How to take the stress out of flying with infants

Just because you have young children doesn’t mean you have to stop travelling. These top tips from a flight attendant will have you flying like a pro with baby in tow.

A little girl with a suitcase in an airport.
  • Words: Carrie Bo Lickiss
  • June 2018

I love planes, I love to travel and I love adventure. Maybe that’s why eleven years ago I became a flight attendant with Jetstar – a flying career is the perfect job for me.

I also love children and I’m lucky enough to have two boys. Combining the two loves in my life, however, has presented its own challenges. Gone are the flights I’d enjoy reading a book, watching back-to-back movies, sleeping or even eating my meals or going to the toilet solo or in peace. Having kids doesn’t need to equal less or no travel, though – just a bigger sense of adventure and more carry-on luggage. My oldest son recently turned three and my youngest is a newborn, just five months old.

With my flying experience – three years as cabin crew and eight years as an onboard cabin manager - I’m going to share a few travel tips I’ve picked up along the way.

A picture of a Flight attendant.
A pregnant Carrie Bo Lickiss looks forward to flying with her newborn.

Preparation is key

Let’s be honest. Before kids, I’d pack at the last minute and as long as I had the essentials - passport, boarding pass and credit cards – I’m good to go. If I’d forgotten anything, I could go without or have a great excuse to go shopping abroad.

Travelling with young kids, however, is not so forgiving. If you have forgotten anything, such as baby food, formula, nappies, baby wipes, teething gel, or favorite toys, your whole plane ride can be very stressful and that’s even before you are airborne.

Now, I start packing one week beforehand. With my carry-on bags, I make sure I have baby food, formula, bottles, sterilised water and lots of it, bibs, medicine and Bonjela teething gel.

If you are travelling international, remember LAGs (liquids, aerosols, gels and powders) doesn’t apply for baby products so you can carry all your essentials you need for the duration of your flight, such as baby milk (including expressed breast milk and powdered formula), sterilised water, juice, baby food in liquid, gel or paste form. I also carry extra clothes for my kids and myself in case there are any accidents or spillages. Keeping in mind you still need to adhere to weight restrictions.

At the airport

If you’re flying domestic, a lot of the airports require you to walk across the tarmac and up and down stairs. Get a travel companion to help you with your bags as you go up and down the stairs, or if you can, have your carry-on in a backpack or an over the shoulder bag.

You can also wear a baby carrier to free up both your hands, the baby carrier will have to come off once you have taken your seats. Airports such as Sydney, Cairns, Adelaide, Darwin and Townsville have aerobridges from the forward door only. If you’re sitting at the rear of the aircraft it might be easier to use the forward door as an alternative.

Give yourself extra time if you’re travelling with kids, especially with multiple kids. There are extra toilet stops, more luggage to check in and more people to go through security, plus larger amounts of coffee to consume at the airport preflight.

The new T4 domestic terminal in Melbourne is wonderful, but remember to allow plenty of time to get to the gate. It will help reduce stress if you don’t have to sprint through the terminal with kids in tow. Plus, getting onboard early helps you get yourself organised.

A portrait pictures of travelling with an Infant at a window seat.
Being well-prepared can reduce the stress.

In the air

If you need your bottles to be warmed, just press your call bell located in the panel above your head and the cabin crew can do that for you. I find travelling on a plane can get cold sometimes so always pack a blanket and a kid’s sleeping bag. Plus, if you’re breastfeeding, a blanket/baby muslin wrap can give you and your baby some privacy and blankets can also come in handy for extra padding and comfort.

Take-off and landings can cause your little one’s ears to hurt. Crying, swallowing and chewing can reduce ear pain dramatically. If your little one does cry, as stressful as it is to hear, have some peace in knowing that crying is helping them equalise their ears.

The most vulnerable time for their ears with air pressure change is usually on descent (about thirty minutes before landing). This is the perfect time to feed, use teething biscuits or use a comforter. This is also the ideal time to ensure their seatbelts are on.

You’ll also find baby change tables in all the toilets onboard. If you are travelling with more than one child, remember only a maximum of two at a time can use the toilets. This is due to only two oxygen mask fitted there. If you require assistance just ask a crew member.

A portrait pictures of a mother and her daughter travelling.
The right gear can make all the difference.

The right gear

On a recent long-haul trip, we invested in a small collapsible pram, which folds up to fit into the overhead compartments of the cabin. It's lightweight and even made walking around the airport more enjoyable.

I also have an Ergobaby carrier with me at all times, so when my three-year-old got tired, he would go into the pram and I’d carry my baby with the carrier and still have both hands free for duty-free shopping. If you are travelling international, I’d recommend that you request and book a baby bassinet in advance. It makes the journey more relaxing.

Now if you haven’t already, get your little ones a passport and book that family adventure you’re been dreaming of. Life’s more fun on a plane!