Flying With A Baby: Pre-Trip Planning


This week I have a series of guest posts by my sister, Trish describing her first flight with her infant son. This past December she traveled from Sydney, Australia to London via Kuala Lumpur. The flight from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur is eight hours, from Kuala Lumpur to London, 13 hours and they had a four-hour layover in Kuala Lumpur. If you add in a two-hour checkin window and the hour or so it takes to get through customs and passport control in Heathrow, that gives a total trip duration of 28 hours – with a five-month-old baby. Intrigued? Read on…


I’m Irish and my husband is British. We live in Sydney, Australia so we’ve flown between the UK and Australia a number of times. This trip, in December 2009 was our first flight as parents, bringing our five-month-old baby home to the UK and Ireland to meet his extended family. Normally our pre-flight planning consisted of determining what we each needed to be semi comfortable whilst confined in a 17” wide seat along with ~200 other passengers in ‘cattle’ class of a Malaysian Airlines 747. For me that meant a toothbrush, a hairbrush, moisturizer and possibly a clean top to change into half way. For my husband it meant packing a bag that most people would use for a long weekend break: two complete changes of clothes, a couple of books, an iPod, spare headphones, half the contents of the local pharmacy – because you just never know when you’re going to need something – slippers and a pillow of course!

Our trip pre-planning had previously been a chat over a beer discussing when would be the best time on the flight to fit in a few movies, have a few drinks, read, possibly listen to some music and of course slot in a few hours for naps. By the end of such conversations it wasn’t unusual to be concerned that the trip might just not be long enough.

The preparation for this trip was completely different. About 4 weeks before we left I was thinking to myself that we had actually lost all sense of reason, planning to fly home at the busiest time of year with a five month old infant who ordinarily didn’t like to sleep a lot and never sat still for any length of time. I had visions of spending 30 hours walking up and down the aisles of the plane with the baby in a Baby Bjorn apologizing to nearby passengers for his incessant howling. Meanwhile my significant other was fanatically trawling through the airlines terms and conditions to see if there was any way we could increase our hand baggage allowance without getting stung for some hefty charges, because let’s face it with all the baby stuff we had to bring on board it was looking like there just wasn’t going to be room for that pillow!

Malaysian Airlines carry on allowance permits both adults a personal item and a bag weighing no more than 5kg’s, whilst my son got an allowance of 10kg and his bag could be checked in or brought onboard. Doing the packing in my head in advance of our trip, I saw us arriving at the airport with two suitcases – to be checked in – and one carry-on bag containing most of our son’s clothes, toys and food along with toiletries and a book each for us, a baby bjorn, a stroller, a nappy bag, oh and a baby. I ran this plan past my husband. He was horrified. His response was that “we have an allowance so we can check in 2 bags and carry on 3 bags and they rarely weigh the cabin bags so we could probably be over the permitted 5kg’s”…. I pointed out that during the four-hour layover in KL, we would need to carry around anything we brought on board and if the baby was unsettled, one of us would have to carry him (and soothe him) so the other would have to carry everything else – including the nappy bag, the stroller and the Baby Bjorn. With this new perspective, he agreed that we should limit our carry-on baggage to what was really necessary.

Just for the record my husband survived the flight without his pillow but I had ordered a Hungarian goose down one, complete with a 100% cotton pillow protector to be there waiting for him when we arrived. I think that kept him going for the whole journey :)

Related Posts
Flying with a baby: Pre-trip planning
Flying with a baby: On the flight
Flying With a baby: rrival and jet-lag.
Ten Tips For Flying Internationally With A Baby

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About wandermom

". . .life is short and the world is wide" - Simon Raven I'm not sure I've ever consciously planned a trip based on this sentiment, but it definitely influences my subconscious! I've been traveling as frequently and widely as possible since I finished school. And I love it. I love the research, the planning, the fervent packing and the curiosity of exploring somewhere I've never been before. My husband & I are both Irish - as in born-in-Ireland. But we live in Seattle. We have two boys: wild, boisterous, regular boys. So, since becoming a Mom, I've been a WanderMom. Given our slightly-unusual family situation, routine "visits-to-Grandma" are international trips requiring passports, 10hr-flights and (oh joy!) airport transfers. I have rants, raves and opinions about how, where & why to travel with kids (start them as young as you can, I say!). I hope to learn even more by researching topics which other wandermoms may be interested in reading about on this blog. Passports, pacifiers, diapers and gameboys at the ready - off we go! Contact Info: Email Michelle: michelle (at) murphnduff (dot) org

6 thoughts on “Flying With A Baby: Pre-Trip Planning

  1. Jeri

    I’ve traveled (more than once) from the States to Australia, and on to Papua New Guinea with 3 children – ages 4 and under. I agree with you on the carryon luggage. Go as light as possible!! It’s so hard on layovers to have to lug everything around the airport. Plus, it’s tough boarding the plane with a bunch of heavy carryons as well as the kids! I always end up bumping people while I’m trying to get everything and everyone on board. I’ve decided that kids don’t really need too much to occupy themselves on the flight anyway. They’d rather play with the in-filght magazines or the plastic cups. Just take the absolute essentials!

  2. Shakira

    Really interesting. Cant wait for the next installment. Just completed a 2 hour flight with a 9 month old this weekend, and once he was asleep that was fine but Im not looking forward to a 9 hour flight to the US later this year. Trying to work out if we break the flight up into two installments or just bite the bullet and go the whole way in one go…will be interesting to hear how you got on.


  3. wandermom Post author

    @Jeri: I totally agree.

    @Shakira: I’ve done the (western) US -> Europe with kids many times over the past 12 years. We usually opted to take a long flight – usually Seattle to Heathrow, Amsterdam or Copenhagen (now Paris is an option on that route but Copenhagen isn’t). It’s been my experience that layovers + little kids are like oil + water. It’s just easier to deal with the hassle of getting everyone on the plane + comfortable once. If you do want to stop, I’d stop for long enough to give the kids some run-around/outside time and a sleep in a proper bed i.e. 24 hours.
    Also, if you stop, you may need to deal with customs + passport control twice which again, is a pain when you’re juggling kids too.
    Good luck!

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  5. Louise kane

    Great story Trisha. I went the same time as you – Xmas. I travelled from Sydney to Dublin with six month old twins!! We travelled with etihad airlines. It was probably the most relaxed my babies have ever been. After the flight I told my husband that I wanted to live on a plane!!

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