I was so nervous about my first international flight with my five-week old. We were on our way to Germany and my mind was racing with the ‘what-ifs?’ The most serious being…What if she cried the entire eight-hour trip? Turns out flying with a newborn is a piece of cake and I made myself sick with worry for no reason at all.
Fast forward a year and that’s when the traveling nightmare begins. Here are some tips to hopefully make your long-haul flight a little more enjoyable and how the these tips (personal experience and common sense) didn’t do shit to make our trip better.
My story of a complete nightmare
1. Bring your stroller
Car seats and strollers can be checked at the gate for free. You are still allowed to have a carry-on and purse along with the stroller. Bring the stroller! It will make life so much easier.
For some screwed up reason my husband and I decided not to bring our stroller. We thought we would just bring the car seat. (We needed one for when we arrived in Germany.) The car seat connected to the stroller, but we still thought having a stroller would just make more for us to pack around. Walking through the airport with two pieces of luggage, a baby, a car seat, a jam packed baby bag, and a backpack is not easy. I was sweating and pissed. Not the best way to start a day of traveling off. We checked that heavy thing at the gate, grateful to be rid of it.
2. Get the bassinet
Most airlines have bassinets available for long-haul flights. They are suitable for babies up to 14 kg (30 lbs) and up to 83 cm (32 in) in length and are provided free of charge. (The weight max is different for different airlines. I am referencing Lufthansa airlines.) These make night flights so much more enjoyable because your child can keep their regular sleep pattern. For more information and tips on flying with a baby check out Lufthansa.com
As soon as you get to your seat make sure you have a bassinet that actually works available for you. Don’t wait until the plane is packed and you reach cruising altitude to ask about the bassinet, even if you reserved one. On the way to Germany this year I waited until the plane reached cruising altitude before asking if they would set the bassinet up and surprise, surprise it would not connect to the wall. (You always have to wait until after take off to attach the bassinet to the wall, but ensure it will work before everyone has boarded.) As the steward said, “Who ever messed this up will burn in the darkest place of hell.” He was just joking, but seriously damn that person. We had already taken off and everybody was all settled in and we weren’t able to trade anyone seats on the completely full flight. So that started the trip from hell. Bradley had no place to truly fall asleep, the floor wasn’t doing it for her. Like most one-year-olds when she is tired she becomes a huge crybaby. (I’m not talking the awesome Johnny Depp kind, I’m talking make you want to pull your hair out kind.) There was a lot of screaming and crying.
3. Bring Activities
Bring your child’s favorite toys, books, puzzles and stuffed animals. Anything that keeps them occupied at home could also keep them occupied on a plane.
The one-year-old age is a tough age to travel long distances. At this age kids want to touch, taste, and play with everything. For my daughter unless she is watching Baby Einstein, TV or movies won’t keep her distracted very long. I brought puzzles, stuffed animals, books, it didn’t matter though she just wanted to crawl and explore. I was over prepared in the activities department, but it made no difference. We tried the plane movies, but she just wanted to break the headphones. We tried games on the iPad, but she just wanted to push the home button. We tried books, but she just wanted to throw them on the ground.
I’m not the kind of mother that is oblivious to everyone else around, so I wasn’t going to allow her to crawl up and down the aisle. I just can’t be that mother that lets her kid crawl/run around, get into people’s space/stuff or get in the way of the stewardess doing their job. I understand that it will happen sometimes, but those mothers that knowingly allow that to happen all of the time suck. It is usually the same mother that lets her kid kick the back of someones seat and then when asked to have their child stop she uses the excuse that he is too young to know he shouldn’t be kicking the seat and then doesn’t actually make them stop! I witnessed this happen once and was blown away by this mother’s stupidity. She didn’t even apologize to the man. It wasn’t like the kid was doing it for a couple of minutes, it went on for 15-20 minutes. (I’m guessing that kid will learn respect for others from his mother and be a disrespectful twit later in life.) When you tell your kid no, even at one-year-old ,they know they aren’t suppose to be doing whatever it is they are doing.
4. Bring your child’s favorite foods.
I was allowed to bring six 6 oz. bottles of boiled water through security and several packs of baby food. I got many conflicting reports on what food and drink you could bring through security, but every time (on Lufthansa) I have been allowed through security with what I brought. They did pat and rub me down to test for bomb residue (but I’m not gonna bitch about that because I don’t hate it) and then let me through. I really think it just depends on if the agents hate life or not. tsa.gov has more information about what items can be brought through security.
Bradley got real fussy about 2.5 hours into the flight. We walked her up and down the aisles, made funny sounds and silly faces, let her rip apart one of my magazines and fed her all the puffs she wanted (big mistake). She is always content when eating, so I wasn’t limiting her food. I’m pretty sure this gave her a bellyache and as soon as they turned off the lights in the cabin (so everyone could sleep) Bradley started screaming. Not just crying… Screaming. She wiggled to get away from us and pushed us away. I did let her down to crawl a couple of times, most everyone was trying to sleep and not up walking around, but she crawled right to the bathrooms. Disgusting. So I would pick her up and she would scream again. I was so embarrassed and felt terrible for Bradley, the other passengers around us, and myself. I was getting flustered and overwhelmed and I think Bradley could sense it. At one point as I was in the corner seat having a small meltdown, (when I get exhausted I become a huge bitch. I see myself being a baby/bitch, but can’t do anything about it) Travis was bouncing and walking Bradley trying to console her and when he comes back to the seat she had puked all over him. (I’m guessing we overfed her her favorite foods.)
5. Bring extra outfits
You never know when your child is going to be sick and puke everywhere or poop out of their diaper so always be prepared with a change of clothes. Bring yourself a shirt change because you don’t want to sit for eight hours smelling of baby puke.
We spent the next hour in the bathroom cleaning puke and trying to get Bradley to settle down. At one point a lady the next aisle over gave me one of those ‘I feel so bad for you and understand what you are going through’ sad smiles. It made me feel a little better, because I knew at least one of the other passengers wasn’t cussing us in their head and could feel for us. I think you could probably read it all over my face, if someone would have said something to me (or given me mothering advice) that was in anyway condescending or rude I would have jumped across the seat and went Kerouac on their ass. Crying-baby really puts me on edge and hours of it can send even the most patient people into a spiral.
6. Don’t plan on anything and just relax
Babies feed off your energy. I was stressed, pissed and bitchy and my baby was the same way. Around an hour from landing in Frankfurt I finally relaxed a little (because there was an end in sight) and Bradley stopped screaming! Maybe it was just a coincidence. Don’t plan on anything, because chances are nothing will go the way you think.
The lights were finally turned on in the cabin and breakfast served, by this point Bradley wasn’t crying anymore just fussing. As usual and just like I excepted she finally fell asleep at what would have been 1 am in the States and 6 km away from the Frankfurt airport. She slept the hour car ride to our flat in Köln and it let me get a quick nap before my next meltdown.
Moral of the story? I guess….
Baby Benadryl for the kid.
Tylenol for you.
Now I am not one to pump kids full of unneeded medication and since she had only taken baby Tylenol once I wasn’t going to give her Benadryl when she didn’t truly need it. (I had really considered it though, but decided against it.) Well… No way in hell I ever make that mistake again. Also, always bring Tylenol for yourself. Even if your baby isn’t screaming bloody murder the changes in cabin pressure can really make your head pound. 8 hours with a pounding headache can make the most enjoyable experience miserable.
You can read every tip for traveling with a baby ever given, but there is a good chance it won’t matter. I prepared everything from food, bottles, toys, blankets, stuffed animals, technology and she still screamed and fussed for 6 hours of the trip. Just try to prepare for every situation imaginable, over pack and say a quick pray before you depart.