My almost six-month old is a seasoned traveller; he’s been on more flights so far than many adults across the world. And well, it hasn’t been as bad as I expected it to be, Alhamdulillah. Here was my experience travelling with an infant.
Our first trip was when he was just barely 2months old, off to my home – the beautiful Kingdom of Bahrain – where I was born, and grew up in, and where my parents still live – via British Airways, and I was travelling alone –without the husband.
There was a massive confusion at the airport, and we had to wait for ages to get it sorted, and we just barely made it through immigration. I was on the verge of just booking a ticket on one of the other airlines just to get through.
But the extensive wait meant that my bubba was exhausted and hungry and cranky by the time we finished checking in. And was already crying while in the immigration queue, and thanks to a nice security officer who saw my plight, we were put on the fast track lane. From there, it almost was like I ran for my life to get to the terminal on time. And there is no way I would have been able to do that if I had any hand baggage apart from the diaper bag.
While in the flight, take off was alright because he was awake, and I was able to feed him. We had a bassinet seat, but there was no time to set it up because it is such a short – barely 40minute journey.
On the landing though, my little man decided he wanted to sleep, and I just could not get him onto the breast; I wasn’t sure if it will affect his ears, so I …errr….even tried licking his face to wake him up (thank God no one saw it – lest they think I am total loco), but he was content being asleep.
The trip back to Doha was fairly okay, because I had my parents with me. The immigration queue at the Doha airport was massive, but we got fast tracked because my bubba was getting agitated and I asked for help.
Ayan’s next flight was Doha to London via Abu Dhabi, and back, via Etihad. This trip, for my sister’s graduation, was much more recent, just before he turned five months.
The one mistake we did was to book a night flight which was not direct, that too on one of the busiest days – the night before Eid holidays commence. Doha airport was absolutely packed, but fairly well-organized. Abu Dhabi Airport was a right mess, and we, just like the hundreds of passengers who were trying to get through the only three security check points open, were frustrated and exhausted by the time we got on the flight to London.
The problem with a broken night flight is that by the time baby is dozing off, he is woken up again to move to the next one – either get off, or get on, thus not allowing him to get rested, and in turn getting overtired and incredibly cranky.
Even once on the flight, it was a bit difficult to calm him, it took about 20minutes, and I was convinced we were the most hated passengers on the flight, but once he was calm, he slept off, and the rest of the journey was uneventful.
Our journey back was a day flight, and it was alright. No issues, no crankiness, no crying. In fact, even we were pretty relaxed and were even able to watch movies inflight.
TIPS FOR TRAVELLING WITH AN INFANT:
- DIRECT FLIGHTS: If it is an option, and not too much of a price difference, book direct. With a baby, changing flights mid-way is no fun, and I would avoid it like the plague henceforth.
- BE ORGANZED: Especially if you are travelling solo, you need to know exactly where everything is kept, and be able to reach everything without having to move the baby, or remove bags. Reach the airport a little early, just in case there are any unwanted last minute surprises.
- BOOK A BASSINET SEAT: Make sure that you cross-check this while making your booking. Even if your baby is not going to sleep in it, you will definitely be grateful for the extra space. And call the airline carrier a day or two before to confirm that you will have the bassinet. We were sure we had it, but when we arrived at the airport they said we should have cross-checked. So please do! All you lose is a few minutes on the phone call.
- ONLINE CHECK IN: Ensure that you have your boarding passes before you head to the airport, to make it quick and efficient. If the website is not allowing it, call the helpline, and let them check you in and send you the boarding pass. But definitely, check in online, you do not want to waste any time unnecessarily at the airport.
- DON’T BE HUNGRY: Ensure this is the last thing you do before leaving home. Feed yourself, and then feed the baby. To make sure that neither of you are hungry and cranky till the next meal. The next meal for you might be a long way off, and so you need to ensure you eat. And also keep some easy to eat snacks –chocolates or biscuits around.
- NO HAND BAGGAGE: Ideally, it is best to carry only the diaper bag, and try to keep the emergency supplies in there. When I travelled solo, even my laptop went into luggage – we always make it a point to cling wrap the bags at the airport, as an additional safety measure. And I didn’t even carry a handbag – money, cards etc went into my passport wallet, which went into the diaper bag.
- PASSPORT WALLET: I was never big on passport wallets till I had to travel alone with an infant. The wallet ensures that you have all the documents – passports, boarding cards, some money etc within easy reach, obviously put this in a place where you can grab and put back without much difficulty.
- A FULLY EQUIPPED DIAPER BAG: This should be the only bag you are carrying, and should be packed carefully. Extra pair of clothes for you and baby, diapers, wipes, toys, passport wallet, wallet, make up items etc. All of it goes into the diaper bag for the flight.
- BUY A BABY CARRIER: This is a must must must. Always have a baby carrier with you, whether travelling solo or with someone, you will be eternally grateful to be on hands-free mode with the baby. Whether it is handing over the passport at the immigration, or putting stuff through the security check, you need your hands, ideally both, and hence a baby carrier is an absolute necessity.
Get one which has ergonomic support for you, and the baby. I highly recommend the Ergobaby Performance Ventus for the first few months, followed by the Ergobaby 360 Four Position Carrier – Carbon Cool Air. Both are the mesh kind, and perfect for the warm climate here, in Doha.
- STROLLER: I personally prefer to check in my car seat and stroller; and to use the baby carrier while at the airport. You will anyway have to check it in at the gate otherwise (unless you have one of the cabin baggage ones – I doubt those are suitable for very young infants). If you are travelling with the baby, I believe most airlines will allow you to check it in for free, not counting it as part of your baggage allowance.
- TOYS, COMFORT BLANKIES AND OTHER DISTRACTION: Carry the rattles, and the teething toy and the teddies, and the balls, whatever distracts and entertains the baby. The more colourful it is, the better. In case bubba is awake, you will need to entertain him. And as much as I hate to say, keep some entertaining cartoons downloaded onto your mobiles or tablets. Sometimes, there might be no other way to distract them. And don’t foget to wash and pack the comfort blanky if bubba has one. Keep his favorite toy in the diaper bag for the entire duration of the trip. It will be needed at some point or the other.
- PACIFIERS: Even if your baby is not keen on the paci, please keep one or two sterilized in a ziplock bag. Or get the Milton paci sterilizer and tablets which can be used on the go. Sometimes, when you are at your wits end, either on the flight or at the destination, this can come very handy. And trust me, you do not want to forget the pacifier holder/connector thing. A pacifier that’s fallen to the ground, and a crying baby, means you’ll want to pull your hair out, and that is not what a good holiday is about.
- CLOTHES FOR THE FLIGHT: Initially I thought I’ll put on extra layers, since the flight will be cold, but then decided against it, and am glad I did. I carried his jacket in the diaper bag, along with a blanky, and used that. While we were changing planes in Abu Dhabi, I think the air conn was faulty and it was insanely hot. And there was time even on the flight before take-off, where it seemed like we were in a boiler. So definitely, don’t do too many layers, let him dress as he normally would, just carry the jacket or a blanket.
You must pack an extra set of clothes for yourself as well. You don’t want to be arriving in dirty clothes, in case there is a spit-up or poopy accident.
- ZIP LOCK BAGS: Carry them with you in all sizes. I read this somewhere and didn’t think much of it, but am I grateful that I did. From diaper blowouts, to carrying sterilized pacifiers, toys or bottles, these are a life saver. Carry as many as you can in a number of different sizes.
- BABY FIRST AID KIT AND TOILETRIES: No matter how short or long the duration of the trip, make sure you carry baby meds with you – Adol, teething gel, diaper rash cream, the thermometer, the saline spray, the nose frida, and the nail clippers. I have made a kit with these items which I now pack every time I travel. During my first trip to Bahrain, there was a day when my bubs was a little warm, but I didn’t have a thermometer handy to check. Similarly, I have a pouch with his soap, shampoo and lotion too – why keep buying at every location, and you never know if a different brand will have adverse reactions. Also take a changing mat along – disposable, if that is what you prefer. Most places have public changing rooms, but I always use my own changing mat.
- CLEAR BABY’S NOSE: This was a recent tidbit that a pediatrician shared with me. To ensure that his nasal passage is clear, and that he can breathe easily before takeoff and landing.
- FEED ON TAKE OFF AND LANDING: There are different thoughts of school stating that the air pressure may or may not irritate a baby’s ears on take off or landing; but better safe than sorry, so get the baby to suck. During take off, and landing – either breastfeed, give a bottle or pacifier.
- GET ON THE FLIGHT EITHER FIRST OR LAST: A lot of flights allow families with infants to board first, in that case, go ahead, as it will give you time to get settled before the other passengers come through. If that isn’t an option, wait till the end. While at the airport, you have a lot of area to walk around, even if it is inside the gate, as opposed to a crowded flight. So let everyone else board, and you can go last.
- BE FRIENDLY AND PATIENT: Always remember that the other passengers are fully paying customers, and a crying baby cannot be pleasant for them. Smile, apologize if need be, and you’ll see that they are a lot more understanding and willing to help.
- HAVE FUN: Travelling with a baby can be stressful, only if you let it. Plan ahead, make contingency plans, and be open-minded. Not everything may go according to plan, but most of it definitely will. Remember, a vacation is about having fun, so don’t forget to enjoy yourself.
I am off for our next trip in September, and just praying it goes well!