Whether you are an ambitious new parent of a 6 month-old baby unsure of what to pack, or a veteran frequent flyer looking for new ways to keep your fidgety two year old from causing havoc up and down the aisle, flying with babies and toddlers is always a daunting task.
One mummy who has experienced more than her fair share of flights with both her own children and other people’s, is ex-flight attendant and mother of two, Carrie Bradley. With her wealth of travel experience and insider knowledge Carrie launched website and blog Flying With a Baby packed with top tips and advice for jet setting parents on how best to travel with babies and children.
Carrie spoke to LUXOS to share her expertise, and in the first of our two part interview, Carrie advises parents on choosing the right airline for you, what to pack and carry in your hand luggage, tips for making it to the check in gate on time and in one piece and on board tips for flying with a baby.
There is so much to think about before you even start packing. Where should we begin?
Preparation is the absolute key. Research which airline best caters to your needs be it, the longest bassinet, best infant baggage allowance, complimentary prams/strollers in transit or even a sky nanny on board like Gulf Air or Etihad. Once you have your preferred airline chosen, reserve your bassinet.
Packing is the next hurdle. What should be in our hand luggage?
• Use or pack a baby carrier. This allows you to be hands free when wrestling with luggage at arrivals.
• A spare change or two of clothes for baby and for you too, favourite toys and comforter, LOTS of snacks and new entertainment.
• New toys wrapped up in layers of coloured paper will keep toddlers busy.
• A smartphone downloaded with their favourite TV shows/nursery rhymes. Most airlines have a TV channel specifically for children, but it won't necessarily show age appropriate shows the entire duration of your flight.
• To keep packing light, bring Calpol or Ibuprofen 5ml sachets.
• If your baby uses a dummy this can help in relieving the pressure in their eyes for takeoff and landing. (If not, feed from a bottle or breast or give a toddler a something to suck).
• Antibacterial wipes. Airports and airplanes see thousands of people.
• A really useful tip to save rummaging around is to have all your essentials (nappy, small pack of wipes etc.) in several individual zip lock bags and have them in an easily accessible place. Once you have you used them, you can replace with your next zip lock bag of supplies.
Source: Flickr/Sander van der Wel
What are the rules in terms of food and drink in your hand luggage?
Baby food and milk can be over 100ml whether it's powdered, pre-mixed, breast milk or puréed. If travelling from the UK, you can pre order formula milk from Boots online and select the UK airport you are departing from as your collection point. You can also request baby meals with many airlines; puréed food jars are provided for babies and children's meals for those over two years old. If your baby is weaned, make sure you also bring plenty of finger food snacks to help while away the time, and some extra for unforeseen delays.
Getting through the airport is the next hurdle. Any tips on making it to the gate happily?
Even in business and first class, check-in will always take longer than you think, so allow extra time – any spare can be spent with you relaxing in the lounge and your baby crawling around. It is always helpful to try and wear your little one out before getting on the plane and many airports also have soft play areas in the terminals, although they can be a trek away from the lounge or boarding gate.
Do you advise taking a pushchair on holiday/in the airport?
I like taking my usual pushchair on holiday for familiarity and ease. It can be a bit tiresome to pack up at boarding gate, so I often check it in with luggage and either use an airport stroller or my baby carrier. If you are using a buggy travel bag (which will help protect your pushchair), stuff a few extra nappies inside to make the most of your baggage allowance and to further protect your pushchair.
Which airport has the best facilities for little ones?
I really like Changi international airport in Singapore. The family zone has some slides and kids TV for free and also the SingKids PlaySystem (a colourful, moving playground for 1-10 year olds) in Terminal 3. If you have a long transit time, you can also use the Ambassador Transit Hotel for its Lounge or nap suite. Changhi is also one of the few airports that provide complimentary strollers for use within the terminal.
How can we help get a distracted, overtired baby to sleep on the plane?
A baby sleeping bag is a great way to calm and comfort your baby in the bassinet, skycot or even on your lap. It is also wise to carry an extra wrap or thin blanket and a couple of safety pins. This is handy if you have a bassinet seat and the overhead monitor is projecting too much light on your sleeping baby, or if your baby is sleeping and the cabin lights are turned on for a meal service.
Bassinets are not always available. What then?
Try making a 'den' by using the seat in front of you and your seat, to secure a blanket over the top of the seat, again giving you some respite from the bright cabin lights. There is also a new Australian product out called Fly Babee, which is breathable and shields from the cabin lights. It fits bassinets and pushchairs. Another great new product is Sky Baby UK - a unique sky mattress, which enables a young baby to sleep comfortably and safely on your lap.
Sky Baby UK
Can you give us a brief lowdown on some of the best airlines for travelling with little ones...
• British Airways have the most generous bassinets and a frequent flyer programme for children where their points can be added to the ‘household’ points.
• Emirates Airline provides child-sized headsets.
• Etihad Airways provide Premium Class guests with access to their family room in most of their major destinations as well as a sky nanny service.
• Qatar Airways has a dedicated baby TV channel (as well as very generous sized bassinets).
• Lufthansa offer kid-friendly food such as mini sausages and soups as well as baby food, which does not need to be pre-ordered.
• Singapore Airlines offer four different types of meal choices for infants and children including a post-weaning meal option (as well as very generous sized bassinets).
• Gulf Air offers a sky nanny service.
Look out for the second part of Carrie’s interview featuring advice on travelling with toddlers, twins, multiple children and on your own, the best toys and apps for surviving long haul flights as well as the perks of flying business, first and how to charter a private jet for the whole family at a fraction of the cost. For more information and tips on flying with babies and children go to www.flyingwithababy.com