Last month, we went on a trip to Australia and New Zealand. I posted some pictures on my Instagram and people have been asking me for tips on how we survived traveling with our son. This post is part 1 of a series of travel posts, which will focus on flying with your baby or toddler. Kobe is 16 months old – he is already walking, and is now a curious little monkey, so he also gets bored easily.
Here is our itinerary, to give you some perspective:
- October 5, 1205AM, Manila to Sydney (8-hour flight)
- October 14, 940AM, Sydney to Auckland (3-hour flight)
- October 24, 720AM, Auckland to Sydney (3-hour flight)
- October 25, 1235PM, Sydney to Manila (8-hour flight)
This was not our first flight with Kobe. We traveled to Bohol last year when he was 5 months old, but it was way easier because the flight was only an hour long. Months before our Sydney-Auckland trip, I asked my mommy friends for tips on how to survive a long-haul flight with our baby. My husband and I were excited to travel out of the country for the first time with Kobe, but we were both dreading the 8-hour flight to Sydney. We booked the red-eye flight of Cebu Pacific, which left at 1205AM. This made the long flight a bit easier, because Kobe was mostly asleep. Our roundtrip Sydney-Auckland flights were on Jetstar, and they were pretty uneventful because he was also mostly asleep during these flights. Our most difficult route was the Sydney to Manila flight because it was mostly daytime. Kobe only napped for about three hours and was awake the rest of the flight!
Here are my tips (comment below if you have more!) on flying with a baby or toddler:
- Latch during take off and landing – if you are breastfeeding your child, this is the most valuable tip I can impart to you. You know how our ears adjust to the changing air pressure, right? As adults, we know how to “pop” our ears, but babies don’t. So it is important that they are “swallowing” during take off and landing to make sure their ears don’t hurt. If you don’t breastfeed, you can give him or her the bottle at this time. If your child is older, you can give him or her something to munch on – like chewy snacks or gum. Most babies cry because of the pressure on their ears – if you avoid this, half the battle is won!
- Choose flights that coincide with your little one’s nap time – babies have an internal body clock, and they mostly follow their usual nap time. The plane’s movement and “sound” will also make it easier for them to sleep. And hey, if they are taking naps, you and your hubby can catch a little snooze, too!
- Bring your baby’s favorite snacks – if your child is old enough to eat, make sure to bring his or her favorite snacks, or even a meal if it’s a long haul flight. You are allowed to bring baby food on the plane, and even water for your baby. For our roundtrip Manila-Sydney flights, I brought a meal for Kobe – lugaw on the Manila-Sydney flight (which he ate at the airport), and cereal with a piece of banana on the Sydney-Manila flight (which he ate on the airplane). His baby bag also contained his Nuby bottle full of distilled water, a couple of bottles of baby food, and his favorite Marie biscuits.
- Prepare entertainment – our friends told us to bring toys, books, etc. to keep him entertained but I limited this to a minimum because it is pretty hard to lug around a big bag full of toys and books. I only brought his favorite book (pocket-sized, thankfully), and a small bottle of bubbles (I got this tip from Ms. Lara Quigaman-Alcaraz). It doesn’t help too that all our flights didn’t have an in-flight entertainment system! But honestly, toddlers Kobe’s age are pretty easy to entertain – he actually prefers regular, everyday things to toys. The in-flight magazine and duty free catalog was very useful, hehe. When he got restless, and the “fasten seatbelt sign” was off, my husband would walk the aisles with him. And… I have to be honest (please don’t get mad at me for this), but I loaded my mobile phone with Kobe’s favorite videos! There, I said it! Back home, we only allow him to watch videos as a last resort – like when we needed to nebulize him when he was sick. On the plane, we also used it as a last resort, promise! But, if you really follow the “no screen time” until 2 years, maybe you can find other ways to entertain your little one, like his favorite games, or maybe tell him or her a story.
- Use a small baby bag you can put under the seat – for this trip, I used a small backpack (Fluffy Pwets Bagets) for Kobe’s things. It contained the essentials – 2-3 nappies for the shorter flights, 4-5 nappies for the longer flights, 2 travel packs of baby wipes (Huggies has 16pcs per pack), a lampin for wiping dirt, a change of clothes (a shirt and pants), his water bottle, his food and snacks. I put the extra stuff in our hand carry, which we stowed in the overhead storage – extra nappies and wipes, extra lampin and clothes, etc.
- Wear your baby – not all airlines allow you to bring your stroller up to the airplane door. Cebu Pacific in Manila allowed us to do this, as we only handed over the stroller at the plane door for stowing with the rest of the baggage. For the rest of the flights, however, we had to check-in the stroller. So our Tula Baby Carrier was indeed a lifesaver. I wore Kobe at the airport, from check-in, through immigration, and boarding gates. I only took him out before we took our seats. He nursed and napped in the Tula.
- Just go with the flow – do not force your baby to sleep if he is not sleepy, do not feed your baby if he is not hungry. You will save yourself and your child a lot of frustration if you just chillax. I know this is a lot harder than it sounds, but sometimes, us moms want to stick to a schedule. Trust your instincts! You have to remember, your child is also adjusting to his environment. And usually, your baby will take cues from you. If you are stressed and irritable, he will sense it and it might rub off on him. If and when your baby cries, don’t be embarrassed, and don’t stress about it! Babies cry. Most passengers will understand, and if somehow you encounter a passenger who calls you out for being the parent of a noisy baby, just ignore them and focus on giving your baby what he needs. He will stop crying eventually.
As I mentioned earlier, the most difficult flight we had was the flight back to Manila from Sydney. We had lunch before we boarded the plane so Kobe was full. He took a nap shortly after take off and slept for about three hours. After that, he was wide awake and wanted to play. One of his favorite words is the Tagalog word “baba” which he says when he wants to go down and walk around. If you tell him “hindi pwede” he will get restless and frustrated, and will usually start crying. This is when we started to distract him by letting him look out the window, or “read” the magazines, or even play “peek-a-boo” with my Dad who sat behind us. And again, as a last resort, I allowed him to watch “bun” (Barney) on my phone. I found myself looking at my watch several times, and counting the hours to our touch down in Manila. I remember telling my husband shortly after landing, “Hay, salamat, we’re home!” Then we spent 3 hours in traffic from the airport to QC, haha!
I am lucky I traveled with my husband, who is a very patient man. When I got tired, I would pass Kobe to him. I admire all the moms I see traveling alone with her child (or children!) – I remember one time on a flight going to the U.S., I was seated an aisle apart to an Asian mom with an infant and a toddler. Superwoman siya, galing!
I hope you find these tips useful! If you have tips of your own that you want to share, or if you have questions, please comment below. Or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org