As a wanderlust-turned-new-mother, I had to come to terms with the responsibility of motherhood and constant appetite for travel. ‘The world is your oyster’, they say–but what happens when you have to share that oyster with your little version?
Having your baby travel can touch a nerve to some. ‘He’ll hate travel when he grows up with all those tiring trips’, ‘he’ll get sick and you’ll regret it’, ‘he won’t remember much of it’, etc. These sentiments do come from others who really care. In retrospect, I am not trying to raise a global nomad of sorts; I just want him to spend as much time with me as possible, to nurture the same passions—in travel, art, history, cultures, languages, the world.
Make the world their extended classroom, and nourish their love for travel while young. When I found out that Caleb has the same restless temperament, I knew we were going to be T.B.F.s (true best friends / travel buddies forever!). Travel will make him a confident decision maker, adventurous eater, multi-linguist, culture connoisseur—or not. (I will come back to you in a couple years time to confirm).
Thankfully nowadays for motherhood and traveling, you don’t need to choose one over the other, or sacrifice one for another. Travel is made more easy and accessible for the little ones. But I can’t lie and say traveling with a baby is easy, but it’s not impossible either. You need to be physically and mentally prepared to be airborne with a baby. Here are 7 things you need to know with baby air travel firsthand.
1. Stating the obvious: babies and planes don’t go too well together.
A long-haul flight with a baby can be an ordeal. Take it from someone who’s been on a 14-hour flight with her 11-month-old. Airports are very stressful environments, and babies aren’t geared towards sitting for hours on a cramped airline seat. On top of that, airline passengers are not the most tolerant kind when it comes to crying babies.
To be fair, most of Caleb’s flying experience has been positive. He’s flown 10 times and mostly slept through it all. Still, a few set strategies can help make your flight experience more pleasurable.
First things first, forget about getting some rest or in-flight entertainment on air, else you might get a little disappointed.
2. Bring necessary documents.
Nowadays, even a newborn requires necessary travel documents such as passport and visa to travel around. At any time during check-in or immigration, personnel may ask for your child’s NSO birth certificate to prove parentage or legal guardianship.
Minors traveling abroad without their parents, even if they are traveling with relatives or older siblings, need to secure a DSWD Travel Clearance. In the Philippines, individuals under the age of 18 are considered minors.
3. Tire him out before the flight.
Before your flight, tire him out at the airport. Have him people-watch, run around, do activities—seriously, don’t tell him to behave! Better to get that toddler energy ball completely exhausted so he can sleep soundly later on the entire flight.
On long haul flights, stopovers serve as a good break for you and your kid to stretch your legs, change clothes and exhaust that tiny energy ball again.
4. Pack well and strategically.
Upon having Caleb, I quickly learned that he’s taken over my luggage space (little travelers need a surprising amount of stuff!). Try to pack lightly and organize well. On our flight from Hong Kong at 5 months old, and we were sat at my favorite spot; the window seat. But my pleasure turned to horror when I had to annoy my neighbor quite a few times to get some things in the diaper bag throughout the flight. I made sure we get the aisle seat at all times after that.
Dress him in clothes that make for quick-and-easy nappy changes. A onesie and pajamas are always convenient, wherein you don’t need to take his clothes and shoes off for a change.
5. Bring in the necessary entertainment.
No shaming on using technology, but a tablet with his favorite apps and videos will keep a toddler distracted for the time being. Babies might not have the attention span to appreciate technology for an extended time, so pack in a few portable toys in his diaper bag. Don’t take them all out at once–introduce a new toy until the novelty fades and he’s ready for a new one.
If you don’t want to pack too many things, don’t worry. The plane has plenty of stuff that Caleb found entertaining as well—the seatbelt, headphones, inflight magazines, and the cute flight attendant who would make funny faces with him.
6. Avoid ear pressure.
Ear pressure can cause unbearable pain for babies and children. Reduce ear pressure by having him nurse, suck a pacifier or drink from a bottle during takeoff or landing.
7. Be polite to the neighbors.
Your infant can’t apologize for his actions, but you can. A crying baby is understandable, but an indifferent parent who act like nothing’s wrong, a parent who looks the other way while his kid is kicking at your seat. Be the polite parent and at least smile apologetically and say sorry.