Before a kid, packing for travelling was always the last-minute thing. After kid it is always about a detail planning. And when you are doing anything as first timer, you are almost walking on mine field. Well, almost.
By the age of 9 months our boy, Penguin was well moved in train and cars. So, when we had to travel via air with a 5 hour hop I started prepping early.
The plan was to prepare – before travel, at airport, during flight and baggage collection. It might seem weird to so many readers here? As what the hell am I saying. If you are a parent or caregiver, chances are high that you might agree that planning for travelling with kids is no joke.
Initial Preparation before travelling
- Flight timing
Before Penguin happened, we used to check price of air tickets and book the least pricy. Typical! Well as parents now we choose one depending on time of our son’s nap. Early morning and late-night flights are big NO, when other options are available. Most single flight journey in India clocks about 2 – 3 hours. And it matched our Penguin’s nap duration. So, do little planning as you book one.
- Strategic seat location
It might sound like a board room discussion agenda on strategy. Crazy right? If you have an infant who is yet to crawl or walk? Then, you can choose any seat where child can watch other people if not asleep. If you have an always ready to move kid, avoid middle rows. Get the initial or last rows. Let the child move when not sleeping. Go for window seats. It would keep babies entertained for long watching clouds, sun, sea etc.
- Vaccination if any
If the baby is due for any vaccination. Talk with your doctor and get the shots done or if mutually agreed get appointment for one soon after return. Chalk out all related plan.
- Pack the diaper bag
I try to carry only a diaper bag and keep essentials only, no shoulder bag or tote. Travelling light is the key. So, a day before the travel I pack all in my backpack diaper bag. My basic contents were:
- Flight tickets
- Identity cards
- Wallet (loaded enough for journey)
- Diapers and wipes
- Changing mat
- Diaper rash cream
- Plastic bag/ brown paper bag for soiled diapers
- A change of clothes for baby and me
- Snacks – Penguin was breastfed during that period along with solids. So, I packed few snacks to keep him entertained and eat. Just a banana, handful puffed rice or makhana and homemade cerelac for emergency.
- Favorite books and toys.
- Water bottle for mom and sipper for baby (above 6 months).
- Nursing scarf or sling (if breastfeeding) / if formula fed, keep bottles and extra feeds / if bottle feeding pumped breastmilk keep all basics handy
- A book for mom
- Light blanket (I carry a light woollen blend stole, which serves as blanket and nursing cover)
- Ask for help
Travelling with infant is not an easy task. So, ask for help whenever needed. Especially if you travelling alone with a baby. In many Indian airports you can find attendants who can help you with luggage during scans and check-in. If you got unlucky to get one, ask anyone else.
- Wear your baby
Baby wearing is a life saviour for us. While undergoing security check or check-in, wear your baby. They would be much calm and at peace. Also, you would have the freedom to deal with luggage, fill document if any, shop last minute item. Once done with all airport work, you can easily let them explore new ground. I prefer to zip around airports efficiently.
- Tire but not exhausted
Before boarding the flight, make sure to tire out the baby. If you have a well-fed tired baby surely, they would sleep through flight. Explore the new playground. Let the kids crawl, cruise and walk. Few airports have children play area, use the facility.
- Freshen up before boarding
Just before boarding freshen the baby, change diapers, clothes if needed. Hand over a snack. It is better to use loo now if you are traveling alone. Also, changing diapers during flight is absolutely pain.
Either go first or wait till end based on child’s mood. Most Indian airlines encourage people travelling with kids to board first. If baby is still active, let the boarding for other passengers be an entertainment for him. Waved people whoever cross you. Take time to settle down. And if needed, keep few things near you before putting bag in cabin. Other way, if baby is almost tired and would retire to sleep soon, may get disturbed by people moving around etc. Board in the end but be quick keep things handy.
- Feed the baby
Breastfeed or bottle feed or give pacifier to baby on take-off and landing. Swallowing would prevent the uncomfortable ear popping.
- Stay calm
If you are lucky with all planning gone right and baby happily sleep all way, relax drink a coffee or read a book. Be prepared to face the other situation when baby refuses to sleep. Take a walk up and down the plane. Baby’s mood might change and relax. Use the packed favourite books and toys. Offer a snack to distract. But most importantly stay calm.
- Be grateful
Your co-passenger might not be prepared to travel with a baby next seat. Even sleeping babies do kick them. Babies who denied nap are another story. Say thank you to them.
- Ask for help
As pointed earlier, ask for help to pull out your bags from belt. Lifting luggage with baby in tow is tough task.
- Plan transport to reach destination
To reach your hotel or accommodation book a cab before leaving airport. You can’t look out for rickshaws or cab with luggage and baby in road. Too much stress.
Few flights might have a connecting point where you need to change flights. Generally, there is a gap of few hours before you board next flight. So, you can plan to enjoy a refreshment. Freshen up the baby again, if needed. And again, let them explore the place.
Mantra is “Plan your entire day. And breathe”. Remember to keep babies hydrated all along. You would be just fine.
After our first flight with Penguin I grew more confident and took a solo flight home few weeks later. Plan was exactly the same with more deep breathes. And it was adventure.
When did you took first flight with your baby? How was the experience? Did you enjoy your vacation after that so-long-flight-with-baby?