A posting in the “Family Travel” forum asked for tips in regards to flying long distances with an infant. Coincidentally, in just a couple of weeks, a good friend of mine from high school will be taking his 4-month-old daughter on her first flight from Chicago to Hawaii. Knowing that I have flown a lot with my young daughter, he also asked for advice.
The best tip I can give anyone flying with a “lap child” (that’s airline lingo for any child under the age of two traveling without a ticket) is this: find out what type of aircraft you will be flying for the majority of your flight. For example, we were on a 767 from Chicago to Honolulu for roughly 9.5 hours. Knowing the type of aircraft you are flying in is critical because you want to use this information to get the biggest bang for your buck (especially if you are flying with your spouse, partner, other family member, friend, etc.). Next, ask the airline representative what the seating configuration is on that particular aircraft (for example on a 767, it’s two seats, three seats, two seats). If you are traveling with a partner, you will want to request the two aisle seats in the middle row. It is rare that someone will request a middle seat so it is almost a guarantee that it will be empty; providing you with extra room to let the baby stretch out or a place to keep toys, or even change your baby’s diaper (others may frown on this suggestion, however, if you have ever had to change a baby’s diaper in an airplane restroom then you know why I suggest it.) Basically, what ends up happening is that you get three seats for the price of two. And, even if your flight is booked, chances are the person holding the middle seat will be more than happy to switch with you or your partner, in which case your baby can then share time on both of your laps.
There are other basic tips to follow when traveling with an infant, including making sure he/she has a bottle, pacifier, or breast to suck on during take off and landing. This will help with the issue of ears and pressurization. Another tip: bring colorful board books and other toys. At seven months, my daughter loved looking at the bright colorful pictures and she loved chewing on the pages. I would also recommend bringing teething toys. My daughter loved the ones shaped like car keys. Also, don’t skimp on the handi-wipes. Long flights equal a lot of diaper changes and as for washing your hands post diaper change… we all know that the water pressure in airplane restrooms is poor at best. Finally, bring a pair of comfortable shoes, just in case your little one gets cranky mid-flight. You’ll be happy you did when you are pacing the aisles or standing at the back of the plane rocking your baby for the remainder of the flight.