Motherhood · Travel with kids

Long haul flights with a baby

Attempting to do long haul flights with a baby might sound like the craziest idea to some people. Really though, it’s not THAT bad! Doing a long flight with a 2 year old is a lot worse and still… not THAT bad. Here is some advice based on our travels.

I have to admit we haven’t been brave enough to fly to the US; even though I would love to go visit all our friends there, it would be at least a 18 hour NON-stop flight. The bravest we’ve been is doing a 1-stop flight with a total travel time of 18 hours: 8 hour flight, 3 hour lay-over, followed by 7 hour flight.

  • Baby’s ears
    This is different for different kiddos where some won’t have any trouble and others might struggle more. Our pead suggested putting saline in Lisa’s nose since any type of congestion will enhance ear issues. For the same purpose you can use an antihistamine. Fortunately for parents, antihistamine might even make baba drowsy – not ours. Nothing seems to make her drowsy!
    Don’t get stressed if baby starts crying, it is probably their ears. Make sure you have something that they can suck on or swallow like a pacifier or bottle (which you will have with you in any case but don’t put it in the overhead for take-off). I personally find that breastfeeding on a plane is the easiest way to 1. help their ears and 2. feed on demand (more of this later).
  • Where do you sit?
    Front row seat
    If baby is small enough, the front bassinet (crib) seat is awesome and you can put baby down in one of these when they are sleeping. The downside is that you have to take them out whenever the seat belt sign goes on. The weight limit is different for different airlines but if your baby is as big as ours, you will only be able to use this up to about 10 months – 1 year. Even when they are too big for the bassinet, I still prefer the front row seat. To me it feels like there is just more space on your lap and you don’t feel so cramped. Since there is more leg space there is also more space for the toys etc.
    Extra seat
    You don’t have to pay the full fare for an infant under 2 years, which is great. This means you don’t get a seat for them. We have been lucky enough a few times to be on a more empty flight and then have the advantage of a separate seat for baby. I have to admit, it does make things easier. It’s up to you to decide whether it’s worth the extra money – in my opinion it’s not really.
    If you can’t get the front row seat or an additional seat, at least make sure you get an aisle seat. We’ve been stuck in 2 middle of the middle seats and it is not fun!
TAP airlines provided a colouring book and pencils for entertainment. Here she is 20 months old flying with my sister
  • Entertainment
    Packing toys are tricky since you want as much as possible to keep them busy with but as little as possible to carry around. According to me the best in-flight entertainment is a tablet (yes, I know, it’s bad but boy does it help) and stickers, which also takes very little space. Most kids can be entertained by sticking stickers all over and they are easy to remove. Books and colouring also worked well for us but I guess it depends on the child.
    PS don’t plan to watch a movie yourself on the in-flight entertainment… not happening mom!
Flying Amsterdam to Dubai – 12 months old
  • Enough food and milk
    This brings me back to the advantage of breastfeeding: no need to pack milk, no need to get up to heat the milk, and you don’t need 10 sterilized bottles on hand but I know this is not possible for everyone. Just like us, the dry air on the plane can make babies more thirsty, so make sure you have enough of whatever you feed your little one. Some airlines (Emirates for example) have baby food available, and all airlines will be able to give you hot water. The airport security is also lenient with their liquid rules when it comes to infant milk. In general they are also good with allowing extra baby luggage and I also enjoy the fact that you can take the pram all the way to the plane (just check these things with the specific airline to be sure).
  • Lounge access
    Having lounge access is a wonderful treat, so if there is any way you can gain access through your bank or whatever connection – do it! Apart from the free food and drinks, there is nice seating where baby can lie down and stretch.
Playing during a layover in Dubai in one of their very nice lounges
  • Additional travel companion
    This is the last, slightly obvious point. The higher the adult to kid ratio, the easier. My sister travelled with us in December, and it really helps to have an extra set of hands. On the flight it is another lap to sit on while you take turns to eat your meal.


In the lounge prior to Lisa’s first flight with my mom

Yikes, this post ended up a bit longer than I anticipated. I get a little carried away by my excitement over traveling 🙂 The most important thing is really to try and not get stressed… just try and enjoy it best you can!!