Hubby and I did something we’re so glad we did, but the thought sends shivers up the spines of many new parents.
We took baby on a long-haul flight.
Millie’s little head peering from the pages of her fresh new passport now proudly sits beside arrival and departure stamps from Japan.
We share a love of travel and our own passports are reminders of marvellous trips to places including Mexico, China, Europe, Africa, Thailand, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Vanuatu and the US.
We want to be able to continue our adventures – but from now on will be as a family of three.
Travelling is not as simple as it used to be. But with some preparation, a relaxed attitude and the realisation that it won’t be the same sort of holiday you’re used to, it can be just as amazing.
Maybe even more so.
Lots of passengers gave us a smile as we walked onto the plane. I could see their forced grins were disguising the look of panic as they thought “please, please don’t let this baby be seated near me”. Other parents gave us reassuring nods: “Yep, we’ve travelled with a baby. IT’S HELL IN THE SKY. Good luck, fools.”
We’ve checked in. We’re doing this.
Flights to Tokyo’s Narita airport with Qantas are in the evening. It was perfect for Millie. In her jarmies before we hopped on board, all she really needed was a feed…which in theory would lead into a big sleep.
We requested seats in front of a baby bassinet and luckily for us we nabbed one. At 9 months old, Millie would have been too heavy and squirmy to hold in our arms for the flight.
The bassinets are small (maximum weight 11kg) but worth it to allow you to get some rest during a flight. Even if bub doesn’t sleep, it’s somewhere to put them while you eat.
We kept Millie’s routine the same in the days leading up to the flight and ensured she got lots of sleep for the day of departure.
She was a bit unsettled on the way to Japan, waking every few minutes or so in the first hour. Planes are noisy. There’s lots of distractions. Until bub falls into a deep sleep, it proves hard to keep those eyes closed. I picked her up and wandered into the aisle and jiggled her a bit until she was in the land of nod. Little champ slept for almost 6 hours.
In the way home she slept even longer (oh, I appreciate how lucky I am that this happened. Still pinching myself).
My tips? Bring blankets and a sleeping bag (if you use one) so baby is cosy and has her familiar ‘sleepy’ cues. Planes can either be very stuffy or very cold so bring comfy outfits – onesies with the feet enclosed are a good idea – to suit either scenario.
A muslin wrap is a must and can be used as a blanket, cover for the bassinet, change mat, play mat or bib. Mine is from The Little Linen Company and is very light, so packs easily.
I also packed Millie’s FLATOUT bear and floppy teddy so she felt more at ease.
Bring snacks. If Millie became fidgety or sooky I found that rice crackers, baby biscuits and other little treats were the best. Just keep them in a clear ziplocked bag to show Customs on your way through.
Feed or give your baby a bottle during take-off and landing to equalise ear pressure. A dummy works well if your bub takes one.
Let bub crawl around or lie on a blanket in a quiet spot in the airport to help dispel energy before boarding.
I carried Millie in a baby carrier while waiting in the terminal and for carrying her onto the flight. A little walk around the airport and gentle swaying and patting while she was inward facing sent her off to sleep while we were waiting to board. It’s a lot easier to settle a baby who is not overtired, so these extra zzzzzz made for a calm Millie.
I brought along a nappy bag that doubled as a handbag. The less baggage you have to haul around, the better. You have a baby to carry now, remember? Mine is from Budu Baby and not only looked lovely while I was touring around but managed to fit all the Millie travel essentials (nappies, wipes, dummies, toys, snacks, blankets, a muslin wrap, sleeping bag, spare clothes, socks, a jacket for departure and my wallet/phone/passport etc).
If your bub does cry, don’t panic. What sounds like the loudest, most piercing scream to us is merely background noise to other passengers. We’re tuned in to every noise from our little one. Other people are not. The engine roar will also be louder than any noise your baby can make. It’s never completely silent on a plane, and cries are muffled.
The other very important thing to remember is: headphones. No, I don’t suggest you use them. It’s reassuring to know other passengers do, and will. Everyone enjoys a good in-flight movie and there’s no way they’re going to be disturbed by your baby over the sounds of the latest action flick.
Relax. As much as you can. Babies can smell fear. The happier and calmer you are, the happier and calmer your little traveller is likely to be.