Flying with a baby is one of those parenting milestones you never forget. Once, on a 15-hour direct flight from Singapore to San Francisco, my then one-year-old daughter slept for only one hour. I have a video of my husband during landing with deep, dark circles around his eyes, while my daughter is happily singing and smiling.
We have flown with my daughter on 82 flights so far, a handful of them with the addition of her little brother. We have learnt some tricks and hacks along the way to make our flights easier, but the truth is, there is no perfect formula.
Your last flight with your baby might have been smooth, but he might be teething on the next one, or who knows what.
I wish I had the magic answer, but I only have these seven tips that have made flying with a baby and toddler slightly more comfortable and smooth.
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We bring our car seat on the flight if it is a long-haul and/or red-eye flight. On our last 15 hour flight, our then 11-month-old son took one of his naps in the car seat and then his three-year-old sister took over to sleep for the night. I also use the car seat as a “baby chair” to feed my squirmy baby. I buckle my baby in and then tilt the car seat forward.
During one of our flights to Seoul, my daughter fell asleep in her car seat before we even boarded the plane. It was a struggle for my husband to carry the car seat with my sleeping daughter, but she stayed asleep the entire flight and did not wake up until we passed customs!
Make sure you call or e-mail your airline beforehand to confirm that your car seat is allowed. Every airline has different rules. It is good to print out or have the e-mail with permission, in case the cabin crew questions your car seat.
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Car seat cover
Planes can be overstimulating, making it harder for little ones to sleep. I love our car seat cover from Cozigo when it is time to sleep on flights. It is like a portable blackout tent that perfectly covers your car seat or even airplane bassinet. There are zippers on the sides so you can peek at your child while he sleeps.
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On long flights, we take our Jetkids Bedbox. My daughter loves riding it at the airport. I fill the bedbox with the rolled up mattress and emergency items – like extra diapers and clothes – since it is hard to take out things once the bed is set up. My toddler likes to put her feet up on the bedbox while she is playing or lay down when she is tired.
We always travel with a carrier when flying with our baby or toddler. I have written about our Ergobaby 360 before – both my children sleep super well in it. On our last long-haul flight, my son would not sleep even though it was bedtime, so my husband bounced him several times in the carrier and then he was out!
Baby-safe antibacterial wipes
I take a lot of baby-safe antibacterial wipes on flights as they effectively remove dirt and germs while still gentle to the baby’s skin. I use them to wipe the tray, armrest, and so on (my husband calls me a germaphobe, but there have been times the wipes turned black!).
I also use the wipes while changing my baby’s diapers, to wipe our hands before and after we eat, and if my kids spill their drinks on themselves.
My mum once told me that little kids do not get bad breath. This is not true; I have gotten whiffs of plenty of little kids’ breaths while I was a schoolteacher and even smelled my own kids’ morning breath.
I recently discovered these disposable toothpaste wipes that easily clean your child’s teeth – whether it is cavities or basic hygiene you are concerned about. You can wipe his teeth as he is falling asleep at his seat or right before it is time to meet and hug Grandma at the gate!
When you’re flying with a baby or toddler, it’s challenging to keep them busy. I noticed my kids stay engaged for a little longer when I bring new toys and books. I used to go to Daiso or the dollar section at Target to stock up on plane activities, books and toys until I realised I could just hide my kids’ toys and books a month or two before the flight.
It is almost like giving my kids new things to play with. My toddler is probably catching on, but it worked great on our last flight!
Ahnah Han is a Korean-American mum of two kids who used to live in Singapore and now resides in Japan. She loves to twin and travel. Check out her Instagram account to follow her adventures with her family.
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(Photos: Ahnah Han)