for me.
I pack the following for our flights with 2 toddlers, whether it’s a “quick” 5 hour flight, or our long one down unda.
Magna Doodle for endless drawing, shape creations, number or letter practice. The possibilites with this toy are endless. And, I love that there’s no markers to draw on other items like the tray table, seat, window, etc, and that the “pen” is attached so there’s nothing to accidentally drop and search for under your seat.
Sippy cup (if your child has recently graduated from a bottle) Stewardesses love happy kids, and will always stop to ask if you need any more water or milk for your child.
iPad/DVD player with favorite games or movies. We haven’t gotten to the point of having to use this yet, but we’ve got it on backup just in case.
As my kids get older, I’m sure the list will expand to include chewing gum for takeoff, chapter books, and audio books/new games for the iPad.
When we fly to Australia, the flight leaves around 11 pm and there are almost no other international flights at that time at SFO. This is great because you can get through security quickly, and have lots of time to roam around a few stores. I take this opportunity to let my kids pick out a snack of fruit/crackers and grab a new small book. This gets this kids moving around for a nice walk to help pass the time, especially since the international part of the airport is quiet at this time of night.
And I’m adding a “keeping it real” pic:
This is what I look like after a 12 hour delay on a 14 hour flight. They turned off the lights for the flight and my poor brain was confused as to what time it was. Note that Alice is in her jammies. I always have my kids in jammies for long flights as I think it’s the comfiest thing for them to be in and I don’t have to change them if they fall asleep on me at any point.
My last helpful hint is to pack some sort of sweet treat for your flight for others. I picked up several Toblerone once we were through security and handed them out once we were seated on the plane the nearest 6 people around us letting them know we were flying with a baby for the first time. It was a great ice breaker and people even offered to hold Patrick if I needed a little time off. Bribery works at any age!!
What are your favorite things to pack and play with on a flight when you travel with your children?