I have travelled by air many times with each of my babies. Immy first flew at just seven weeks of age and by the time she was six months old AJ had travelled alone with me on four interstate work trips. And while it is never exactly easy, I have learnt a lot of little tricks and tips along the way, especially when it comes to packing a lean, mean, on board machine – and by that I mean a carry on bag with everything we will need that doesn’t weigh a tonne!
To make it super easy to remember exactly what I need each time I have a nifty little acronym that I use when packing our cabin bag – let me introduce you to…
The S.P.I.C.E. Flying-with-baby On Board Plan!
Here’s how it goes…
S is for SLEEP
First up, consider what your baby will need in order to sleep comfortably on the plane. Do they have a favorite comforter? Need a dummy or pacifier? Are they still wrapped to sleep or do they sleep in a sleeping bag? These cues for sleep time are just as important on a plane as they are at home…fellow passengers may even argue that they are even more important! Small babies will often sleep a lot during air travel so making sure you have everything they need to be as comfortable as possible is a number 1 priority for me.
Tip: I cannot tell you how much I love baby wraps when we are travelling. You will always find at least one large muslin wrap and one flannelette wrap in our carry on bag. I have used them to line the on board baby bassinet, to wrap a sleeping bub, as a burp cloth, as a nappy change table mat, as a breastfeeding cover and as a play mat on a busy airport floor. The flannelette version takes up a little more room but provides an easy, extra layer of warmth when the plane or airport is unexpectedly cold.
P is for PLAY
Once your baby is three or four months old I would suggest taking just a few small baby toys on board. Our Alimrose soft rattles, Sophie the Giraffe teething ring, a small set of ring links and one or two cloth books always flew with us when my babies were small. Although packing space can be tight, I guarantee that taking along a few small toys with make traveling with older babies just that little bit easier.
Tip: From around six months of age babies can also be entertained with simple everyday items that you will find on board. You won’t believe how much fun a plastic cup and spoon can be or even a game of peekaboo with a paper napkin.
I is for INSURANCE
I am not referring to travel insurance but those very important ‘I’ll-probably-not-need-it-but-just-in-case’ items. My two top insurance items – a thermometer and baby Panadol (infant paracetamol) – because there is little more stressful for both mama and baby than a bubba crying in pain for hours on end.
Other Insurance items will be personal to you and your bub. For example, you might pack a spare top for yourself if your baby is prone to spitting up, or your baby may require specific medication that you know that you need to have with you.
Tip: I also always pack a saline nasal spray for use before and during the flight. Just before travelling with Immy for the first time I read that a quick squirt of nasal spray can help to prevent little ones from catching those nasty bugs that circulate through the plane’s air conditioning system. I have absolutely no idea if this is scientifically correct or not but to date it has worked for us.
C is for CLEAN
Have you packed everything you will need for nappy change time?
- Nappies: As a general rule, I think about how many nappy changes my baby is likely to need for the duration of the flight and then pretty much double it…just in case!
- Be sure to pack at least two complete changes of clothes for your baby (this will be influenced by the duration of your travel)
- Baby wipes or cloth wipes
- Nappy disposal sacks
- Hand sanitizer
- Change mat
Think about how best to pack your nappy change supplies so that you can quickly and easily grab what you need without having to take your whole bag into the tiny airplane bathroom. I use a zippered, wet bag/nappy change pouch into whick I pack with just a few nappies (I top it up with more from my carry on bag as necessary), baby wipes, a few nappy sacks and nappy cream. I pack my padded nappy change mat into my carry on alongside the wet bag so that when it comes time for a change I can quickly and easily grab these two items.
Tip: Carefully consider what you dress your baby in. I find that lightweight, long sleeved footed onesies are great as they are comfortable, don’t ride up and are easy to undo at the crotch for nappy changes. Alternatively, a bodysuit with snaps at the crotch and footed leggings work well (no risk of lost socks!)
E is for EAT
Make sure you have any items your baby needs for feeding pre-prepared and ready to go. This may include;
- Anything you may need to make nursing on board as comfortable as possible
- Bottles and milk/formula
- Baby food – pack in individual serves and keep together with other feeding supplies in a small insulated lunch bag
- A small plastic bowl and spoon
- Facecloths or wet wipes
- Water bottle or sippy cup
And don’t forget yourself – I always travel with water (or be sure to ask for water regularly) and snacks for me. I learnt that lesson the hard way after being stuck in a long customs queue where I began to feel quite nauseous because I needed to eat…now!
Tip: I personally feel much more comfortable nursing my baby in close proximity to complete strangers when I am wearing a proper breastfeeding tank top. I also keep a muslin wrap handy for extra cover up.
So that is my system for working through exactly what I need to pack in my carry on bag when I am flying with a small baby. The only other thing that I absolutely cannot live without – a baby carrier. It’s fabulous for keeping your baby close and your hands free as you navigate busy airports with luggage in tow and I personally have used a stretchy wrap-style carrier (the Caboo by Close Parent) with my newborns and an ErgoBaby carrier once they were a little bigger.
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