Before parenthood, our holidays were mostly about picking a hot destination, finding a cheap deal, throwing a handful of clothes and a toothbrush in a backpack and hitting the road. But our first long-haul trip as a family required a lot more thought and planning and, to be honest, had me shaking in my hiking-boots.
Undeterred, and with parents in England desperate to meet their grandchild, we boldly set off on a journey that we not only survived but thoroughly enjoyed.
Pre-flight, our biggest concern was for our baby’s wellbeing but the thought of juggling a crying baby at 30,000 feet whilst dodging the death-stares of fellow passengers for 24 hours sent chills down our spines. But we needn’t have worried as our little man charmed his way across the skies, leaving a trail of besotted attendants and passengers in his tiny wake.
In fact, having now flown around the world several times with both our babies, we’ve found that most people are lovely. On the few occasions when tears have flowed, we found that by making an obvious effort to calm our children, fellow passengers were more empathetic – so don’t be afraid to put on a bit of a show if your bub starts howling.
Top tips for turning tiny tots into fearless flyers
- On long-haul flights try to get a night flight and a bassinet (most airlines provide them but be sure to put in a request when booking) so your kids will sleep.
- It must be said that getting an infant to sleep in an airplane is not without its challenges but we find that draping a dark muslin wrap over the bassinet helps to block out and other passengers fussing over the baby we’ve just about gotten to sleep. Dash Baby have an excellent selection of wraps that are perfect for the job and gorgeous to boot.
- Plan for your baby to feed or suck a dummy during take-off and landing. It will relieve the discomfort of changing air pressure in the ears.
- Allow extra time for checking in for your flight. Most things take longer with a baby along for the ride, and travel is no exception to the rule.
- A baby carrier frees up our hands for handling tickets, passports and our older child. Plus it comes in handy for calming an unsettled tot.
- Don’t forget that your baby needs its own passport for overseas travel and to leave lots of time for it to be issued.
Formerly light-packers, the addition of a baby was a shock. Two babies and all their accoutrements nearly killed us. But there’s no need to over-pack check-in luggage. One mum on our flight to London had packed an entire suitcase full of consumables – just in case. Didn’t it occur to her that babies in the UK also use nappies? Baby supplies are readily available in most cities – just do a little research beforehand if you’re heading somewhere exotic or out of the way.
Though most hotels can supply a cot, settling baby in an unfamiliar bed can be tricky and you may end up with an unsafe or unhygienic cot. The Phil & Teds Traveller is compact enough to fit in our suitcase and weighs only a few kilos.
Making flying a stress-free experience isn’t just about planning and packing. It’s about realistic expectations and being prepared for the worst, while keeping your fingers crossed for the best
Carrying – On
Carry-on luggage is the one exception to the packing light rule. You’re better off carrying more than you think you’ll need, than being caught wanting mid flight. Managing this within the restrictions of the 7kg weight restriction that applies almost necessitates a physics degree, but it is doable.
In flight Packing tips
- Pack plenty of nappies, bags and wipes – many airlines supply them but on a long flight they may run out.
- Pack more wipes.
- Put everything you need for a nappy change in individual disposable bags before you go so you don’t have to hunt for all the bits and pieces on your flight – it’s all ready to go and you can use the empty bag to dispose of the old nappy.
- Layer clothes on bub as cabin temperatures can change and pack a change in case of spills.
- Airlines offer packaged baby food but BYO if you have a fussy eater.
- If you’re formula feeding make sure you pack enough sterile bottles and formula for the duration.
- Don’t be caught unprepared if your baby should fall ill mid-flight. At a minimum, pack baby paracetamol, nose drops, chest rub and a thermometer.