Wow, so this was it! My first flight alone with baby. The occasion was visiting family Switzerland. My initial blase attitude of ‘no problem, I can do this easily’ started waning when I had to get onto the train to get to the airport. Standing in the pouring rain, a slightly grumpy three month old in a sling, a 20kg suitcase, an umbrella and a backpack made my first solo flight seem a little more daunting than expected. The load was definitely too heavy for me and I was physically at my boundaries – I could not have carried a single kilo more. And: have I mentioned I am afraid of flying? I am one of those people who during a bumpy ride will squeeze the hand of a stranger. I don’t let it deter me from travelling the world but it added to a slight anticipation of my first solo flight with baby.
My learning points for flying with baby:
- Have your baby cry when you enter the plane (ideally you should NOT pinch your baby to do this). Because the plane was not too full, the stewardess moved the guy with the seat next to me to a different seat. I have never seen anyone so relieved and I had now space.
- Feed feed feed during takeoff and landing to help with ear pressure problems. My baby screamed her head off during takeoff because I started feeding only during takeoff and she was already too distracted by the plane accelerating to feed properly. But during landing I started feeding before the plane started descending properly and she did not twitch an eyelid. Some people recommended giving baby paracetamol as a precaution to ease pressure pain in the ears but I refrained and it was not a problem.
- Just accept help: a lady was willing to carry my bag off the plane, a very nice American couple sitting next to me by the window volunteered to stay on the plane until the last passenger left so I did not have to go through it alone.
- Take small risks to aid your comfort: when the plane was delayed and the baby got restless, I asked two ladies to look after my luggage while I went on a half hour stroll down the departure hall. Being that ‘careless’ helped me to relax and do what made the journey easier.
- Having packed light compared to my usual standards, I should have cut down luggage a further 25%. Saying that, I only took two trousers and a dress for a 12 day holiday (with the chance to wash). But I need to dig out my kindle for next time. For our big Balkans trip in October I will buy special sport shirts that dry at once – expensive but practical.
- Spread yourself out on the floor: my flight was delayed by two hours at 10 pm at night, my baby was getting sick of the sling so I just took all my belongings and created an impromptu playmat, using the inside of my pullover to create a relatively hygienic covering. Not only did fellow passengers start cooing with her but being able to look around instantly calmed her.
- Have a back up plan when the flight arrives late. I did not, and while usually taking a taxi would have been easy, taking a taxi for a 1h ride at 1 am in the morning without a car seat, securing the baby just in the baby bjoern was dangerous.
- Choose your airline carefully. I went with Easyjet, which costs £22 per baby on your lap which is not cheap (BA charges 10% of the ticket price), but they let you board first if you are a family which is a godsend and are generally very family friendly.