The Survivor’s Guide to International Travel with an Infant

Congratulations. You’re about to join the unofficial elite club called International Parents of Misery. With the right amount of preparation and setting of expectations, you can surely strike misery from that title as you embark on that international flight with your infant. Whether you’re a Houstonian who is looking to take advantage of our major airport hub, or you’re an expat whose parents can’t tolerate the endless hours of Facetime any longer, preparation can be a daunting task. Let’s see if we can simplify the process.

I, myself, have completed 1 international round trip with the babe when she was 7 months old :: 40 hours {one way} of transit. We survived {thanks to Amy’s tips on flying with an infant}, but I hardly call that experience. I surveyed our contributor team as well as my community of seasoned jetsetting parents, and these are the top travel tips for international travel with your infant.

International Travel with an Infant

Assumptions

Before we dive into the details, let’s level set on some assumptions made in an effort to simplify.

  • We are talking infants. As in, not-walking not-really-communicating human beings generally less than a year old. I think toddlers will add another element that we can’t address in this blog post.
  • The baby will not have their own paid seat, meaning this is a lap baby who is not sitting in their car seat on the plane.
  • This is a guide for flights 6 hours or longer. I know of parents who have traveled to Hawaii or cross-continent and have prepared for that trip as if it is an international one due to the long transit time.
  • You’re traveling with a partner. Yes, I know you’re superwoman – but taking on an international flight as the solo parent is a whole ‘nother level {and for another blog post}.

{This is a long blog post because, frankly, there’s just a lot to think about when you travel internationally with an infant. For all the highlights, hit-up the printable!}

HMB_INTERNATIONAL_travel_infant_printable>>> Click here for PDF download.<<<

Logistics & Planning

Start thinking about these things as soon as you make the decision to take the trip – which is typically 2-3 months prior to travel day.

Fly direct

If possible, fly direct to eliminate the points of failure. From lost luggage to delayed/canceled flights, no parent wants to deal with extra variables when traveling with baby.

Timing of Flight

  • Time of day :: The closest you can get to bedtime, the better. Our evening flight was ace {6:25 pm take-off time} and many parents love the red eye. Why? Our babies slept. It helps that the cabin of a commercial flight is the largest white noise machine around.
  • Day of the week :: If you aim for a weekday flight {Tuesday-Thursday}, the flights tend to be emptier which allows for more space for you to stretch out in the cabin.
Kara having fun in her bulk head bassinet during our international flight to Dubai

Kara having fun in her bulkhead bassinet during our international flight to Dubai.

Placement on the Plane

  • Book the bulkhead seats :: {1} this is where the bassinets for baby go, {2} more leg room for you! Be sure to call your airline to arrange.
  • Proximity to the Flight Attendant station :: Avoid at all costs! Sure, we got the bulkhead seat, but it was right next to the main Flight Attendant station. The lights were always on, and it was noisy which left me on pins and needles for most of the flight since I was afraid that any jolt of the cart would wake my sleeping baby.
  • Strategic seating :: You have two options to optimize space –
    • The perimeter :: Book a window seat and an aisle seat for your partner. Then, hope that no one books that middle seat! Often you will get lucky, but if not, that poor soul usually sees what’s in store and voluntarily moves.
    • The core :: Book an aisle and 2 seats over in the middle. Also hope that no one has booked the seats in between you. If there is indeed a vacant seat, you essentially have the whole row for yourself.
  • Individual screens vs. large shared screens :: If you want to overachieve, you can research the type of in-flight entertainment and target the planes that provide individual screens. That makes it easier to entertain the babe in case you need a reprieve.

Family-friendly amenities

  • Airports :: If layovers are unavoidable, do some research to find out whether the airport has a family area, mother’s room, or other family-friendly amenities. For example, Emirates provides complimentary strollers for use within Terminal 3 at the Dubai airport. London Heathrow has designated family facilities.
  • Planes :: Some airlines provide baby food and toiletries. For example, when we flew Emirates, they provided the below care package for the babe. They also supplied canned baby food. It was loaded with high fructose corn syrup, so I passed since my baby reacts to that though.

Passport

Allow for at least 6 weeks for your baby’s passport to arrive. And, is your passport in order? If you’re traveling in less than 2 weeks and you find yourself saying, “Whoops!”, you can make an appointment at the newly renovated Houston Passport Agency in Downtown for a rush order {at a premium}.

Immunizations

Be sure your child is up-to-date on their immunizations. {No, we are not starting an immunization debate today, y’all.} Per my pediatrician’s recommendation, check the CDC Website for vaccination guidance. Also check with your own pediatrician.

Be prepared to provide additional documentation if…

It is sad that in today’s world, there are policies and measures in place to address and mitigate instances of human trafficking and kidnapping. If you find yourself in any of these below categories, more preparation will be required on your part to avoid hold-ups at Customs and/or missing your flight.

  • Your child is adopted :: Bring the birth certificate, adoption decree, letter from adoption agency, immunization records, medical records, and other type of documentation you feel would prove that your child is yours.
  • You have a different surname from your child :: Be prepared to present your child’s birth certificate and your marriage certificate if applicable.
  • You are the only parent traveling with your child :: Bring a notarized letter signed by the other parent not present stating that they consent to you traveling outside of the country with your child.

Packing

Start preparing as early as a month, but no later than 2 weeks in advance. This will give you time to purchase last-minute items if necessary.

Carry-Ons

international_travel_infant_hmb_kristinehu-1The Quick Access Bag

  • Diapering essentials. A couple of diapers, creams, etc. enclosed in its own gallon-size Ziploc bag. Isolating these items will {1} protect from the elements, and {2} make for a quick grab-and-go when you’re in a rush.
  • Wipes. Lots of wipes.
  • Lovey/comfort items. If a comfort item is a pacifier, bring a few!
  • Clutch/pouch/wallet. You’re not going to have enough hands for a legitimate purse.
  • Snacks. Be sure they are proven snacks as you do not want to deal with an allergic reaction or outright rejection. If you’re not concerned about allergies, some flights offer baby food and baby-friendly items.
  • Formula. {If applicable.}

international_travel_infant_hmb_kristinehu-2The Other Bag

Keep contingency items in this bag in case your flight delays and so that you are not limited to terminal store items.

  • Baby Clothes. 2 changes of clothes for baby.
  • Adult Clothes. 2 change of clothes for each parent/adult. You don’t want to find yourself purchasing a $20 tourist t-shirt at an airport souvenir shop because your child vomited or had a blow out on your only shirt.
  • Playmat. A compact playmat for the airport. The Monkey Mat is a compact blanket made of parachute material that allows baby to burn some energy on the floor while you wait at the gate.
  • Toys. A maximum of 3 of their favorite {compact} toys that don’t have music. I did not bring too many toys as the plane provides many free “toys” in-flight. From the laminated airplane safety card, to the {clean} barf bags, to cups from from the beverage cart, it’s not difficult to find new “toys” for the baby. Just be sure to wipe down that airplane safety card with some wipes.
  • Books. A maximum of 3 their favorite books
  • Camera.
  • More diapers.
  • Medicine. {Read below.}

Medicine

I like to play it safe and always travel with the below. The last thing you want when your child is sick and you’re in an unfamiliar country/city is to find an open pharmacy and cross your fingers when you pick an unfamiliar brand of medicine…if the label’s in English.

  • Tylenol/acetaminophen.
  • Benadryl :: I pack this solely to address allergic reactions, not to drug my child so she will sleep. See a cautionary tale below…
  • Hydrocortisone.
  • Pedialyte. I like the powder packs where you can add water later. They pack easily.
  • Thermometer.

Checked Bag

This list is not comprehensive, as it’s not quite unique to international travel. However, there are a couple of considerations.

  • Diapers & baby food
    • If you’re going to a relatively remote resort – YES, pack these! If you’re lucky, diapers in the right size might be sold in the resort gift shop or convenience store, but will definitely be sold at a premium.
    • If you’re going to a metropolitan area, you can definitely buy diapers, baby food, and other common baby items locally. This will save you a lot of space.
  • Toiletries :: On the same vein as medicine, I like to pack familiar, tried-and-true soaps and lotions for my baby when I travel especially since my daughter’s skin is so sensitive.

Flight Day

Get there early

Aim for 3 hours early to allow for unexpected incidents and traffic. The more time you have at the airport, the more relaxed you will be which is important for the next point…

Take a deep breath

You will be fine. Your baby will be fine. Your child is aware of your emotional state, so try to at least fake-it-til-you-make-it so that you can believe it. Then, your kid can follow suit. Create that virtuous cycle.

Drink water

Hydration is especially important for breastfeeding moms. The rushing adrenaline of making it to the gate may impact your supply. You can minimize the effects by continuously drinking water as you navigate the airport.

Replicate the bedtime routine

When you board the plane and your baby hasn’t yet fallen asleep, be sure to replicate the bedtime routine as much as possible. This includes changing into pajamas after you have boarded the plane! Something about helping your baby switch to sleep mode can really help set the mood for the flight.

infant_flight_window_seat

You have a baby, not a miniature adult

Babies cry. Babies also smile and laugh. Babies sleep and sometimes they don’t sleep. If you remind yourself of these facts, it will protect you from having sky-high {yes, pun totally intended} expectations of them being these perfect little angels that are seen and not heard. If your child just can’t cope after you’ve done all you can humanly do to make her comfortable, remember — it is not a reflection of you as a mother.

Flight attendants are your best friends

Be incredibly nice to the flight attendants, and they will usually return the favor. So when you need to ask them to take a moment to fill up the bottle with some warm water in the middle of the night, it won’t be a big deal.

Don’t worry about the others

As long as other passengers see that you are trying your best to make your child comfortable, fellow passengers are usually very forgiving. A couple of years ago, a photo went viral where a mom provided “sorry-in-advance” gifts to fellow passengers. Enclosed were ear plugs and candy. Sorry, but that’s not my style. Back to the point of — you have a baby, not a miniature adult. Babies are people too, and if we apologize for their perfectly normal behavior, what type of precedence are we setting about a child’s place in society? Frankly, who has time to worry about making others {strangers, in fact} happy when you’re just trying to parent your child? These are probably strangers you will never meet again in your life.

Soapbox aside, it’s usually not as bad as you think. On our 14-hour return flight from Dubai to Houston, our daughter had a cold and was incredibly fussy. To me, she was a terror, and I was exhausted from trying to make her comfortable and prevent her from crying. I was also exhausted because I felt paranoid about the passengers surrounding us. After we landed in Houston, our girl gave fellow passengers her golden smile, and they complimented us. They told us she “wasn’t that bad” when I thought, “man…these people probably hate this baby!”

ergobaby_international_travel

Consider ditching the stroller

I left the stroller at home and carried my daughter in our Ergobaby.

  • It’s easier to navigate TSA :: I had my hands free. When we went through TSA, we did not need to dismount. She was in the comfort of my arms while we were scanned.
  • Minimize the impact of the unfamiliar :: She napped when she needed to, and the impact of an unfamiliar place was minimized since she was protected with the familiarity of mom.
  • Less is more :: Going sans stroller meant one less thing to carry. If anything, check the stroller so that you have it at your destination without having to lug it through security and the airport.

Takeoff and Landing

To help with the pressure mounting in the ears during takeoff and landing, nursing, the bottle, or pacifier helps.

Cautionary tales

Safety

If you wear your baby in a sling or wrap, please do use extra caution if you continue to wear your child while seated on the plane. I have heard a story from a flight attendant where an infant suffocated. The mother had fallen asleep on a long flight and upon awaking, she found her child lifeless. The attendants were unable to resuscitate the baby. I’m certainly not telling you this to scare you or make you think that baby wearing is a bad thing – if you need to catch a wink of sleep, just please tap-out and enlist your partner for baby duty.

Benadryl

If you insist on using Benadryl to sedate your child for the flight, I recommend that you consult your pediatrician since you are using medication for something other than its intended use. Also seek guidance on proper, accurate dosage. Benadryl is known to have a stimulating effect on babies. My daughter is one of those paradoxical cases of hyperactivity after a dose of Benadryl.

international_travel_maldives_kristinehu

After all that’s said and done, you will have to go with the flow when traveling internationally with an infant. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. Sure, your child will not remember, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get something out of it. The trip will make memories — some that you will laugh at later on {okay maybe much later on}, some that are so sweet that you will cherish forever.

, , , ,

3 Responses to The Survivor’s Guide to International Travel with an Infant

  1. Stephanie September 17, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

    Thank you so much for this post! I will be travelling with a 2 year old and 4 month old (solo) via Emirates from Toronto to Dubai and you have provided some great tips 😀

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. International Travel with the Bebe | vuhu life - July 12, 2015

    […] did it. We traveled internationally when the Bear was about 7 months old. Check out my post on Houston Moms Blog on what to do to […]

  2. Low Stress Travel With An Infant | Houston Moms Blog - September 2, 2016

    […] we’ve made multiple trips home as well as to other destinations, mostly by car – but by plane a bit also. Oh, and did I mention we have two dogs that also travel with us? I’m laughing at me […]

Leave a Reply

HTML Snippets Powered By : XYZScripts.com