This post has spills, thrills and adventure. Yes it's Traveling overseas with a baby/ child on a plane: One stop blog post for parents/guardians traveling via train, planes or cars.
Well now that I got your attention...
Traveling with an infant is at most times stressful and overwhelming. It is best to come prepared, because when an accident or a moment of despair happens, you deal with it with more ease than the stressed out Oh no! I wish I were more prepared.
When I was told I was to be a bridesmaid and Miss Cheeky to be the flower girl at my girlfriend’s wedding at Koh Lanta, Thailand, I was so exited to be able to hang out with friends in another country for a 6 days and also nervous, as Miss Cheeky was to be 14 months at the time of our travel. Nervous you say? Miss Cheeky is a non-stop, determined little girl who was then a novice walker, so she was on the go from morning till night. Now here is where my nerve twitched- 9hours plane trip + infant = aaahh!
After sitting down in front of my computer with a cup of tea and a packet of Tim Tams, I decided to reduce my potential stress of flying with my Miss Cheeky by finding ways to make the flight (and holiday) a little easier. First…
Important stuff to remember-
If your child does not have a passport, pick up a form from the Post Office or online here
If you’re travelling overseas and purchased your plane tickets and booked your accommodation, register with www.smartraveller.gov.au , so you can be contacted in case of an emergency and read of their latest travel advice.
Also check with your GP regarding travel vaccination for your family.
When flying with a baby or toddler, the best time to travel is preferably end of the day to night. Not all airlines may fly at this time; a helpful tip is too tire your child out by letting her crawl, walk even run around the airport before you board the plane.
I flew with Thai Airways to Bangkok, a family friendly airline, and found the cabin crew very friendly and helpful. I pre-ordered a toddler meal for Miss Cheeky to snack on, even though she was 14 months at the time; she enjoyed the fried rice, cheese and bread, (check airline’s website for meal preference). Plane food isn’t the greatest of all foods so definitely bring snacks for the infants/toddlers, (mind you, I did enjoy my meal.)
We sat in the bulkhead aisle, perfect for Miss Cheeky to sit down against the wall and play. She was too heavy and over the age, for the bassinet. We accommodated her on the seat with extra blankets to fill in the gaps for her nap times, and my husband and I took turns sleeping or rather napping. (More helpful tips for little ones later in the post.)
Good thing! Thai Airways have a supply of nappies, baby food and colouring pack for the children and good inflight entertainment. Check with your airline if you have to pre-order entertainment packs e.g. Jetstar international flights you do.
Other family friendly airlines to consider:
Air New Zealand
I always like to look through the airline's website to see what they have to offer in these areas: luggage allowance for adults and your child, meal preferences to pre-order, inflight entertainment , bassinets for the babies, FAQ’s.
As for the best seat on the plane or where not to seat, check out www.seatguru.com. I found this site very helpful, if you are booking the holiday yourself as we have done for our Hawaiian trip, (refer to Travelling With A Toddler, later in the blog). Otherwise ask your travel agent.
Great tip! When checking in, look out for priority check in for families with young children. You may be able to skip the queuing!
Write up your lists (and important things to know too).
- Packing bag for yourself and the children: I used the Pro Pack app here, and because I love my notepads, lots of scribbled down reminders and lists. Here are some printable lists: here & here for the entire family.
- When I started packing, I realised how easy it was to pack my clothing compared to my baby’s which is much more important. I asked myself, how can a tiny little human need so much? When they become a toddler, they may not need as much, though they become more possessive with their toys and favourite clothing. Don’t forget a travel size First Aid Kit, can be packed on the onboard luggage, baby Panadol was my saviour especially when flying.
- Before airport: Important list to start days before. Mustn’t forget to pack you last bits and pieces e.g. battery charger, pajamas, dummy/favourite toy, medication, money for the parking or transfer; and have the luggage tags ready, not at the airport, pens to keep handy for filling out Outgoing Passenger Card and Customs Declaration Form.
- Depending on length of holidays, check all windows are locked, gas stoves off, power points switched off, computer screen shut down. Ask neighbour or friend to collect your post while you’re away. And lastly, check you have your passport handy before you lock your home door.
- At airport: Great tip! No water bottles allowed through customs, best to buy before you board on the plane. Baby wipes, tissues etc. Don’t forget duty free shopping, Godiva chocolates are great snacks…for the parents of course! Let your child do as much exercise to tire her out before you board.
- Food: Shopping list of snacky foods; baby milk powder in a snap lock bag or container for onboard, sugar-free lollies to suck on for their sore ears (for older children), you can buy from health food stores. Great tip! Make sure to give them the lolly-pop until you’re off the runaway; crunchy foods like crackers or biscuits also help the ears too.
- Documents: write out addresses of your accommodation, embassy and photocopy along with your itinerary and passport of each traveller. One to keep for yourself and one for a family member or friend.
Stroller, Pram or Backpack child carrier?
When traveling, is your destination stroller friendly? Will there be lots of walking? Will the walking be on/off road e.g. Asian destinations have uneven road surfaces. What season will your little one travel through? Do you need a foot muff, rain cover, sunshade?
Baby slings are a great choice if you have a younger baby but when they reach a certain weight a child carrier is another alternative. The advantage is, your arms are free.
When we traveled to family friendly Thailand, I was indecisive on a stroller or a back-pack carrier. I chose both. Are you crazy? you say. Well no. My sweet mum-in-law found a second hand Steelcraft holiday stroller for $15 from a charity store, one we could dispose off in Thailand. I didn’t want to take my Mountain Buggy as it wasn’t compact. My husband and I were to do many stop overs through Thailand, via ferries, Phuket to Phi Phi to Koh Lanta. So we wanted a stroller that can recline for Miss 14 months to sleep in comfortably with a sunshade to protect her against the elements of the weather. Even though it was an umbrella stroller, it was still too big to take on board the plane. Here we used our back-pack baby carrier, it was worth every cent and Miss Cheeky loved being carried like a little Cleopatra. Thai people thought it was a hoot!
We bought a Kathmandu Karinjo Child Carrier, comfortable enough for daddy and baby girl. Not cumbersome, 62cm H x 31cm W x 29cm D, with lots of compartments to fit more bits and pieces in and you can fit above in the overhead storage on the plane. The only con is in hotter climates it may become too hot to wear for a long period of time and eventually heavy on the shoulders.
So why did I buy a cheap stroller? On the last day of our trip on Koh Lanta, we gave our stroller to the lady at the laundromat. She had a large family living in a small unit. With our lack of language, we tried to explain to her we didn’t want the stroller cleaned. She eventually understood and gave the biggest smile and thanked us over and over.
I never can forget her smile.
Some popular choices amongst traveling mothers:
3 wheeler strollers/pram
- City Jogger Mini, RRP $449, 7.5kg
- City Jogger Mini, RRP $449, 7.5kg
- Quicksmart Backpack, RRP $149, 6.4kg
4 wheeler strollers/prams
- Steelcraft Holiday, RRP $88, 7.5kg
- Mothers Choice ‘Circa’, RRP $99, 8kg
- Maclaren Quest, RRP $309.95, 5.5kg
- Nuna Pepp, RRP $299, 8.6kg (newest in the market).
These brands can be bought from major baby stores across Australia through the internet and in-store. Also, check if they come with a travel bag that protects your pram against bumps and scratches from the rough baggage handlers at the airport.
Great tip! When checking in your stroller, ask the airline if the crew can have it waiting for you when you get off the plane.
To harness or not to harness?
We bought a harness from Target. Easy to pack, just in case when we are in crowded areas, but we never found the need to use it. But worth it if your child is a runner or little disappearer, despite what people think, your child is far more important than the comments or stares you may get.
ID Waist Bands:
I looked at a few websites www.wristbands.com.au Aussie made, useful and great to keep saved in your list for anytime you may need it.
I did not use one for my child but good to have another safety option particularly if your child has a medical condition and/or food allergies.
What to expect in Thailand:
I enjoy travelling to Thailand, so many facets to discover. As my third time, I was to see it in another view, as a family. The Thai people, and most Asians, are ultra friendly towards the babies/toddlers. They are treated like rock-stars! I asked why the fascination, a local Thai replied because Western babies are cute and fat!
A funny experience we had was when walked through Phi Phi Island, a group of Japanese tourist stopped by and ask if they can take a photo of Miss Cheeky. My husband joked we should have charged them for each photo. Miss Cheeky loved all the attention and it never stopped throughout the trip.
This friendliness certainly helped us as our baby girl was at ease because as parents, we were too. But there were also some horrible experiences, which are later explained in this post.
As Miss Cheeky was still drinking from the bottle, I was concerned about running out of her milk formula, even though I bought enough for a month’s trip. I was relieved to see the many choices of formulas at the supermarket from MBK in Bangkok, including her own. She drinks Nestle NAN HA (partially hydrolysed), a tricky one to replace.
If you are traveling for a long period and in doubt, contact the brand’s helpline on the back of the formula tin or their website.
How stroller friendly is it? Yes and no. Much of the streets are uneven. If you are staying in Bangkok, the streets are ok for a stroller though if you love your shopping, the malls are ideal for the strollers and it’s a nice escape from the humidity. No lifts to the Skytrain (BTS) so be prepared to walk up some flights of stairs. Phuket is ok. Phi Phi has unpaved pathways. Koh Lanta, has no pathways, and rough roads.
Travelling in between islands: Be weary of the ferry service, particularly the older boats. I question how sea worthy they are.
We ferried over from Phuket to Phi Phi Island for 2 nights then another ferry to Koh Lanta, 2hr ferry ride each way.
The ticketholders are all smiles and calling you ‘mate’, until you get on the ferry, then you become crowded in by tourists, the bag handling was a disgrace and completely disorganized as they threw our luggage down, and piled up many more bags on top. We felt sorry for the tourists, mainly back-packers who had to get off the first stop, trying to find which bag was theirs then pulling it out from underneath took 30 minutes long! On the ferry to Koh Lanta, I had to stay upstairs to try to calm my sea legs while the smell of the petrol was overwhelming.
This cheaper ferry service is great for everyone but families. I recommend the speedboat service; if you can get a group together it becomes cost effective.
Food: We stocked up snacks from the supermarkets in Bangkok and Phuket before we headed out to the smaller Islands. Hotel foods are safe and staff are generally helpful to your needs. Miss Cheeky loved her cold yoghurts, juices, rice and bananas. She tried a little bit of everything.
Also it’s a good idea to talk to other tourist or families where they’ve eaten. On our first trip to Thailand, my husband had the 24hr bug after eating Pad Thai from a local no name restaurant in Phuket.
Great tip! High chairs are available but not necessarily with a belt/strap. Take muslin wraps or a sarong to tie across the hair chair to avoid your little one slipping off (as shown in the main photo.) Wraps can be a multi-purpose use as an emergency cleaner, a screen to block out the people and light on the plane seat, a pram shade or sheet to cover her while napping.
Stocking up on baby formula, nappies etc. We shopped in the supermarket in MBK in Bangkok, and we were surprised to see the many options and brands they offered in baby food, formulas, nappies, soy drinks, yoghurts, mainly from
American brands like Greber, Enfamil, Similac, Nestle, Pampers, MAM and Japanese brand Pigeon.
We stocked up on bottled water to make the feeding bottles and to drink ourselves, as tap water is undrinkable.
Stuff you can buy:
Nappy and nappy swimmers
Water/ Juice/ Soy milk
Small plastic bucket or bowl and bottlebrush
First aid kit can be bought from the pharmacy
Stores to look out for: Tesco, Lotus, Boots (UK) similar to our Priceline stores, Tops, Big C
Great tip! To disinfect the milk bottles and sippy cups, we bought a small plastic bucket and bottlebrush from the Thai supermarket, add the required amount of Milton disinfectant tablets and you have clean bottles.
Accommodation: Amazingly most infants settle in well in a different environment despite the hour difference. Miss Cheeky never slept better; we think it’s the combination of the hot weather and lots of jumping and playing by the pool.
One would expect cots to be available, but the smaller Islands may not have any, so check with your accommodation. We experienced this on Phi Phi Island; we made a make shift cot/bed for her by pushing the roller bed against our bed and the back of the sofa on the other side as a barrier. She slept fine!
To the fussy baby sleepers: I would recommend bring cot linen, the similar smell may settle her more. I also packed her sleep sheep that plays her soothing sounds, and a poster I had up on her wall in her bedroom that folded into my bag. Anything to create a similar surrounding to her room helps settle them into their sleep, even the placement of the cot.
More information on Thailand: here
Best part: Thailand is family friendly and something to do for everyone.
Worst part: The ferryboat rides.
Other family friendly Thai cities to visit: Chiang Mai, Krabi, Koh Sumai
How to keep sane with your child in the plane. Tips to survive on the plane:
Choose and apply some imagination.
- Your essentials- baby foods, feeding bottles, sippy cup, nappies, nappy bags, disposable bibs (no need to wash), disposable changing mats, face wash, wipes, your personal items, extra baby clothing in case of accidents, extra top for you in case of unforeseen accidents, favourite blanket/toy, baby Panadol,
- Extra bowl and cup can double as toys.
- Extra muslin wraps and painters tape are great together. You can block out people and light during her nap time.
- Why painters tape? Your child can find many uses to play with and when stuck on the tray, it won’t leave a sticky residue behind. We stuck pieces of tape on her to peel off and she loved the stickiness.
- 1-3 favourite books.
- Cellophane. They love the crunchiness and looking through the colour.
- Use the sick bag to create a puppet.
- Finger puppets
- For every hour of the trip I gave her 1-2 small toys, new and old. I used old wrapping paper to wrap them up as an added surprise; you can roll up the paper into a ball to throw around. You can find old toys from charity stores or garage sales. Save a few on the way back home and remind her of the toys.
- Mini play dough tubs or make yourself (post coming soon)
- I bought Aquadoodle Travelsize for this trip and she still uses it. You add water to the pen and draw on the book; it dries out clear. Great for the grown-ups too.
- For the toddlers, a craft/art bag- scrap book, glue stick, washi/craft tape, ripped up paper from the wrapping or magazine. Let them get creative.
- Add to the bag, paint brushes, paintbox- not the runny paints. Use a muslin wrap as an apron or clean up any spills quickly.
- Shapely waxy crayons that won’t roll away and are not sharp like the pencils.
- Your airline may supply the children with a colouring book and pencils.
- Your iPhone and iPad
- Role playing
- Water. Out of all on this list, Miss Cheeky spent the most time squeezing her little hands into a cup of water.
- Sticker activity book
- Balloons and ribbon, balloon size no bigger than your hand. Little hands love to squeeze. Tie it your seat so it won’t roll away.
On a budget? Most of these materials can be found at home. You can also find at your charity store, garage sales, boots sales, grandma’s house, bargain stores and supermarket. Aquadoodle Travelsize, I bought from eBay.
Some useful Thai words:
Hello Sawa dee
Thank you (man) Kob Khun Krap
Thank you (women) Kob Khun Ka
Toilet hong nam
Miss Cheeky stole the show, walking as the flower girl. Koh Lanta wedding photograph by Aidan Dockery, must check it out.
Want to see happy snaps of the Thai wedding? Look into SNAPS
Also if you have any nomadic stories with your little one(s) or/and tips, please comment, I would love to read them. Adore Re Mi.