Flying with Lufthansa – Alara’s First Flight (May 2014)

Spring arrived in New England and busy season was wrapping up at work. My in-laws had gone back to Turkey the end of October 2013 and by May 2014 they were staying in Germany where my brother-in-law (BIL) and his family lives. We decided this would be the perfect opportunity for a family reunion and vacation getaway. It had been almost a year since Alara was born and this was the first time my BIL would meet her. I had also never been to Continental Europe (or as the Azoreans call the Continent), besides Turkey, so this was exciting for me. It was Alara’s first time on an airplane, so that was also exciting… and nerve racking. We invited immediate family members and my aunt and uncle joined us on this trip.

The first step was to book the flight. Alara was just shy of turning one, so we were not required to purchase a seat ticket for her. However, I recommend doing your own research to determine whether purchasing a seat and bringing a car seat would be a better decision for you. We were flying with Lufthansa, which had the most direct flights between Boston and Munich. We were also able to request a baby bassinet, or baby cot, free of charge since it was a long flight. Some other airlines also offer baby bassinets, but be sure to check their weight and height requirements, as well as any additional fees. Lufthansa’s size requirement was 14kg (just under 31 lbs) and 83 cm (just over 32 1/2 inches), so we were good to go. Also, make sure you check your airlines’ baggage allowance with children, as they differ with each airline. With Lufthansa, we were allowed one free checked baggage allowance, which helped tremendously. However, we were not allowed any additional carry on luggage, which as you can imagine, babies require a lot of stuff! We were able to gate check a car seat and stroller if we needed. We decided not to bring a car seat since we would be using one my BIL had. I generally do not recommend used car seats for safety reasons since you never know if it was in a car accident in the past, however, we trusted this one since it belonged to a close family member. We also decided to bring a more light weight stroller so we could manage it more easily and not worry if it got damaged.

We arrived at Boston Logan airport and our diaper bag was a bit of a problem going through security. Honestly, my diaper bag always seems to be a problem going through security. TSA always goes through everything in that bag, checking every pocket, snack, bottle, etc. It seems even a little leftover Cheerio dust can set off their security system. You are allowed to bring baby food bottles and pouches, medication and formula or breastmilk in a bottle, but be sure to alert TSA as you are checking in that you have these items on hand. You are also required to fold up the stroller and hand this over to TSA separately. Usually some airports are nice enough to let families go through the TSA PreCheck line,  so it is a little faster security service and you do not need to take off your shoes or jacket. Once we got through security, I tried to let Alara burn off as much energy as possible, walking around or playing in the airport playground areas. I also made sure I bought water and milk in one of the convenient stores so I wouldn’t have to rely on the cabin crew in the airplane. Nothing is worst than having a crying, hungry baby and having to wait to be served or be told there’s no milk on the plane. So my motto is… Be Prepared. Once we arrived at our gate, I showed Alara the airplanes outside the window and told her we would be flying on one. It also helps if you have a toy airplane and get children comfortable with the idea of getting on an airplane. Luckily, Alara was young and easy going enough to just go wherever we went.

Airport

This is the city view from Boston Logan Airport, showing Alara the planes outside.

When you first check in, either at the airport ticket counter or at the gate, I would first ask if there are any available seats so you can have some extra space with a baby, especially if you did not purchase a ticket for the baby. If there are available seats, you may be able to bring your car seat on board for the baby. However, with Lufthansa, we kept our bassinet seating arrangement, which was the first row on one of the sections and allowed for extra leg room. At the gate, when they start early boarding for families with children, I usually ignore it. Unless you need additional time to set up a car seat in the plane, I do not see the point of boarding the plane early and having that much more time to keep her entertained while sitting. I will usually just keep her occupied and let her play by the gate until it’s time for our row to board.

I just have to say Lufthansa is great for flying with a baby! Right after we boarded the plane, the cabin crew was walking around and providing toys for children. They gave Alara a stuffed stork pacifier clip, a puzzle set, and they also had coloring sets and activity books. They also carry baby food on the flight and will warm up bottles for you. There were changing tables located in most of the restrooms onboard, just above the toilet seat. The cabin crew was extra courteous and would try to make her smile every time they walked by. During takeoff, I tried to be prepared with a warm bottle of milk and a pacifier, both helping to alleviate air pressure change in the ears. Lufthansa will give you an extra seat belt attachment to put around the baby or toddler (disclosure: I’ve only seen them do this with older babies and young toddlers, I’m not sure if they also do that with infant babies). The baby bassinet locked into the wall and also had a seat belt restraint, so I personally felt particularly safe with Alara either on my lap or in the bassinet. So off we went on an overnight flight to Munich with the bassinet securely set with a comfy pillow and blanket in place.

Now only if I could get Alara to fall asleep to put her in this bassinet! As I mentioned in a previous post, Alara does not like to fall asleep in public as she’s usually overwhelmed by her surroundings. It also did not help that the cabin crew kept the lights on for the first couple hours of the flight so they could serve drinks, dinner, etc. The lights were eventually dimmed and it was time for Alara to sleep. Of course this didn’t go without a few tears and a tantrum!

How do you deal with a crying baby on a plane? This goes without saying, try to avoid a tantrum to being with. I know, captain obvious, right? But keep her fed and changed, have enough toys and snacks on hand, keep her entertained when awake, and try to keep her relaxed when it’s nap time. I also like to be extra friendly to the passengers around me as soon as I board the plane. Generally, passengers are sympathetic towards babies, but just ignore any rude stares or comments if your baby cries. Don’t stress, chances are that you are more stressed out than the surrounding passengers. Also, the baby can feel any stress or anxiety coming from you. Try going for a walk around the aisles. Hang out in the back of the plane or look out the window. The cabin crew generally shouldn’t mind and should be helpful unless they are trying to serve drinks or food. Usually, I try to stay out of the cabin crews’ way since they are trying to work. When you first board the airplane, try to keep any necessities or “new” toys easily accessible. Also, I know it’s tempting, but do not over pack your diaper bag! Try to pack the necessities (snacks, drinks, a few toys, a diaper or two, baby wipes, etc.) in the diaper bag and keep any additional items (extra clothing, extra diapers) in a separate carry on. You really don’t want to be fishing out through tons of diapers or clothes just to get to some snacks, a drink or a toy for a crying baby. I also try to show her the TV screen in the seat or the overhead light to keep her entertained. Last but not least, read this letter before you depart on your trip. I did not write it, despite the author’s name, but it is a great read for any parent flying with a baby.

Alara eventually stopped crying and fell asleep after I threw a light blanket over her eyes and soothed her for a bit. I put her in the bassinet, where she thankfully stayed asleep for the remaining of the flight. It was an 8 hour flight, so while she didn’t get a complete full nights sleep, it still helped tremendously that we kept her on schedule and she got enough sleep to be awake at our 10am local arrival time.

Luftanhsa bassinet

This picture is a little blurry but it gives you an idea of what the bassinet looks like (with our blanket blocking the surrounding lights).

After we landed, surrounding passengers actually told us, and her, how good of a baby she was, even despite the crying. This is why I like to make “friends” with the people sitting next to me. So don’t sweat a few tears, it’s most likely not as bad as you think it is.

After an 8 hour flight and maybe about 5 hours worth of sleep, we were ready to start our adventures in Germany!

Germany carseat

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