Traveling with Baby: Long-Haul plane rides with a 9-12 month old

We traveled from the US to Singapore recently. I then stayed in Singapore for about 2 months with E and returned back with E, thankfully not on my own since I had a bad gastric attack on board our last 9 hour leg. The hubs returned home after 3 weeks.

This was E’s second plane ride, her first being a trip to Austin, TX. However, that ride was only about 4 to 5h long and E was much younger (5 months). This was truly a long-haul flight – the first leg to Singapore was 11h + 6h and the second leg back home was 5h + 9h. It was faster flying home because the winds were more favorable (according to the hubs). E was also older and more mobile. She had just started crawling forwards when we went on this trip. As such, the hubs and I were a little concerned about traveling with E this time round.

This post is about traveling with a 9 to 12 month old. If you child is younger/older, things will differ.

Here are a few things we did:

  • We used a baby carrier (our Boba 4G) and didn’t bother to bring along our stroller. This was our preference because I find moving through airports and security easier with a baby strapped onto me. Most of the time you don’t need to remove baby from carrier at security – they just either swipe your hands or do a pat down (depending on country’s regulations). Do note most airlines let you check-in your stroller and car seat for free. You can also gate-check those items.
  • With baby strapped in front of me, I used a backpack. I needed a large enough backpack to stuff most of Elspeth’s stuff. All the other stuff went in the roller bag the hubs carried. I settled on this backpack – it was roomy enough to stuff most of E’s things and had easy to access compartments. I used the laptop compartment to stuff E’s diaper changing kit. As such, it was very easy to access, without having to open the whole bag. I could also (just barely) stuff this bag under the seat in front of me.

What we packed in the backpack and roller bag:

Backpack:

  • 1 change of clothes for me (the mom) (including undergarments, you don’t know where the vomit/pee/poo will hit)
  • 2 changes of clothes for baby (footed onesie, pants, long-sleeved top), socks, hat, jacket
  • Medication (Panadol (Tylenol); Benadryl; teething gel/tablets; Pedialyte); syringes to administer medicine; dosage amount written on piece of paper
  • Diaper Changing kit – diapers (as many as I could stuff inside, which was about 4); wipes; Baby Aquaphor (travel size, for diaper rash/dryness)
  • Food – Snacks (individually packed teething wafers, E likes these); dry baby food, we used these; granola bars for hubs and I; plastic spoons; disposable bibs
  • Wipes and tissue – antibacterial ones for hands; Clorox ones for surfaces; Paci wipes for toys; baby wipes for face/hands/body (I sound a little paranoid here, I know. In the future, I will skip the paci wipes)
  • Extra burp clothes (totally optional)
  • Extra receiving blanket
  • Important documents (E’s birth certificate, etc.) (I kept my passport and money with me in a small crossbody bag)
  • Mommy stuff – my keys, sweets, feminine hygiene products etc.
  • Pacifiers (at least 2) (for take-off and landing)
  • Straw bottle for E

Roller Bag:

  • Diapers (we brought one for each hour – yes we were paranoid but that’s what other websites said! Honestly, just bring as many as you think you will need and maybe 1 or 2 extra)
  • Toys/books – we packed all of E’s toys and books in her wet/dry bag. I also brought along some toy loops to help prevent her from dropping her toys. I chose toys that were easy to wipe down, if dirtied, and stuff she was interested in, with a few new ones in between.
  • Extra carrier – we packed our BobaAir
  • Change of clothes for dad
  • Any other stuff

On the plane:

When we got on the plane, I was going to wipe down as many surfaces baby would come into contact with (i.e., seat area, tray table). However, I didn’t because I was either too busy or distracted. The plane also seemed relatively clean? Anyway, do that though since most planes aren’t the cleanest.

On this trip we experienced having and not having a bassinet. Verdict, no bassinet is better for us because E doesn’t sleep in it and it is easier to access stuff with your bag in front of you. The extra leg room doesn’t hurt though. Anyway, I don’t think we qualify for the bassinet anymore since E is almost 10kg (the weight limit for bassinet use). That being said, you can request for the bulkhead seats nonetheless. Depending on the seat configuration on the plane, the best is getting 3 seats in a row and having baby in between. To ensure that, you would have to buy baby a seat, or you can be like us and hope that no one is seated in between you and your spouse.

ANA (the airline we flew) offered a baby meal (which you pre-order). The meals were so-so. My suggestion is to pack stuff your baby will eat (if he/she has started solids) and as much as possible, pack DRY foods. I’ve read many conflicting reports about traveling with baby food and going through security. Depending on the officer, they might ask you to open and eat the food etc. I didn’t want to go through that fuss. The dried stuff we packed was decently yummy and easy to prepare – just needed to ask for some hot water.

It’s important to locate the diaper changing table on board the plane as soon as possible. Usually only one lavatory is equipped with the facilities.

Take-off and Landing:

Breastfeed or bottle feed is best. Take-off is easy. If baby pops off breast/bottle, I stick a pacifier in her mouth or offer water to sip. Keep baby distracted. Landing
is more challenging. Descent usually begins 30 minutes before actual landing, so start offering the breast/bottle/paci etc. when the plane starts its descent. You can also check using the in-flight system (look at the cruising altitude numbers), or ask the air stewardesses to let you know.

That being said, some doctors will tell you that as long as baby is not sick and nasal passage is clear, they should be okay.

Overall…

Elspeth wasn’t too interested in the toys/books we brought and was happy just playing with the in-flight magazine and water bottle given to us during the flight. But we didn’t care – we were in survival mode so whatever it took to keep her calm, we did it. Overall, the flights were surprisingly okay. Elspeth did fuss a bit, but she was largely calm and entertained. The hubs and I didn’t get much sleep though, and neither did Elspeth, so just be prepared to be sleep-deprived getting off the plane.

With the exception of me being sick the last leg of my flight back home (thank goodness my mom was with me), I would have to say the whole experience was a decent one. However, the hubs and I did agree that unless absolutely necessary, we will wait till Elspeth is much older (3?) before we take a long-haul flight with her again.

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