Expat Life, Motherhood

Air Travel with Babies and Toddlers: A Survival Guide

Air travel with babies and toddlers: a survival guide

We’ve been traveling to England with our daughter to visit family and friends since she was just four months old. And now we’re about to add a new baby to the mix! Air travel can be hard work at the best of times, but bringing young children (and all their paraphernalia) along with you??? Not easy! Will our little darling end up being ‘that child’ (aka the one that makes all of the other passengers want to tear their hair out) – please, please no!

You can never quite predict how kids are going to react to the whole experience, but some forethought and good planning still helps. We’ve learned a lot along the way, and while we don’t have it down to an exact science, can at least offer a few good pointers based on our own experience. Here goes…

Forward planning…

  • Pick your flight time carefully. Even though we can’t always be beholden to them, in my experience, kids seem to do best if you can stick somewhat to their usual schedules. Before you even book your tickets, it helps to consider what time of the day would work best. For example, we always try to time the overnight flight to England at about the same time our daughter would be going to bed anyway (giving us the best possible chance of her sleeping!).
  • Check the airline policies. Different airlines have different rules for flying with young children, so you’ll need to keep this in mind when planning. Most airline websites will tell you what you can/cannot bring on board, if your child will need his/her own seat and whether there are special infant or toddler fares.
  • Consider your seat selection. We like to be as close to the front of the plane as possible so that we can be among the first to disembark. That dreaded time between landing and the doors opening can often feel like an eternity, but even more so with a restless little one!
  • Plan your in-flight meals. Did you know that some airlines offer toddler/kids meals? We only found this out on our last flight, and appreciated the kid-friendly fare. You can select them from among the special dietary request options during the online booking process.

Airport essentials…

  • Dress the little ones appropriately. Simple is always best! Anything that can be taken on and off easily for airport security, changes etc. will make the process much easier. Also, layers will ensure that your child doesn’t end up getting too hot or cold at any point.
  • Think light and easy. We like to take a lightweight stroller, which is easier to maneuver around a busy airport and can be easily collapsed to go through the x-ray machine etc. Some airlines will even let you carry these on, but if not, they can just be gate-checked.
  • Free up your hands. For a young infant, we found that the baby carrier was invaluable. With all the equipment you end up lugging around, not to mention tickets, passports etc., having an extra set of hands free makes things a lot easier.
  • Don’t forget about entertainment. To be honest, our daughter usually finds the general hustle and bustle of the airport entertaining enough to keep her occupied during most of the downtime. However, it’s still a good idea to have a few tricks up your sleeve, especially in case you encounter delays.We typically have a couple of new kids’ games downloaded to our mobiles and some little coloring/sticker books to hand, just in case. Oh, and of course, plenty of snacks too.

Aboard the plane…

  • Remember those ears. Little ears can be especially sensitive to the change in air pressure during take-off and landing. I would always feed our baby at this time and she never seemed to be bothered by it. Now that she’s older, we make sure that she takes regular sips of water and we give her some snacks to munch on, and that seems to do the trick.
  • Pack smart. These are the items that we always carry-on and for which we’re always thankful!
    • Snacks, as many as you can pack!
    • Full size pillow – especially useful if you have an infant sleeping on your lap
    • Favorite comfort item – blanket, stuffed animal etc.
    • Small toys (such as plastic animals, action figures etc.) and books – some old favorites and some new, which we reveal gradually throughout the flight! We keep everything in a gallon zip-loc bag
    • Art/crafts supplies – anything that’s not too messy! (e.g. crayons, stickers, pipe cleaners)
    • Kids’ headphones (for those able to watch TV or movies)
    • Travel changing pad stocked with diapers and wipes
    • Change of clothes, just in case (one time our daughter accidentally kicked over my glass of red wine about half way through an eight hour flight and it went everywhere. Over all of us. It was just awful – oh the shame! So yes, a change of clothes can be a life saver!)

At your destination…

  • Go with the flow. Where there is a time difference, we’ve found it best to try to adjust to the local time with their routine as quickly as possible. Kids can be remarkably adaptable (our daughter seems to suffer less with jet-lag than we do!).
  • And finally… exhale… You made it! Traveling with young children is no easy feat, but hopefully a fab vacation destination or the chance to catch up with relatives will make all the hard work worth it!

What’s your on experience of air travel with babies and toddlers? I’d love to hear your own tips for flying with little ones.

Bon voyage and good luck!

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  • Reply Abs

    Brilliant tips ! We bought something called a sky baby which is Fab and rolls up for easy storage and transportation . Our little girl slept on it fine xxx

    September 25, 2016 at 1:12 am
    • Reply Polly

      This looks much better than the pillow! Thanks for sharing 🙂

      September 25, 2016 at 8:02 pm

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