How to Prepare and Survive a long haul flight with a baby (0 - 7 months old)
Updated: Mar 9, 2020
Traveling with a baby can be daunting. Traveling on a long haul flight with a baby is even scarier. Last Christmas, we took Josh on his first long haul flight back to England to meet the rest of the family, and I will be honest, it was tough. Doable, but be mentally prepared that it will not be easy.
What to Expect
You know how once you have a baby, your life with never be the same again? Well, traveling is no exception. Say goodbye to binge-watching your favorite TV boxset or catching up on movies that you have missed in the cinema. You will be lucky if you manage to catch some sleep or watch one film from the beginning to the end.
Even if you are not a fan of airplane food, you wish you were able to enjoy it in peace. Mealtimes can be a challenge, as one of you will have to entertain the baby while the other quickly scoff down the food so your partner can eat.
What I found helpful though was, being prepared both mentally and packed for different situations.
How to prepare yourself
If you have never traveled with your little one before, how do you prepare yourself? What I found super useful was talking to other mums and reading other mummy blogs to anticipate what to expect. Of course, every baby is different, but you will get a general gist, and you know your own baby, so you can adapt what others have told you and adjust it to suit you and your baby. Here is what I found worked for us.
Travel around your baby's schedule
Now that you are a parent, your schedule is no longer dictated by you, it is dictated by your baby. So plan when you leave the house according to your babies feed time to make your life easier. If you need to go around the time your baby needs to be fed, make sure you make a bottle for the journey there. Ideally, feed and change your baby before you leave, so at least you will have a happy baby on your commute to the airport and throughout check-in.
Give yourself plenty of time before the flight
When you have a baby with you, everything takes twice as long. You are no longer just preparing for yourself, but you are preparing for your baby as well. So you need to budget time for that.
Here are the situations you need to budget the time for:
Your baby's plane ticket is attached to your ticket, so you CANNOT online check-in. So please make sure you give yourself enough time to check-in at the airport.
Poonamis (Explosive poo) before you leave the house. (You laugh, but I have experienced this quite a few times.)
Your baby is going through a growth spurt and needs extra feeds in between their regular feed times.
Loading and offloading your baby into the car.
Extra luggage because of all the baby stuff.
Make sure you have enough food
If you are a breastfeeding mum, then this is not a problem for you. All you need to remember is to make sure you are hydrated so you have enough milk.
However, if you are no longer breastfeeding, or your baby does not breastfeed well. (Like Joshua) Then make sure you bring plenty of bottles and formula with you. Remember, you need to include the time BEFORE you fly and AFTER you land because you won't be able to sterilize your bottles throughout your journey.
Remember to bring a breast pump
By the time of our UK trip, I have already stopped breastfeeding so I didn't need to bring a pump. However, on our Singapore trip, I had to bring one with me. As Joshua doesn't breastfeed well, I had to bring a pump with me. I tried to breastfeed him a few times on the flight but he just wasn't having any of it. He cried and refused to latch on, so my husband ended up just giving him a bottle, while I pump.
Bring enough diapers
The last thing you want is to be stuck on a plane without a new diaper after your little one did a poo. So I always pack more than I need. I read from another mummy blogger that she packs one for each hour, and it is not bad advice.
I know some mums will think this is OTT, but hey, I better be safe than sorry in these situations.
Bring a mixture of normal and 12-hour diapers
I found the 12-hour diapers more absorbant, and I always use them before I put Joshua to sleep at night. So if you are flying on a night flight, it is worth putting your baby in a 12-hour diaper before he/she falls sleep. Hopefully, this will keep your little one happy and sleep for longer.
Before and after the flight, I just used the normal ones, but when I changed him on the flight, we switched to the 12-hours ones. Because if he manages to sleep, I want him to sleep for longer without being woken up from a full diaper.
Note: However, if your baby is prone to diaper rashes, then this might not work for you. I will definitely try using 12-hour diapers before flying to make sure your baby is happy with them.
Bring Nappy Bags
Ok, I know this item isn't essential but it is nice to have, especially for everyone else on the plane. Nappy bags are just a good way to contain the smell of dirty diapers. If your little one did a massive stink bomb on the flight, it is nice to contain the smell so it doesn't stink up the bathroom for the rest of the flight.
This was my biggest fear when traveling with the baby. Flight delays happen, and you cannot control how long they are delayed. If you are lucky, only for half an hour, but it can be bad. (My worst was 3 hours!)
So when packing bottles and diapers, you might want to budget that in as well.
Bring a soft fabric baby carrier
THIS one is a MUST for us. Joshua loves being carried, as he is such a cuddle monster; all he wants throughout the flight was to have cuddles or be on us. He hated being in the bassinet, so we mainly used it for storage. We did manage to put him down a few times when he was passed out after we have been carrying him for a while, but he never managed to fall asleep in the bassinet himself. (Hopefully, after sleep training he would be able to. Which will be the next thing I will be working on soon.)
My husband and I had one each on us, so we can tag team and quickly put him in without having to readjust the carrier.
Get the seats with the bassinet
Ok, I know I just said I barely used the bassinet, but if you can, get the seats with the bassinet even if your baby doesn't like sleeping in it. It was very handy because I can put him down in the bassinet if I need both my hands to do something or even use it as extra storage. I put his toys, bottles, and other stuff in, so I didn't have to keep opening the overhead bin to get his stuff.
As the bassinet seats have extra legroom as well, I was able to put his diaper bag down with me after takeoff, making it easier for diaper changes and feeds.
Useful tip: Bassinet seats are very popular and there are limited bassinet seats on the plane, so call the airline to secure one once you have booked the flight.
Bring a blackout cover
I don't actually have this, but I wish I did! I saw another mum on the flight with it, and it worked wonders.
If your baby is a light sleeper, like Josh, this can be very handy. When Josh was sleeping beautifully in the bassinet, whenever the cabin lights turned on, he woke up. Or when he saw the light from the screen or the reading light from another passenger close by, he woke up. So it was a nightmare; the only way for us to stop him waking up was to wear him.
Other mum's recommendation: As I don't have one myself, but I have asked around other mamas what blackout blinds they use, and a few recommend Cozigo.
Bring enough toys
Your baby is bound to get bored when he/she is trapped on a plane for more than 4 hours. As much as ipads are great, I know some parents try to limit screen time for their babies.
So bring enough toys to entertain them, so you can rotate them after he gets bored with one.
As I didn't want to bring too many bulky items with us on the flight, I bought toys that are small and relatively compact. Here are the toys I bought with me:
His favorite books
A couple of Sensory balls
I made sure all the toys I bought were able to fit into a small bag, so it is easy to carry and store.
Note: Please be courteous to other passengers on the flight, and try not to bring toys that are too noisy. (Such as squeaky toys.) The good thing about the Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes Musical Toy is that you can adjust the volume.
Put them in a onesie sleepsuit
I made the mistake of putting Joshua in his normal going out clothes. Yes, they look cuter in photos, but when you are on a flight, you want something easy and quick to change your baby.
You also want your baby to be comfortable, so put them in their sleepwear so they can feel more relaxed, and hopefully, they can sleep more.
Bring at least one spare onesie sleepsuit
I will say bring two spare outfits. Two out of three flights, we had to change Joshua's outfit because of accidents. Thankfully I have only needed one extra so far, but the last thing you want is to be stuck on a 12-hour flight with baby in a soiled outfit.
Bring a spare outfit for yourself
If you have space, it is worth bringing a spare top for yourself. Accidents happen with babies, and I had been peed on or gotten poop on my top before. So I was very happy when I had a spare top I can change into.
Bring a swaddle cloth or sleeping bag
As Joshua doesn't sleep in a swaddle or sleeping bag anymore, I don't need this. But for babies who normally sleep in a swaddle or in a sleeping bag it is worth bringing it on the plane with you.
Babies love routine, and when they are in a new environment, they like their creature comforts to make them feel safe and secure. So if they normally sleep in a swaddle or sleeping bag, you can put them in them so they feel more comfortable.
Bring a wet bag
Even though you can ask for a plastic bag on the flight, it is best to bring your own wet bag to put dirty baby clothes in. As you never know, when you will need it.
On our flight back from England, Joshua did a big poo midway through a diaper change. My poor husband was in the bathroom, trying to clean up the poo while trying to figure out how to store all his dirty clothes. Thank god there was a wet bag in the diaper bag. Or else he would have to call for assistance from the cabin crew to get him a plastic bag.
Bring enough Wet Wipes
I will say when you are flying, bring the big pack of wet wipes and not the small ones. It is one of those situations where you rather have more than not enough.
Bring something for your baby to suck on
Whether it is a pacifier, his thumb or a bottle, bring something your baby can suck on during takeoff and landing.
Your baby will be uncomfortable during takeoff and landing because they do not know how to release the pressure from their ears. So the only way to help them is to give them something to suck on.
Note: If you are thinking of giving your baby a bottle, make sure you don't give it to them too early. I made the mistake twice of giving the bottle to Joshua too early. So he pretty much finished the bottle before takeoff and landing. So we need to get him to suck on something else during takeoff and landing instead, which was hard.
Take it in turns
If you are traveling with your partner or someone else, you guys have to play tag team. Whether it is taking turns to sleep, eat or go to the bathroom, you will just have to divide and conquer.
If you are traveling on your own... you are very brave, because I don't think I will be able to on a long haul flight.
Check-in your stroller
If you don't have those strollers that can be stored in the overhead bins, it is worth checking them in rather than taking it to the gate.
When you take your stroller with you to the gate, not only do you have to faff around with stroller at the gate, but you will have to wait for ages after you get off the plane to get it. There were times when we were pretty much the first ones off the plane, but we still have to wait around for the stroller until everyone else got off the plane, which was very annoying.
I found that every time I traveled with Joshua was slightly different, as it was at different stages of his development. The above list is what I found useful for every trip we have taken so far, and I am sure this list will develop as we travel more with Joshua.
What do you do to survive a long haul flight? Do you do the same as me? Or do you do something else? If so, I would love to know how you survive a long haul flight so we can learn from one another.
I hope you find the above tips are useful. I hope you guys have a good long haul flight with the baby, I know it isn't easy, but you can do it! If I can survive it, so can you.
Sending you love & positive thoughts,