Guest Blogger Ashlee Britton shares with us her experience flying with her son Bodhi.
Find her on her blog at ashthemum.wordpress.com or on Instagram @ashbashash.
People always recoil at the mention of flying with babies or toddlers, as if it is an insane thing to do! I don’t love flying with children, it’d be a lot easier if we could just click our fingers and arrive at our destination but with the right preparation taking a flight with children is no more daunting than a trip to the supermarket with them.
My eldest boy Bodhi flew for the first time when he was 4 months old, he’s now two and has flown 12 times! My youngest is 4 months old and we have just flown with the pair of them. Although I know we haven’t broken any records I think I have enough experience to share some of our tried and tested methods for a stress-free experience!
Having flown with my eldest at various ages I would say that the easiest age was the 4-6 month window. At this age, babies are still sleeping quite a bit and will probably fall asleep easily anywhere so you don’t have to worry about flight times fitting in around naps, they’re not on the move so there’s a lot less chasing around/saying no! Also, they’re only consuming milk so you don’t have to bother bringing or finding food for them.
As they get older my biggest tip is to let them explore and burn off some energy before the flight. Depending on the age of your child and the length of the flight might determine whether it’s likely that you’ll get a nap out of them but that is the aim! I’ve suspended naps and allowed Bodhi to crawl/walk all around the airport to ensure he’s got all his wiggles out and so that once on the flight he’s happy to sit for a while or even better snooze!
To encourage calm time we have always given the boys milk on take off. Whether you breast or bottle feed it will be a familiar comfort for them and it’s also recommended that little ones suck something to help their ears equalize so even if it doesn’t fall in line with the usual time for a feed we offer it. We also use a dummy; usually, we only have a dummy for naps/bedtime but on a flight, it helps with the sleeping or just keeps them calm and still.
In-flight entertainment. No matter their age you’re going to need to bring something to keep them busy whilst being sat and confined for so long. When they’re small a couple of teethers/rattles will do the trick. Now I pack a little goody bag of pocket-sized toys; some familiar favorites but also something new. Stickers are a great occupier which we started from around 16 months and before that lift the flap books worked well. Also just lots of talking about what’s going on around them and looking out of the window. Once we feel we’re at a point that we’ve exhausted all these options we’ll then bring out the iPad which is fully charged and loaded with downloaded favorites from CBeebies. On every flight, we get out of our seats for a stretch and change of scenery and we’ve always let Bodhi toddle up and down the aisle which so far most other passengers have been lovely about and sometimes we can let them entertain him for a minute! Another thing to bring to occupy them once they’re at the right age; snacks! Opt for mess-free snacks like fruit bars/rice cakes/raisins. There doesn’t seem to be a limit to the number of snacks you can bring so go for it! The important thing to remember when using all the gadgets and gizmos to keep them entertained and occupied is to pace it! Do not get everything out at once! Wait until they’re bored of one thing and then you have something new to offer.
Here are some other tips and tricks I can offer for navigating the airport etc;
Keep your pram with you through the airport and hand it over when boarding the plane. You’ll appreciate being able to plonk baby in there whilst juggling security checks.
Take a lightweight stroller ideally a cheap one that you won’t mind getting battered in transit and so that’s it’s easier for you to lug around. If you’re bottle-feeding take an extra bottle just so that you’re prepared; you never know with delays or what if you’re baby is only calmed by a feed. When Bodhi was 4 months he was having a bottle every 3 hours so I took 2 bottles of cooled boiled water and 2 pots of measured out formula so that his milk would be ready in an instant. At security, they will just scan it. When Bodhi started drinking cows milk I used the ready-made growing up milk cartons on flights.
When flying with babies most airlines should allow you to take 2 baby items (travel cot, pushchair, car seat) in addition to your luggage and baby also gets hand luggage too. The less you have to carry the better though so we usually just stick to a backpack each. Be organized and have everything you need to get out for security in an accessible place and ideally all bundled together.
Take spare clothes for everyone in the hand luggage! You’re probably used to bringing spare clothes for baby for potential sick/poo explosions but I now take a spare top for me too after I was once sicked on and couldn’t change until we got to our accommodation!
Take a blanket in hand luggage so that you can plonk your baby on it on the floor for them to have a kick/stretch/play.
I think that’s about everything! When flying with little ones there is a lot more to consider and it is more stressful there’s no denying it but that’s just the reality of anything with kids! Half the battle is being brave to go and do it! Set your expectations of how they’ll behave very low, I always imagine that it’s going to be a nightmare and that way if they are well behaved and coping well it’s all a bonus! Don’t give yourself a harder time by trying to follow your usual parenting rules such as no screen time or snacks at a certain time. Bodhi probably loves flying because he gets to have his dummy whilst watching a film and eating crisps; usually, things we limit or offer as a treat at home.
Lastly, try not to worry about the other passengers. To date, nobody has ever made me feel bad or uncomfortable for flying with a baby and if they did I’d just ignore them! It’s your life, go and make some wonderful family memories in new places!