After spending most of my twenties traveling solo from one continent to the next, it was easy to believe this would be my life forever. But one by one, friends started to settle down, and the pattering of tiny feet arrived. It made me think, why does travel have to stop just because I decide to start a family? More importantly, why should solo travel stop when I start bringing tiny humans into the world? But, understandably, many parents are reluctant to travel with a new baby. I can understand being intimidated by the prospect of changing my entire routine when I’ve barely got the little one into a steady sleeping pattern.
With so many risks, I can understand why parents are concerned about safety, comfort, baby’s mood swings, and even illness. But it becomes easy to forget about all the amazing experiences I could be giving my young family by exposing them to new cultures, sights, and flavors.
Rather than being daunted by the thought of traveling with a young family, I should be looking at it the way I plan any trip. After all, successful travel just comes down to good planning and a lot of patience – surely qualities that good parenting also requires? While it can be terrifying to think of coping with a small baby and no extra set of hands to hold on to them while I pop to the loo; buckle my seat belt or lug suitcases around. These worries are normal, but instead of letting them scare me, I’ll use them to help me plan the perfect first trip with my baby.
Just like planning any little adventure with a baby, whether it's to the park or the supermarket, it takes planning. So with the help of female adventurers around the globe, I’ve put together a list of the top tips for flying solo with a baby, to help make your life easier. It doesn’t matter whether I’m planning to fly across the world or take a short trip on the bus, these tips will make me feel at ease the when I travel solo with a baby.
1. Lists, lists, and more lists. I swear by lists for everything, organizing the tickets and booking the hotel, to packing and planning an itinerary. Writing everything down makes it seem so much more manageable and ensures I won’t forget anything important.
2. I always focus on making travel the least stressful experience. Booking mid-week flights can really help by making the experience quieter, less busy and a lot less crowded. Avoid rush hour and weekends to beat the crowds.
3. Booking a seat in the last row will give you easy access to the changing facilities and the toilets which could be a lifesaver for a new parent. I’ve also found that these rows are often the last to fill up, so you may get lucky and have a free seat to give you and the little one more space.
4. Book next to an empty seat. For those times when I really need some extra space, I’ll book a seat next to an empty spot. Or, when boarding the flight, I’ll ask if there are any empty seats I could move to so the baby can sleep.
5. For youngsters that are big enough to sit up and play, I’ll book a bulkhead seat for a bit of extra space when flying long-haul, giving both the baby and me a chance to stretch out.
6. I never leave home without sanitizers and antibacterial wipes, they’re lifesavers when traveling and even more so when traveling with a baby. From changing nappies to cleaning meal trays, it’s important to keep the germs at bay.
7. One money-saving plus of traveling with an infant is not having to book them a separate seat. But if I can afford it, I would always book a separate seat for my baby for the extra convenience.
8. I always try to make the most of my travel time, but with a baby, this is even more important. Perhaps this means booking a hotel at the airport the night before your flight to keep your sleep schedule on track or giving yourself a few hours between flights to relax and breathe.
9. Packing ahead of time always helps me to plan what I will need during the trip, and what I don't want to carry. This is even more important when thinking about how many nappies, bottles, and clothing changes your baby might go through.
10. Zip-lock bags can be a savior, from using them to store snacks for baby and me, to filling them with any dirty clothes and wipes. Don't leave home without them.
11. If I'm going on a longer trip and know I have a lot to carry, it could even be a good idea to have some items shipped ahead to save extra luggage and to ensure I have backup items there waiting in case a suitcase doesn't arrive.
12. I always stick to the essentials when packing and keep it light. Even more so with a baby so you can keep your arms free and focus your attention on the little one.
13. Making space for emergency medicines can be a lifesaver if the baby gets needs one during the flight. Better safe than sorry.
14. When it comes to nappies, no-one wants to be overloaded by excess baggage so be realistic about how many are needed, perhaps just four for an in-country flight, with a fresh change right before boarding.
15. Just as I never leave home without snacks and drinks for myself, I know it would be foolish to leave the house without preparing some for baby. Baby food might not always be available to buy, so I like to make sure I come prepared.
16. Bring baby’s birth certificate, passport, and permission from the other parent while traveling in case you might need them. Every country has different regulations, and you don't want to get into any trouble and slow down your journey.
17. For shorter flights, it may be fine to have the baby on your lap, but for longer-haul trips, I think I would much prefer to take advantage of the bassinets offered by international airlines. The bulkhead seats have a fold-down bench to which a bassinet or cradle can be attached, making travel much more comfortable.
18. It's not always practical to walk around carrying both baby and multiple bags. If I were traveling solo for the first time with a baby, I think I would definitely appreciate a stroller to help with making it across the airport. Even better, these are not counted as bags in the aircraft.
19. Don’t ignore kindness. If someone offers me help, I'll always say yes whether I'm traveling alone or with a baby, it can always help make the journey less stressful.
20. Just like mum, baby likes to be comfy when traveling so while I may don my leggings and comfy top, the baby will want to be ready for sleep. Dressing your baby in layers means it's easy to peel them off and leave the baby to sleep in a onesie when they are tired.
21. If in doubt, always call the airline before traveling to ask about their baby facilities.
22. Breastfeeding? If I want some privacy, I'll try my best to book a window seat, or even ask the flight attendants if there is a couple of empty seats I can move to.
23. Why not ask someone to drive you to the airport or take a taxi, the driver can deal with the stress of the journey while you relax and prepare for the day of traveling.
24. By passing on the responsibility of driving to the airport, it means I can focus on keeping baby awake while going to the airport which means he/she is more likely to sleep during the flight!
25. Check-in online. Avoiding the long queue at the airport by checking in online. It saves you from the stress of standing the busy queue with your baby.
26. Beat the queues by getting to the boarding gate early. I'm aware everything takes a bit longer when you are solo looking after a baby, so plan it into your time at the airport and give yourself more time to get to the gate.
27. I always forget this one but it's not just the parents who get a boarding ticket, the baby will too. So make sure you hold on to it!
28. Waiting in a big queue to board can be so frustrating, and I imagine 10x worse when you have a small baby to entertain. If you go to the extra assistance group, you will be allowed to board first. Watch out for special family lines at security and customs to speed things up!
29. Not just for those traveling with children, always use the restroom before you board the plane! In-flight toilets are always cramped and unpleasant, imagine how much harder this would be with a baby strapped to you!
30. I always make sure to wear comfortable clothes when traveling but make sure you think about baby's practical clothing. If you're breastfeeding choose tops/bras with easy access, pick soft clothing for comfort and make sure your choices make it easy to go to the toilet while having the baby strapped to you.
31. Don't forget to look after yourself - drink plenty of water and eat light before and during the flight to avoid getting sick. It's important to be in your best form so you can take care of your little one.
32. Just like I never travel without music and a good book, your kid needs comfort and entertainment. Always pack a few of their favorite toys to help keep them calm and happy during the flight.
33. Also, save yourself time and hassle by dressing security smart - don't wear lots of jewelry and a belt/shoes you may have to remove. Keep it simple for you and baby, and you will fly through security with ease.
34. If in doubt, I always ask the staff for helpful tips. After all, it's their job to know which bathrooms have changing facilities and I'm sure they'll be happy to help.
35. I can imagine it's been an exhausting day, so don't hesitate to ask for help. If transferring between flights or making your way across the airport, why not make use of the airport go-carts?
36. Noise-canceling headphones are a lifesaver for adults who are trying to sleep, but why not put them on your baby so they can sleep without being disturbed by every in-flight announcement?
37. For youngsters who show distress when their ears start popping, offer them some liquid to swallow which will help to reduce their pain.
38. I know that breastfeeding in public can be hard for some women. But remember while it might be awkward at first, it is also the best way to calm a crying, hungry baby.
39. If you do need the bathroom during the flight, you can always ask the flight attendants for help. Don't be afraid to ask for help!
40. A crying baby can be stressful, and in an enclosed space, they may attract dirty looks from other passengers. Try to ignore them, keep calm and focus on comforting your baby. Remember the more stressed you get, the more your baby will become distressed.
41. After landing, don't rush to get off the plan, instead wait for others to leave so you can move freely around the cabin and at your own pace.
42. If possible, wear your baby, it will make it easier for you to move around and will keep your hands free.
43. Don't rush, take your time and go at a pace that suits you both. If you've planned your day well, it will not feel like a rush, and you will be able to focus on keeping your child safe and happy.
44. Just like at the beginning of the trip, make sure you have someone to pick you up from the airport or book a transfer beforehand, so you don't have to rely on public transport or taxis when you are exhausted.
45. Remember, not everything goes according to plan, no matter how much you prepare. But be ready for that too by staying calm and focused no matter what happens!