International travel with small children immediately conjures up visions of despair for anyone with or without children, until you actually do it and realise it’s just not that big a deal. In three parts, I am providing a detailed description of how we travel to help you think about your own family’s needs and how to best appease your tiny travellers. I hope it helps you make your next trip a little more enjoyable.
Packing for the flight:
- Extra set of clothes for you and them – I see this on all the lists. Although I haven’t yet had to use it, it would only take a small incident for it to be worth its weight in gold.
- Layers of clothes for you and them – babies are warm when they are pressed up against you. When I was breastfeeding, I liked to wear a nursing tank with a flyaway sweater or a stretchy strappy jersey dress with a soft spandex bra underneath for accessibility. The baby wears a short sleeved bodysuit with Babylegs (super cute baby legwarmers) and socks to keep her comfortable and make nappy changes in that crazy small toilet cubicle less of a hassle.
- Diapers – some places say 1 per hour. Whoa. On a 17 hr flight that just isn’t necessary. That being said better to over pack than under. It’s also handy to have a few once you touch down in your suitcase so you don’t have to stop late at night or drive around on the public holiday you are enjoying to find an open shop. I also bring a cloth diaper cover (some of you might have reusable swim diapers) to put over the disposable and boost my confidence.
- Wipes – you really cannot have too many. A 40 pack in those plastic bag cases works for me.
- Food – if your baby is eating solids there is a whole other dimension to packing. You can take as much as you like according to regulations, just pack it separately in a clear plastic bag and be ready to set it on the security conveyor separately. I’ve been giving her finger foods from the beginning, but who knows what my options will be like on the plane and when those meals will be provided, so I bring everything myself. Those puree pouches are perfect and she loves them. Teach your child to suck straight out of them and you won’t even need a spoon. I bring 2 pouches per meal and usually have leftovers. I also those Organic Puffs or Cheerios to feed to her one at a time for entertainment. The bread roll that comes with your meal is also a perennial favourite of hers. I bring a truly non-spill sippy cup for water and get refills from the flight attendants. And as I’m sure you know, offer your breast, a dummy, a sippy cup, or a lolly at take-off and landing to help your child equalise pressure. As Wave is now onto Soy Milk (lactose intolerant) we bring a carton of the long life milk with us on long flights too. Cow’s milk is also available in long life, so you only have to arrange to refrigerate it on board after you’ve opened it. Write your child’s name on it and your seat number before giving it to the attendant. Wave has always used an art smock as a bib since it covers her completely, but make sure you bring a sufficient bib to keep you and her clean during mealtime in very close quarters, otherwise you may need that change of clothes right away.
- Toys – I think less is more in this department. We bring her favourite one (the ubiquitous Sophie) attached to a toy leash made out of a shoe string so I don’t have to continually pick it up, collect drink cups on board to stack and tap, and quietly sing songs with finger movements (think Eensy Weensie Spider). Also one of her favourite small books with flip up windows keep her busy. With an older child some surprise toys could be helpful, but with mine so far, familiarity is what she craves.
- Wetbag – I have several of these from cloth nappy usage, but I encourage everyone to have one. They are useful for everything and even when I am not travelling with the baby I bring it along. An A4 sized one can hold your spare clothes, baby food and drink so it definitely can’t spill in your bag, hold messy clothes at your destination, hold dirty nappies so you can’t smell them in the car until you find a bin, hold your wet swimmers until you get to the washer….
- Pram – Take all the extra bits and bobs you have strapped to the pram off to make it easier to fold up and get through security. As much as I love my Sakura Bloom Ring sling and Beco Butterfly II carrier, unless I know I will not be going out for dinner or will definitely have a babysitter, I have to take the pram so she can sleep out on the go. If you will be travelling alone, take a carrier too for the times when she needs to be carried and you have no spare arms. It can avert a meltdown.
- Misc – on a long flight with a young baby I brought a muslin cloth (Aden & Anais) to use as a playmat, seat cover, nursing cover, and sleep shade for the bassinet by taping it up to the wall. (Bring a small amount of Duck tape wrapped around a pen, a roll will get confiscated at security). Now that she is older I just bring a pashmina and an Ipad/Iphone loaded up with tv programs and games that keep her occupied if there isn’t an in-flight screen. Thermometer (for knowing if there is really a problem), Saline nasal spray (to help equalise ears when she gets an ear infection right before your flight home), Children’s Panadol (for fever), Children’s Benadryl (for anything that looks like an allergic reaction) – there is nothing scarier that your child breaking out in hives and vomiting on the second hour of a 16 hr flight (she ended up being fine.)
In the next section I’ll share how to get through check-in to boarding the flight and how we deal with jet lag.