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Planning your trip

Best time to fly - part I

One of the most frequently asked questions about travelling with an infant is what is the best time to fly.

There are lots of differing opinions on this matter, however I believe that it really depends not only on the age of your child, but also on the sleeping habits of your child.

Generally people say that night flights are the best because your baby will be more likely to sleep. However, if your baby doesn’t sleep (always a possibility, if not a probability!) then this means that YOU won’t get any sleep either. Even if you are able to sleep in shifts with your partner you will probably still arrive tired. It’s also more stressful trying to keep an overtired baby quiet while everyone else is sleeping than if they are awake. People may be annoyed by a crying baby if it’s daytime but they are even more annoyed if they are trying to sleep.

Another problem with night flights is that you arrive early the next morning and then need to stay up all day to combat the effects of jet lag. Also many hotels won’t let you in to your room early unless you pay an extra day charge.

I’ve read a number of articles which suggest that you should pick flights which coincide with your baby’s nap time so that your baby is more likely to sleep. But I think that this very much depends on your child. If your baby needs a quiet, darkened room, no longer falls asleep on a car trip and is easily awakened then chances are that it will be hard for them to sleep on a plane or to stay asleep.

The age of the baby is also a factor. In my experience the younger the baby, the easier it is as younger babies are generally used to two naps or more a day whereas a toddler who can go without a nap (even though they really need one!) is harder to deal with, particularly if they are travelling as a lap infant. A smaller (ie lighter) baby can also go in the bassinette whereas a bigger baby can’t - most have around about 10kg weight restriction.

Of course, the low air pressure, engine noise and dimmed cabin lights may help even the most wide eyed baby to fall asleep. Watch out if you sit near a galley or a bathroom though - the sounds of the cabin crew talking or the bumping of the service trolleys may wake your bub from their slumber.

Naturally, when people talk about choosing the “best time to fly” they are assuming that you will have some choice in the matter. This isn’t always the case - particularly with international flights where you may be restricted by choice of airline, timetables (some airlines don’t fly every route daily for example) and fare price. So the “best time” may not correspond with your travel plans or budget.


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