With my in-laws living abroad, and a photographer-husband who loves to travel, I have taken my two-year old son on many flights since he was born. Here are my top ten tips on flying with the young
Top ten tips for travelling on an aeroplane with a baby
Expect delays, as they do happen - usually when you’re not properly prepared. Make sure you pack a good supply of formula, water, nappies, a change of clothes, and any necessary medication for your baby. It’s not ideal carrying lots of extra baggage, but it’s worse to run out of your baby’s essentials.
Food and drink
To get your baby’s formula and water through security, you will actually need to drink some of it to prove it is what you say it is – so don’t even bother taking sealed cartons with you as they will either have to be opened there and then at security, or thrown away. Unfortunately this also includes purees, yoghurts and rice pudding, even if in a sealed container. You can normally purchase something from Boots (or similar) once through to the other side, although the choice can be very limited. As a last emergency measure, take a banana with you as it can be mashed up into a puree with a fork.
Change your baby’s nappy as near to boarding time as possible. Airport changing rooms are much more spacious than aeroplane cubicles. If you’re lucky and your flight is a relatively short one, you may be able to get away with not having to change a nappy during the flight.
Pack your baby’s favourite toy in your hand luggage, as well as a light jumper and blanket as aeroplanes can sometimes get quite chilly. And for the slightly older baby, a brand new toy given to them once on the plane might keep them amused for longer.
As soon as you get to your seats, turn the air conditioning nozzle off. Blasting this recycled air directly onto your baby will make them cold and is more likely to shower them with other people’s germs.
Buy an extra seat and/or extra legroom. Space, space, space! Everyone wants as much space as possible on a cramped aeroplane, but when you have a baby it’s a necessity more than a luxury. Babies under two don’t have to have their own seat with most airlines, but it’s something to consider if you can afford it. On flights with spare seats, it’s always worth politely asking the air stewards whether some seat rearranging might be possible. Ask as soon as you get to your seats, while everyone is still sorting themselves out. You know the saying - first come, first served.
Do a daytime flight. Night-flights sound good in theory – the baby can sleep during the flight at a time when they’d normally be asleep. But in reality, your baby will just end up getting disturbed (people getting up to go to the toilet, meals being served, the loud and frequent announcements by the stewards and pilots, to name but a few), and then they will be very tired and grumpy and will cry. At least if they are disturbed during a daytime flight they hopefully won’t be as tired and will deal with it better.
If possible, choose short-haul flights. There are many interesting locations available within a three hour flight radius. You don’t need to miss out – just be flexible and open to ideas. Use this opportunity to explore places you might otherwise have missed.
You can normally keep hold of your pushchair right up until you reach the aeroplane doors, rather than checking it in with your baggage (unless you want to of course). Just before you board, you will have to fold it up and leave it in the designated area where it will then be put on the plane by baggage personnel. At the check-in desk, be sure to remember to ask where you need to collect your pushchair from at your destination – from the aeroplane itself, from the baggage carousel, or from a carousel specific to oversized baggage (normally only at larger airports such as Heathrow).
Finally, allow yourself plenty of time for your journey! Travelling with a baby can sometimes take so much longer than without, but if you remember this and allow extra time, your journey will be much less stressful, making it a more enjoyable experience all-round.