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Flying home for Christmas

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

(and The Plot of the rue Saint-Nicaise) First Published in December 2018

Traveling at anytime with little people is never easy, but the added pressure of meeting family expectations of a dreamy Christmas .… well, that might seem insurmountable, a bit like Napoleon Bonaparte conquering all of Europe.

I’ve always travelled a lot, weekly at some stages of my life pre baby, but weirdly I realised that I had never heard a baby cry on a plane. So did I have magical noise cancellation headphones or do all babies magically sleep like comatose dwarfs on flights? As a mum, I can now categorically confirm the later is not true!

What I hadn’t previously realised is that planes are actually full of spectacular tacticians (“aka” mums) that could rival any Napoleon Bonaparte for precision and foresight.

As Napoleon once said “The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos. The winner will be the one who controls that chaos, both his own and the enemies.”

Battle Quarters commence…

My Ten Point Battle Strategy

1. Choose the right time to travel

Some say travel at night, some say travel by day. Honestly, you have to go with your gut on this one. We had an awesome sleeper…in her cot…and only in her cot…so night flights sucked for us, but in all honestly most mums prefer to travel at night

2. Do your research about seating plans.

Make sure you get a configuration that works for your family. Bear in mind that injuries can occur with falling objects from overhead lockers, hot liquids and turbulence; so having your baby in an approved child restraint away from the aisle is the safest thing to do

3. USE A CAR SEAT if you can.

Invest in the extra seat on the plane for under 2’s and know that every member of your family are travelling safely and comfortably. If you think I’m crazy then Google “injuries to babies during turbulence” (trigger alert!).

I recommend following this check list to make sure you don’t have problems with airline staff:

  • Check the airline website for their car seat policy

  • Check all measurements and flight approved stickers (the sticker is very important!)

  • Only after you are sure that your car seat fits all requirements CALL the airline to book the ticket for your under 2

  • PRINT out all paperwork showing that your car seat is flight approved, and print details from the airline website of their Car Seat Policy. Many air side staff do not know all the rules, so be prepared to calmly show them if required Don’t stress about rear or front facing. It makes no difference in turbulence, so instead think about the comfort of your little one and the comfort of people in front of you

4. Think about accommodation. I’m sure that there was once a time that you dreamed of arriving home and climbing into your teenage bed, rummaging through your mums pantry and cuddling the family cat… you’ve got a baby now and staying with family will never be the same again. Every precious ornament, every immaculate carpet, every bottle of bleach and lavender room fragrance is now a ticking time bomb. SO here are your other options:

  • Think about staying in a hotel near the airport the night you arrive and the night you leave. Have one small suitcase designated for these nights with just what you need for the night and travelling. This makes the first and last night a breeze…I promise you won’t regret it.

  • Rent an AirBnB and get everyone to come to you. There are lots of baby friendly options that many owners can have ready for you in advance. Pre-order groceries online and within a couple of hours of being ‘home’ you’ll be drinking tea and eating warm mince pies.

  • Arrange a hire car in advance. Having the freedom to get out of the house can save you from the worst of family debates.

5. Download the Empowa Travel Guide

for an Empowa'd Parents Guide to Traveling with a Baby

6. PRE PACK small GRAB bags of NAPPIES!

I pack zip lock bags with two nappies, a small pack of wipes and a muslin. Then tuck these bags all over the place. Some in your partner’s carry on, some in your carry on, some in the seat pockets in front of you, some under your bum, some down the side of the car seat. Then you can Grab’n’Go for nappy changes mid flight. Oh and pack a couple of changes of clothes for your little ones, and a clean T-Shirt for you and your partner

7. Don’t waste precious space in your luggage for toys.

Take their favourites but trust that you will find objects along the way that will be perfect substitutes…paper cups, toothbrushes, magazines, sick bags, plastic spoons. If you are worried about bubba’s favourite tatty teddy being dropped on a yucky airplane floor get some linkies and clips that you can use to secure things to you baby or the seat (bib clips work really well for soft toys)

8. USE A BABY CARRIER for pre walkers.

You won’t be allowed to use it during take off and landing but it is invaluable for getting on and off the plane, and a lifesaver if baby won’t sleep or stay still

9. ALWAYS make eye contact and smile with your onboard neighbours.

Chat to them, laugh with them, even offer to buy them a drink. You are guilting them in not complaining, tutting, scowling or growling at your little ones when they inevitably turn into little Tasmanian devils for at least one episode on the journey

10. Download the Empowa Spaces App 

to have 24/7 access to help and advice throughout your trip. You can even message a Trained Postpartum Doula for questions and advice in anything from newborn care to sleep routines on the go!

Whether you are travelling alone or with your partner this is the time to dig deep. At the airport, take a moment to look at yourself in a mirror and tell yourself that no matter what happens in the next 24 hours (or two weeks for that matter) YOU WILL SURVIVE IT!

As Napoleon also said “The first virtue in a soldier is endurance of fatigue; courage is only the second virtue.”

Empowa Travel Child for Mums Dads Babies


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