Following on from my first overseas flight with my son when he was 3 months old, my husband and I thought we were ready for the next adventure – we thought we had the whole ‘foods to eat when travelling with kids’ routine all sorted. So our next step of travelling to Europe when he was 7 months old we were thinking – we got this. When we booked we looked at each other and asked ourselves were we crazy? Sentiment was split with family and friends – some were saying that’s amazing and good on us, others said we were crazy. But working in the travel industry I knew we needed to do it someday and many friends had suggested travelling before kids start moving is easier. So decision made, we were going. And we had already done a trial overseas flight to Fiji so surely we were ok. Right? Well yes and no.
We certainly had lots of clues regarding the logistics of travelling with a baby – we had the nappies and wipes planned, we had security and the baby carrier dance all sorted, and we had his bottle schedule all organised. So far, so good. But a big difference regarding travelling with a 3 month old vs a 7 month old is the food. Our son was now eating solids – a whole new world for us. And so not only were we travelling for 24 hours but we also had to have his solid foods planned for that journey.
We started our journey in Sydney, Australia and flew 10 hours to Tokyo, Japan. After a 5 hour layover we boarded a 13 hour flight to Helsinki, Finland. After another 5 hour layover we then boarded a 2 hour flight to Berlin. A long way but we were prepared to help ensure our son got enough sleep. We had the bassinet rows booked where possible and we sat in quiet areas of the airport lounges where he slept well between flights.
First of all I want to acknowledge I was lucky to have airline lounge access and travel business class. This did make feeding easier in some cases. I acknowledge this upfront as my experiences may not be the same for everyone travelling but hopefully there are many aspects or concepts that can be replicated.
I planned out a rough feeding schedule for 24 hours before flying. This was to help co-ordinate feeding solids, bottle feeds and sleep, and help to take advantage of the benefits of each in different locations. For example I always tried to make sure he had solid meals when in the airports, usually when we arrived at the airport. He would then hopefully have a quick nap and then he would be usually ready for his bottle upon take off or just after take off, in which he would then be ready for another sleep (as by the time you have them awake to walk to the gate, board the aircraft, take off and wait for the seatbelt sign to turn off this can add up to 1.5+ hours). This plan tended to work well for us and also gave us more flexibility with solids as there were more options available in the airport and also easier to feed him (and then clean him) than on the plane.
However he did still have some solid foods on the long-haul flights, including baby meals which we preordered for him. On Japan Airlines we were able to chose a meal suitable for his age which was great, while on Finnair there wasn’t a specific meal we could order but they did have baby food onboard which was offered to him. The staff were also incredibly helpful in helping to source an extra yogurt and poached egg for him during breakfast (we were fortunate to be travelling business class so not sure if this affected what they could source for us).
For our flight Sydney to Haneda we chose the baby food meal which consisted of pre-packaged baby food pouches. The baby food meal is for up to 8 months old.
For our flight home a month later Haneda to Sydney we chose the baby meal. The baby meal if for 9 months – 2 years. Just after takeoff we were handed a bag with a box of rusks, a banana and a juice. Then at the main meal time our son was served a hot meal with a small sweet.
Finnair offered us some baby food on board – but we were not able to order a meal in advance. Luckily we had a number of bottle feeds organised (with water sterilised) ready to go as I am not sure how much baby food is loaded on the plane. We were only offered the 1 jar of food (and we didn’t ask for another one) so we were not sure how many other jars were available.
One important consideration for travelling with a baby just starting solids is the introduction of allergens into their meals. While the baby meals tend to be free of many of the main allergens, make sure you are aware of the allergens present in other foods you might be serving to them on the plane. If you are still yet to trial an allergen with your baby it is important not do this when thousands of feet in the air in case your baby has a reaction. Now I am not saying people would necessarily do this willingly, but it can be easy to do accidently. I nearly did it myself once when I had my son on my lap, and he was asking for some of my plane food meal which happened to be an Asian style dish. I was ready to give him a small amount with some rice and vegetable but then stopped, remembering there might be soy sauce in it and I hadn’t trialed him with soy foods yet.
Since it is a long way from Australia to Europe, and because I didn’t really know what types of foods would be available that would be suitable for my son, I travelled with a couple of baby food pouches. Heading through security for the first time we realised these needed to be taken out of the bags and onto a tray. While this was only for the older type scanners, the airport security using the newer type scanners usually wanted to see one of the pouches after they had been scanned so we still kept the baby food pouches in easy to access parts of our bags.
Hopefully my experiences in this article are helpful and assist you in preparing for which foods to eat when travelling with kids, especially young babies. This article is meant to provide an example of how I travelled and there may be different circumstances to suit different people/babies when travelling.
If you would like personalised food and nutrition advice when travelling with your family, please contact me to book an appointment.