Carry-on baggage and a baby in tow: 6 things you need to know

Rachel ArandillaRachel Arandilla
Postcard Travels

AS a traveler-turned-new-mother, I have to come to terms with the responsibility of motherhood and my constant desire for travel. “The world is your oyster,” they say. Bbut what happens when you have to share that oyster with your little one?

Having your baby travel can touch a nerve among some people. “He’ll hate travel when he grows up with all those tiring trips” or “He’ll get sick and you’ll regret it” are just among the sentiments that other people who really care express. In retrospect, I am not trying to raise a global nomad kid. I just want him to spend as much time with me as possible, and hopefully nurture the same passions — in travel, art, history, cultures, languages, the world.

CALEB at five months old, Macau to Cebu flight.
CALEB at five months old, Macau to Cebu flight.

I believe in making the world our children’s extended classroom, and in nourishing their love for travel while young. When I found out that Caleb has the same restless temperament I have, I knew we were going to be TBFs (that’s true best friends or, better yet, travel buddies forever.) Travel will make him a confident decision maker, adventurous eater, multi-linguist, culture connoisseur — or maybe not (I will come back to you in a couple years time to confirm).

Thankfully nowadays for motherhood and traveling, you don’t need to choose one over the other, or sacrifice one for another. Travel is made more easy and accessible for the little ones. But I wouldn’t lie and say traveling with a baby is easy. You need to be physically and mentally prepared to be airborne with a baby. Here are six things you need to know with baby air travel.

1. Be forewarned: babies and planes don’t go too well together.

It’s a no-brainer, but a long-haul flight with a baby can be an ordeal. Take it from someone who’s been on a 14-hour flight with her 11-month-old. Airports are very stressful environments, and babies aren’t geared towards sitting for hours on a cramped airline seat. On top of that, airline passengers are not the most understanding kind when it comes to crying babies.

DUBAI International Airport offers strollers-to-use for tiny travelers.
DUBAI International Airport offers strollers-to-use for tiny travelers.

To be fair, most of Caleb’s flying experience has been positive. He’s flown 10 times and mostly slept through it all. Still, a few set strategies can help make your flight experience more pleasurable.

First things first, forget about getting some rest or in-flight entertainment on air, or else you might get a little disappointed.

2. Bring necessary documents.

Nowadays, even a newborn requires necessary travel documents such as passport and visa to travel around. At any time during check-in or immigration, personnel may ask for your child’s NSO birth certificate to prove parentage or legal guardianship.

Minors traveling abroad without their parents, even if they are traveling with relatives or older siblings, need to secure a DSWD Travel Clearance. In the Philippines, individuals under the age of 18 are considered minors.

2. Tire him out before the flight.

Before your flight, tire him out at the airport. Have him people watch, run around, do activities. Seriously, don’t tell him to behave! Better to get that energy ball of a toddler completely exhausted so he can sleep soundly later on the entire flight.

In long-haul flights, stopovers serve as a good break for you and your kid to stretch your legs, change clothes and exhaust that tiny energy ball again.

3. Pack well and strategically.

Upon having Caleb, I quickly learned that he’s taken over my luggage space (little travelers need a surprising amount of stuff!). Try to pack lightly and organize well. On our flight from Hong Kong when he was five months old, we sat at my favorite spot, the window seat. But my pleasure turned to horror when I had to annoy my neighbor quite a few times to get some things in the diaper bag throughout the flight. After that, I made sure we get the aisle seat at all times.

Dress him in clothes that make for quick and easy nappy changes. A onesie and pajamas are always convenient, wherein you don’t need to take his clothes and shoes off for a diaper change.

4. Pack his necessary entertainment.

No shame here on using technology, but a tablet with his favorite apps and videos will keep a toddler distracted for the time being. Babies might not have the attention span to appreciate technology for an extended time, so pack in a few portable toys in his diaper bag. Don’t take them all out at once — introduce a new toy until the novelty fades and he’s ready for a new one.

If you don’t want to pack too many things, don’t worry. The plane has plenty of stuff that Caleb found entertaining as well — the seatbelt, headphones, inflight magazine, and the cute flight attendant who would make funny faces with him.

5. Avoid ear pressure.

Ear pressure can cause unbearable pain for babies and children. Reduce ear pressure by having him nurse, suck a pacifier or drink from a bottle during takeoff or landing.

6. Be polite.

Your infant can’t apologize for his actions, but you can. A crying baby is understandable, but an indifferent parent who act like nothing’s wrong, a parent who looks the other way while his kid is kicking at your seat. Be the polite parent and at least smile apologetically and say sorry.

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