When you´re living abroad, away from your family, travelling and flying with a baby usually happens quite a bit earlier than you would probably normally do. If on top of that someone of your family back at home is very sick, then the baby might become the youngest frequent flyer the airline has had so far. So yes, I can say I am already a real pro in flying and travelling with a baby.
It´s always a bit challenging to fly with a baby, apart from a lot of logistical things (packing with a baby always makes sure you have a bag just for a long weekend the size of a backpack you would travel a month through Asia with) there is always the inner-stress or fear of how he will behave in the plane. Probably every parent thinks about this when boarding a plane because you just don´t want to be the one with the baby that is freaking out and crying like crazy the whole duration of the flight. You definitely also see other passengers thinking about this, you can just see the panic in their eyes that “the girl with the baby” please please please won´t come sit next to them. Honestly, can´t really blame them I probably was the same, if you´re with a hangover in a plane recovering from your last night out in Barcelona counting on a couple of hours of more sleep during the flight, and there comes the baby-lady sitting next to you with a baby who keeps touching you (or puking if you´re even less lucky), throwing things on the floor that you have to pick up and if you´re really unlucky cries his eyes out during the entire flight. Bye bye, recovery siesta.
Fortunately, during the flights so far (knock on wood now!) we were never the one bothering the other passengers, somehow another child always took on that role and not our bichin. I did always feel for that mother and noticed that I have become much more helpful than I was before, since I know how she feels I reach out much earlier to help with maybe folding the buggy or holding a bag or a baby or whatever.
Because seriously, travelling with a baby is not easy: try folding a buggy, that you probably never use because you have your fancy Bugaboo at home but that one is too big to take with you, with a baby on your arm (the older the baby gets the easier it will be to hold him with just one arm, but on the downside also the heavier),
an overflowing diaper bag dangling from your other arm, a suitcase that you also need to carry up the wobbly Ryanair stairs although your two arms are busy with baby and bag, and at the same time trying not to loose Sophie the giraffe from that overflowing diaper bag because then the flight might actually become a real nightmare.
So far the flights in the beginning were the easiest (definitely not the first flight, but after that yes), he was still quite small and would just fall asleep from the sound and the movement for almost the entire flight. Easy does it! However, the older and more mobile he gets the more challenging because now sitting on mommy´s lap for two hours it not too much fun anymore so you need to be prepared for some serious entertainment. Fortunately, the bichin is a real flirt (I might change this to “unfortunately” in 16 years) so as long he has people around him who interact he will be quite happy.
With the frequent flyer experience also come some tricks to make it the smoothest as possible, especially when you´re travelling alone with a baby:
- Make the bichin flirt with the right person, e.g. with the lady behind the check-in counter for example so she checks in your suitcase for free saving you some serious acrobatics on the Ryanair stairs
- Don´t drink anything right before the flight: at the airport you can usually go to a wheelchair toilet with the buggy, in the plane mission impossible (I did some serious studying of the changing table above the toilet but it´s physically impossible to sit on the toilet with that thing in your back and at the same time making sure the baby doesn´t roll of)
- Leave a jacket or the diaper bag on a row of free seats and as soon as the fasten seatbelt sign is switched off take a sprint to that row so he can lay down or sit in his own chair and play around (this will also make the hangover people in your original row happy).
- Usually when the plane starts the landing process the sweet Ryanair people will ask you to go back to your original seat meaning you have to break-off the whole encampment that you created on the entire row and move all that stuff again: just pretend that you´re breastfeeding and they will back off in about two milliseconds (make that one if it´s a guy)
Most importantly, and this will probably sound cheesy, try to stay relaxed no matter what, the more nervous you get the more nervous the baby will get so just take it all with a smile and hope for the best. The worst moments are when the fasten seatbelt signs are on since then you can´t move around, the rest of the flight you can always just walk up and down the aisle and annoy the flight attendants instead of your neighbor passenger. (You might even score some real points there with your fellow passengers since it will be much more difficult for the flight attendants to bother the rest of the plane constantly with selling scratch cards, electronic cigarettes, bus tickets etc., so always a win-win option)