So, we were off to Australia…yay! But that involved a 22 hour flight …boo! As if that wasn’t tiring in itself, we would be flying with a noisy and incredibly nosy 9 month old. How were we going to survive?!
I won’t lie, it was a sleep depriving and energy sapping experience – bub only had an unsettled 2 hour snooze for the duration of the flight. A recent trip to the Coral Coast left us with the flight blues, as we got a taster of what it will be like returning to the UK in September with a toddling bub. I’m hoping these tips will help me on that journey as well as aid you on your travels!
Booking your flight –If you can, buy your tickets as early as possible because some airlines let you choose your desired seats. We opted for bulk head seats, which are situated behind a cabin divider and benefit from extra legroom and storage space. A fold down bassinet can be provided though airlines have different policies about their use with regards to age, weight and limit so it is advisable to check. There are, however, some downsides in choosing these seats – these are discussed under sleeping.
If you are nursing, you may prefer a window seat, as they provide more privacy. I have found this useful on short flights but you may feel cramped on long haul.
Spare seats – If your child is under two then you will probably have to pay 10 % of the adult fare. If they are too big to use a bassinet then they will be expected to sit on your lap – unless you decide to pay the full fare for an extra seat. It is worth asking at check in whether there are any spare seats going – on our last flight we received a whole row to ourselves.
Prams – Some airlines may suggest checking in your stroller whereas others may let you take it to the door of the plane to be stowed away. Either way, a baby carrier might be useful, especially as some airports may not provide buggies during a changeover.
Boarding – Think twice about early boarding. Although you’ll get first dibs on overhead storage space, you’ll regret prolonging the time spent trying to entertain your wiggly little one in a confined space.
Bedtime routine – Try to recreate bub’s bedtime routine – e.g. give them a wipe down so they feel fresh, slip them into their grobag, read a story and give them a bottle. Do your best to keep distractions to a minimum -shut the blind, turn off the light and put the tablet away.
Bassinets – If you choose to use a bassinet then be aware that you will be asked to take your baby out of it whenever the seat belt sign appears. This can be heartbreaking when you’ve spent hours trying to convince your baby to sleep and they’ve just dozed off…
Sleeping on your lap – You may wish to consider using a SkyBaby travel mattress, which makes it more comfortable for your little one to sleep against you. Bub found it comfortable to sit in and it was nice that his body didn’t dig into us but, unfortunately, he was too long to sleep in it.
Downsides of bulk head seats – As the row can fit up to 2 bassinets, it is highly likely that you’ll end up sitting next to another baby. This is great for entertainment purposes – they can stare at each other and share toys- but the novelty soon wears off. We found the disadvantages really came at snoozy time when one baby settled but the other cried, waking the sleeping baby who then teared up because they were so exhausted! This round robined for the majority of our 11 hour flight!
Also, these seats are right on top of screens playing bright and flashy adverts – the cabin crew couldn’t turn them off so bub was constantly distracted when trying to nap.
Suggestions for packing
Food and drink – Pack what bub will need for the duration of the flight plus extra in case of delays. A few weeks prior to our departure, I ordered all the formula, pouches and snacks we needed online through the Boots at Heathrow. We were able to pick these up after check-in and security, which meant it didn’t count towards our weight limit or liquid allowance. It’s worth checking whether any stores at the airport you’re flying from provide such a service.
Also, don’t assume that it’ll be easy to find baby or toddler appropriate food or drinks anywhere at the airport. When we changed in Dubai, for example, there were no small bottles of formula available-only huge tins of an unknown brand.
Finally, some airlines provide toddler meals but they aren’t always that great so it’s best to bring plenty of the food they like! We always take a variety of organic sweet and savoury pouches (the sucking motion helps prevent ear pressure problems). I also try to pack nibbles that take a while to eat like rice cakes and flapjacks along with low sugar cheerios. It’s important to keep those little fingers busy!
Toys -Bring along a few old favourites as well as some new exciting toys. Be aware that it is hard to go back once the electronic devices come out!
1. Load the tablet with new games and their favourite tv programmes.
2. Attach favourite toys to a ribbon, as this will make retrieving the object so much easier. Instead of delving under seats or into the aisle when toys are thrown around, just reel them back in.
Comforts – Dummies, blankets, favourite toy – whatever works for your little one.
Clothes – Don’t risk running out of baby clothes mid-flight. They are are so small and light that that we pack all of bub’s clothes into our hand luggage. Remember to include some spares for yourself in case of any spillages or accidents.
Nappies – We double the number that we usually use in a day then stash a few extras into hand luggage. Pack plenty of wipes, nappy sacks, a few muslins and some hand sanitizer gel. We found our Bula Baby changing mat invaluable for keeping all these bits in one place – it made it easy to just grab and go.
Ask cabin crew for help – In our experience they are happy to clean sippy cups, provide hot water or heat up milk – just ask them in advance rather than waiting until bub’s on the brink of a meltdown.
Take a break – This is tough if you’re travelling alone but you’ll be surprised by the number of passengers who are willing to lend a helping hand. We found people to be sympathetic and helpful – so it’s not all annoyed stares and grumbling! If there are two of you then it’s a good idea to tag team.
The end goal –At some point during the flight it’s highly likely that you will be ‘those parents’ with the screaming baby – just take a deep calming breath, avoid eye contact, focus on your baby and take solace in the fact that you’ll never see the other passengers again! Also, those hours of travelling will pass and, if holidaying, once you’ve reached your destination you’ll have amazing adventures and make some wonderful family memories.
And remember, you will all sleep again at some point!
Have you got any tips to add to the list to make flying with kids that tiny bit easier?!