Air travel with a baby: brace yourself

Hector is now seven months and he’s been on a few trips abroad. I’d like to say flying with a baby has got easier each time but as he’s got older (and louder) he’s presented me with new challenges.

The following advice is written in the aftermath of a 1.5 hour screamathon on a Ryan Air flight from London Stansted to Marseille. I was on my own. I spilt Hector’s lunch all over the floor; he got so angry that he couldn’t breath and pulled out most of my hair. The people around us initially felt sorry for me, but 20 minutes into the tantrum, they were considering social services. The whole experience was hellish. As I knock back my first (enormous) glass of wine here in France, here are a few tips to help others crazy enough to travel solo with a baby.

1. Forget any notion of keeping to whatever routine your baby is in. It will only stress you (and baby) out.

2. Allow plenty of time, even if it means getting up ridiculously early. Your baby will make up for the lack of sleep later on in the day, which can be a major advantage. You can sleep when you’re dead.

3. Keep passports and boarding passes in an easy-to-access-with-one-hand pocket or compartment of your bag.

4. Most airlines allow you to push your buggy or pram up to the aeroplane door. I’ve always taken my prambase and car seat (hire care companies are notoriously rubbish about car seats) but when I travelled on my own I took my Baby Bjorn carrier too, which proved invaluable as Ryan Air don’t deliver the buggy back to the plane door on landing, leaving you to carry your baby all the way to baggage reclaim.

5. Don’t even contemplate taking anything fun or entertaining for you in your carry on bag as there will be so much baby stuff and you won’t have a second to look at it anyway. For Hector at seven months I packed bottles, formula (more on permitted quantities below) Calpol sachets, spare nappies, wipes, a change of clothes (which was needed), a bib, food, soft toy, and dummy (I hate dummies but I’d seriously recommend you take one, even if your child doesn’t have one, for take off and landing). When I travelled with Hector at four months I needed more bottles, and my breast pump. You need a big bag, but don’t whatever you do buy one that’s bigger than the permitted carry on size.

6. The liquids rule when flying is less strict for babies. Check with your particular airline but in my experience you can take on as much formula, water for mixing up dry formula (so long as it’s in a baby bottle), and liquid food such as Ella’s Kitchen as you need. You will most likely be required to taste it though! Take food that is easy to feed in a cramped space (i.e.not pasta stars like I did!).

7. If in doubt, feed your baby. It sounds obvious but babies get hungry at odd times when travelling. If your baby is like mine and will only drink warm milk, get it heated up by staff at Pret or Starbucks before boarding the flight, as Ryan Air stipulates in its terms and conditions that staff on board won’t heat up bottles. Don’t forget to feed yourself too.

8. On the flight your baby will have to be strapped on to your lap for take off and landing. Hopefully he or she will nod off to sleep in this position but if there is an episode of screaming don’t fret, simply visualize the passangers around you when they were babies and remember that screaming always sounds worse to a mother.

9. Make sure your baby is sucking a dummy or bottle during take-off and landing to aid the popping-ear-sensation.

10. Enjoy the adventure! It’s liberating to be travelling with your baby. Just make sure there’s a large glass of wine waiting for you the other end. Santé.

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