This is the story of how I flew long haul (eleven and a half hours) on my own with my baby, and stepped off the plane at the other end with my mental state still sound and not a tear in sight!
I have also included TOP TIPS along the way and linked to all the things I took with me that helped make the flight easier. Please note that this post contains affiliate links.
How to survive a long haul flight with a baby on your own
“But what if they don’t have Nars at the airport!?” This was honestly on my mind the night before I was due to fly solo for the first time with my five month old baby. I had just finished my favourite blusher (the best blusher of all time for *that* beach glow), and I was concerned. We were moving to a little surfer town on the pacific coast of Mexico that I had never been to before. One thing was for certain: they wouldn’t have Nars there.
I’m not usually one to worry about such trivial or material things. I live most my life out of a variety of bags, closets, and rented apartments, so it’s hard to be. You see what I was doing, I see now, is what they call projecting. I was projecting my God forsaken fear of taking my baby on an eleven and a half hour flight ON MY OWN onto blusher. I’ve been asked so many times by friends, family and acquaintances what flying solo with a 5 month old baby was really like. So here is the answer, along with my tips having survived it.
Tip Number 1: Get a daytime flight.
Unless you pay for an extra seat and take your car seat for baby to sleep in, or if the plane provides bassinets (check with the airline) I would recommend taking a day time flight and trying to keep to a schedule. That way, if baby is having a rough time (and therefore you an even rougher one) you won’t disturb everyone on board when they are trying to sleep.
Tip Number 2: Arrive early.
It is an obvious one but so important. If you are even slightly stressed, you’re just going to project all of that on to baby. I am notorious for ‘cutting it fine’ as my parents like to call it. But today I was going to be early. We arrived with plenty of time, and check-in was a breeze.
We checked in, and said goodbye to my parents – the hardest bit of the whole experience. I brought a backpack as my hand luggage, and decided to take my big pushchair with me after much deliberation. This meant that getting around at the airport was really easy. At 5 months old, Archer was only just in a pushchair (rather than carrycot) and my pushchair has the option to lie baby flat, so I decided to bring it even though it is bulky. I took Archer through duty free, (yes they had Nars yes and I bought my blusher for those of you concerned) and found a spacious baby changing bathroom to change his nappy before the flight. We also filled up my water bottle in the lounge, and bought snacks. Archer was enjoying his new surroundings watching all the people go by.
At the gate, I had a system planned. I brought my baby sling to transfer Archer into so that I could break down my buggy and board easily. The downside to bringing my Mamas and Papas buggy was that it breaks down into two pieces, rather than folds, but I found these nifty bags on Amazon to solve this problem. This was where I started to be really impressed with TUI as a lovely flight attendant came out to me in the gate, actually broke my buggy down and put into the bag for me, and took it away to put on the flight. So helpful!
Tip Number 3: Get your baby used to a baby carrier prior to travel.
When you have to ditch the pushchair at the gate, you can continue to carry your baby hands free, and use it mid-flight walking up and down the aisle. If your baby is older, you might need the support of a carrier like this, but if they are still young I really recommend a sling for travelling. A soft sling can double up as a blanket and cover-up, too!
Tip Number 4: Using a pushchair? You need this bag!
These amazing bags will keep it from getting bashed in hold, make it easier to spot at luggage collection, and you can throw all the extra bits off your buggy (toys, raincovers etc.) in it too!
I booked my flight just over a week before I left, and therefore was concerned about where I was going to sit on the plane. Before booking my flight with TUI, I called them they told me how many seats were left, and where, so that I could be confident when booking it that I wasn’t going to end up with the worst possible location for sitting with an infant on my lap. Once reserved, their seating plan did come up with only one seat left, and so I called them back pronto. They managed to get me a great seat, the second row from the back in the window. At the time of booking, I had the whole row to myself, so I had my fingers crossed it would stay that way. Sadly it didn’t. I asked the flight attendant when we boarded that if my row was free, would they please leave it that way if possible. They said that they would, but they believed the flight was full. It turned out to be true, and so we didn’t get a row to ourselves. But the people next to me were really friendly and helpful with Archer, and so it didn’t turn out to be a bad thing after all.
Tip Number 5: Book a window seat.
I am an aisle lover as I like to be able to get up quite a lot on a flight. However, with a baby on your lap, it is nice to have the window to lean against, and not have to worry about little limbs getting banged by passing trolleys.
Tip Number 6: Get that extra leg room
For an extra fee (around £100 usually) you can get the seats with extra leg room next to the bulkhead. These are great as you not only have the extra leg room, but you also can easily get up without disrupting the person next to you. Great if you have an unsettled baby on your hands. Sadly they were sold out for my flight, but in the future I would definitely book one.
Tip Number 7: Feed or give baby a soother during take off & landing
That way, if they are sucking their ears will pop naturally. It will also hopefully distract them enough to not be frightened by the noise of the engines and the change in altitude.
Tip Number 8: Breastfeed if possible
Breastfeeding isn’t always a choice women consciously make, and so I am aware it isn’t always possible. However, if you happen to be torn between whether to breastfeed or take bottles on your long haul flight, definitely go with the former. Breastfeeding made my journey so much easier. I didn’t have to deal with taking bottles out of my bag, mixing formula, or carrying the extra equipment. I comfort fed Archer the whole way, which helped him nap, settle, and his ears pop. I wore a oversized jumper which allowed me to feed discreetly.
He didn’t nap an awful lot during the flight, but he was fairly settled, and guess what? He didn’t cry! He was so distracted by all the attention, I really didn’t need to worry. I spent a lot of time standing up in the aisle chatting with people whilst Archer was held by random passengers. At one point he lunged out of a woman’s arms and into the lap of a man sat in the row near us. He had no choice but to let Archer sit on his knee for a while, and even put on cartoons for him to watch on his television. Everyone was smitten with my little guy, and a happy baby meant a happy mama!
Luckily, one of the few naps he did have coincided with meal service, and so I was able to eat with him fast asleep on my knee. You might be wondering how this works, but honestly there is enough space and it is just absolutely fine. I got to enjoy my lunch without disturbing him, and the flight attendants came around and cleared my tray early so that I could put the tray table up again.
But what did we do for all that time?
Entertaining him for the flight was something I was a bit concerned about, and so I bought a few simple toys to bring out on the plane. The toys I brought were a hit. They were really simple small things, but enough to keep him entertained. He also enjoyed watching a few cartoons, but honestly the main distraction for him was just the awesome new surroundings he was in and the new people he got to meet! My friends bought me this genius product called a LapBaby which was so useful for all that time with him on my knee. It meant I could have my hands free whilst he was awake, allowing him to sit up and play.
Tip Number 9: Get yourself a Lapbaby!
These genius little carriers go around your waist and strap your baby to you whilst you are sitting. This means you can have your hands free and your baby can sit up on your knee without being held. They are really light and also come in a bag which has a clip so you can attach it to your bag if you’re short on space.
Tip Number 10: Pack some new toys which baby hasn’t seen before
I brought a few essential toys to keep Archer entertained onboard. I tried to get things which were lightweight, and that he hadn’t played with before. One tip is to wrap them up in tissue, so that you can open them together like a present. This makes for a fun game, too.
I recommend packing small, lightweight fiddle toys that are designed to attach to strollers. That way you can hook them to the tray table or your clothes so they don’t fall on the ground when baby is playing on your lap. I love these Lamaze fireflies and these simple loops were a huge hit! I also took his Whoozit which is a great toy to pack, along with a spiral stroller toy which is great for attaching anywhere!
Teethers are also a good idea to pack. These teething rings are great, as are the Matchstick Monkeys (Archer is obsessed with his). I also recommend getting these soother clips which you can easily attach to either of these teethers too. Plane floors are not very hygienic! I always carry teether wipes too, which came in very handy on the plane.
Lastly, I also wore my Thea&Me necklace which is the perfect teether/fiddle toy for air travel as baby can’t drop it on the ground! Plus, it looks really pretty! GET 10% OFF YOURS WITH MY CODE LuxB10 at theaandme.com.
Tip Number 11: Make “Accident grab bags” for any nappy explosions!
I packed two changes of clothing for Archer, and packed each one with a clean nappy inside a ziplock bag. That way, if he was to have a poop or sick incident, I just needed to grab one and take it with me to change him.
When we disembarked, we took our time getting our stuff together and made sure we didn’t leave anything behind (I had stuff everywhere at this point.) They didn’t deliver our pushchair to the door, which most airlines will do, as we disembarked down the stairs and got on a bus to the main airport. Again, having the carrier with me was a major plus at this point. The only thing difficulty I had was collecting my luggage. I had overlooked bringing any local currency with me to get a trolley. Luckily, I met a lovely lady called Sarah who was also travelling with her baby, and she scooted off and returned with a trolley for both herself and for me, which was so kind! I loaded my bags and pushchair bag up, and off we went into the hot Mexican air!
Tip Number 12: Take local currency (preferably loose change too) for a trolley
Even though I was meeting my husband at arrivals, getting to that point was tricky. I met some lovely strangers who were happy to help me with my suitcases and getting a trolley. But I would make sure to have local currency next time!
And just like that we arrived to our new destination smiling! Archer did amazingly well, and went to bed happy in his new travel cot!
I hope you have a smooth flight like we did. Let me know if you have any points to add or any questions below in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer them. I’m currently writing a full checklist of what to pack for your long haul flight with baby so be sure to drop your email address at the bottom of the homepage so you don’t miss it!
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