I am delighted to introduce this guest post from my good friend Katy Leiper. Katy and I met when our babies were just bumps and have been good friends ever since. We recently took a trip to Pitlochry with two other friends and their babies but here Katy share her experiences of flying long haul from Edinburgh to Newark with her baby when Millie was just 8 months old. Not challenging enough for you? Well get this, she did it alone! Katy kept a diary of her experiences which you can read below. This post makes a great read for anyone interested in family travel and is also really useful if you are planning a flight with your child, whether or not it’s is long haul and/or you have the help of your partner. Katy shares many tips including booking a bassinet; what documentation you’ll need; how to help your baby cope with the change in time zones; what liquids etc she was allowed to take through security and her hand luggage essentials. Enjoy!
Travelling Solo with my Baby
Tue 17th August
In just over a month’s time I’ll be flying solo to the States with my 8 month old baby and although I’m very excited about seeing my best friend Vic and her kids (including my godson James), I’m starting to wonder if I’m not a little crazy! Luckily for me, my friend still has a lot of her baby clobber so I won’t be travelling with the usual buggy, car seat, travel cot etc but I still won’t be “travelling light” with Millie in a sling on my front, our carry-on on my back and one big bag for both of us!
Having weighed up flying direct versus flying via Heathrow, I quickly decided that for my first solo flight with baby, paying the extra to fly Continental Airlines direct from Edinburgh to Newark was definitely the way to go. Before Millie, I travelled to Connecticut to see my friend every summer so I’ve had lots of experience making this booking but this time I found myself checking whole new sections of website small print about travelling with infants. I was aware that the bulkhead seats on long-haul flights have those pulldown bassinets or skycots but it seemed you had to request them at check-in. This evening however, I called Continental to check a couple of things on the booking and discovered that I could have requested the bassinet by phone when I booked the flights. The very helpful reservation agent managed to secure the one bassinet on the way out (the day flight) but the bassinet was already booked for the overnight flight back. She also advised that the bassinets are most suitable for babies under 6 months and/or under 20lbs but I’m hoping that Millie will be able to sit and play in it on the way out even if she doesn’t use it to sleep in.
Mon 30th August
Three weeks to go! Just found out from my friend Fi that I need to fill in ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) forms online for both myself and Millie BEFORE we check-in. Fi turned up at the airport last month with her 2 kids and had to dash to an internet café to fill in the 3 forms and get authorisation numbers before she was allowed to check-in. Got the forms done today and got our ridiculously long alpha-numeric numbers to take along to check-in. Phew!
Mon 6th September
Two weeks to go! Been thinking about time differences and how to get Millie on to Eastern Standard Time as soon as possible. She currently sleeps 7pm-7am so ideally don’t want her sleeping 2pm-2am when we are there – which is what her time clock will be telling her to do! I don’t know if this will work but I’m planning on trying to add in a chunk of hours during the flight by manipulating the timings of her solids, milk feeds and naps. We arrive at 2pm which to Millie will be her bedtime so I’ll let her sleep during the car journey from Newark to Connecticut and then try to feed her some tea and give her a bath before putting her down for the night. Watch this space!
Also been researching what I can take through Security in terms of milk, water and food. It would seem that I should be able to take baby bottles of boiled water/powdered formula and pureed food but may be asked to taste it. To be on the safe side I’ll also take a couple of cartons of ready-to-drink formula and a couple of pouches of ready-made food. I’m not 100% sure about taking water in her sippy cup yet. Our flight times mean I’ll need to take lunch, tea, snacks and at least one milk feed but in trying to “stretch” the day out I may need to give her extra milk. I’m still breastfeeding morning and evening (partly because I knew it might be useful for travelling) so will have the option of breastfeeding Millie too.
Monday 20th September
How can something so small need so much luggage? As is my habit, I have laid out everything before I pack and just from surveying the piles, I know there is way too much. So I proceed to jettison half my clothes, then half again! I have decided to travel with one big hold-all with wheels for both of us which is eventually packed. The backpack I am taking as carry-on is another matter. There are so many items I’d like to take “just in case” they are required on the journey – a squishy pillow, a soft blanket, my daughter’s own comfort blanket – on top of the essential food, sippy cup, milk, toys, nappies, wipes, passports etc. After much packing and re-packing, the backpack is packed!
My tip for hand luggage is to have the essentials like passports, a toy, a dummy etc very accessible – I clipped a toy to the papoose and stashed the passports in the small pocket at the front. Also ensuring your liquids such as milk are all together helps at security.
We’re off …
Checking in at Edinburgh airport was straightforward and we weren’t asked to produce the ESTA forms. The ground staff were kind and engaging with my daughter and facing outwards in her papoose in a busy airport was very exciting. Going through Security also posed no problems with only a cursory check of the milk and no interest in the pureed food items. I wasn’t required to taste the boiled water in the bottles.
After security, I went straight to departures – my days of duty-free shopping over for the time being – and found a high chair to feed my daughter her lunch before boarding. Due to the timing of the flight, she’d missed her morning nap so I was confident she’d sleep well on the flight ….
I was lucky to be given the entire front row with a bassinet for my daughter which was ideal, however she was very over-stimulated and therefore slept very little throughout the flight! The bassinet was however, a very handy place to stash her when it was time to eat – both to feed her and to feed myself!
Interestingly, although having the row to myself gave me lots of room it was quite lonely – especially as all the passengers in the adjacent rows seemed to be business men who studiously ignored my daughter’s attempts to engage them with her range of winning smiles and sound effects.
As my daughter didn’t really sleep (20 mins on take off at Edinburgh, 30 mins later in the flight) there was no chance to read or watch a film but she was mostly happy playing and cried very little despite the lack of sleep. A member of the cabin crew would sit with her when I needed to go to the toilet and they were mostly happy to do so. I wouldn’t say the cabin crew were particularly friendly or attentive however which could make a big difference to your experience of flying solo. In fact their attitude was in one case quite upsetting – I had been advised to use the toilets in Business Class as there was a long queue in Economy but was given short shrift by the Cabin Services Director there, who sent me back to Economy!
Apart from that incident the flight was pretty uneventful and we eventually landed at Newark – where my daughter helpfully started nodding off as we were taxi-ing to the terminal!
A very tired Millie landing in Newark.
As soon as we were able I got her into the papoose and off the aircraft so we had a good chance of getting through Immigration quickly.
After a bit of an over-tired crying session whilst putting my daughter in my friend’s car, she slept all the way to Connecticut (approx 1.5 hours) which was enough to see her through a quick tea and bath before going to bed at 6pm local time (11pm UK time). For all my stressing over time differences and jet lag, she slept through until 4am when I brought her into bed with me. After a quick feed, she slept again until 6am and thereafter for the duration of the trip slept her normal 7pm-7am!
Here are some photos of the trip:
A well rested Millie on the beach.
What a cute little pumpkin!
In a Restaurant.
Monday 5th October
The Trip Home
Top Tip: Always underestimate your luggage allowance – I just called Continental and discovered my daughter gets her own luggage allowance! That’s a whole other bag to go in the hold just for her and thank goodness too – we have bought and received as presents, so much stuff to take home!
After a wonderful 2 weeks with my friend in her very child-friendly house, where my daughter has been kept thoroughly entertained by the numerous children, dogs and visitors we are sadly leaving to travel home. The flight this time will be a night flight so although we haven’t managed to secure a bassinet, I am hopeful she will sleep more on this leg.
Having bathed her, given her a feed and dressed her in comfy clothes we drive to the airport where she falls asleep in the car. We have already checked in online but need to shift some weight around between the bags before we are free to go through to departures. After going to the gate, I give up trying to get my daughter back to sleep – the gate areas are well lit and the announcements and television noise keep her awake. I sit down on the floor by the departure gate and get some toys out for her – knowing that very soon she will be restricted to my lap so some “exercise” now is probably a good idea.
Upon boarding I see we will not be lucky with empty seats around us this time but we are lucky to have a lovely, warm older couple who are on their way to see their brand new baby granddaughter so are very much baby friendly. There’s not a lot of room and it’s difficult to get comfy with my daughter on my lap – she’s only 8 months but it’s difficult to stop her head sticking out into the aisle or her legs sticking into my neighbour. It makes me wonder what it would be like to travel with a 23 month old on your lap.
At this point I try to recline my seat and discover to my horror that because its in front of the exit aisle, it won’t recline! Aaargh! I am now facing a night flight with a wriggly baby on my lap, more or less sitting upright!
As expected the flight didn’t involve much sleep for me – although my daughter did manage a couple of hours – and I was very thankful to arrive back at Edinburgh and hand over responsibility to my partner so I could go to bed and sleep!
Although my daughter had adapted to the time difference at the start of the trip, she took about a week to sleep through the night again when we returned home. They do say it takes a day for every hour of time difference to return to normal and I’d say that was about right.
Overall, the trip went well and I wouldn’t have a problem travelling solo with a baby again. There are obviously different issues to overcome at different stages of your baby’s development – I was fortunate to be travelling before my daughter could crawl or walk which made not only the journey easier but actually being in another person’s non-baby-proofed house simpler. Breastfeeding during the trip made middle of the night feeds on planes easier but bottle feeding wouldn’t have been much more difficult. I’d be much more careful in the future about which row I chose to avoid the dreaded non-reclining seat and expect a lack of sleep for both of us and plan around it. As my daughter gets older, I’d also take a collapsible buggy instead of carrying her.
So all in all a successful experience – but admittedly it’s much more fun with two adults!
Thanks again to Katy for writing such an insightful post. As always, please leave comments or ask questions below.