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Flying with kids

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Flying with kids

This is something I’ve had a bit of practice at, flying more times now with little people than without them, and I’m still by no means an expert, but now with well over a dozen flights clocked up between two children, often on my own, I’ve had a few trials and plenty of errors with flying with little people – often on my own.

Firstly I have a check list. For me the mental check list is almost a self soothing strategy as obviously I can’t mentally run through every single item I have when I travel. So instead I have a list of 5, count them off on each finger, these are the 5 most essential items I carry and everything else is replaceable. This is my mantra for flying, if I have these 5 things everything will be okay. Obviously your list may be a little different, depending on what is most important to you for flying, but mine are:

1. Phone. 
2. Charger. 
3. Wallet. 
4. Medication (I’m asthmatic) 
5. Tickets.

(and kids – but they go without saying)

Most supermarkets sell nappies, wipes, dummies, bottles, bibs, baby food, baby eating utensils, basic baby clothes, blankets, toys and teethers. Obviously it’s ideal you pack all the baby items you may need but they are all replaceable if they are lost or forgotten. And clothes are pretty easy to find and buy on holidays. Unless you are going somewhere remote or on a very tight budget, try not to stress too much about things you might have forgotten to pack.

Dos & don’ts.

*Do plan ahead. Start to think about what you need to pack a few days ahead, what clothes might you need washed and dried by the time you leave, what might you need to buy, or what prescriptions might you need to take with you – these things are better thought about in the days before you leave.

*Do wear light layers. The temperature at your current location, in the terminal, on the plane and at your destination can vary quite a lot, so its a good idea for you and baby to wear or pack a few easily removed or added layers.

20130228_144625*Don’t board the plane first. Most airlines will invite parents travelling with infants and young children to board the plane first – it can take an additional half an hour before the plane even starts to roll, I don’t even line up, I sit near the gate and wait until the last few people are getting their tickets checked before go to board with baby. This minimises the amount of time stuck in a plane seat with a potentially squirmy or unsettled baby or toddler. I often get off the plane last also so I dont have to stay for ages holding my children in the isle waiting for other people to get their bags out of the overhead compartments. But it depends on how settled my baby or toddler is

*Do accept help offered by flight attendants. If this is your first flight with a baby when they pass you the infant seat belt let the flight attendant know so they can offer you any extra assistance.

*Don’t stress about other passengers. Some people will get upset if your baby or toddler are unsettled or restless but some people will be upset simply because your child is present regardless of how well they fly. Some people are determined to have an unpleasant flight, so don’t let worrying about them them ruin yours.

*Do travel light. The lighter the better. If you can avoid a suitcase and travel with on a carry on backpack and handbag is ideal because if you can carry on everything you need and not need to check any baggage then you can avoid waiting for it in the baggage collection. Also avoiding having your luggage go missing, I have had my pram go on a different flight to myself – thankfully they located it and had it couriered to where I was staying!

20130228_155940*Don’t worry about your routine. I travel prepared for my baby to feed more, or less, to eat more, or less, to sleep more, or less, while travelling. Try to be flexible and prepare for additional feeds and snacks.

*Do arrive early. I’ve tried both arriving right on time to avoid a long wait in the airport and arriving hours before my flight. What I’ve found ideal is aiming for 1.5 – 2 hours before take off. Most airlines suggest arriving an hour before your flight when travelling with infants, and most airlines start to board half an hour before take off. But we all know how babies and toddlers cause delays and unfortunately the plane wont wait and tickets aren’t refundable. I find its better to avoid the stress of winding up rushing even if you might end up with a bit of time at the airport.

*Don’t overdo the caffeine. I’ve made this mistake a few times. I’m a nervous flyer, but often find its best to fly as early as possible with my children, so I have too much caffeine to compensate for getting up at some absurd time in the morning – and probably haven’t slept well that night fretting about the flight – but for me its better if I have no coffee in the morning, or if I do, a small one, so I’m not too jittery on the flight.  

*Do fly fresh. Try to time a nappy change as close to take off as you can, or take your child to the toilet and go yourself. The toilets and changing facilities on planes are really awkward, its good to avoid or minimise the number of times you need to go into them.

Ways to occupy your time in an airport 

So you’ve arrived early OR your plan is delayed, or both and you wind up in an airport for hours, here’s a few tips to kill time.

20130228_125126 (1)*Get something to eat. If there is a food court or cafe get something to eat, this is a good way to kill time particularly with toddler or child who can eat there too, draw out that meal time as long as you can. Though try to avoid highly fatty or heavy foods prior to a flight and drink plenty of water if you get something salty so you don’t get nauseous or dizzy from dehydration on the flight.

*Watch planes take off and land. This can be really fun for toddlers onwards, also watching planes being loaded with bags, or the various vehicles that they might be able to see – most airports have nice big windows to peer out of.

*Explore the airport. Hopefully its a big airport, obviously this isn’t going to take up so much time at a small regional airport, but lots of airports have shops to wander through, or even just walk the length of the airport – this ties in with looking out the window at planes to entertain toddlers and children.

20130228_130849*Claim an area. If you’ve got an hour before your flight there’s no reason you need to be waiting at your gate, and there’s likely going to be a lot of people gathered in that area because like you, they are waiting for their flight. If there is an empty waiting area it can be a good place to spread out some toys and let baby play for a bit away from the bustle of other people.

*Have a chat. If you’re flight is delayed, its likely that everyone else on your flight is bored out of their minds too so sometimes you might be able to strike up conversation to take the edge off the boredom.

*Write a blog. This was written while stuck for 3 hours at the airport with a 11 month old.

What are you flying tips or stories, please leave a comment – your suggestions or experiences may be helpful to someone else! (Or helpful to me, as I said, this is still a work in progress 

About Rachel Stewart

Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central Australia. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner.

She has a background in early childhood education, but right now is content to be a stay at home mum.

She is passionate about birthing rights, breastfeeding and mental health. She enjoys crafting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.

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