The look of horror staring back at me when I tell people I’m going to be flying long haul with two young children is quite frankly…justifiable. The sight of seeing people exhale with relief as we walk passed their seat on the plane knowing they wont have to sit next to us is also just that, and becoming very familiar.
With one child, especially when they are babies (and not crawling!!!) you can take it in turns to entertain him/her, you might have to walk up and down the aisles a few times to get them to sleep but you get a little break when the other parent takes over. There are two of you and only one of them…its not so bad.
I was prepared somewhat for our first trip as a family of four having experienced long haul flights with just Mila (and even another time with a toddler and being 7 months pregnant) but with two young ones, its a different ball game.
For the ‘Pre Children’ me, the best part of a flight was when you were all cozy in your blanket watching a movie with your glass of wine, they bring you out a hot meal to enjoy and they even take it away for you when you’re done without you having to move a muscle. They top up your drink if you so require and you have a little post meal snooze, bliss! … NOT with kids. This is the part I now dread. Its a little better when your child has their own seat and you have some room to eat in between making sure they are eating, but when you are holding a baby/toddler on your lap and they bring out that tray of doom, you know its going to get messy. You try and get some food into you as quickly as possible without them pushing the tray/knocking the drinks over and you feel like you’ve barely touched it when they finally take it all away. And Movies, What movies????…
I’ve put together a list of little ‘survival’ tips I’ve learnt the hard way to help get you through your journey.
Toys: Every time we fly I pack the girls their own little hand luggage with a few NEW toys…these don’t need to be anything extravagant, for a toddler it could be some stickers/magazines/crayons and paper, books or just anything they are in to as long as its NEW. I’ve found packing a bag with even their current favourite toys just doesn’t have the same appeal and the novelty lasts a little longer with something they’ve not seen before. Also, telling them about the possibility of getting new toys is also a great bargaining tool at the airport before the flight for good behavior.
Snacks/food: So if your baby/toddler is under 2 years old and they don’t have their own seat they also wont get any in flight meals. I made this mistake and assumed they would still provide Mila with something when I first flew with her (she was then 10 months old) and I of course ended up giving her my own food. I usually just stock up on little sandwiches from an airport shop before heading to the gate. Snacks of course for the flight and to keep them happy in the queues before and after. They will of course let you fill up sippy cups with juice etc on board.
Formula/Baby food – when you have checked in your luggage and you go through to security you are obviously not allowed to take with you fluids over a certain limit. However, when flying with small children and babies this does change things. Tubs of powdered and liquid formula as well as bottles of expressed breast-milk and pouches of baby food are all okay to go through with your hand-luggage, they sometimes will open them and test the contents but you are absolutely in your right to take them through with you.
iPad: If you have one, Wonderful. if you don’t, get one! These devices will become your new best friend on your flight, there are hundreds of great baby and toddler friendly Apps you can download and of course their favourite movies to keep them entertained. Even Nirvana who was around 9 months old loved playing with it for a little while…this did however cause a minor fight over it so we may be needing to invest in another one for the future!!
Puschairs: The most energetic of children who can walk and walk for long periods of time will need one. Even if you think they are too old for one, take one. When your planning your long flight its not always taken into consideration everything else that goes with it. You usually have to wake them up early, its a near three hour drive to the Airport for us, the three hours before the flight you have to be there (if not longer with delays) most of which is standing in incredibly boring (and stressful with impatient little ones) queues, THEN theres the 10 hour plus flight and of course you have the long walk after the flight through arrivals, customs and passport control, then there’s the luggage collection…IT. NEVER. ENDS!!!!! My little Miss “I’m not getting in THAT’ Mila was begging to get in a push-chair not long into our journey, so if I could recommend anything, it would be take a spare! You can pick up really cheap strollers in shops for as little as £10 or even get a second hand one on those pre loved Facebook pages or, if you’re really lucky a good friend will lend you one.
Nappies: Now of course if your baby is in nappies you’ll need your nappy bag (which if you didn’t know is allowed alongside your hand luggage AND handbag!!) BUT if you have a recently toilet trained toddler I recommend having a pull up or two to hand. Mila had been toilet trained a good 6 months when we flew with her last and just before we took off she said she needed to use the toilet. We were of course not allowed to get out of our seats at this point so I told her she would have to wait, knowing full well it would be quite a while before we were airborne and they turned off the seatbelt signs. Anyway, to cut a long story short there were tears, a very wet seat, wet clothes and the poor passenger behind us had wet trainers…we have had flights where the seat belt signs have been on for 4 hours straight and if the turbulence is bad enough they wont let you go to the toilet…have pull ups to hand!! If your toddler is anything like Mila they will despise wearing them but not as much as you’ll despise arriving at your destination smelling of wee. Take spare clothes in your hand luggage too, even for yourself!
Pillow and Blankets: Simply because airplane pillows resemble pancakes and its always freezing up there.
Bassinet: If your baby is under a year old they are entitled to a bassinet which you will need to book when you book your flights and request at check-in (sometimes these are first come first serve so get to your gate quickly if you want one guaranteed) these usually ‘float’ on the wall in front of you on the plane and yes this means you will be allocated the seats with more leg room – small perk of travelling with tots – this will free up your arms while they (hopefully) sleep. I’ve found with some Airlines they go by weight and not age of the infant and once we flew with Nirvana being over the 19lb weight limit for the bassinet to float on the wall but they let us have it anyway to put on the floor in front of us, if they say this to you , take it! It makes for a great little ‘play pen’ and also of course can still be used for them to sleep in.
Take it in turns to eat: Having the flight attendants place your food on your trays and you all simultaneously ‘tuck in’ just isn’t going to happen. Ask them to keep aside one of your meals for you and let one parent eat in peace while the other looks after the kids then swap, this whole travelling with children situation is stressful enough without you being ‘Hangry’ on top!
Plan good flight times: This isn’t always as easy as it sounds with budgets and things but if you can book a flight which means when you arrive at your destination it’s night time, do it. You will all be tired when you get there and most probably want to sleep. This is ideal timing and much easier than trying to keep everyone awake for 8 hours to avoid spending the first week of your holidays trying to adjust to the time difference!
Happy Holidays ✌🏼
It will all get easier when they get older…right?! 😳
Lots of love,