This time of year, lots of us are busy planning our summer getaways. If you're flying somewhere lovely (lucky you!) then maybe now is the time to consider how to negotiate the flight, especially if you're flying with babies and young children.
Today's guest post is from the wonderful Carrie, a former flight attendant and primary school teacher. She is now a mummy to one very well-travelled toddler, with another one on the way. Carrie's toddler took 17 short, medium and long haul flights before her first birthday! Carrie is married to an Australian and the family are well versed with ultra-long haul flights too, and we're thrilled that she has agreed to share her top tips with us today! Carrie says,
"I couldn't find any quick reference guide to everything about flying with a baby, with all the answers I required in one place, to make any flight as painless and easy as possible. So, Flying With A Baby was born. I knew many things from working on flights which have helped us but some practicalities you learn along the way as parent. My information is based on personal experience and research to help you.”
Happy Flying! www.flyingwithababy.com
Plan ahead before you even book your flight
Your biggest concern might be, how will your little one sleep in the unfamiliar environment of an aircraft? It’s worth booking an airline that offers bassinets or sky cots.
Different airlines have different sized bassinets; they vary as to whether they have an age or weight restriction. As a guideline, many airlines have an upper age limit of approximately six months but others allow up to 18 months or even two years. This link compares airlines bassinets.
Check which airline best suits your needs and bring a familiar-smelling blanket or toy helps to help settle your baby.
Choose the best seats
Several airlines allow you to choose your seats online as soon as you have booked your flight. Bassinet seats are usually located at bulkheads. For other seat types, check www.seatguru.com for your aircraft type to show the pros and cons of every seat on your plane. I find that if there are two of you travelling with an infant on a wide-bodied aircraft with a 3-4-3 configuration, then the two seats at one side of the section of four are the best and mean you do not have to climb over anyone. However, if you are breastfeeding, you may prefer a window seat for a little more privacy.
Pack a baby carrier in your hand luggage
Whether you decide to check your stroller at check-in or at the aircraft door, a baby carrier is invaluable. It not only keeps your hands free for boarding the aircraft, it’s also great for disembarking and the long walk to baggage reclaim. Some airlines bring your pushchair to the gate on arrival but this does vary with each airline and even each airport.
Some airlines provide designated stands for courtesy strollers in their terminal, including Emirates in Dubai and Qatar Airways in Doha. Gatwick airport also provides courtesy strollers on arrival along designated places to baggage reclaim. However, just in case there are none available, your baby carrier may save the day.
Pack extra baby food and milk (and medicine) for the entire journey in your hand luggage
Delays are unfortunately commonplace and there is nothing worse than having to hunt for baby food in a transit airport. In some airports, a pharmacy airside will allow you to pre-order milk before you travel, to pick up after you have passed security; check your airport website for details and contact numbers. Security no longer requires parents to taste baby food, milk, and water etc, but these may be subject to other tests, so be patient and leave plenty of time for this. In a nutshell, pack a little extra to cover all eventualities. Medicine-wise, infant paracetamol and ibuprofen come in handy 5ml sachets that are available from most supermarkets and chemists. Other essential medicines, larger than 100ml, can be brought on-board but need a doctors letter and prior approval from the airline. This does include inhalers.
If you have a crawling or walking baby, board last
Although many airlines provide priority boarding for parents, I recommend that only one parent boards first with all the baby gear. This enables you to secure space in the overhead locker whilst the other parent can let your baby crawl and walk right up to the last minute before being confined to the limited space on an airplane.
Bring along some entertainment
For your baby, that is! For a younger baby, a favourite toy or familiar blanket helps to settle them. For an older baby or toddler, small toys help to entertain a little longer – hand them out one at a time. Stickers and small packets of raisins also keep little fingers busy. I also like colouring in with water 'pens' you can buy. No mess! You can also pre-download free apps to your phone or tablet. There are some great Fisher Price apps for babies of six months and older, including the Laugh and Learn collection. BBC iPlayer allows you to download Cbeebies shows free and watch them within a month. However, once you have started to watch an episode, you have only 48 hours to finish it. If that all sounds like it will only entertain your little one for five minutes, consider booking Gulf Air or Etihad Airlines, who provide a free sky nanny in all classes!
Are you flying with a baby or toddler this summer? Do get in touch and let us know where you're going!