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Five Tips for Flying Overseas With Babies

The night before my transAtlantic flight with my 4-month-old I very nearly chickened out. He had had a bad day—fussing, crying, and generally displaying the sort of behavior that wouldn’t make us very popular on an 8-hour plane ride. I’d never flown with a baby before, much less by myself with a baby, and I was terrified that the passengers might take a vote and throw us out of the plane. As it happened, he was good as gold—and has been in the times we’ve flown since. I can’t guarantee your infant will be so well behaved if you follow my tips, but here’s hoping!

1. Choose your airline wisely. Not all airlines are created equal when it comes to serving the smallest customers and their parents. Ask before you book if the airline can provide preferential seating and what their policy is on infant tickets. Most airlines charge 10 percent of the price of your ticket for babies under two and will provide an infant bassinet on transoceanic flights.

2. Pack for emergencies, but don’t go overboard. I initially made the mistake of trying to carry everything my son could possibly need for several days in my hand luggage—making it very difficult to get around with baby and bags while catching connecting flights. The bare necessities are a few diapers, wipes, an extra footed sleeper, a pacifier or bottle for helping relieve pressure on the ears, a favorite toy or two, and food.

3. Know the new rules of security. Many airports will make you take off your coat and shoes and run your stroller through the X-ray at the security checkpoints.

4. The sling or baby backpack is your friend. Chances are you’ll have to hold your baby on your lap for extended periods of time if you’re flying somewhere that doesn’t provide a bassinet. If you have a sling or baby carrier, you can put the baby in that and have your hands free to read or eat and may even be able to catch a nap. It also makes nursing your baby much easier.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. People are generally sympathetic to those who travel with babies.

If all else fails, one of the best tips I read in my own preparation was to pick up a pack of ear plugs that can be passed out to seatmates in case of meltdown. Just remember that the flights are only a few short hours out of your life—and that you’re unlikely to see any of your fellow air travelers again.

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