Last week, Oakley and I returned from a 28 day safari in Tanzania! It was the trip of a lifetime but it was certainly an adventure to remember just to get out to East Africa. I will spare everyone the details but the trip out there ended up in several days, missed flights, and needing to fly through additional countries. The way home was much smoother but we learned so much on these flights!
I will note- we flew end of summer 2021. If you are reading this in the future and Covid testing or invasive forms are no longer a thing- you can skip the last few questions, but there were a lot of them as that is simply the world we are in right now.
I posted a questions box on instagram when we were flying home and I have compiled the most frequently asked questions when it comes to flying international with a toddler- even though a lot of these tips could apply to domestic flights as well! Some questions below do apply to the entire trip or when you reach the destination as well
I packed her Doona which is both her car seat and stroller. Folded up and placed up side down, it fits overhead in the compartments in the larger airplanes- which I love that we didn’t have to gate check! I also didn’t want to check her car seat and then also have a second stroller so it was the best of both worlds. She is getting almost too big for the Doona so I think this was one of our last trips with it but it was amazing to have for this one!
Does She Get Her Own Seat
No, she did not for this trip and she hasn’t yet for any trip she has been on. She is a lap child until she is 2. Even when she was sitting on my seat by herself (and buckled), she could still easily get out of it and fall. I am unsure if you could have a baby in a car seat on a business class seat but if flying economy, that might be a great option (obviously weighing the expense of another ticket)
How to Keep Them Entertained
We are not at the point where we are allowing screen time but there are so many new things on a big plane that keep a baby entertained- from the headphones to the remote to simply walking up and down the aisle. I packed toys on our way out and she played with 0 of them, she wanted to play with all of the buttons on the seat and even the plastic cups the flight attendants hand out provided a lot of entertainment. If you allow your baby to have screen time, there are a ton of movie options on board and entertainment shouldn’t be an issue at all!
How to Manage Time Zone Changes
Time zone changes can be so stressful but what I have found helpful for babies is the same I have found helpful for adults! If you land in the morning, I followed her one nap rule at noon and then woke her up after 2 hours (no napping if you are an adult). She then went to bed at her usual time and was back on track within a day. That one day can be a little rough but to get her on the right time zone within a day makes the rest of the trip that much more enjoyable. If you land at night, go to bed immediately- just like what you should do as an adult! More than likely, they won’t sleep well on the plane so getting them to take a nap or go to bed for the night should be fairly easy when you get to your final destination!
How to Handle Tantrums
We had one meltdown in about 65 hours of travel which I was thoroughly impressed by. I took her into the bathroom on the plane which really helped calm her down. It was because she was too hot so I stripped her down and cooled her off with some water on her back and after about 10 minutes, she was completely fine.
Pressure in Their Ears
It is highly recommend to have a baby sucking on either a bottle or a pacifier when you are ascending and descending to help alleviate the pressure in their ears. If she is close to getting a bottle before we take off, I wait to give it to her until we are actually on the runway to make sure she is drinking while we are taking off.
Food On Long Flights
I contacted the airlines we flew (United and Ethiopian) about a month before we left and they added “child meals” to my reservation for her which was very nice. A lot of fruit was provided for her and she absolutely loved all of her meals. I asked them to space out brining my meal and her meal so I didn’t have to try to feed her and also feed myself at the same time. Flight attendants are so helpful on those international flights and many offered to hold her while I went to the bathroom! She also loved walking up to the galley about 100 times per flight and waving to all of them every chance she got.
Do You Fly First Class
For international flights, we do fly business class. For majority of our marriage, we flew economy and it worked fine for us. With an active toddler, the extra room in business class is a God send. If you are looking at flying business (lay down seats) for your next flight, make sure you select business and not first class. We have NEVER flown first class across an ocean- the two cabins are different but to us, not worth the extra cost. I do know many parents that fly economy with newborns and they often have the bassinet option if you contact them early enough. I think economy would work for a child that has their own seat when they are old enough as well.
How Many Diapers
She goes through about 5 diapers a day plus her nighttime diaper and diaper pad. Being gone for 28 days, I accounted for 6 diapers a day and 1 nighttime per day and 1 diaper pad per day. I also added more in my bag for airport days as she seems to go through them a lot faster on airplanes than she does on regular days- no idea why. I was SO close on being perfect on the diaper count, I ended up needing a few on our second to last flight home but we were able to get some at the airport. I was very proud of myself for getting it almost perfect with the diapers.
How Much Formula
About a week before we left, I made it a point to actively track how much formula she was drinking during the day. I then increased what I packed by about 20% to ensure I had enough and to account for any cancelled flights or extra time away from home. I also wanted to ensure she had more than enough in case there was certain food she didn’t like on any given day. Luckily I way overpacked formula which is the best case scenario. I vacuum sealed the formula with our food sealer and packed all of it my carry on. I didn’t want to run the risk of a missing or lost bag and not having anything for her to eat.
What About Sleeping
Per usual, it’s recommended to pack everything for sleeping that make baby feel like home. For this trip, we obviously packed pajamas, sleep sack, sound machine, monitor, etc. This has been huge for us to ensure she sleeps as well while traveling as she does at home.
Covid Testing? Forms?
Every country is different at the moment when it comes to what tests are needed, when you have to be tested by, the timing, what forms are needed, etc. The online apps for all airlines are extremely helpful with their travel ready document section and let you know every single piece of documentation you need to have. I HIGHLY recommend printing out and filling out the forms ahead of time for you and baby. At this time, children under 2 don’t need tests. It’s extremely stressful to ensure all forms are correct and you get your test within the allotted time frame but be prepped ahead of time with planning is the ticket!