How We Almost Travelled By Air With Our 5 Week Old Son (+ tips to travel with a baby)
Everyone knows having a baby changes pretty much your entire life. But one thing we had hoped wouldn’t overly change was our travel. Not because we are crazy travel enthusiasts but because it was something we had come to enjoy so much in recent times.
That’s why when our friends hinted us that their wedding was to be in South Africa in December and just five weeks after my due date – we resolved to make it work. We’d spent about 96 Hours in Jo'burg and CapeTown earlier in the year but you’d recall we didn’t get much done. It was a quick trip in and out. So I was excited for an opportunity to go back. I was finally going to explore everything I missed in Johannesburg - the history, the food, the people. And well, pretty photos.
Plus it was one of our closest friend’s wedding. Tee was the best man, and I was on the bridal train. Surely we had to go. How difficult can it be to travel with a five week old by air? Most airlines allowed babies from 2 days old to fly!
My mum was concerned about the 12 hour flight time. "It's not a quick 50 minutes flight from Lagos to Abuja" she said. I countered that my friends who recently had kids in the US returned back to nigeria many times with their five week old. "That's a one way trip!" and "they're going home not on a holiday", she countered. I could think of a couple of comebacks but I let it go.
More people raised more concerns:
- Oh by five weeks, you’d still be so tired from child birth
- Me: No I wouldn’t. I choose to be positive. Everything will go well and easy.
- He’d be too young!
- Me: I’ve seen and read lots of people do it. Babies are tougher than we give them credit for.
- He wouldn’t have taken his first immunisations yet
- Me: The doctor says it’s likely fine to go
- New babies need a lot of equipment:
- Me: And all we need is proper planning.
- Would you even have his travel documents?
- Me: If we apply for this as soon as he's born, we should be okay.
I’m sure they laughed in my faces.
But to be honest, Tee and I were pretty much bent on this.
And so I started my research. And oh did I research. I needed to be fully armed to make this work. I read blogs. I asked friends. I called the airlines.
And guess what? We booked our tickets!
Before I go on to what happened, let me tell you the most important tips for flying with a baby:
1: You have to plan
One time we overslept before a trip and the knock of the taxi driver scheduled to take us to the airport woke us up. Let’s just say that if we had a baby then, it wouldn’t have worked. So there’s no room for inefficiency. With a baby early morning flights are probably not the best.
Write out a list of every single baby item you’d require. Find out which can be purchased at your destination (i.e baby food, wipes and diapers) but still take a good amount of this.
In planning have a categorised checklist: feed; bath; clothing; sleep; play; nappy change; transport; bath items, toys, health care and bed time essentials. Do not forget baby travel documents. He or she may be tiny but is a whole and separate human.
2: Confirm airline requirements and options
Once we booked our tickets we let the airline know we were expecting to fly with a baby at the time. They confirmed that we could check in two of these three: a car seat, a travel cot and a stroller!
Plus the baby was entitled to its own luggage allowance! And once we had the baby, we could call in to reserve a baby bassinet. All of this was good news to my ears.
I pictured us very casually strolling into the airport. Tee pushing all our suitcases + diaper bag and I using our carrier hugging baby to my chest. It’s helpful to get a back pack diaper bag and use a front baby carrier – you would be maximising your back and front.
Sometimes there’s priority boarding if you have a baby - win!
3: In Flight
Most people agreed that in flight with a baby would often be a breeze – as they’re likely to sleep a great deal of the journey. One tip they shared was to feed while take-off and landing. This prevents ear aches.
Most airlines allow reasonable amount of pumped breast milk to go through security. If you’re formula feeding – you could consider the ready made travel sized formula.
Dress baby in layers – temperature changes in the air craft. Also consider clothes for easy nappy change.
Oh and in picking seats, if travelling as a couple, pick the aisle and window seats. That way if the flight is not overbooked, the middle seat stays empty and you’ve got extra space.
Ask for help – air hostesses are generally happy to help with washing bottles, pacifiers etc. I mean how many people can truly resist the the cuteness of a baby.
If you’re going to be staying at a hotel, most decent ones are happy to provide a baby cot if you request early. You may still want to take your own sheets for comfort.
If it’s a destination that’s car friendly – hiring a car might also be a good option for the baby’s convenience. You could also hire a car with a car seat which saves on the baggage.
For sunny destinations, don’t forget baby sunscreen
Finally, it’s great to have travel insurance and some sort of hospital / clinic details at your destination – just in case of an emergency.
That’s pretty much it. Take loads of photos – of the baby too!. And ignore any one who looks at you funny if baby throws a tantrum!
So with all of this information I gathered, did we make the trip?
And - it wasn’t because I wasn’t ready or I was afraid or tired. I’m simply blaming it on the fact that it would have been near impossible for his travel documents to arrive in under a month. Why does a five week old need a passport and visa anyway? Ugh!
But I’m not deterred and this information shall not waste.
We’ve got another wedding to attend later this year in Johannesburg! – (making it the third in a year in South Africa – are we missing some memo?). So hopefully that would just work.
In the meantime, I’m exploring other travel options. Because it appears babies and infants barely pay any fare price until they turn two. Hopefully we can take advantage of some cheap flights.
Have you travelled with babies or infants? At what age and how did that go? Share your tips, advice and must haves!
pS: We got a refund on my ticket and Tee went on to represent us on there. Does this count as one of our travel mishaps again? And I'm still not sure if this was worse than the dubai vacations that never happened.
ppS: This post is in collaboration with TravelStart