Flying with a Baby: An Exercise in Futility

There are literally 8 million posts about this online. I counted. All of them will tell you a bunch of stuff about how amazingly smooth it went because they had this, that, or the other thing. They might even tell you some things they would do differently. I’m here to tell you, none of it matters. Your kid is going to do whatever the fuck they want to do despite all your greatest intentions and packing wizardness.

Our flight to Crete was 9.5hrs overnight. Most posts I had read (because I read pretty much all 8 million of them) said heading to Europe is easiest on an overnight because the baby will fall asleep for most of it. HAHAHAHAHA those fucking bitches lied to me.

We tend to travel light, and that was my intention for this trip too, BUT I wasn’t willing to be unprepared for our first flight, especially since other passengers would be trying to sleep. I brought a cheap bag I was okay with leaving in Crete if necessary, I brought his snuggly blanket, headphones designed for kids (safe decibel level), hours of his favourite shows on the laptop and my phone, and a crap load of toys (old and new) that didn’t make too much noise, so that we didn’t annoy the shit out of our fellow passengers. I had his favourite bath toys to signal to him it was his normal bath time (yes, you read that ridiculous statement correctly) I had PJs to change him into after he had played with those toys, I had the sleep sheep and his other stuffies from his crib, I had formula, puffs, goldfish. I even had an express pediatric pharmacy in my bag.

flying with a baby
Yup. That looks about right.

We upgraded our seats to business class so that we would have more legroom and the chairs would lean back further. Most sites will say to pick seats on the ends of the row, with an empty seat between and you can usually get that seat to yourself at no cost… I wasn’t willing to risk sitting next to someone I didn’t know with an active 9 month old. We picked the bulkhead seats for the chance we could use the bassinet, (which at the time of booking they didn’t say anything about him being too big/old for it) and so that he wouldn’t be pulling on the headrests of the people in front of us. It would have been hell.

Well, more hellish than it already was.

He slept for 1.5 hours of a 9.5 hour, overnight flight.


Instead of sleeping he screamed, tried to play on the ground (which the flight attendants wouldn’t let him do), and ate all but one serving of formula, while simultaneously breastfeeding almost every hour. He played with every single toy for about 30 seconds, then he would toss it on the floor and start climbing and yelling again (he is loud, in general).

The flight attendants would come by and look at us with this look; it was a specific mix of wonderment, pity, and amusement. Then they would ask if we’d like another alcoholic beverage or coffee. They didn’t even offer water, they just knew.

flying with a baby
I must say we look pretty good for what we just went through.

By the time we got to our layover in Zurich, Tyler and I were done. Callahan was done. We were all wondering what the hell we had been thinking. And then our stroller didn’t arrive at the gate. Thankfully I came overly prepared, and had our baby carrier (we love this carrier, as it fits us both comfortably. It is available for purchase on Amazon, but I purchased it directly from Lillebaby on a Black Friday sale for $100 CAD) in the diaper bag.

The good thing about Zurich, is that they have a family room in each terminal. There are toys, microwaves, couches, change tables, breastfeeding/sleep rooms, and most importantly, other kids and space. Callahan went nuts, he was everywhere and he was happy. He licked almost every surface and then at about an hour he started to crash. I stuffed him in the carrier where he slept for about 2 hours. When we tried to take him out to wake him he stayed asleep. Face down, frat boy level of unconsciousness.

flying with a baby
Couldn’t have slept like that on the flight huh??

Our next flight was 2.5 hours and when they announced the passenger count, there were 7 infants on board. Which was a huge relief, he wouldn’t be the only one crying this time. The lady sitting next to us was super sweet and Callahan loved her. He was good for about an hour and a half and then we got him to sleep (with some screaming of course) and even managed to sneak in about a 20 minute nap ourselves before starting the descent.

Looking back on this circus of a travel day, there are some things I would do differently.

  1. I would bring enough formula to feed an army.
  2. I would not book the bulkhead seats (or the last row, or anywhere people/flight staff tend to congregate). He would be just about asleep and then people would come in/out of the bathroom or the flight attendants would start a service and basically yell, waking him. He’s just too easily distracted and disturbed for that level of activity.
  3. When possible I would split that flight up, or extend the layover for an overnight in a hotel.
  4. I would try to limit the amount of contact his mouth has to airport/plane surfaces. A jetlagged sick baby is not cool, and even less so once you catch it too.
  5. I would not travel with a baby that can move.I think he was too old/too young. He could crawl, but not walk. He wanted to move, but had to stay in our arms. And he still hadn’t mastered any coping mechanisms for sleeping at this point.

Each age has different pros/cons for traveling, but between his desire to move when he wasn’t allowed, and starting to teeth again right before the flight, it was not ideal.

So to summarize, traveling with a baby is hard. Don’t stress about making it easier, and have zero expectations. We don’t negotiate with terrorists for a reason, because they’re fucking nuts and its futile.

(also, don’t say terrorists, on a plane or in the airport).

I wish you many blessings of a sweet angel baby on your travels (I hear those are real, albeit rare).


*Update* You can read about the first half of our trip here and the second half here

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26 thoughts on “Flying with a Baby: An Exercise in Futility”

  1. Great read , Tank. What were you doing to assit your good wife along haha. Taking plenty of fluids i would guess. !!!
    Enjoy the fun and well done Guys.
    Imagine a 30 odd hr one to Aussie. !!!!!

    Take Care and best wishes
    Badge, !

    1. OMG Brad!! I couldn’t imagine 30 hours to Aus!! I don’t think I want to do that even without a baby!! And yes, Tank got plenty of fluids! 😉

    1. Thanks!! 🙂 I hear there are people who have babies that travel better than most adults. I’m not convinced.

  2. I have to admit, when I saw your post in the FTB thread I was like, Oh God ! not a baby post ! I don’t have children myself so don’t understand what it’s like but I also have no interest in babies. HOWEVER this post really made me chuckle ! And I love your honesty- great post !

    1. Thanks Jess!!! I know what you mean, I certainly thought the same thing prior to getting pregnant/having a child.

  3. I love hearing your side to this!! I always think it must be Hell for parents that’s children just keep screaming for an entire flight! I’m sorry! He sure a cute little boy though and I about died when I saw that picture of him asleep on that chair! OMG!

    1. Hahaha thanks Justyn! I think everyone can relate to a baby on a flight, parents and non-parents alike. But yes, definitely different sides! The best part is that he wasn’t poorly behaved, just loud and stubborn!

  4. Just like you, I think that you can’t rely on an online post for this: every kid is different, how can you expect him to behave by the book? Some will cry, some will sleep, some others will laugh all the time, you cannot know it in advance! Splitting longer flights into shorter ones is a GREAT idea tho!

    1. Thanks Dany! Totally agree, even if it costs a bit extra, its worth your sanity. If you plan it right sometimes you can get the layover free if you stay in the hub of the airline you’re traveling with too, so why not if that’s the case?!

  5. I love the “realness” of this post! I love that the flight attendants didn’t even bother offering water, they just went with something stronger. 9.5 hours is a long time and props to you for pulling through that entire experience. On a side note, your baby is super adorable!

    1. Thanks Anshula!! Ya I think they offered water once or twice and then realized what was in store. It was pretty hilarious. There were a couple of “wow he’s busy…!” throughout the flight! haha

  6. Hahahah man, that is certainly a very difficult experience. Probably for the whole plane! Reminds me of my BFF, her kids are a tornado – and it’s not like she just lets them either!

    1. haha Nuraini, well behaved children with the energy levels of a tornado… sounds about right!! Thankfully no one yelled at us, or it would have made things so much worse!!

  7. This is hilarious! I think it true of every trip that you should have zero expectations and plan for the worst. It sounds like you did plan for the worst and it still went worst than planned. Thanks for sharing. I think all the traveling moms out there need to know they are not alone.

  8. This is the funniest thing I have read in a while! I think it true of every trip that you should have zero expectations and plan for the worst. It sounds like you did plan for the worst and it still went worst than planned. Thanks for sharing. I think all the traveling moms out there need to know they are not alone.

    1. Haha! Thanks Stephanie! Everyone is struggling in this together!! I for sure will offer help to any struggling parent on a flight after experiencing this!! My husband thought the amount of stuff I packed was insane, but I think this proved him wrong haha 😉

  9. It’s always good to know the ‘realities’ of traveling with kids so you can be prepared. You were brave to tackle such a long flight. Your story was very engaging.

  10. You are hilarious! I really appreciate your honesty. I don’t have a family of my own yet, but when I do have one I would love to travel with my children. I will keep this story and all your great tips in mind 😉

    1. Haha!! Thanks Jewels!! It’s nice to know someone else thinks I’m funny!! I think the best tip is to have a sense of humour about everything makes it easier to get through the tough stuff without crying!! Haha

  11. I love the positivity and humor you have with a tough (and sleepless) situation! I love seeing parents flying with kids because though I don’t have any, its a real beacon of “you don’t have to give up travelling just becaus you have a kid(s)” light!

    1. Agreed!! Yes, you do a lot less because it’s hella tiring and expensive at times, but just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you’re relegated to the house!

  12. I love the positivity and humor you have with a tough (and sleepless) situation! I love seeing parents flying with kids because though I don’t have any, its a real beacon of “you don’t have to give up travelling just because you have a kid(s)” light!

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