Travel the globe with baby in tow – Part 2: On the flight

Travel the globe with baby in tow – Part 2: On the flight

In Part 2 of our guide to travelling with little ones, we shoot for the impossible – keeping your baby happy on the plane. (If you missed it, here’s Part 1: Traveling with your baby : Before the Flight)

Mother and child at airport

If you find yourself blacking out at the thought of taking your baby on a plane, you’ve come to the right place.
Photo credit © 2010 Keoni Cabral

Achy ears

Take off and landing cause changes in pressure that seriously hurt little ears. Thankfully, swallowing quickly equalizes this, so time your milk feeds for these two periods. If your child refuses fluids, whip out the snacks.

The cot

You’ve requested it, but you may not actually want to use it. Though your child may sleep more comfortably in a cot, airlines require that the baby is taken out and strapped in with the parents whenever there is turbulence, as well as for take off and landing. I found it easier to put my daughter to sleep on my lap than to be constantly taking her in and out of the cot on a bumpy flight.


If you’re any kind of parent, you should know by now that the key to keeping a toddler or baby happy is new stuff, at 5-10 minute intervals. Remember all those toys you brought? Remember the snacks? The iPhone you so carefully charged up before the flight? Parade them out, one by one. Ask for crayons and paper. Let them play with the peanut packets, airline cups and in flight shopping magazines.

Wait, did I say minutes? Haha! I meant seconds. Seriously, stretch your creativity to the limit. On a 4-hour flight to the Philippines, my 1-year-old scorned all her toys and books and instead played with my coin purse, taking out and putting back the coins for THIRTY.WHOLE.MINUTES. This was a huge relief – even after I realized she was happily dropping the coins into the deepest, grossest recesses of the plane’s arm rest. You never know what’s going to work, but rest assured, something eventually will.

Baby sitting on aircraft floor

Improvised play area
Photo credit © 2014 Claire Merquita

If you’re at the bulkhead, another idea is to request a blanket from the airline and use it to create an improvised play space in front of you for some variety. This will also give you time to recover from the crippling baby-weight-induced pins and needles in your lap. Yay!

The crying

The moment we’ve all been waiting for – what to do when, after you’ve exhausted the in-flight entertainment system and the contents of your bag, your baby just goes on crying. Although you may now be very tempted to use those emergency doors the flight attendants are always telling everyone about, just hang in there. Remember that babies and young children often feed off your emotions, so if you’re stressed out and pissed off (understandably!), they’re probably mirroring you.

Calm yourself. Try not to think about the death stares from other passengers for five minutes as you take your child for a walk to the back of the plane, armed with a parent’s most potent weapon – the SUPER INTERESTED voice. Look at those clouds out this tiny window! Aren’t they the most amazing thing ever? HEY LOOK A MINI TOILET! SO MUCH FUN! Chances are, the change of scenery will distract them, plus the engines sound louder towards the back and will help drown out their not-so-tiny howls of fury. If all else fails, console yourself – crying and wailing is even more tiring for them than it is for you, and it’s only a matter of time before they burn out.

Father and baby sleeping at the airport

Father and baby, post 15-hour flight.
Photo credit © 2008 Lars Plougmann

And a final word…

… don’t worry about the other passengers. Fellow parents and the more compassionate will always appreciate that you’re trying, and everyone else can suck it. If you feel really bad, take a cue from these thoughtful parents.

1 comment

  • […] And we haven’t even got to the flight yet! Check back for Part 2 of our guide to travelling with young children. […]

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