We have just recently returned from a 2-week holiday in Malaysia. Before the holidays, part of me was really excited in getting the chance to meet family and old friends after 2 years but part of me was also very nervous about the 8-hour plus flight back. For the first time, we will be bringing our almost 1.5 yr old son Little J on board. Being the super active, enthusiastic and stubborn child that he is, I was really worried about his behaviour during the flight. Will he sleep? Will he scream the whole plane down? Will he be running up and down the plane? I worried about the flight so much I was almost missing out on the experience, the adventure and the joy of a child going on his first flight! Luckily, just before I realised it a little too late, I told myself, it’s just 8 hours! In the grand scheme of things, that’s not a big deal at all. Instead, I reminded myself that it was my son’s first flying experience, I would be excited, overjoyed and curious if I were on my first flight too!
All things considered, I think we had a pretty good flight experience overall! We survived the 8+hours to and fro Sydney-KL, with Little J causing no dramas at all! Our flight from Sydney was at 10pm and he fell asleep a little while after the plane took off and continued sleeping right through deplaning, customs, luggage collection, right to the car park! He only woke up when we transferred him to the car seat! And coming back, we had an 11.35pm flight. He fell asleep when the plane was taxiing and woke up about half an hour before it landed (when I transferred him out of the cot for landing). So I think it worked out really well because then he actually managed to experience the plane taking off (during SYD-KUL flight) and plane landing (during KUL-SYD flight). The gentleman sitting next to me on the returning flight even told me what a good baby he was for sleeping almost the entire way of the flight, and even made sure to bid farewell before he left the plane.
Now I’m sure I don’t fly enough with a toddler to claim that I know the best way to do it, plus every kid is different. But I’d sure like to document down the 5 tips that I thought were useful for us during both flights and hope that they would be useful to you somewhat, some day.
1. Book a night flight
If possible, book a night flight. I’ve got opposing opinions on this but for me, the night flight really worked. Try not to let your baby sleep/nap before the flight, so that he’s tired enough to doze off during the flight. Also, the baby’s circadian rhythm or body clock would make sure that he’s sleepy when it is night time. It helps if you have a good sleep routine that you always follow (see point 4).
2. Bring a travel stroller/pram
We decided against this at first because with all the big luggage and a car seat that we’re bringing home, the last thing we wanted was another piece of big luggage to lug around! But we ended up bringing a travel pram anyway and it was the best decision! Imagine going through customs or luggage checks carrying a baby in your arms. It will be difficult just to search for that all-important passport or the boarding pass that’s somewhere in your bag which is held by your only free hand. Also, there’s going to be a minimum of 2-hour wait from checking in to boarding so you’ll thank yourself for having that pram to help you out. Plus almost all airlines offer free allowance for the pram anyway so why not make full use of it?
3. Book/Pay for the bassinet!
Again, something that we debated for quite a while, only applicable if you’re booking no-frills airline. For full-cost airline, it’s a no-brainer to book the bassinet seats of course, since they are free of charge. Firstly, you get the extra legroom that allows you to stretch your legs when you’re too tired carrying the baby to sleep. Secondly, you get the bassinet that you could let your baby to sleep in, even though he only sleeps in it for short periods of time. That gives you at least some time to go to the wash room or have your in-flight meals without having to worry about carrying the baby in or waking the baby up in case he’s sleeping. And thirdly, in case he sleeps in your arms, you don’t have to worry about the seat in front reclining and cramping you even more than you already are.
As I mentioned earlier, we hesitated with the purchasing of bassinet seats for our no-frills/low-cost carrier (AirAsia) flight back from KL. The main thing that was deterring us was the cost really, which was around RM120 per person! In the end, we paid for it anyway and boy, were we glad we did! Little J fell asleep on my arms when the plane was taxiing, then when the bassinet was setup after take off, I transferred him into the bassinet. He continued sleeping in there through the whole flight, with occasional stirring but went back to sleep with patting. The only thing I didn’t like was whenever there’s turbulence, I would have to take him out of the bassinet to strap him to me. I know it’s for safety reasons but I really hate to transfer him/wake him up unnecessarily when he’s sleeping so soundly. Otherwise, the bassinet allowed me to dine in peace and to go to the toilet as well. I was so glad that he could still fit in it (just!) even though he’s actually longer than the bassinet itself.
4. Sleeping routine
Try as much as possible to stick to your baby’s sleeping routine. Does he have a bottle of milk before sleep? Does he wear a sleeping bag? Does he have a favourite blanket, toy? Does he use a dummy? Make sure you have everything that he usually uses on hand, so that he knows it’s bed time. For me, I made sure that Little J had his bottle before bed time, because that’s what he usually has at home. So I brought with me a small thermos mug with hot water, his milk bottle and a packet of cow’s milk and warmed the milk up before his bed time. Of course if you’re breastfeeding, that’s even easier since you don’t need to worry about packing all these stuff! I also dressed him like how I would dress him to sleep at home then sang him lullabies and patted him until he slept. It’s all about familiarity. If you do the things that you usually do when he goes to sleep, he will get the message.
5. Plenty of water
Last but not least, make sure you prepare a bottle of boiled water for your baby (once they are old enough). The air inside the plane is very dry, so it’s good to always keep your baby hydrated. It’s also good to let them suck on the water bottle during take off and landing to help them equalize their ear pressure. So it’s a win-win situation!
There you have it! My 5 tips for travelling with a baby. Again, every baby is different so what worked for me might not work for you, but I sure hope that you try to enjoy your flight regardless! Have a safe flight!