Traveling with kids can be exhausting, even for the most seasoned parents. Kids of all ages easily become overstimulated and over-tired, even with just a small amount of travel. Children like routine, but travel inherently changes that. Airplane travel is especially difficult. The changes in pressure, the noise, the unfamiliar environment, and the problematic scheduling all typically come together to create a pretty chaotic flight experience.
Most parents have a big fear of their babies crying on the plane, and this all too often comes true. Other passengers can get annoyed or even be downright rude to parents whose babies are excessively loud, but most of the time the parents can't do anything to control it. Airlines and flight attendants do their best to mitigate any problems; unfortunately, the reality is that babies just can't help it. For parents who want to be prepared beforehand, there are some things you can do to not only be ready to deal with your baby's crying but to help him or her calm down in the middle of a flight.
Here are the top 10 things experts say will help on the plane, as well as 10 you can do before you take off to be prepared!
20 20. Bounce Your Baby: Change the Pressure
In any stressful situation, babies like to be bounced, and this isn't any different on a plane. Experts say that bouncing your baby on your knee will help most during the takeoff or landing because babies don't like the change in pressure, but if he or she is fussy at any point during the flight, this can be a good distraction to hold any crying baby at bay.
Some overly kind flight attendants will even bounce passengers' babies for a few moments while the moms and dads take a break or go to the bathroom. It's one tried and true way to keep your baby happy on a plane!
19 19. Figure Out Why Your Baby is Crying: Look to the Typical Clues
Babies usually cry when they need something, and just because you're on a plane doesn't mean this changes. If your child can't stop crying and seems inconsolable, check to see if he or she is hungry or thirsty, and if that doesn't work, check for a dirty diaper. Your baby could also be overstimulated and needs to sleep.
If you can, try to take care of any basic needs during the beginning of the flight so that your baby won't work himself or herself up and need to be calmed down even more. This is a pretty basic one, but it can have a huge impact on how smoothly your trip goes!
18 18. Make Your Baby’s Feeding Time During Takeoff and Landing: Help His/Her Ears Pop
Adults tend to settle down the most in the middle of the flight, and babies are no different. Experts say that takeoff and landing are the hardest times for your baby. Even adults tend to shy away from the beginning and end of a flight, but babies' ears are much more sensitive so they have a far more difficult time dealing with the changes in pressure.
The best thing to do is to actually wait to feed your baby until takeoff and landing. Sucking their milk out of a bottle will help their ears pop naturally and alleviate any pressure that would cause undue crying.
17 17. Give Your Baby a Pacifier: Any Little Bit Helps
Another great option to deal with pressure changes or even just simple boredom is a pacifier. It will help with any ear popping that would cause problems, but also can keep a baby who would normally be upset occupied. Babies tend to like their own environments and a pacifier can help facilitate that.
If you can accustom your baby to one special pacifier before the trip, that can make a world of difference. Experts say that the more familiar items you can bring, the better the crying situation will be, and a pacifier can be a great tool to have in a pinch situation.
16 16. Dress Your Baby in an Extra Layer of Clothes: airplanes Can Get Cold!
If you've ever taken off from a hot destination, only to be freezing once you're up in the air, you're not alone! Almost anywhere in the world, you would be cold once you're over 10,000 feet up. This is something a lot of adults forget to plan for just for their own flight, especially if leaving from somewhere warm. Babies are much more sensitive than adults and will need extra layers to stay warm on the flight.
It can be easiest to bring clothes that are zip-up or button-down and to have multiple options. That way, if your baby appears hot, you can take some off, or add a sweatshirt or sweater if they get chilly.
15 15. Nap Your Baby Right On Time: Don't Change the Schedule
Many parents end up switching around their babies' schedules during travel, but experts say that this is a mistake. Firstly, you're much more likely to have an overtired, overstimulated, cranky baby on your hands if you try to alter his or her nap schedule.
Secondly, if you do your best to keep your baby's schedule exactly the same, he or she will subconsciously feel a little more comfortable traveling because the routines from home are occurring.
It can be tough when you're boarding or getting off a plane, but whether you're bringing a car seat or just keeping your baby on your lap, napping is definitely possible.
14 14. Bring Your Baby's Favorite Toys: Comfort and Familiarity
Another important part of your baby's routine (believe it or not) is his or her favorite toys. Anything that reminds your baby of home will make the flight smoother. Pick out two or three favorite toys that are on the small side and keep them in your carry on.
Ideally, they'll be readily available, so that if your baby starts to break out into a crying fit, you can grab the toy and distract him or her with something familiar. If your baby is old enough, you can even let him or her choose the toy so that he/she gets some say in what will take place during the trip.
13 13. Have a Favorite TV Show or Song on Hand: Distractions Are the Key
If your child is old enough to comprehend any sort of TV show or music, then an electronic distraction is a must-have. Many children love iPads and watch shows such as Little Baby Bum or Baby Shark.
Bring some child-size headphones that will fit your baby (make sure not to turn them up too loud), charge the iPad beforehand, and make sure to download a few shows when you're connected to WiFi so that you have it. If you don't have an iPad, a smartphone will work just as well and you can do the same process. This can be a great way to put your baby to sleep, too.
12 12. Head to the Back of the Plane: The Engines Will Mask Noise
Sometimes you just can't get your baby to stop crying. It happens, and as embarrassing or nerve-wracking as it might feel for parents, there's literally nothing you can do. Some passengers may be angry, but just remember that they're clearly not thinking about how you simply can't control a living being.
If your baby can't stop screaming, try heading to the back of the plane to stand for a bit. The engine is much louder, and the folks who grab the back of the plane tickets usually expect noise a bit more than those close to the front or in first class. This will be especially helpful if you have an overnight flight and passengers are trying to sleep.
11 11. Stay Calm: Your Baby Feeds off of You
It's hard not to feel super stressed when other passengers are getting angry with you and your child is inconsolable. After a few hours of this, you might be at the end of your rope. However, it's scientifically (and practically!) proven that your baby feeds off your energy, so any stress radiating from you will only make your baby scream more.
Take a few deep breaths and think about the situation logically. Sure, it's not fun for anyone, but you all just have to get through it and embark on your vacation that you're probably excited about. Plus, if anyone is over the top angry that their peace was disturbed, brush it off: you'll never see them again.
10 10. Pack More Stuff Than You Anticipate Needing: Especially Diaper Wipes!
When packing carry-on bags, a lot of parents will bring the same amount of stuff they would to any other outing, but what you might not realize is exactly how long you'll be on the plane. You'll have a few hours beforehand as you go through security and wait to board your flight, then your actual flight time, then the de-plane time and the ride to wherever you're going.
Another variable to consider is the fact that your flight could be delayed. If you're already through security, you could be stuck with the very few baby products that you can buy inside the airport, which can cause even more problems for your baby.
9 9. Prepare Your Baby By Explaining What An Airplane Is: Movies, Books, and Toys
Babies are extremely intelligent (probably smarter than most people would give them credit for) and can recognize things like an airplane from an early age. The best way to accustom your baby to an upcoming air-trip is to slowly introduce them to the idea of a plane.
This can happen in a variety of ways. Many parents buy toy airplanes for their baby. Others will hang model airplanes over the crib or play TV programs about airplanes. Another method is to get books that feature the airplanes either as the main characters or just as a method of transport to show your baby how people ride in them.
8 8. Research the Layout of the Airport: Find Any Mother's Centers
Every airport is different, but many of the United States airports in major areas have started offering mothers' centers dedicated solely to mothers with young children. Each center offers different amenities. Some are just tiny little cubbies where a mother can escape to feed their babies, while others are whole multi-room centers.
Some airports also offer daycare to mothers who are traveling with young children. You can leave your baby for an hour or two while you get everything in order and prepare for the flight. Parents say that this is especially helpful if traveling alone or with multiple children who are all young.
7 7. Pack the Appropriate Medication In Case Your Baby Gets Sick: Don't Get Stuck Without It
Sick kids are constantly crying. They just can't help it, and that's only when you're at home! Imagine having a sick child flying on a plane for his or her first time. An unfamiliar environment combined with physical symptoms of illness is definitely a recipe for disaster, or at the very least, a lot of crying!
To plan ahead for any problems, make sure to pack a variety of medicine that would help your baby if he or she were to come down with something. Usually Tylenol and some sort of PM medication are good things to start with, however note that experts don't recommend giving anything to your baby to make him or her sleep if a sickness isn't actually present.
6 6. Schedule the Flight Right at Your Baby’s Nap Time: Let Your Baby Sleep Through It
The absolute best time to schedule a flight is just a few minutes before your baby's nap. If you schedule it halfway through the nap, or even a few minutes after, you can miss the window and your baby may become overtired (and cranky!).
Ideally, you would board with your baby, get settled and comfortable, then slowly relax your baby into a sleepy state. A lot of parents use electronics, books, or toys to calm your baby down. You can also sing very quietly to your child or use headphones to play some calming music that will (hopefully) put your child right to sleep.
5 5. Carefully Choose Your Seat: Aisle, Window, or Middle?
If you're traveling with a large family, this won't be an issue since you'll probably reserve the whole aisle, but if the group is just you and your baby, then think carefully about which seats you'll reserve. Some parents opt to get a seat for their child and bring the car-seat along, while others feel that this is too much work (and money) and would rather keep the child on the parent's lap.
If you know you'll need to get up quite a bit, an aisle seat is probably best, but if you want to be settled and have more privacy, then a window seat will be your best choice. If you're traveling with a partner, you can also book the window and aisle seats and hope that no one ends up in the middle.
4 4. Get an Airport Friendly Stroller: Smaller is Better
The airport definitely isn't the best place to utilize your newest, largest double stroller. With huge crowds, narrow bathrooms, and extremely small plane aisles, you'll only get stuck over and over again if your stroller is too big. Typically, an umbrella stroller (or the equivalent for newborns) is perfect.
Find the smallest stroller possible that will still hold all your things and be comfortable for your baby. The airline will most likely need to check it at the door of the plane, but there are usually attendants to help you with that and often no extra fee, especially if you bought a seat for your child.
3 3. Buy a New Toy: Have Something Flashy On Hand
Although your baby will feel most comfortable with his or her favorite toys, movies, or games, these things won't work the best as a distraction since they're not new or exciting. In this case, it's best to also pack a smaller, newer toy that is flashy or different.
Make sure that this toy doesn't make a lot of noise or you'll be switching out your child's crying for a loud, probably annoying toy that won't help you make any friends with the other passengers. Usually something brightly colored or fun (like a stuffed animal you know your baby will like) works well and can be distracting during a tantrum on the plane.
2 2. Get the Appropriate Documentation: Check Your Airport's Regulations
The documentation needed for different aged children at different airports always varies and will depend on a lot of factors. It's best to check in ahead of time and learn about the rules, including those just for your airline. Figure out what will happen to the stroller, what fees you'll need to pay with a child, how you can potentially get a car seat on the plane, and what documentation you would need for all of that.
It can also be helpful to learn about the security process with children, and it will usually be different for domestic flights versus international.
1 1. Get Your Baby on a Good Schedule: Consistency Is Key
The most important factor when planning a trip is getting your baby on a schedule ahead of time. If you have really regimented naps and a typical feeding time, your baby will 100% do better on the plane, and you'll have luck planning a flight around naps. Some babies have trouble getting on a regular schedule, but if there was ever a time to work on that, it's before a flight.
You can also start to work towards a schedule that coincides with your flight if you book far enough ahead. If your baby will be napping in the car seat then you can practice that, or if he/she will be on your lap you can get your baby used to that as well.