Lessons learned from travelling with a baby

Benoît after taking his malaria prophylaxis. Not sure how much actually got in.
Look at us, offering all this advice, as though we were experts!  A few people have asked us for tips for travelling with babies, so here goes...

1. When booking your seats on your flight, book an aisle and a window seat.   This is actually a great tip for anyone traveling as a couple, with or without a child. If the flight isn't full, people won't usually choose to sit in the middle, so very often you will wind up with an empty seat between you and your partner, where your baby can lie or sit.  Worst case scenario is that there is someone sitting in the middle seat, inc which care you just offer them whichever seat you like least (aisle or window) and you and your partner sit together.

2. If possible, book a room that has a separate living area, because if you don't, the fun ends when the lights go out for the baby's bedtime.  We've made this mistake twice now, and kicked ourselves for it.  As I am writing this, Dave and I are whispering to each other in the dark so that we don't wake the baby, who is asleep in the corner.  A balcony that you can hang out on is a close second to a separate living space.

3. Some people will say to make sure to nurse or feed while taking off and landing. We have never done this and haven't had a problem yet, but if you are having trouble with the flights, it might be worth a try. I think with the way that cabins are pressurized these days, the main reason that babies can be so fussy on flights is that their sleep schedules get so messed up and they are exhausted. So trying to make sure that they get enough sleep before/during /after has been the best approach for us, as well as feeding him when he gets hungry, rather than making him wait for takeoff.

4. Bring your carrier on the plane with you. I prefer a Baby K-tan, Dave likes the Ergo baby, either way, wearing the baby in a carrier is cozy for the baby and allows  you to use your arms and relax a little more. If your baby can sit up, some people really like bringing a neck pillow for the baby, so they can sit on your lap, lie back and relax.

5. Take the red-eye flight whenever possible - it increases the chances that your baby will sleep on the flight. The few times we have taken day flights Ben has been awake the whole time and its exhausting!

6. If possible, have one of you pre-board the flight with your carry on luggage to get everything set up while the other stays off of the plane until the last minute. The more time you can buy yourself off of the plane, the better.  Before take off seems to be when babies get the most fidgety so reducing your time on the tarmac helps.

7. Get to the airport early. This might seem like a no-brainer for a lot of people, but my motto has always been 'if you don't miss a flight a year, you spend too much time in airports'.  I pride myself on just how close I can cut it. But alas, running through the airport with a baby in tow takes way longer than it otherwise would, is way more stressful, and has made me rethink my policy. 

8. Baby meds (just in case): it might be worthwhile to bring baby tylenol (of the dye free variety so it doesn't get everywhere), or antihistamines these can sometimes be hard to find in the variety that you like when you are traveling.  Also, check well in advance what vaccines or prophylaxis your baby needs, sometimes travel clinics need to special order them and that can take some time.

9. Bring a comfortable head set or earphones. It can be hard to read with a baby in your arms, but its the perfect time to watch a movie. The movies that we saw on our last flights were the few movies that we have been able to watch in their entirety since Ben was born.

10. Bring a variety of baby clothes, swaddles, and a blanket on the flight. The temperature on planes can vary widely. The extra clothes help in case of an accident, too.

11. Bring extra diapers on the flight, in case it gets delayed (which flights in and out of NYC always seem to do)! 

12. Find out as much as you can about your flight, so you can either take advantage of the services provided or brace yourself for their absence. Our flight to Senegal (we're looking at you Delta) did not have bassinets or changing tables!

13. Finally, if you have any long car rides to take, it might be worthwhile to bring some formula ready to go in a bottle and a separate bottle of water. I say this because sometimes it can be hard to breastfeed - for example when you are stuck in traffic, and breastmilk doesn't always last that long, especially in a hot climate.  The nice thing about formula for these situations is that it can stay in powder form right up until the time when you need it, at which point you can mix in some water and its ready to go.

14. Have no shame! Do whatever it takes to make it through the flight. Here I am covered in a swaddle shushing like a crazy lady, but you know what?  It worked!
Left: Catee the friendly ghost, feeding and shushing, Right: Benoît snoozing in his carrier on our way to Barbados.

Finally, enjoy your trip!

PS: I am sure we'll update this post as time goes by, but feel free to ask any questions about our experience. Alternatively, we'd love to hear your advice...