In this episode of the Little Z’s Sleep Podcast we’re discussing our top tips when it comes to traveling on an airplane with a baby!
We’ve put together everything you need to know before you fly, how to prepare for the flight, navigating the travel day and how to recover after the plane ride.
With these tips we know you will feel as prepared as possible when it comes to flying with your baby.
Before you head out on our trip, you’ll begin to consider your seat choices and travel timing. When making these selections, the age of your child is the key to optimizing your travel experience!
If you are traveling on an airplane with a baby, it’s very beneficial to have a window seat.
Window seats not only help with motion sickness but they also provide you with a less-trafficked space and a place to rest your head if your baby falls asleep on you!
For toddlers, the aisle seat is going to be where it’s at!
If you’re traveling on an airplane with a toddler, we recommend booking an aisle seat for them!
This is helpful as they will be able to stand up, stretch, and have some space to wiggle and move around which is so necessary for them at this age.
You will need to talk with your toddler (and even role play at home!) about keeping their arms and legs out of the aisle. But, allowing them to have the availability to stand up and get some of those wiggles out on the flight is vital to their success and less stress for you!
If at all possible, book a flight in the morning. No matter the age of your child, we highly recommend getting up and going for the travel day!
Even if you have to get your child up a little bit earlier to start the day, an early flight allows you to be able to get to your destination at a reasonable time so that you can acclimate them to their environment and offer an early bedtime!
Leaving early allows your baby or toddler to start exploring their new destination sooner, which may lead to a better night of sleep as they will feel more acclimated to the environment.
Remember that it’s common for your child to not sleep as well on the travel day!
Having a lovey on the plane is one easy way to help your child feel more comfortable with all the new sights and sounds that come with an airplane travel day.
Before you leave home, invite your toddler to pick out one lovey or comfort item to bring with them on the plane and pack the rest of them in the suitcase.
This familiar piece of home can allow your child to fall asleep a bit easier while in the sky!
Another staple item for airplane travel with a baby is a swaddle blanket.
No matter the age, swaddle blankets are magical!!
The are a perfectly thin, lightweight blanket that can be used for a million and one things.
Pack one swaddle blanket per child, roll it up and shove it in your carry-on bag!
You can use them for things like sleeping, nursing, spit-up, and warmth.
Whenever we travel with our girls I love blasting the cold, fresh airplane air because I know that it’s really clean, filtered air. I love to let it blast down on me, but it can be freezing!
So that thin layer of a swaddle blanket can really help create that bit of warmth without adding a lot of bulk to your carry-on!
Sometimes though, even though you are freezing on the plane, you are also holding a hot and sweaty baby that’s plastered to your skin.
Again, this is why I love swaddle blankets when it comes to traveling on an airplane!!
You can use your swaddle blanket between your skin and your warm, sleeping baby. Then, simply drape the extra blanket over your baby’s head and tuck it into the seat behind you so it’s a secure cover while your baby is sleeping.
You can use a swaddle blanket for anything and everything during the trip, so be sure to pack one for each kid, no matter their age!
If there’s just one tip that you take, pack everyone (including yourself!) a set of extra clothes for travel day!
I vividly remember bringing Ellie to California by myself when she was 12 months old. For some reason, maybe it was like a first-time mom thing, I thought it would be a great idea to feed her some avocado.
I ordered a salad that had avocado on it, so I gave her some of the avocado. And as you can imagine, it got all over her, and I didn’t have change of clothes for her.
I had to wipe her down with thin, airport napkins. It was definitely not my finest hour.
Moral of the story, be sure to pack extra clothes for yourself and your kids on your travel day.
You never know what’s going to happen!! Whether its a messy avocado, a longer layover, or lots of spit-up, a fresh pair of clothes will help you feel so much better!
Another thing that one of our team members, Alyssa, suggested to pack was a seat-tray organizer, called an airplane pocket. This fabric pocket goes directly on the back of the seat tray table in front of you.
This allows you to place your wipes, snacks, pacifier, books, phone, and headphones all within an arm’s reach.
This pocket also keeps your little one from touching and eating off of the dirty seat tray which is also a plus.
Another one of our team members, Katie, was sharing that it’s so easy to forget to pack items for yourself when you are traveling with a baby!
When you are flying with your baby it’s so easy to be consumed by their needs that you forget your own!
You remember to pack everything for your little one, but then when you get on the airplane, you realize you packed nothing for yourself!
If you’re lucky, your baby might conk out for the airplane ride and then you find yourself sitting there, staring at their lovely, sleeping face, with nothing to do.
Since you undoubtedly need to be “hands on” during a flight with kids, it’s helpful to pack bluetooth headphones.
That way, you can enjoy some entertainment on your device without having to juggle a sleeping baby, a busy toddler, and tangled headphones.
A wire is the last thing you want to worry about when you’re trying to sit there calmly and quietly as your baby sleeps!
Traveling on an airplane with a baby will be messy and it’s crucial to pack sanitizing wipes for surfaces and pacifiers!
If you have a newborn and you’re bringing pacifiers on the plane (which is an excellent idea by the way) then you are going to want wipes to clean off the pacifiers that fall on the ground, seat, or tray table.
Wipes are also great for sanitizing your tray table.
Don’t rely on the airline to provide you with all your sanitizing needs when you have a baby and/or toddler in tow! Oh, and make sure you throw in some hand sanitizer as well.
It’s also no surprise that you are going to have your hands full when it comes to traveling with a baby!
In order to make your traveling experience lighter, I highly recommend renting your baby gear.
Several times Chad and I traveled a long distance with the girls on an airplane, and we knew it would save so much time and space to rent baby gear at our destination.
So, we left the bulky car seats in the car upon arriving at the airport. Then, we boarded our plane, and flew across the country.
Once we arrived at our destination we had carseats ready to be picked up and a crib already delivered at our hotel! AMAZING!
We personally rented car seats from rent4baby.com, And the person who we rented them delivered our carseats right to the airport!
It was such a breeze having all of our baby gear ready for us at our final destination instead of having to worry about lugging it through the airport!
Consider renting baby gear if you are traveling alone with your kids or as a whole family.
You can rent the SlumerPod, sound machine, toys, beach items, high chairs, strollers, carseats and more! You name it, you can rent it.
We understand that traveling with a baby and kids sometimes feels like you’re bringing the whole house, right?!
To help make your travels easier we’ve put together a packing list for babies and toddlers just for you! Get the free checklist here!
The day is finally here!! You’ve made it to the airport, checked in, tackled security, and arrived at your gate. But what do you do next?
If you are traveling with a spouse or another caretaker, consider using pre-boarding to your advantage.
Send one caretaker to pre-board the plane while the other remains in the terminal and lets the baby or toddler burn just a little more energy before boarding the plane and taking their seat.
The one who pre-boards the plane can claim the best seats for you and your kids, stow your carry-on luggage, and sanitize the trays.
While you wait to get on the plane this is a great time take your baby and toddler to the bathroom for one more potty break and diaper change.
Let them walk around and get in a last few minutes of movement and play while you wait to board.
The goal is that your child has gotten their wiggles out and when you board the plane they might even be ready to take a little snooze after takeoff!
If you are flying alone, and don’t have the option of utilizing pre-boarding in this way, then it’s important to board the flight when you personally feel the time is right for you.
At the end of the day, you are just trying to get from point A to point B, and it’s important to roll with the punches!
Feeding your baby during take-off and landing is going to help your little one’s ears when adjusting to the pressure change as well as settle and calm them.
If you’re feeding your baby and they just so happen to fall asleep, let them stay asleep! This is not the time to hold fast to your sleep training expectations that you implemented during our programs!
You can enjoy those cuddles and the snuggles and try to get naps in whenever and wherever you can.
Above all, remember it is not going to be a perfect day when it comes to traveling on an airplane with a baby.
Naps might be delayed, shortened, or even missed!
That’s okay. It’s going to happen.
Embrace it and enjoy it!
Plan to throw your schedule and sleep expectations out the window.
Your baby will likely sleep on you and you can take all the pictures and savor every moment of the contact nap. Embrace the “off” day with joy, reminding yourself that your little one can and will jump right back on track, sleeping independently in their own bed once you arrive.
Your travel day is done and now it’s time for recovery.
No matter what your travel day was like, when you arrive at your destination, you are going to set your sleep space up first.
Make the environment dark, set up your sound machine, pull out the swaddle or sleep sack that you brought with you and get your baby down for a nap.
Or, if you arrive and it’s close to bedtime, you might need to offer a quick bedtime routine and an early bedtime.
A nap or an early bedtime once you arrive will help your little one get back on track.
If your little one has a late evening, then the next morning we do want to jump right back in to the normal schedule. (Remember you can always find your baby’s ideal schedule by age here!)
The next day, let your little one sleep in an extra 30 minutes the next morning, wake them up, and get right back on track with your schedule so that you can enjoy your vacation or travel with predictable naps and bedtime.
It can take two to three days for your body to adjust after travel, and the faster you get into your regular routine, the easier it will be for your little one.
FINALLY, I really want to make sure you can enjoy your trip!
If you are flying somewhere, you’re probably going to be off schedule and possibly in a different time zone. Understand there will be some off days, but if you can preserve the day after travel as a recovery day, that’s going to serve everyone’s moods and the rest of the trip.
Traveling on an airplane with a baby to a different time zone and wondering how to handle this when it comes to sleeping?
When you have a baby or a toddler who knows how to sleep well, you can take those skills on the road. No matter where or what part of the world you’re bringing your family to, sleep can still be a thing.
However, if your child doesn’t sleep on their own at home, then it’s not fair to go on vacation and expect them to magically sleep because they don’t know how to sleep independently.
Maybe they sleep on you, or maybe you bounce them to sleep, or hold their hand to sleep. Or, maybe they sleep in your bed, or sometimes they sleep in their crib.
If they have no expectation of how to sleep at home, they aren’t magically going to sleep on vacation.
Your child needs to have a solid sleep foundation at home, first!
Then, when your traveling, sleeping will be so much smoother and easier to manage.
If you have two to three weeks before you leave on a trip with your baby or children, then now is the perfect time to sleep train!
Get your child’s sleep plan HERE and let’s start making sleep a thing before you find yourself traveling on an airplane!
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