ROOKIE DAD LESSON LEARNED #104 - Ten tips for air travel with an infant

Monday, June 2, 2014

posted by Romy (@daddontlie)

ROOKIE DAD LESSON LEARNED #104 - Ten tips for air travel with an infant

The dreaded airplane trip with a baby

Have you ever dreaded the day when you would be THAT parent with the screaming baby on a plane?

I was worried about that too.

When my wife and I were planning a family trip before she went back to work from maternity leave, our biggest hesitation was whether or not we wanted to be first-time parents with our ten month old Kyrie, flying on a plane. I pictured us sitting on a plane with a screaming baby for three hours while everyone else on the plane glared at us and filed complaints with the flight attendants. I never wanted to be that parent.


After a few weeks of deliberation between the two of us, we finally said "Screw it. Let's book this vacation, we deserve it."  We booked a seven day trip from Halifax to Orlando with four plane rides, two on the way and two on the way back. They were the obstacles we needed to overcome in order to reach our sunny destination.

I am happy to report that we made it back alive. And the good news is, we didn't have any complaints filed against us (at least, that we know of). Further, instead of walking off the plane with our heads hung low, fending off evil glares from fellow passengers, we walked off smiling and laughing as our son made friends with fellow passengers who commented on how well behaved he was.

Prior to going on the trip, we did a lot of research on the internet and asked friends/family on how to deal with the dreaded flight with an infant. Here's what I found out to be the most helpful. 

1. Book flights during nap or sleep times

Maybe the best piece of advice that we found. Kyrie is an active boy, who is just learning how to walk and he definitely doesn't like to sit still, so we booked our flights in the mid-afternoon/evening since that's when he usually has a nap or is winding down to go to bed. On his last flight home, he slept the entire way. Big time bonus.

2. Have the baby feed or snack during takeoffs and landings

Now this was a popular piece of advice that we got, since babies are unable to pop their ears on their own as the altitude increases and the pressure builds, we had him either breast feed, snack on cheerios/squeeze packs or drink from a sippy cup while we were taking off and landing. He never fussed either way. 

3. Buy a few new toys/books and wrap them up 

We wanted to treat this plane ride like it was like his first birthday. We bought a few new small quiet toys and a couple of books and we wrapped them up as presents. We used them as weapons to counteract anytime he started to get squirmy.

4. Check-in early and ensure you get good seats together

When we originally checked out our seating plan that the airline had set for us, there was one flight where we weren't sitting  remotely near each other. We freaked out a bit as we imagined taming our "wild beast" independently as others shot us glares and shook their heads. So we checked in online early and were able to snatch two seats available together. We chose seats by the window since it provided less distractions and gave a little privacy for my wife when she was breastfeeding. 

5. Use the overhead fan

This one might not be for all babies but my son was obsessed with his mobile when he was a newborn and has now been obsessed when he sees ceiling fans wherever he goes, so when he saw the overhead vent that blew air down on him....he was in lala-land for at least five minutes each flight and believe me, every minute counts on these flights.

6. Introduce your baby to any neighbouring passengers

We lucked out on a couple of flights in terms of the surrounding passengers. On the flight to Orlando, my wife walked up to the seatmate with Kyrie, and she must have gave him a sympathetic look. He replied, "It's OK, I have kids," and proceeded to introduce us to his wife and two older children. The more comfortable your baby is with the neighbouring passengers (and them with your baby), the more comfortable everyone will be, including mom and dad. 

7. Have bags ready for dirty diapers and ask if there's a change table

We didn't run into an issue with diaper changes but we were prepared. We called the airlines to find out which of our flights had change tables (not all of them do). Just make sure you have large Ziploc bags ready just in case you need to seal up a nasty one. Also, always have a extra outfit (and one for you), but you probably knew that already.

8. Empty cups are perfect toys

When we got our in-flight beverages, the empty cups served as two new toys that must have provided entertainment for at least 10 minutes.

9. In flight magazines are made for ripping apart

When times get tough, you might have to find some unconventional methods to entertain your baby. Grab that in-flight magazine and just let him rip it to shreds, page by page. Believe me, he loved it.

10. Screen time rules go out the window

We normally limit Kyrie to minimal screen exposure, but when it came to flights, we threw those rules out of the aircraft window. Our big gun was an iPad full of baby apps for him to play with as a last resort.

Overall, it seems like one of our biggest fears in taking this trip wasn't as bad as we had anticipated. And I'm learning along the way as a rookie dad that the stuff that worries you the most ends up being the least of your worries when it comes down to it. So, the next time you take a flight with an infant, give these tips a try when you're 30,000 feet in the air and nowhere to run. 

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Romy is a dad, husband and blogger based out of Halifax.  He also writes about hoops too at HipHoopJunkies.com.  For dirty diaper stories,  follow him on Twitter @DadDontLie and for hoops talk, follow @RomyAquino