How to fly with a baby on an airplane

Traveling brings out the best in me. My husband and I share the love of exploring new places and so obviously, when our son was born two years ago, we decided to continue this journey — with tiny feet this time.

While we sometimes miss the spontaneity in our travel plans, chasing our toddler in some of the most exotic locations of the world is our new interest.

But traveling with a baby is not as tough as it sounds. No, I am not lying. I can sense the anxiety as you land on this page, looking for tips for peaceful travel. But trust me, eight countries, 15 cities and 26 flights later, our two-year-old is a pro at travel.

Traveling from London to Maldives is no problem, says Spriha Srivastava — if you’re prepared.

Spriha Srivastava

I have often found myself comparing traveling with a baby with a rocket launch in terms of preparation, technique and the final send-off. One wrong move can leave you with an unhappy baby and exhausted parents. But if you get it right, it’s a beautiful and stress-free journey.

The key is advance planning, putting together a checklist and working in teams (if traveling with a partner) or asking for help from fellow passengers and airline staff when traveling alone. Let’s go over these steps.

Choosing your location

The world may be your oyster but when it comes to choosing a location, you’ve got to take into account the tiny human accompanying you. While the cobbled streets of Prague look great for a nice trek to the top of the castle, they are not quite ideal for pushing a stroller.

Beach resorts are my go-to places when it comes to traveling with my little one. There is sun, sand, water and enough activities to keep the little one engaged— and some respite for you to put your feet up and enjoy a drink. City breaks are good too. However, it depends on how old your baby is.

Beach destinations are popular holiday spots for many young families.

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For instance, when our son was four months old, we decided to be a bit brave and travel to India and then to the Maldives with him. After a series of long flights from London — with some connecting flights too — we made it, and most of our stay in the Maldives was very relaxed as he was less mobile then.

A few months later, we were in Costa Brava in Spain and spent most of our holiday trying to baby-proof our hotel room; by that time, little Aditya, our son, was crawling all over the place. A year later, in the gorgeous Atlantis resort in the Bahamas, we found ourselves even more exhausted chasing our active toddler on the beach.

While the cobbled streets of Prague look great for a nice trek to the top of the castle, they are not quite ideal for pushing a stroller.

Here’s a tip: Make the most of it when they are young and less mobile. While it may seem hard to travel with a baby, it conserves your energy for years and years of active holidays coming up.

Choosing your flights

Now that you have decided on a location, the next step is to book your flights. Now, this is a tricky one. Before kids, we booked the cheapest flight available, no matter how inconvenient the timing. I remember flying to Helsinki at 4 a.m. on a Saturday because we got a £20 ($26) return deal with Ryanair. No check-in baggage, no worries of boarding first and absolutely no tantrums to take care of until touchdown.

But life isn’t so simple anymore. Night flights are our new favorites as our baby sleeps through most long-haul journeys. The key to booking flights is knowing your baby’s schedule. For shorter journeys, afternoon flights are generally a good option if your baby naps after lunch.

The key to booking flights is knowing your baby’s schedule.

Spriha Srivastava

For instance, on our way back from India last week, our only option was a day flight. Our super-active, two-year-old toddler slept for only 1.5 hours of the nine-hour journey. The rest of the journey was spent reading, some screen time and walking up and down the aisle. He had a great time and got a lot of attention and smiles during the flight, but we (parents) promised never to travel again as we left the aircraft (only to plan another holiday soon thereafter).

A few more tips on air travel:

  • Plan in advance and book your seats so you can get a bassinet seat if traveling with a young baby, or an aisle seat if traveling with a toddler.
  • Pre-book a child meal to ease the pressure of carrying too much food.
  • Check in all luggage so you only have a stroller and a carry-on bag for baby.
  • Some air travel accessories are quite helpful, such as the inflatable pillow that you can tuck between you and the seat in front of you. Check with your airline first as some don’t allow these devices on board.
  • Don’t be shy to ask for assistance from airline crew or fellow passengers.

Create a checklist

Traveling with a baby can be quite a nightmare when it comes to packing. While you want to travel light, a part of you wants to carry every single piece of clothing and accessory that your baby owns. “Oh, what if it suddenly starts to snow in the Maldives?” and “I am sure my baby will need sunglasses in rainy and gloomy Paris.”

A checklist keeps you from packing too much or too little.

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Let’s accept it. We parents can sometimes go completely overboard, and that is why it is important to be smart about it. Create a checklist — or even better, a Google document — and share it with your partner; then keep updating it over time. Very soon, it will make the cumbersome task of packing a lot easier.

Create a checklist — or even better, a Google document — and share it with your partner; then keep updating it over time.

Here’s a little sneak peek into the first checklist we created for our India and Maldives trip.

Day of travel

You have planned, packed and are ready for the final launch. Here’s a tip — stay calm. Little humans tend to feed off our stress, so try to relax (even though you may be dead nervous inside).

The preparation for me starts the night before. My partner and I ensure that all three of us get a good night’s sleep. In trying to execute this, we finish our packing in advance, put our son to bed by 8 p.m., watch Netflix and then go to bed early so we are ready and fresh to take on the world the next morning.

On the day of travel, we divide our areas of work. My partner takes care of the logistics and luggage, getting us through the tedious tasks of checking in and security, while I ensure our son is engaged and ready to travel.

This means talking to him about going into an airplane and keeping his excitement levels up so he stays awake until we enter the aircraft. Always look for family lines when checking in and boarding, as well at security and immigration clearance. Don’t be shy about asking airport officials if you need assistance.

Children sense stress, so stay calm and remember — the flight will end at some point.

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Here are some tips on how to beat stress on the day of travel:

  • Reach the airport with enough time to get through the process with ease.
  • Grab a bite before boarding the flight as you may not get a chance to eat when meals are served.
  • Carry a range of stuff to keep baby engaged through the flight, such as snacks, books, an iPad with a number of downloaded favorite programs, art books and crayons. I also sometimes carry a new book or a wrapped toy to keep my little one excited and occupied for a bit.
  • Carry any comforter your baby loves. In our case, we carry on our baby’s pillow, and it helps him go to sleep.
  • Make friends with your fellow passengers. Although controversial, we sometimes carry tiny goody bags for passengers around us with a little note that says: “Dear fellow passenger, I am very friendly but can sometimes be a bit cranky, especially when my parents try to put me off to sleep. Here are some earplugs and some candies for a comfortable journey. Love, Aditya.” We have made some good friends this way.
  • Feed the baby during takeoff and landing.
  • Tag team when meals and drinks are being served.
  • Sleep when the baby sleeps. It is tempting to pop the headphones on and watch a movie when the baby sleeps, but you have a long day ahead of you, and it is important to get some rest.

And finally, look forward to the holiday ahead. Remember that the flight will end at some point, so make the most of what you have and enjoy the journey with your little one.

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