Traveling internationally with an infant is a daunting prospect -- enough to cause a few gray hairs and a considerable amount of parental agitation. Will my baby cry during the flight? (Yes.) How many diapers should I bring? (Lots.) Will the airline lose the stroller? (Gate check makes this less likely.) Long flights and multiple layovers with a baby can bring even an experienced traveler to tears. Whether traveling internationally with an infant on your own, or with a partner, these preparation tips can help you and your baby have an easier and more enjoyable experience.
1. Select your plane seats carefully. Window seats provide more privacy for breastfeeding or pumping milk. Bulkhead seats at the front of the plane provide more room for all of your gear, however some do not recline. Many large planes have bassinets at select seats, so call your airline to check. If you can't score an extra roomy seat, the back of the plane is also a good option because it's close to the bathroom for diaper changes and the extra "white noise" may lull your baby to sleep.
2. Organize your carry on bags. Keep all of the baby items in one large backpack so that your hands are free. A swim backpack is a good choice because it has compartments to store wet items, like spit up cloths and soiled clothes. Store clean and dirty clothes, toys, and feeding gear in separate resealable plastic bags. Put all ticket and passport documents in one bag that stays on your person at all times.
3. Travel with as few bags as possible. Carrying a baby or pushing a stroller limits your ability to lug suitcases across the airport. If you are traveling alone with the baby, make your trip easier by limiting your luggage to these pieces: a stroller, a large backpack containing your baby's gear, a small shoulder carry on for your supplies and all important documents, and no more than two rolling checked suitcases (connected with a buckle strap). Make sure your carry on bags close completely to avoid items falling out accidentally.
4. Wear your baby at the airport. Nothing is more irritating than having to wake your sleeping baby for a security inspection. Avoid this by wearing your baby in a harness or carrier at the airport. TSA allows you to go through airport security without removing the baby from the carrier (and potentially disrupting a nap), if worn on your body.
5. Bring items both new and familiar. Your baby may be out of sorts while traveling, and who can blame him? Missed naps and new environments can be tough on a little person. Familiar comforts, such as a favorite blanket, book, or toy, will help calm your baby. At the same time, sitting in the same seat for hours on end can spell c-r-y-i-n-g for bored babies. A few new toys, as simple as paper towel tubes or a bright cup, will help distract and entertain.
6. Crying is inevitable, so try to relax. Of course a crying baby on an airplane is nobody's idea of a good time. Just remember that no one will be more upset than you when your baby cries. Accept help when offered, if you're comfortable with it. Flight attendants and passengers may have rather unusual suggestions, especially if they are from a culture different than yours, so feel confident in refusing help if you don't want it. If your baby wails for the entire flight, just take a deep breath and consider that you will probably never see any of your fellow passengers again, and it will all be over soon enough.
Preparation can enhance any travel experience - especially long-distance international travel with an infant. But of course, the best laid plans often go awry. Stay flexible and expect a few hiccups along the way. A positive attitude will help you and your baby weather any storm, even one that delays your flight. Safe travels!