This of year lots of us are busy planning our summer getaways- and why not? We all work hard, we deserve some rest and relaxation, right? And if you're flying away somewhere lovely (lucky you!) then maybe now is the time to consider the flight, especially if you're flying with babies and young children.
Today's guest post is from the wonderful Carrie, ex flight attendant and primary school teacher. She is now a mummy to one very well travelled toddler, with one on the way and due in October. Carrie's toddler took her first flight in utero and completed 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 & easy as possible. So Flying With A baby was born. I knew many things from working on flights which have helped us travel & others greatly, but some practicalities you learn as parent along the way & earn your badge, or in this case wings. My information is based on personal experience & research to help you. Happy Flying! www.flyingwithababy.com"
Plan ahead before you even book your flight
Your biggest concern may well be, how will your little one sleep in the unfamiliar environment of an aircraft? Different airlines have different sized bassinets which vary in either age restriction or weight restriction and even these vary on some aircraft types. As a guideline, many airlines put an age limit of approximately 6 months, but others including Qantas and British Airways allow up to 18 months/ 2 years respectively. (www.flyingwithababy.com compares many airlines bassinets restrictions in a convenient chart). Check which airline best suits your needs if this is a priority. Bringing a familiar smelling blanket or toy helps settle baby too.
Choose the best seats
Several airlines, including British Airways and Emirates, allow you to choose your seats online as soon as you have booked your flight. Bassinet seats are at bulkheads. Check www.seatguru.com for your aircraft type (verify if need be with the aircraft type map on your airlines website) and this shows all the pros and cons of every seat. I find that if there are two of you travelling with an infant on a wide body aircraft with a 3-4-3 configuration, then the two seats in the '4'section either DE or FG are the best. These mean you do not have to climb over anyone or have anyone climbing over you. 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 in at check-in or at the aircraft door, a baby carrier is invaluable. Not only keeping your hands free for boarding the aircraft, but also for when disembarking and that long walk to baggage reclaim. Some airlines do bring your pushchair to the gate on arrival, but this does vary with each airline and even each airport. Furthermore, some airlines provide clearly designated stands for courtesy strollers in their base terminal, including Emirates in Dubai and Qatar Airways in Doha. Gatwick airport also provides courtesy strollers on arrival along designated places along the walkway 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 the UK airports, most Boots airside allow you to pre-order milk before you travel, and pick up after you have passed security. Just check your UK airport website for details and contact numbers. UK security as from January this year, no longer require 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, Calpol and Ibuprufen come in handy 5ml sachets which 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 baby crawl and walk up to the last minute, before being confined to the limited space on an airplane.
Bring along some entertainment
For 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 wrapped up and handed out individually, help to entertain a little longer. Stickers and small packets of raisins, also keep little fingers busy. I also like the colouring in with water 'pens' you can buy. No mess! You can also download free apps. There are some great free Fisher Price apps for babies 6 months and older, including the Laugh and Learn collection. BBC iplayer allows you to download Cbeebies shows free from the UK and watch them within a month. However, once you have started to watch an episode, you have 48 hours to finish. And if that all sounds like it will only entertain your little one for 5 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!