Kate, mama and co-founder of FlyBaby, and Christie, sleep consultant at Littles Sleep, team up to provide answers to the questions every traveling mom wants to know.
Kate: My baby always naps in his crib - any tips for getting him down while on an airplane?
Yes! Here is my advice for both infants and toddlers:
Choose a night flight. This helps a lot, even if the departure time is after your little ones normal sleep time. Depending on the time of the flight, you should still put your little one to bed at their normal time and then wake them up right before leaving the house, this generally will help them stay awake and have enough energy to get to the airport and check in.
If your baby is 5 months or younger, and still able to nap in most places, request a bassinet in advance. Most airlines have them, however, make sure to confirm that the aircraft you are traveling on has them. Some airlines are unable to confirm availability until the time of your departure if you are flying with infants in Economy Class, but others can confirm in advance. Be aware that height, weight and age restrictions vary from airline to airline, and some airlines prioritize bassinets by baby’s ages. Always do your research on the aircraft and airline you are traveling with, as this information varies between airlines.
Ensure that your little ones have a couple of slow-paced and relaxed days prior to leaving. Try to follow age appropriate nap schedules as closely as you can so that he/she is well rested. You want to avoid an over-tired baby!
Pack some familiar items with scents of home. This applies for both toddlers and infants. You want them to be as comfortable as possible. Items include blankets, pillows, teddy bears, or any comfort item they have and love.
Remember to pack extra snacks and sippy cups to make sure your child is fed, full and content (minimize craniness!). Double the normal amount, in case there is a flight delay. I recommend that you either breastfeed, provide a bottle or pacifier to your child during take-off and landing, as this helps relieve pressure in your baby’s ears.
White noise also helps if it is something that you have been using with your child at home. There are white noise apps you can download on your phone.
For toddlers, dress your child in their favorite pajamas and try to keep their bedtime routine as familiar as possible. Pack their favorite teddy or blanket for emotional support, not just a comforting sent. Even if you are not travelling far, you still want to bring their favorite pillow and blanket to have them feeling as comfortable as possible.
Kate: We're staying in an AirBnb and renting a crib from FlyBaby. Is it better to let baby sleep in the same room as us, since it's a new place?
If your AirBnb has enough rooms, and your baby sleeps in a separate room at your home, do not hesitate to set up your baby’s crib in their own room. Don’t feel guilty about enjoying your evenings and not worrying about keeping the noise down, just because you’re in an unfamiliar place. Baby will be perfectly happy with a familiar blanket or stuffed animal.
That being said, I always advise parents to room-share like a pro if your accommodations don’t have a lot of sleeping space. This is where white noise comes in handy, for baby and for you. You can rent a white noise machine and a baby monitor with your crib from FlyBaby, so you don’t have to sacrifice your phone or your sanity.
My most important piece of advice I can give is that no matter what your vacation sleeping arrangements looks like, you need to stress less and just go with what you have set up and make the best of it.
Kate: Our flight lands in the evening, and then we have a long drive. Should I try to keep baby awake so he sleeps all night? Or should I let him nap in the car, and hope he doesn’t wake up when we arrive?
Napping is totally fine. If your baby’s regular bedtime is at the same time as when you land, do not try to keep him awake on the drive to your destination. Even if your flight lands and you still have an hour before your child’s bedtime, it is ok if he naps on the car ride. Chances are he will be extra tired from the flight and a bit of an earlier bedtime won’t hurt.
Once you arrive at your destination, focus on getting your child into bed first before unpacking everything else. Don’t worry if he wakes up once you get to your destination; quietly change him into a clean diaper and PJ’s (if needed), allow for some bedtime cuddles, and put your baby to sleep in their new sleeping space. If possible, having a crib ready at your destination saves a lot of packing/unpacking time with a groggy baby.
This is one reason we started FlyBaby… no late night waiting at baggage claim for checked pack-n-plays. Just have it delivered and waiting for you at the AirBnb! It makes late night bedtimes so much faster and less stressful.
Kate: What is the best time of day to fly with my baby to make the trip easier on everyone?
Always try to book a night flight for long flights. Naturally, your child’s internal clock will kick in and with his or her familiar night time objects; blankets, teddy’s, etc, they will have an easier time falling asleep.
If you are booking a short flight I recommend booking it during the day, try to book it so that it lines up with your child’s naps. I will mention that every family is different and have their own preferences when it comes to short flights. For example:
Some families would prefer the 8-10am time frame for short flights; their children naturally get up early, are well-rested, able to get in a decent breakfast before take-off. Toddlers can then have their mid-afternoon snack on the flight and babies can have their bottles, breastfeed, etc. Children tend to get progressively crankier as the day goes on, which is why I recommend early flights (not 4-5am early though, not worth it for short flights).
Others prefer the early afternoon 1-3pm timeframe for short flights. Naturally, children have longer naps in the morning and mid-afternoon which makes 1-3pm also a recommended time for short flights.
Kate: Thanks Christie! I wish I had a sleep consultant on hand for my first trip with Ash. This has been SO helpful.