• Travel without tears. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
In the absence of a village to help raise your baby, for many of us social media has become the parenting go-to. Tara Ali turned to the blue and white virtual village for advice when booking flights to London with her partner and their 10-month old baby.
Tara Ali

4 May 2016 - 1:48 PM  UPDATED 21 Mar 2018 - 10:26 AM

HELP, I punched into the keyboard. What do I bring? How do you get your baby to sleep in front of 500 other people? Am I crazy?

The thought of 21 hours on a plane with a not-quite-crawling-but-trying-to child who wakes around five times a night… well it’s a good job there’s a sick bag in the plane seat pocket. For me, I mean. I was super anxious about it, but if I wanted to take my baby to meet my parents and show him the world, we had to get on that plane. Facebook gave mixed reviews – half of people said it wasn’t as awful as you’d think, the other half said it was worse. One person just typed the laughing tears of joy emoji. In the lead up to the trip I think I read every travel-with-baby tip that exists online.

I’m back now. Give me a medal, we all survived. Here’s a list of the advice I found to be most useful.

1. Bring a ribbon. This was unexpectedly useful. I used it to tie a toy (I took the Lamaze Click Clack Zack Lobster) to the baby bassinet, so the kind man in the aisle next to me didn’t want to jab my skull with his plastic fork every time it gets dropped by him. We also used it to tie toys/random items to the back of the passenger seat on long car trips and to strap our baby’s legs down when he kept wanting to stand up while the plane was in descent. (Not really but I thought about it). 

What do I bring? How do you get your baby to sleep in front of 500 other people? Am I crazy?

2. If you’re breastfeeding, take nipple cream. Not only did I feed at feeding times, and on take off/landing (babies need to suck on a boob/bottle or dummy as they can’t equalise their ears) but my son refused to sleep in the bassinet (on all four legs of the flight, but don’t panic I’m sure yours will LOVE it) and and I kept him doped out on breast milk on my lap for what felt like 15 hours of the journey.

3. Pack your baby’s favourite book. In our case Dear Zoo, which was read over and over. A lot of advice tells you to take a new book for that surprise element, so I ordered Goodnight Teddy especially, but it went wholly unappreciated because, I later realised, babies don’t care for books until you’ve sat and read them at least 25 times together and they feel familiar.

4. Invest in a good-quality baby travel change mat. You’ll be laying your baby on change tables in airports, plane toilets, all kinds of restaurants and London Underground station loos (it was an emergency) and you’ll appreciate a thick, hygienic layer between your child and the other several thousand kids who have laid there, probably since the 1970s.

5. A baby carrier is a must for hands-free travel in the airport. Shove it in your carry-on for walking slow laps around the plane together to pass the time and so your baby can nap on your chest when you’re standing in the passport queue and it's waaaay past their bed time, which invariably happens a lot when travelling. 

Sit separately from your partner on the plane...It means you can each take turns at pretending to sleep.

6. Sit separately from your partner on the plane. This way you can take turns amusing your baby with another round of Dear Zoo and wiggling the Click Clack Lobster and they get a change of energy regularly from a different parent. It also means you can each take turns at pretending to sleep and wondering how there can possibly still be five whole hours left, while the other is with child.

7. A large amount of my pre-flight anxiety was related to worrying about other people. You don’t need to feel self-conscious about your baby crying during lights out, there were 18 babies on the flight home, so if yours doesn’t wake everyone up, someone else’s will. Also, 90 per cent of the people on board are wearing headphones anyway. 

8. And finally, make sure YOU get some rest the day before you fly. I know you’ve got packing to do, but for the love of all things holy, sleep at your baby’s nap times that day. You really won’t get much sleep on the flight, and there’s no knocking yourself out with wine and a cheeky Xanax like the old days, but you know, you’re probably pretty used to crappy sleep by now, so it really isn’t that bad. Not sweating it was probably the best advice I was given.

Love the story? Follow the author here: Twitter @tarayasmineali


Secrets Of A Long Haul Flights airs on Saturday at 7:30PM on SBS, or watch on SBS On Demand.

Parenting reads
Alternative child care on the rise
More than 55,000 Australian kids have been turned away from day care. With wait lists and fees soaring, some families are seeking out alternative child care arrangements.
Raising mixed race kids
The prospect of a family holiday has Ian Rose reflecting on the pleasures of bringing up mixed-race children, and the responsibility to keep them in touch with both cultures.
Sick kid codes
There are codes of conduct when it comes to childhood illness and interactions with others. Ian Rose pushes the boundaries, and makes a plea for clemency.