Flying long-haul with kids
Travelling long-haul (or anywhere in fact!) might seem like a pipe dream currently, but what I hope you are using this time to do is plan. Plan that trip of a lifetime, plan that holiday to somewhere that felt too far or the flight too daunting, just plan to dream! Having flown long-haul multiple times with two children, I hope I can give you some tips and encouragement to consider flying long-haul with your children in the future.
I suppose my first tip is do not put it off, do not wait until they are ‘old enough’ and do not be worried that they are too young.
Flying long-haul with a tiny baby is much easier than you think!
Whilst they are still sleeping a lot, not hugely in a routine or eating solids, it is relatively straight forward. Just make sure you request a bassinet/bulkhead seat and always make use of the staff onboard. Stagger your mealtime so one parent can hold the baby whilst the other eats and always ask for assistance if sterilising bottles is required.
The key to travelling with older babies, toddlers and bigger kids is all in the planning! Pack them a piece of hand luggage (or use your baby change bag) to include teething toys, buckle toys for older babies, snacks and mess-free games such as sticker books. Load up your tablet with episodes of their favourite programmes, BBC I-player is great for this, and for games consider a Kindle Fire Kids or a tablet with CBeebies games that are free to download.
The nappy-to-flight time ratio is roughly one nappy an hour plus a couple of extra ones for good measure and to allow for delays. Do not forget to pack plenty of muslin cloths, changes of clothes (for you and baby) and sterilising wipes.
Navigating the airport can feel daunting with children of any age. Just bear in mind that the staff are there to help. There is often a family lane at security and do not be afraid to hand your baby to a member of staff whilst you put your bags through the scanner.
It is also worth considering a baby-carrier as this will allow you to remain as hands-free as possible.
You can take your pram to the gate or check it in with your bags but make sure both parents know how to collapse it quickly to save on the stress levels! It is often useful to allow little ones time to burn off energy prior to the flight so consider reigns for toddlers and encourage them to walk.
Make sure as parents you eat a substantial meal before flying as often you have little time to eat whilst balancing children’s mealtimes onboard. Airports often have a family seating and play area with TVs and soft play so check as you arrive in departures.
Importantly, choosing your flight time can often be the key. We have taken both day and night time flights as a family and for us a day flight works best. Our children are just too excited to sleep onboard, so it is easier to take a flight when everyone else is awake and you do not feel the pressure to keep them quiet. We then land (depending on the length of the flight) in the evening and this works well to avoid jet lag. I know a lot of parents prefer night flights as their children remain in their natural sleep pattern and this makes the flight a calmer experience. Do as you feel suits your family (and your stress levels!) although sometimes you do not get a choice when flying further afield.
And finally, just remember most passengers onboard will have flown at some point with children. Remain as calm as you can, make use of all the space and walk around the plane if your little one is getting irritated. Keep smiling and do not forget to ask the air stewards for help. Often, they will come and assist anyway before you even ask. I think most parents that have flown long-haul will honestly admit that it is not the easiest flying with children, however the value of the holiday at the other end is always worth it!
Written by Jenny Schippers
Jenny is mum to two girls (3 and 6 years) she lives in Cheshire and LOVES travelling. Jenny gives travel tips and advice at @travellingwithmygirls