I’m not the best of flyers, not to the extent of kicking and screaming during take off, but I might leave hand marks in the arm rest. I’m OK once we’re up there, but like comedian Lee Evans says, why would you want to be slingshotted towards your holiday destination?! Anyway, with that in mind, the thought of flying with a baby, our 3 and a half month old daughter to be exact, was one that gave me a mild level of anxiety and played on my mind in the run up to our holiday to Italy (about a 3 hour flight). What if she screams the whole way? what if we have a pooplosion? there’s only so much space for one person in their seat on a plane, adding a wriggling baby to the mix and it’s claustrophobia city with the risk of a few unwanted scents and let’s face it, they pick their moments do babies.
Some of the women in my life (sister and fiance) have always struggled to keep packing to a minimum so I’m used to lugging 20 kilo bags across the airport, but it’s actually the smallest lady in my life who pushed things to the limit. Copious amounts of clothes, travel cot, pram, bottles, nappies, you name it we had it split across 4 suitcases. Doing all of this at an ungodly hour for our 5am flight had me questioning why we were even going. However, we were repaid by Ivy in the form of her sleeping the whole way there!! All that time wasted worrying! We had a few tears during landing… but who likes popping ears, especially when you don’t know what they are!
The flight back was at a humane time of 10am and a slightly different experience, a minor meltdown as soon as our arses touched our seats, however the power of the bottle brought a level of calm for the remainder of the flight with a slight interruption of a dirty nappy – like I say, they pick their moments.
With all of that said, I like to think we experienced enough for me to pass on a few pointers to keep you from each others throats and make your little ones life a little bit more enjoyable. Planes are shit but it can be an alright experience:
Make a list
Unless you’re travelling to a third world country, chances are you can pick up forgotten items over there, but reduce the chances of forgetting and get a list together, check it off as you go.
Be on time
Duh, cheers for that genius. The usual ‘let’s get there 2 hours before’ really does help. When you’re juggling twice as much luggage as usual, not having to rush is really nice. Check in also takes longer.
Check your allowance
Questioning how much we/baby could take on the plane the night before? We were. Most airlines will allow for a buggy, luggage allowance and a travel cot or car seat. Make sure you know what you can take
The less you take, the more baby can take, it’s that simple.
Take it all (yep all)
It will all be dependent on how far you’re travelling and your luggage allowance, but we decided to go the whole hog, bottle prep machine, sanitising bowl, the whole of babies wardrobe (used it all), nappies, formula etc. It was home from home and wasn’t difficult to take due to the point above.
On The Plane
You can take ready bottles with you on your flight (Aptamil etc.) of course they are checked with rigour at security, but it takes out the stress of having to get boiling water and shake up formula from the confines of your seat mid-flight.
Take a sling
This is useful for both the airport and on the flight itself. My understanding is you can take the pram right up until you get on the plane, so that’s handy for not having to carry baby around. But the sling is useful for takeoff and keeping baby close and happy.
Feed during take off
Obviously if timing is right, but the sucking of the bottle can help with popping ears and is a nice distraction from what can be a noisy and bumpy plane.
Take plenty of toys
We know babies get bored, take plenty in hand luggage. We found a rustling bag of colourful sweets worked just as well.
Getting on the plane
I still stand by the fact that I don’t understand why people rush to get on the plane. Your seat isn’t going anywhere, literally. I have read that getting on first means you can get set up with the baby, but really it’s more time spent in cramped seats, usually hot, with a baby sensing parents frustrations. We got on towards the end and I found it to be better, no dick head pushing behind you whilst you throw your bag into the overhead storage and accidentally elbowing the lady behind in the head – remember, you want the people sat around you on your side.
Be nice to each other
Travelling is stressful, even when it goes smoothly – our trip wasn’t without its muttered comments to each other when we didn’t know what we were doing. So just take a breather and give yourself time ^^^^.
Learn how to use all your gear before
We took the buggy fixture of our pram with us, having not used it before (geniuses). Fighting with the straps, clips and fittings at 3 in the morning resulted in arguments and sore hands – do a test run of anything you’re taking.
Get a taxi/valet service (take a load off)
The amount of stuff you’ll be taking, don’t make getting there any more difficult. Depending on your budget consider valet service or taking a taxi. We had the option to get the train and walk. Wouldn’t have been the best idea.
Organise travel the other side
The situation of a family with a crying baby stood at the side of the road is one you don’t want. Don’t assume taxi’s will be in abundance. Have a plan and get it organised.
Check your room (get ground floor)
We crashed my in-laws holiday so this wasn’t actually something we’d considered. We took the chance to go on holiday but didn’t consider this detail. If you can get a ground floor room, it’s much better than lugging a pram up and down flights of stairs.
I’ve probably taught a lot of people to suck eggs here. But hopefully some of these pointers were useful.
There are lots of things to consider when going on a flight with a little one and having done it, it’s evident that your experience is hugely determined by whether your little one wants to be an angel or the devil, but that’s the same for a trip to the shop or a meal at a restaurant, the better prepared you are, the more manageable it can be.
We had a fantastic holiday and got to relive first experiences again through Ivy, which is one of the best bits of being a parent, but I think we’re in agreement that we won’t be racing to get back on a plane any time soon, not long haul anyway. Cruises, taking the ferry to France and maybe some UK breaks are higher up the list.
Let me know your experiences in the comments below, maybe there is a fool/child-proof travel plan out there…