Babies · family · mom life · travel

Flying with a baby: how to prepare

Last week we made a last-minute decision to take a flight to our destination instead of taking the road trip route.

Hubby Byren’s granddad passed away unexpectedly and we flew down to Durban (en route to Howick) to attend the service. We received the devastating news on Tuesday and booked our flights for Thursday. A road trip would’ve been a little hectic for everyone with the stopping to breastfeed Cay. Also driving all night to stay for a day and a half and then drive back again would’ve been hard on everyone so flying was the best option for us.

I was relieved that the boys and I took that flight to Cape Town last year and I had enough time to prepare them for their first flight. I wasn’t too worried about them as I know they love flying and the moment we told them that we would be traveling by plane, they wouldn’t stop talking about it (Wednesday felt very long).

Wednesday was a hectic day, trying to get everyone’s things sorted and packed. Even though we weren’t going away for a long time, packing for five people can amount to lots of luggage, especially if one of those five is a baby. I managed to pack light, as much as I could. Two check-in bags (one carrying all of Cay’s things), the boys each had a backpack with their things, a nappy bag and a small handbag for me. Hubby Byren still argued that two check-in bags were unnecessary but I argued my case about how many things babies need.

While I had a hand on the packing, I was worried about Cay and her first flight. There’s no way you can really prepare your baby for a flight but there are a couple of things you can do to make it easier for yourself, before and during the flight.

I only really managed to finalize everything the day before the flight and get all the information I needed to help make our flight as easy and as comfortable as possible.

We chose to fly with Flysafair and we decided to stay a day later because we found a great special for the tickets, so instead of returning on Saturday, we flew back on Sunday. When we took our trip to Cape Town, we also used Flysafair and I experienced amazing service and hospitality with them so they were our go-to airline this time around as well.

As we were flying as a family (specifically with a baby), our tickets automatically showed priority boarding, which I’ll talk about further down in the post. I also phoned the airline to confirm a couple of details about flying with a baby so I knew what the policies were, which you can also find online.

Both of our flights were great with the kids, and Cay handled her first flight very well, much to my surprise (I’ve heard others sharing stories about baby meltdowns at high altitude).

There are a couple of things I did to make our flight with a baby more comfortable, most of it thanks to Flysafair. I wanted to share with you what steps I followed, specifically because we were with Cay, to make our flight easier. I’m so happy that our first flight with Cay was a domestic one, which was only an hour-long, so it was a good test run of the experience.

Check airline policies

As I had already flown with Flysafair before, I was familiar with their flying with an infant policy. When I booked our flights, because we were traveling for a short time, I didn’t book a seat for Cay and had her sit on my lap during the flight. It saved us from paying the full amount for the ticket because she didn’t need her own seat. As she was going to sit on my lap, we were given a seatbelt extender which loops into yours so you safely fly with your baby also strapped in.

If you decide to book a seat for your baby, then you can use the car seat. Most airlines allow you to take your car seat and pram with for free, which are stored in the front hold of the plane. That was very convenient for us because as soon we deboarded, our things were waiting for us and it was easier to continue without having to carry Cay before collecting the rest of our luggage.

Plan best flight time

Depending on the time of your flights, ticket prices vary. Departing, we chose an early afternoon flight, as Hubby Byren had to pop in to work early in the morning, but having a later flight also gave me time to get the last few things packed and get the kids and myself ready to get going.

Our flight back was the very first one of the day because we scored a great deal on the tickets and while for some, such an early time might be an issue, we found no problems with it. We already had the boys dressed in their clothes the night before so there was less rushing around and confusion in the early hours of the morning, and less last-minute packing to worry about.

Book your seats

When you’re booking your tickets, make sure you reserve your seats. Yes, it costs a little extra but it helped with us all sitting together, especially Hubby Byren because I could just pass Cay to him if I needed to assist the boys with anything. It also saves your sanity with everyone seated together so I didn’t have to answer the same question 500 times over when the boys keep asking ‘where’s dad’ throughout the whole flight.

Online check in

This is one of the best inventions ever. 24hours before our flights, I already checked all of us in, which saved us the rush of getting to the airport even earlier to check in and get our boarding passes. As soon as your receive the link via email, just follow the prompts and you have one less thing to worry about. You’ll also have one less queue to worry about, which makes a difference when traveling with kids.

Get to the airport early

No matter how you’ve planned out your travel time, life happens. Traffic and other unexpected situations can arise, and you don’t want to be late and miss your flight, nor do you want to be rushing through the airport to check in luggage and then rushing to your boarding gate. We left home three hours before our flight to make up for driving time, finding a parking space (we left our car at the airport’s long stay bay) and check in our luggage. We had an hour to spare both ways, so we used the time to have something to eat and drink while waiting for our boarding gate to open.

Traveling back, we also left early to account for travel time as we were staying quite a distance away from the airport, and making it easier for us to not to have to rush around when we arrived at the airport.

Getting to airport early also helped with breastfeeding Cay before we started boarding so I didn’t need to stand with a screaming hungry baby while waiting to reach my seat.

Research the airport

To save time and sanity, find out where the terminals you’ll be using are situated so you’re not left carrying around luggage and worrying about kids getting cranky and tired. As soon as we dropped off our luggage and headed towards the lounges, we first located the boarding gate for our flight, and I made note of where the bathrooms were situated so that I could quickly change Cay before we boarded and everyone could use the toilet.

Print boarding passes

Even though you can use the electronic boarding passes sent to you when you’ve done your online check in, we asked for ours to be printed out when we arrived at the airport. They were much more convenient to use than having to carry our phones in our hands to show at every check in point while still having to juggle the kids and our carry on bags.

Keep everything you need at hand

When I flew with the boys, I used a backpack carry on and another bag as a carry on to store all of our valuables which turned out to be a disaster because at every check point I had to put down the extra carry on bag to fish out our documents from the backpack and it caused short delays for passengers waiting behind us. No one really seemed to mind as I had the boys with me but I felt like an idiot for packing my carry on bag the way I did. This time for our flight, I took with a small clutch handbag; I packed our documents needed for the flights and it was easy to just take everything out for checking and putting them right back in my handbag.

Plan boarding

As I mentioned earlier, we were automatically put under priority boarding which helped with skipping the longer queue and having time to get settled on the plane before the rest of the passengers boarded. I preferred it this way as the last time we flew, we boarded last and we didn’t have much space for our carry on bags in the compartments directly over our  seats so some of the bags were stored further away. Which becomes an issue when you’re deboarding as you need to wait for the row to clear before getting your bags back. If you’re not added to the priority boarding automatically, you can always request it before the time so double-check when booking your tickets. If you’re taking the pram and car seat with, it helps to board first so you’re not holding up the line while they tag your items and take them away.

Plan deboarding

As soon as the plane comes to a stop (sometimes even before), and before the seatbelt light is turned off, passengers already start getting up to retrieve their carry on bags and most end up standing and waiting in the row as the doors haven’t been opened yet. When we boarded our first flight, we immediately decided to wait for the crowd to thin out before deboarding so we weren’t rushed with getting all our bags and the kids off the plane. I did the same when I flew with the boys and it saved me a loss of stressing out.

Pack a proper nappy bag

Make sure you pack everything you’ll need on a normal day into your nappy bag you have everything in case you need to change a nappy or need a change of cloths for your baby. Once we were seated, I made sure I had a blanket close by in case I needed to cover up while feeding Cay so I didn’t need to search through my bag with her screaming hysterically. If your baby is bottle fed, you can ask one of the flight attendants to warm up the bottle.

Air pressure pains

One of best ways to reveal discomfort during liftoff and landing is to have your baby drinking or sucking, but as Cay didn’t need any feeds during those times, I made sure I had her dummy close by so she could use it instead. Make sure you use a dummy strap so it’s on hand when the pressure changes in the cabin during the flight.

Ask for help

Especially if you’re traveling alone. Hubby Byren was with us so we were sorted with the kids and sharing responsibilities.

You can request special assistance where a representative from the airline will lead you through all the checkpoints, even helping with carrying any luggage or kids (which happened when I flew alone with the boys as we were running late to reach our boarding gate). The airline attendants also offer assistance before, during and after the flight so don’t be afraid to ask for any help if necessary.

Thank you to Flysafair for making flying with a baby and kids pleasant and convenient for us parents.

I hope these tips help you prepare for your first flight with your baby. Safe travels!!

5 thoughts on “Flying with a baby: how to prepare

  1. I feel like I wrote this post! I was nodding all through!!! I am one of the few “crazy “people who chose to fly very long distance (30 hours from home to destination) with a 6-8 week old Baby twice and alone but as I would later find it actually it was easier traveling with such a wee baby than traveling with a toddler!!!!!!

    Such great tips! Only things I would add is some babies battle with ear pressure during take off and landing so it is advised to breastfeed or give Baby something to suckle at this time. Also on international flights at least the ones I’ve taken I found I could do online checking when traveling with babies so I made sure to get to the airport in good time. And also couldn’t pre-book seats but I did ask for a bassinet row seat as it had more leg room. And finally I had a baby carrier with me, was handy so I could have Baby strapped to me while I try to sleep, yes I could have used the bassinet but I just felt more secure knowing I was “wearing” my child

    1. I’m glad we had a domestic flight to survive! I take my hat off to you!!

      I did add those tips under one of the sections, but I’ll think I’ll move it to its own section for more clarity!

      I’ve never experienced the toddler flying trip yet, but I’m sure it will happen and I’m sure I’ll think back to the baby stage and realise it was the easier trip 🤣

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