Flying with a Baby

In the end of August we have our upcoming holidays in China. This means that we will fly from Hamburg to Helsinki and then from there straight to Xi’an. The first stretch within Europe only takes about 1 1/2 to 2 hours but the final flight will be roughly 9 hours. Yes, 9 hours with a little baby with us. Our little Nathan is surely no novice anymore when it comes to flying as one year ago we had a one week holidays on Rhodes which included a 4 hours flight which he managed like a champ. No real crying the entire time, instead mostly staring at the other passenger, eating or sleeping. But no, it will be a bit different as he is one year older by now and much more work. He won’t sleep the entire time, oh no, he will be restless and won’t stay in our lap for several hours in a row.

Flying is fun

I guess everyone has experienced on a flight already the kid who is seemingly crying the entire trip. What can be done against it? Not so much, except praying and having enough stuff with to distract the child. We have on our mind to have enough snacks with us, some of his favorite toys (such as an empty yoghurt box, he just loves to play with trash…) and a tablet with some Crayon Shin-chan or Moomin episodes. He can be distracted very easy for multiple hours but sometimes he got his grumpy days where all hell breaks loose. Furthermore we are afraid about the jet lag. One of our ideas was to change his sleeping pattern for a couple of days before the trip to make the adjustment to the new timezone easier but we have no clue if that works.


Do you have any tips for flying with a baby? What are your stories with crying kids on a plane?

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42 thoughts on “Flying with a Baby”

  1. I don’t know about changing sleeping time zones before you go on the plane for a holiday. I really don’t like boarding a plane feeling cranky and sleepy from having a bad sleep pattern…but who knows, Nathan sounds like a flexible kid πŸ™‚

    I suppose MIL will be on the plane? If so, that may make the flight more exciting…

    1. Nah, MIL wont be on the plane with us. She will be going back to China in the middle of July already πŸ™‚
      I can never sleep on a plane these days anymore and because of that I will probably face again a 3x hour day….

      1. Thankfully. I have never been able to sleep on a plane, even long hour flights. I suppose Nathan will at least entertain you, or he might get amused by the entertainment system.

        When I was a kid, the flight attendants brought out free toys for me to take home. One time my brother brought home a Spongebob plushie. We were seated in economy class.

  2. I think you have already a really good plan, though I only can weight in from another passengers perspective. On one of my last flights I had a very annoying family with a small child in my vicinity. Though really it was the parents that really annoyed me. The child did cry once or twice, but not very long and it is to be expected on such a long flight. In fact I was more surprised that he didn’t cry more, because the parents were constantly (in a very loud voice) telling him what to do, or rather what not to do.
    I think if you are relaxed about it Nathan will be as well (even though every child has those bad days). Good luck on your flight ^^

  3. First of all, be thankful that it is not a flight from Toronto to Taipei which is about a 15 1/2 hour flight. The last time we flew back to Taipei, my husband was wide awake the whole time and I slept for nearly 9 hours [now he knows how I felt on those countless sleepless flights.]

    I know the long haul flights have a couple of cots, so if Nathan can fit into one of those, maybe you can reserve one. Other than that, maybe you can spend some time brushing up on your Chinese and practice how to apologize just in case! πŸ˜‰ [I don’t know if it is the same in Europe, but most of the passengers on flights from Canada to Taiwan seem to be Taiwanese.]

    1. Yeah, most passenger from Helsinki to Xi’an (and vice versa) are Chinese as well. So far I never spotted any other Europeans on those flights!
      I am also a sleepless person on those long flights. In my youth it was different, I fell asleep immediatley when entering the plane. However these days I just watch movies non-stop in the hope of getting tired..

  4. My eldest child was a nightmare to travel anywhere with. One time she tipped her food onto the lady sitting next to us on a flight! She wasn’t at all pleased. Now she’s a teenager she’s no trouble at all. I think she got all her angst out when she was very little. She was like a little tornado! That’s what her play group used to say!

  5. I’ll let you know if I have any words of wisdom after we get to America. The longest flight either of our girls have been on was the 3-hour Qingdao to Guangzhou flight. Our Guangzhou to New York flight will be 15 hours! And after that, we’ll have another 4 hours down to Florida. Eek.

    1. Looking forward to your wisdom soonish πŸ™‚
      3-4 hours aint a problem but when it reaches 9 hours in our case that will mean some food time in between and sleep, oh lets see how it will turn out

  6. I don’t have first hand experience πŸ˜€ But I think Nathan won’t be one of those super annoying kids in the plane. And well, if he is… you can walk up and down the aisles with him, or give him to a stewardess, specially if she is Chinese she will love playing with a mixed baby hahaha.

    I heard from a friend that if a small child suffers from ear discomfort when in the plane, the best you can do is make him drink something so his ears will unblock. My friend breastfed her months-old baby when the plane was taking off πŸ™‚

    1. During our trip to Rhodes my wife also breastfed Nathan however now he is too old for it. I guess we just need to give him some nice drink in case he gets ear discomfort πŸ™‚
      Walking with him through the aisles? When I am on a plane I do not wish to move at all, I am like a big blob on the chair and only get up once we arrive :p

  7. PS. My mom never fails to remind me that the first time I took a plane (I was nine months old) I made a huge poop on my diapers, so huge that it leaked all over and my mom’s clothes were all covered in baby shit hahaha.

  8. I think babies cry on flights mostly because of the pain in the ears caused by take off and landing. Sometimes that pain takes very long to go away, so they cry for very long. That kind of pain would not be distracted by any toy in the world. But it seems your little Nathan is fine with it from previous flying experience, so it should be alright. πŸ™‚

    1. Lets see if I can find some tips online about the ear pain. I heard about it before so when we had our trip to Rhodes my wife breastfed him during the starting and landing. Perhaps we find some other solution as he is out of the breastfeeding age now πŸ™‚

  9. Post-It Notes: Kids love to play with them and stick them on their clothes, your clothes, the seat front and so on. Plus, they are sticky and won’t be constantly be falling on the floor. You can find them in different colors and shapes. You know the pacifier chains which can clip to a baby’s clothing? Those can also be used to attach toys. Babies and toddlers can become very frustrated when things keep falling out of their reach. And it’s really annoying for the adults to have to find them on the plane floor. The chains can help with this problem. One tip: ration the toys and snacks throughout the long flight. If you panic and start giving him things the first time he gets fussy, you’ll run out later. Have new, little things you can give him throughout the flight. When he’s in China, have him outside in the sunlight as much as possible during the daytime. If he’s awake at night, keep the lights off or low and keep the atmosphere quiet and calm.

    1. It is great to hear feedback from people with experience.
      We noticed as well that little Nathan gets bored of one toy after some time so we just give him something else. I guess we will just take a collection of small toys with and give every once in a while a different one πŸ™‚

  10. Sarah
    Recommend you use Finnair from Heathrow. It is necessary to change planes at Helsinki before going onto Beijing. Breaking the journey seems to reduce jet lag.

    1. We take Finnair from Hamburg to Helsinki and also from Helsinki to Xi’an. In fact all the past years we only flew with Finnair πŸ™‚
      However our stay in Helsinki is only for a few hours, just enough time to meet some old friends at the airport shops

  11. You brave soul!! Just pretty please keep your patience with little Nathan.

    I had the WORST parents sitting next to me on the flight back from Singapore to Mumbai. Their little darling was a nightmare of noise but what really pissed me off was the father. He clearly never spends any real time with his child so was constantly berating his wife rather than helping.

    I was sorely tempted to whallop him – took all my patience to try to ignore his being – well – an asshole.

    Naturally that would never be you!

    1. Haha, naturally that would never be me :p
      I have my time with the little one every day so I know when he really doesnt want to spend time with me anymore after playing for a while πŸ™‚

      1. Hehehe! This was a classic case of father leaving responsibility to mother and mother normally leaving responsibility to the maid who was not traveling with them. I actually felt sorry for the bawling brat even with my pounding headache! πŸ˜‰

  12. I thought of another thing. How will you carry the baby around? Chinese people can be very assertive when it comes to touching and picking up random babies, especially middle aged and older women. I’m talking about complete strangers. Foreign and mixed babies get a huge amount of attention whether the parents want it or not. Certain kinds of baby carriers and strollers would make it harder for them to access him. Babies around 9-12 months sometimes go through a stranger anxiety phase. He may not like having unknown people up in his face, so having some kind of barrier around him could help.

    1. We will have a baby carrier with us, one of those “bags” you put the child in so he will be either on my chest or on my bag. Besides that we will take a stroller with us. He never had the stranger anxiety and now he is nearly 16 months old, wonder whether it will still come.
      We’ve been warned before about the crazy behavior of the Chinese when it comes to baby, especially foreign ones. Especially Jennifer’s stories from “a broad abroad” blog give enough warning πŸ˜€

  13. Looking forward to hearing how it goes down, buddy. My lady and I are at that age where we know we’ll be in the same boat as you, figuring out how to fly and travel with a young child. Should be interesting, good luck!

    1. Having a new member in the family always makes things such as traveling a bit more complicated. However I got great feedback here from people with experience in this so I think we will find a good method. Of course I will write about those experiences later then πŸ™‚

  14. I don’t know much about babies, but I don’t think it works to change his sleeping pattern before the trip. I think he will be quite flexible when you arrive, but again I have no real knowledge of such a situation…

    I try to be understanding of babies who cry on planes, because even if the parents try their best the baby is unpredictable, and a baby. Maybe you can try a suggestion I’ve seen before… tell the people around you before you take off that you will do your best to keep him from crying too much. Just talking to them makes a bond so they feel more sympathy. If you want, you can give each person around you a small gift, like a candy (lolly?) or something.

    Good luck flying with him!

    1. That might work. Once I saw a very bad case in which the parents just on on earplugs and slept…the child was squat sitting there and crying for over one hour till it fell asleep from it

  15. Nathan is such a cute kid! I hope the trip to China will go well for all of you.

    When our kids were little, we always got them something new for a trip. When we moved to the Philippines, they were 3 years old, 1 year old, and 3 weeks old. My mom bought the two bigger girls their first Barbies and Barbie cases and clothes. My husband didn’t approve of Barbies, but the dolls did keep them busy on a long flight.

    1. Let’s see what nice little toy we can get for our son for the trip, biggest problem is that he really doesn’t care yet about new toys but about new trash in the apartment πŸ™‚

  16. We don’t mind crying babies on flights. We don’t enjoy it either but we know that their ears probably hurt especially at landing and takeoff. That happens to our ears and we know how to “pop them”. Plus if kids are tired or sick, or hungry or uncomfortable, it adds to it! Flying as adults, we don’t find it overly comfortable so we can only imagine what babies/kids feel and they can’t comprehend it.
    We actually feel sorry for the parents because sometimes they look more worried about annoying other passengers when really… what can be done!

    Tips?? We’ve heard of people letting the younger ones “feed” during the landing and take off…i.e. breastfeed or bottle feed.
    Older kids get lollipops or lollies to chew on.
    These all help with the ears πŸ™‚

    Can’t believe it’s not long now til your trip – we remember when you were saying that it was AGES away still!

    1. I am really looking forward for these holidays. WHatever can be done to ease the ear pain for our Nathan we will do/ have ready. Lets see how the trip will be as flying is very incomfortable even for me (I just cant sleep anymore)

  17. Good luck! The only tip I have is from my sister who flew with her 15 month old from the US to japan. She bought her son a few new , small toys to keep him distracted and it seemed to work!

  18. Haha, I know exactly what you’re talking about. When they decide, it is enough (our daughter wanted to get out to the playground…), there is not much you can do. Sorry. Destraction, games, tablet, books, sweets (short destraction only)… you are ready. Only prayer can help now. Good luck!

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