I had first written this post just before my last family trip to Prague. Then I decided to rewrite the beginning.
My three-year-old son walked (notice the word walked) to the plane, asked to sit next to the window, asked me to buckle up his seatbelt (because, you know, as he kindly explained it to me, when the light is on, everyone has to have a seatbelt on!) and then sat there quietly while gazing through the window, watching other planes, cars and trucks.
After five minutes it hit me – Wow! This is nice. Like the kid from YouTube (the one that is coming back from the dentist after heavy anaesthetics), I too asked myself – Is this real life? Could this be the beginning of relaxed travelling with my child? Not that he was ever really bad on the plane, but the transition from an under 2 that sits on your lap to an over 2 that has to sit in his own seat wasn’t smooth, not to mention the crying baby stage beforehand.
The reason I wrote this is to tell you – there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if the tunnel seems endless at first.
However, before you get to this stage, you have to go through all the wonders of flying with babies.
Plan! Plan! And plan more!
If you are anything like me and hate planning, this will not be easy for you but you just have to do it. I cannot stress enough how important planning is.
Days of travelling light are gone! You need to be thinking about your suitcase space, pram, nappies, car seats and what not, but don’t despair – it’s all doable.
Do some research and try and organise things you might want to do on your trip and leave plenty of time to pack; avoid last minute packing as that guarantees stress and forgetting essentials.
On the plane
One of the most challenging times on the plane will probably be take-offs and touch-downs. You can try breastfeeding your baby or giving them a dummy as that will help relieve the pressure in their ears and they will be happier. Sooth your baby, sing songs to them, read them stories or walk up and down the plane when possible. Don’t think about other people being annoyed or rolling their eyes at you, as there will always be at least one person on the plane doing that. On the other hand, you would be surprised how many people feel for you and very often offer their help.
There is no universal advice for having an easy (or at least tolerable) flight with a baby. Sometimes it’s nice and easy and sometimes you spend three hours standing and holding your baby to try to put him to sleep without success. Then you try singing in different languages, making silly noises, beginning them to stop while crying a little bit yourself until you realise that the vibrations and the noise in the tail of the plane are very soothing for your baby. As I said, you never know what might work, so stay calm.
Make sure you plan your trip properly so that you can pack your nappy bag accordingly – you don’t want to be dragging an over packed nappy bag around the airport and on the plane. You know yourselves what your essentials are, but do not exaggerate as you do not need 10 nappies and 5 baby grows for a flight that’s three hours long. Instead, pack your babies favourite toy and be prepared to entertain them for the duration of the flight.
Every airport security (that I have been through) allows taking through baby bottles with expressed milk or formula (even if the bottles are over 100ml). Bottles with water or juice are a bit trickier – they either have to be 100ml, or the juice has to state that it is juice for babies/children, otherwise, just take an empty bottle and fill it with water when you are through security. Baby food is also allowed. All baby related food/bottles has to be put in a separate container while separating your liquids.
Many parents have a pram they use normally and a pram for travelling. I am not one of those parents but can completely understand the attraction of having a small, easily foldable, umbrella type pram that you just leave at the plane entrance and pick it up on your way out. Our pram (known as the truck in our household) used to go everywhere with us; it has big wheels with great suspension and it does everything except for flying. It has an enormous basket where you can put two backpacks, jackets and several shopping bags which is very useful when walking about. The only thing is – it is not small! There is another great thing about our pram: it comes with a travel bag and a two year guarantee, which means you can fold it, put it in its bag and hand it over with the rest of your luggage. If anything happens to it, the company will fix it for you (I did it two times!). Handy, right?
Think about whether you need a mosquito net for the pram and some kind of organic mosquito repellent where you are going.
Seems obvious, but do make sure you arrange for a cot wherever you are staying, or take your own (beware of having too much luggage). Having a cot put in your hotel room will normally add another £10 to £15 per day to your bill, so plan accordingly.
Having a car seat is a must, but taking it with you might be a challenge. If you are renting a car with a baby seat, that will cost you on average more than buying a brand new one.
Always take your thermometer, paracetamol and little plasters (preferably with some animals as those are known to cure serious injuries and can only be used by true heroes). I would recommend having a baby first aid kit.
Child hand luggage
If you are past the baby stage and you are now dealing with a relatively sensible toddler, I would highly recommend buying them their own little bag that they can drag around and look after it. Not only does it entertain them, but it also takes one bag off your shoulders.
If the flight time is long, aim for overnight flights. Long haul flights have a few seats with shelves where basinets or baby seats can be put, but they need to be booked as early as possible as they go quite quickly. You can normally find them both in economy and business class depending on the size and the type of the plane. The basinet is only for small babies and the seat can handle a child of maximum two years after which they get too tall/long and get very uncomfortable. Note that these shelves have to be put away for safety reasons every time a seat belt sign comes on and you have to take your baby which will probably disturb them.
Other option is holding your baby the entire flight as children under two cannot sit on their own.
If your flight is relatively short, aim for times when your baby will either be asleep or well rested.
There is no reason not to travel in business class if that is something you would normally do. Remember – you cannot explain to a baby that it is not socially acceptable to cry for hours, which is what sometimes happens. Also, wine is better in business class and you might need it!
Author: Bojana JH