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Keeping Baby Healthy and Happy During a Long Flight
By Amy Ziff,
Travelocity's Editor-At-Large

Flying with an infant can be all work and no play: The infant's confused by the noise, turbulence, and altitude; you're rattled by the change in your comfort zone, surroundings, and schedule.

But even with all this, the fact remains that infants travel by plane every day. Parents and their children get through it unscathed, and so will you. It just takes patience, flexibility, and a good dose of planning to avoid pitfalls and attend to problems as they arise.

Before You Leave Home

  • When making your flight reservations, you'll be faced with a few options. Most major airlines allow children under the age of 24 months to travel free, provided that they sit on their parent's lap during the flight.

    However, you may luck out if the seat next to you is empty--in this case, your child may occupy it, as long as you've brought a car seat along. (Be sure to attach an index card to the car seat with your name, address, and phone number)

  • Infants traveling on most international flights need to have a so-called "infant ticket." While these special tickets vary in price from airline to airline, they usually cost about 10 percent of a regular adult fare and allow the child to travel on the lap of the accompanying adult.

    Again, one infant is allowed per traveling adult. Infant tickets need to be purchased prior to departure and can be arranged through the airline.

  • If the thought of having your baby on your lap for six hours isn't appealing, you may want to play it safe and reserve a seat for your little one. (Discounted fares for infants--up to 50 percent off adult fares--are available on most major airlines.)

    And, if possible, plan your itinerary around the baby's sleep schedule and request a bulkhead seat for additional space.

  • On international flights, some major airlines provide bassinets (large enough to accommodate a six-month-old baby) free of charge. Keep in mind that they may only be used when the Fasten Seat Belt sign is turned off. Just remember to request a seat near the bassinet area when making your reservations.
  • When packing for your trip, make sure to bring a separate diaper bag along with all the necessities. Of course, wet-wipes, rash cream, pacifier, bottle, Band-Aids, prescription medicines, diapers, pediatrician's telephone number, healthy snacks (for mom), and a change of clothes for both you and your baby are all must-have items.

    For safety reasons, always carry a recent photo of your child with you. And don't forget to pack a blanket for your baby to cozy up to, as airplane cabins can get quite chilly.

  • On the day of your flight, allow yourself plenty of time to get to the airport--you'll need the extra minutes to organize yourself, your belongings, and your baby.

    At the gate, take advantage of pre-boarding and get yourselves comfortably situated before the plane takes off.

While the Baby's on Board

  • During takeoff and landing, try nursing or bottle-feeding your infant, as the baby will likely need to be comforted most during those times. Also, drinking or eating helps to alleviate any ear pain caused by the pressure as the cabin adjusts to the altitude.

    Flight attendants may warm bottles for you, providing they have the time to do it, but you'll have to furnish your own formula and baby food.

  • The hum of a plane in flight and its slight lurching and bouncing actually help to soothe some babies. But there is a good possibility that your infant will respond to her confusing environment by shrieking and wailing.

    Give her a pacifier, try to feed her, distract her with a toy, hold her close, get up and walk around the cabin--do whatever usually works to calm your baby down.

  • If your efforts to console her fail, apologize to those around you and keep your cool. Your baby is likely to sense your irritation through the tone of your voice and the tension in your body, which may prompt her to cry harder. Relax and know that this, too, shall pass.
And lastly, remember this: People all over the world are charmed by infants.

Just smile, introduce your baby to fellow travelers, and enjoy some quality time with your little one.

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