Expat Life, Family Life, Pregnancy & Baby

Flying Alone With A Baby

July 4, 2014

Living so far from our home country it was inevitable that we would fly with Spencer at some point but I didn’t expect to be doing it on my own. I won’t lie, I was horribly nervous & kept thinking of the things that could go wrong. Would he be in a good mood? Would there be delays at the airport? Would anyone help us? Thankfully now that we have completed our journey and survived to tell the tale I can assure you that it was not as bad as it could have been. I feel a sense of achievement that I managed to do it all on my own. Hopefully this post can help some of you who are having the same doubts or are looking for guidance.


These are my tips and experiences of travelling with a baby on my own in economy class, this will obviously differ for every individual baby depending on many things like their age, mood on the day and wriggle ability.

We traveled with KLM from Aberdeen with connections in Amsterdam and Doha and then onto Muscat, Oman. Total travelling time from check in to home 15 hours – Not the worst but still challenging enough.


 

Be prepared
  • Obviously get the babies passports & visa arranged well ahead of time
  • Most airlines allow babies to travel on your seat until they are 2 years old. If you are travelling for several hours think about buying the baby their own seat so that they aren’t on your lap for the whole journey. I booked a seat for Spencer, at expense of course, but it saved so much hassle elbowing other passengers.
  • When booking your flight declare that you are travelling with an infant
  • Try and reserve a bulk head seat for you and baby so you can get the use of the baby bassinet. These are like gold dust and by no means guaranteed but always worth a try. Sadly we couldn’t do this as Spencer’s ticket was wrongly booked as an adult and couldn’t be rectified.
  • Look up luggage allowances for each person & whether prams are free to check in. 
  • If you plan to bring a car seat on board will it fit? I planned to do this with KLM but they refused as my Maxi Cosi Cabriofix wouldn’t fit. 

 

 

What to pack in the travel bag
 

There is a fine line between packing too light and missing something and packing way too much and giving yourself extra work. What will you need? Like, really.
Bring items that will have multi functions like wet wipes will clean the babies bum and the dirty tray table or a muslin cloth can mop up spills and be a blanket or nursing cover.

Below are some things to think of to put in your travel bag:

  • Babies medical records
  • Passports
  • Babies birth certificate. I didn’t bring this but a lot of websites recommend it?
  • Enough Nappies/Diapers and a few extra just incase of blow outs
  • Wet wipes
  • Muslin cloths
  • Bib. Personally I don’t use them much.
  • Back up outfit for baby, something small like a onesie that doesn’t take up much room
  • Extra tshirt or vest for yourself incase of puke, pee or mega drool
  • If formula feeding then you need your formula along with clean bottles
  • Dummy/Pacifier – bring a spare one also incase one goes rolling down the aisle.
  • Ziplock bag with all liquids together. Liquids would be things like Calpol, Bonjela, Puree pouches.
  • iPad/iPhone with pre-loaded apps or videos for easy entertainment
  • Toys & book for baby. I had 3 toys – one visual, one teether and one soother teddy.
  • Medicine for pain relief incase the pressure in the babies ears is really hurting them. Try infant Calpol or Panadol baby.
  • Bring snacks in your bag for yourself and baby. No more easy Starbucks stops on your own, you have a baby now.
 
 
Here is what I did… Spencer is on a special formula as he has allergies so I had to ensure that I had enough to last us incase of delays. I used small, plastic tubs from the home section at the supermarket and measured out a certain amount of powder into each tub so on the plane I only had to ask the flight attendant to fill the bottle to a certain level for me using her bottled water. Some mums are hugely against using bottled water for babies due to sodium content but that is your call.

 

 


 
What to wear


It sounds stupid and vain to plan what you are going to wear but you want to be practical and not cause yourself any more stress than you need to.


Everyone knows that the temperature on planes is never consistent -it is either too hot or too cold – so try wearing layers so you can add or remove when required. Remember that having your Bub on your knee will act as a human hot water bottle.

If you are nursing then you need to get that boob out quickly and discreetly, try scarves that are light and practical and can also help cover up leakages and spit up. 

To me, the footwear is important and I would always avoid heels as proper balance is important whilst juggling a wriggling baby, bags, pram/stroller and possibly running for a connecting flight. Slip on shoes are best for ease at security, no faffing with laces.

Avoid belts and jewelery that is likely to set off the airport scanner – a frisk down will only stress you out more as someone has to hold the baby for you whilst you are patted down.

 

 

 

In the airport
 

Arrive in plenty of time!! Airports can be big complicated places with stairs, escalators, lifts that you need to think of when maneuvering a pram or a baby strapped to your body. Plenty of time will help you not to get too flustered.

Now the big debate – To push or to carry? The baby wearing community rave about the ease of popping your kid straight into the  carrier or sling where others are adamant that they don’t want to carry the weight of the baby the whole time and insist on a pram – I couldn’t decide between pram or carrier so I used them both. Using both is probably not ideal for everyone but it worked for me. Most airports will allow you to take the pram right to the gate and may arrange for it to be returned to you for use in your connecting airports, ask at check in as this is very handy during a longer airport connection.


For me, going through the security search was the most stressful part of the airport. You are more than likely going to have liquids and a full bag that someone will want to search. It’s just sods law. Don’t be bullied by the people queuing behind you rolling their eyes and tutting – it’s going to take as long as it takes. Your sleeping tot will have to come out of the stroller or carrier to be searched even if they are asleep. Not ideal.

Know exactly what liquids, gels, medicines that you are carrying in your bag so you can take it all out for the security search. If they find something that you didn’t declare your bag is gonna be rummaged through ruining your organisation **sigh*** I took my own large zip lock sandwich bag and pre-packed all liquids in one place so it was as simple as pulling out one zip lock bag and one bottle of milk. Voila!

If you are travelling with your car seat then it will also have to go through the X-Ray machine, probably upside down so the fabric will touching the conveyor belt. My car seat came through the other end filthy with dirt. I tried to complain but it fell on deaf ears.


Going to toilet in the airport can be tricky with a baby in a pram as it doesn’t fit in the cubicles and the disabled toilets seems to constantly be in use. At one point I had to go with the baby still attached to me in his carrier and a stranger keeping watch on the pram for me – not ideal but what else can you do? Make sure that you have a travel change mat or a muslin cloth that you can pop down on the floor of a quiet corner in the airport to do a quick nappy change – for the baby, not yourself – instead of hunting down a quieter toilet or baby change station. I gave Spencer a swift change at the gate before boarding.

 


I’m not going to sugar coat this – some people are bloody rude! Only one single person offered to help me during the whole trip while the rest just looked on. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, if not you will be left struggling alone.

At the gate in Amsterdam I was not offered a seat once despite holding the baby, pram, car seat and bag which was very frustrating. However my arrival in Muscat really took the biscuit – as we tried to get on the bus to the terminal three men physically pushed onfront of me (whilst I had the baby strapped to my chest) to get the last standing spaces on the bus. Well, after all those hours on a plane alone with a baby I lost my temper and shouted at them onfront of the whole bus. I would never normally do that but the rage built up that they were quite prepared to shove me out the way so they could get off the hot tarmac and leave a small baby waiting for the next shuttle bus. Not on my watch, Buster! They were completely shocked that the white girl would speak to them in that way and in their shock they all stood back and let us on. Well just about everyone stood back, they didn’t want to be shouted at either. I don’t even feel guilty because they were quite prepared for a baby to wait in 40 degree heat whilst they got air conditioning.

Try cuddling your baby close and covering their ears from the loud noises

Onboard the plane


Say hello to the flight attendant and introduce them to your baby – especially if you’re traveling alone. They just may end up being your best ally. They can fetch you extra blankets, heat the water for the bottle and possibly even get you a better seat. You need them on your team!

Double check that you have everything you’d need for the baby at your feet to grab quickly and when you are finished can pop it right back in the bag.

Have you ever noticed that you are seated next to a baby and thought “oh no, they better not cry”. Shamefully I have and now the tables have turned – I am that flustered mother! When your baby cries try to soothe them, don’t let your kid kick the seat onfront of them and be generally a bit considerate and your fellow passengers will make your life a lot easier. 

During take off it helps for the baby to have a drink whether its straight from the boob or a bottle, even their dummy/pacifier, as the swallowing will help to ease the pressure in their ears. 

The taxiing to the run way can take a long time (like 20 minutes in Amsterdam) so I saved Spencer’s bottle until I knew we were really about to take off to make sure that he was definitely hungry and would drink it up. Cuddling him close and covering his ears from the noise soothed him. Anything is worth a try!




As the meal was served on the plane I had to put it aside and wait until Spencer was calm enough to sleep to save him grabbing everything. If you ask nicely, the flight attendant can possibly keep your food reserved until later but I was hopeful and just had it waiting on the tray table. By the time I was able to eat the food was cold but I was so thankful just to have some peace to eat and both my hands free.

Have you ever noticed that you get more thirsty on the plane? Well babies do too so expect them to drink a bit more than usual as their bodies try to re hydrate. It is worth considering if packing formula to take with you.


On a long flight changing a nappy is inevitable but its not as bad as I had envisaged. You may not have noticed before but right enough in those tiny cubicles there is a pull down table top above the toilet. Okay It’s not luxury or padded for comfort but it is better than opening that poop filled nappy in the cabin. Don’t be that defiant person who proclaims “we all do it”. Ew.


Something I hadn’t even considered was what happens when I need to use the toilet on the plane. Let me embarrass myself so you don’t have to…You can press the button to call flight attendant who will watch the baby whilst you go to the toilet. I wish that I had known that before I waited until he was sound asleep and then wedged him in with pillows and belted him into the seat. Oh how we laughed.

Just to summerize this hugely long post, As long as you are trying your best for yourself and your baby and trying to be a little considerate to other passengers you will do brilliantly. Remember to stay calm, babies can smell your fear and feed off of your anxiety.

 

Do you have any tips for travelling with an infant? Even if it is a stiff drink I won’t judge you 😉

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2 Comments

  • Reply Anonymous August 4, 2014 at 2:07 PM

    Thank you for sharing your experience. Now we know what it is like traveling with an infant. I salute you for doing this on your own.

    Stan

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