While I was getting photos printed this week, a mum arrived at the shop to have some passport photos of her seven-month-old baby taken. The thing with babies of that age is that they tend to smile. At everything. The thing with passport photos is there’s to be no smiling. So the baby smiled. And everyone laughed. And the shop assistant said “Let’s try again!”. And everyone laughed. And of course, the baby smiled. On it went, until the baby was doing what I call ‘whole body smiles’ – arms and legs kicking, gurgling and laughing. So step one of taking a baby overseas – wrangle an acceptable passport photo (you may have to block out a whole afternoon).
I particularly like the story that goes with the baby passport photo shown above!
A couple of weeks ago, Babyology editor Mandi, shared news of her upcoming media trip to Europe with our Facebook fans. She has a little extra ‘luggage’ on this trip – six-month-old Audrey! Mandi asked Facebook fans for any tips for flying solo with an infant. Our readers didn’t let us down and shared lots of great ideas.
One of the toughest parts of travelling solo is managing airports and stop-overs. Most airlines will allow you to take an umbrella stroller to the gate however a sling or baby carrier gives you valuable hands-free time, particularly important if you are also juggling passports, tickets and hand luggage.
While we’d all like to travel Business Class (or buy a spare seat next to us for extra room), the reality is most people travel economy. So how can you make the experience as comfortable and as easy as possible if you are flying solo with a baby?
Firstly, plan your itinerary carefully. Avoid stop-overs and ensure that the longer legs are night flights, maximising sleep time.
Readers agreed that securing a bassinet was important. Even if your baby doesn’t get much sleep in the bassinet it gives the solo parent an opportunity to put them down, if only for a few minutes. It’s fairly important to have some ‘hands free’ time, especially if you need to eat, prepare a bottle or get out the nappy bag!
One reader suggested taking a muslin and some 3D removable hooks so that you can create a screen around the bassinet – handy for stopping light from the TV screen and also for blocking bub making eye contact with people standing in the toilet queue when they’re supposed to be going to sleep!
Keep in mind that bassinets are allocated from the youngest baby to the oldest so depending on how many babies are on your flight you may or may not get one.
If you’re not lucky enough to get a bassinet seat, the next best choice is an aisle seat, simply because it is far easier to get in and out while holding a baby. There are also things you can do to make your space more comfortable. Some parents swear by using white noise on an iPod to help kids get to sleep – no harm in trying if you have a temperamental sleeper! Likewise, the screens built into the backs of seats can be distracting, particularly if they don’t turn off. Bring some packing tape and secure a blanket over the screen while kids sleep. It may also be worth checking out the FlyeBaby, a travel gadget we reviewed last year.
Parents unanimously agreed that you can’t pack too many nappies, spare sets of clothes (for you and your baby), food and bottles. Although some airlines offer baby meals, a long haul flight is not necessarily the best time to try new food. Likewise, if you’re bottle feeding, it’s a wise idea to pack plenty of formula as brands and availability vary in other countries.
One reader wisely suggested leaving toys at home. Instead of weighing yourself down with loads of toys, take a few small favourites. As most parents know, a baby can entertain themselves with any old thing given the opportunity (empty cups, sick bags, the in-flight magazine…).
Lastly (and most importantly) this advice to parents from my friend, a flight attendant who has clocked up thousands of flights with crying babies and children – “You’ll never see these people again and they’ll get over it”.
For more travel tips, see our previous post on plane travel with kids.