The first time you take your little one on a plane can be nerve-racking for even the most seasoned traveller. There is so much to think about, and so much to pack! When a trip to the supermarket requires as much equipment as a military operation, flying long-haul can seem out of the question, but that needn’t be so. This guide will hopefully give you some tips, and reassurance.
- When booking your flight, think about flying direct. Stop-overs can be advantageous with toddlers, as they can stretch their legs, but direct flights may be easier and less stressful as you don’t need to worry about missing connections.
- With regards to flight times, a night flight may the best option. Although you risk a couple of days of jet lag, your journey will be easier with a sleeping child than with an excited one. Engine noise can be slightly hypnotic to children, so you may find that they nod off easily.
- Check the airport’s website for facilities. A play-area is a godsend in the event of a delay.
- Allow extra time for your journey to the airport, and aim to get there a little earlier that you would have done BC (Before Children) so that you can relax and enjoy the airport, while still making sure the little one is fed and changed before you board.
- Airlines normally reserve the bulkhead seats for those travelling with babies, or young children. Paul has been a flight attendant for over 8 years. He says “Children under certain weights and ages can sleep in child-cots at bulkheads. This allows space for you personally, so you can get some rest. Older children can have their own seat or a CAA approved car seat for transport. Do not let your children sleep on the floor, no matter how comfortable they are, as one unexpected bout of turbulence could result in a nasty injury, or worse.”
- On-board facilities are limited, so assume nothing! Pack all the essentials, and don’t expect cabin crew to provide baby food. You should bring at least enough to last the full duration of your flight. Also make sure you take enough of the other essentials to see you through to your destination. Work out your travelling time “door-to-door”, and how many nappies etc you would use in that period. Then take double. A baby with diarrhoea is no laughing matter at 30,000 feet, so it’s better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it!
- If your child is young/small enough to go in a buggy, take one. If there’s a delay, they can take a nap while you walk round, shop etc. You’ll be able to keep it until you board, and it will be waiting at the other end. When not in use, you can use it for keeping all your bags together. Also, you may need it even for slightly older children if you’re planning long days out (my daughter still used one on holiday until she was 6!). They might not do it at home, but while you’re away, the important thing is for everyone to be happy. If the kids are bored looking at the sights, they might be happier being pushed round, whilst colouring a picture or looking at a book. Happy kids mean happy parents, so do whatever it takes!
- Check your child’s luggage allowances. Airlines can differ, but you may be given a full allowance, even for a baby who does not have their own seat. Taking a changing bag for your baby can help you stay organised. Your changing bag could include: nappies, a changing mat, wipes, nappy bags, dummies, baby food pouches (lighter to carry than jars), snacks, drinks, medication, blanket/comforter. Put essentials, which you know you will need, into the magazine holder as soon as you board. This means that in the event of turbulence, or even a slightly green looking child, you have everything to hand and won’t need to keep disturbing other passengers by getting your bag down.
- Travel in old clothes. If the worst should happen (and I write from experience!) and you end up covered in something icky, you can just bag it and bin it. You won’t want to be sluicing your clothes when you arrive! In your hand-luggage, take at least one or two changes of clothing for everyone, in case of emergency. On a similar note, it could be worth including your baby’s pyjamas in your hand-luggage, if you want them to sleep on the plane. Familiar bedtime clothing and stories might do the trick.
- For older babies and toddlers, take plenty of toys/books to keep them occupied. Some parents limit new toys to one an hour, to last the entire journey. This will hopefully keep the boredom at bay. A portable DVD player and discs can save your sanity. Make sure it is fully charged before you leave, and remember it may have a relatively short battery life, so maybe keep it as your emergency back-up plan.
- If you are bottle-feeding, check the airport’s website for regulations. You can usually pre-order baby formula and collect from the airport (after you clear security). It may be more costly, but for your journey it could be worth taking some cartons of ready-made formula and disposable bottles. Disposable bibs might be another good idea.
- “Practical Parenting – Travel Games” by Jane Kemp and Clare Walters is a book full of ideas for kids of all ages. The activities require little, or no equipment, so is great for travelling light. Pick out a few activities before you go, to be sure you have everything you need.
- Whilst remaining courteous to other passengers, try not to worry too much about your little one crying or fussing. If you get agitated, so will your baby. A baby’s cry will sound louder and more intense to it’s parents, firstly because that’s the way we’re genetically wired, and secondly, because we worry a lot about upsetting other people (a very British trait!). Try and concentrate on making your child as comfortable and content as possible, and hopefully any problem will rectify itself. Many of the other passengers will be parents themselves, who are probably empathising with you.
- Remember to register your child with the airline’s air miles scheme. Flyers of all ages can qualify, so it’s worth looking into.
Have a great trip!