Have baby, will travel! For new parents the thought of giving up their love for seeing different parts of the world might be too much to bear. Some of you might brave the unknown and set off on a trip with your baby in tow – determined to get your little one accustomed to visiting far flung places.
But any frequent flyer will tell you, flying with a baby can be frustrating. Just being near a fussy baby is hard at the best of times, but in a confined space, the situation can be intolerable. And its even worse if the baby is yours. Each second your baby cries and with every temper tantrum you start to wish the skies would open up and swallow you whole.
Travel tips from a well-traveled mum
I’ve always loved travelling and have been lucky enough to travel extensively with my three little ones. I’ve come up with my top tips for travelling with a baby that every parent should know:
Avoiding a meltdown at 30,000ft is all in the timing. The most common cause of extended fussing in babies is over tiredness and over stimulation. The busy-ness and excitement of getting through check-in, delayed sleep when you board the plane, not to mention all the new sounds and smells may have your little one’s sensory system in overdrive. And as frustrating as it is, no one fights sleep more than a tired, irritable baby who is being kept awake by a novel environment. Here are a few tips to avoid this scenario:
- Let your little one sleep in the car on the way to the airport so you have a longer window period before over tiredness sets in.
- If you have the choice, book a flight that takes off just as a sleep is due so that your baby’s natural dip in alertness coincides with the white noise of the plane. It will help to lull them to sleep.
- Wear your baby in a concealed sling to decrease over stimulation as you check in and board the flight.
Travel tips for toddlers
Managing a two-year-old’s behaviour from the departure lounge to the arrivals hall is a big task! To keep your toddler happy, try to time the flight just after a sleep. In the case of a long haul flight, opt for a flight that takes off when your toddler is due for sleep.
Keep a good selection of toys and games handy to keep your toddler busy. Finally, make sure your toddler has healthy snacks to keep them occupied on the flight. This limits boredom and also prevents blood sugar dips.
Dealing with jet lag
Crossing time zones and dealing with jetlag is enough of a challenge for adults, never mind babies. Once your baby or child is in a routine, flying across time zones can cause major disturbances to sleep. This can result in poor sleep habits for the entire holiday, which is enough to ruin any parent’s relaxation time whilst away. To decrease jet lag:
- 4 days ahead of arriving in the new time zone, move bedtime 30 min closer to the new time zone each day.
- On the flight, move the bedtime an hour closer to the time zone, using a comfort object or natural calming drops to encourage your little one to fall asleep.
- When in the new time zone, keep day sleep times according to the age-appropriate awake time for your baby.
Packing a nappy/diaper bag
The essential nappy/diaper bag for traveling has the following basics:
- Nappies and wipes – enough for the journey plus two spare
- Bottle of cool boiled water – even if you are breastfeeding, a little water may come in handy
- Baby’s comfort object (dummy, doodoo blanky and favourite toy)
- Baby Sling or carrier to make travel through an airport easy
- Five age-appropriate toys which may include a book, a feely toy or play dough for toddlers, a chewy toy – especially for teething little ones, an imagination toy such as a car or doll for older babies. iPads can be really useful with toddlers too.
My final tip is to travel – don’t be afraid to follow your wanderlust. Visit loved ones and take a trip down memory lane. Children love to be with family and a trip generally means more face time with the people you love. Be calm, be as consistent as possible and most of all, have fun!