Long Haul with a Little One
Updated: Nov 28, 2018
To kick off our trip we flew United from SFO to FCO with a connection in Frankfurt (there are almost no direct flights from the Bay to Rome). We used points and in the calculus we ran it ended up making sense to get WP her own seat (if she was a lap infant, we’d have to pay taxes and fees that ended up being several hundred dollars, and we had the miles, so we used them for three seats). Since we booked early we were able to proactively reserve the second bulkhead (row 34 on our plane), which was one of two places on the plane that they could attach a bassinet.
I called and requested a bassinet right away, and they said the request was in, but for some reason when I called back to check a few weeks later, they said it wasn’t. The woman on the phone said that’s because they typically don’t do bassinets when a baby has their own seat, so if you end up going that route maybe call a couple times to confirm.
The bassinet request is only that - a request - until you get to the airport when they will confirm whether they have one available for you. We decided that if there was no bassinet we’d carry our car seat on, but if there was we’d check it. So we when we got confirmation that there would be a bassinet for us on the plane, we checked our car seat.
The bassinet will be installed by a flight attendant after take off, after the fasten seatbelt sign goes off. I mentioned it to them when we boarded and they were pretty prompt about doing it so we had it set up before the meal service.
Given that we had a 7pm flight, which is right around WP’s bedtime, we knew we wanted to get her to sleep pretty quickly after takeoff. I will admit that we employed 1ML of children's Benadryl here, which our pediatrician signed off on. We decided that we’d try to get her to fall asleep on me, and then move her to the bassinet, which is technically what we did… Ultimately though, the bassinet was pretty useless for us. While it accommodates an infant up to 25lbs and is plenty long it became clear very quickly that it wasn’t going to work for WP despite the fact that she’s 8mo and 17.5lbs. The bassinet is only about a foot deep.
Different babies sleep differently. If yours still sleeps swaddled or even is older but sleeps calmly on her back, then the bassinet may work like a dream. However, if your baby is like ours and tosses and turns all night and sleeps on her stomach, the bassinet is just a hazard. I got WP to sleep on me and then transferred her into it in hopes that I would be proven wrong, and within five minutes she did her first toss and turn, found herself confined, and then was awake, disoriented, and trying to climb out. There was sort of a straightjacket-like lid you are supposed to clip closed for safety, but with such an active sleeper we were pretty sure she’d just wake up and freak out if she found herself totally confined like that. So either way it was clear that we couldn’t leave her in there and go to sleep ourselves.
So, the next six hours she tossed and turned on her human bed, me.
That said, even with the reduced recline (compared to other Economy Plus seats) and the fixed armrests (due to tray tables and movie screens) we were still really glad to have the bulkhead for the flight because it was so helpful to be able to step over one another easily, and for times when she was awake. She could play on the floor, practice her pulling up, and generally expend energy when she wasn’t sleeping.
If I were doing it again, I’d probably do it all the same but wouldn’t bother with the bassinet. We used it to store toys and stuff blankets into to get stuff off the floor and that’s about it. But having the third seat and thus the full row plus the floor space was awesome.