As we become more and more of a global community, many young families live far away from close relations and of course the desire is there to go and visit each other regularly. It may be from the East coast to the West coast of the US or it may be to the other side of the world.
Either way, any travelling involves a long flight plus airport time either end as well as getting to and from the airport. Whether you have a young baby or an active toddler or even both, with some careful planning you can make such an undertaking much less stressful than you would imagine. And you can even change that perception that most travellers have about having a baby or young child close by in a plane. Most travellers dread the thought!
What to do?
- The most important thing apart from advance planning, is to remain as calm as you possibly can. Your child will always pick up on your distress and this will reflect in his own behavior. Don’t ever give him that excuse!
- This planning starts from before you even book your flight. Decide what time of the day or night you would prefer to fly (depending on availability of different flights of course). For a long haul flight, it is best to do this through the night so that your child will be sleeping most of the time anyway. If it is a slightly shorter flight, it might be good to plan it so that your child will have his daytime sleep during this time unless you feel that your child is unlikely to sleep in these surroundings. Think about what would be best for your child, and plan accordingly. Don’t go for the cheapest airline. You need an airline that is helpful, reliable and has good customer care!
- If your baby is younger than say two or three months, then it is really not difficult to stick to your normal routine. Most airlines even provide a carry cot fitted to the bulkhead in front of your seat. But do make sure when booking your flight that the airline is made aware that you will have a baby or toddler with you, that you need a bulkhead seat and of course anything else which they can provide to ease the journey. You do not want to find when you get to the airport that all these facilities have already been booked by others.
- When you have booked your flight, you can start your preparations. Pack well in advance after making those necessary lists so that you do not forget anything vital. Do make sure that you get to the airport in plenty of time so there is no anxiety on your part. Your child can have his own backpack to carry on and this can be packed with his own spare clothing, a familiar comfort tool such as a blanket or stuffed animal, and a book or two. Don’t be tempted to board the plane first when they call out the “families with young children” perk if you have mobile children. Why would you want to spend any longer than necessary on the plane? Rather let your toddler keep on getting as much exercise as possible in the departure lounge and join the queue when it is at its shortest.
- Protect your young child’s ears during take off and landing. They can suck on a bottle or dummy when young or a lollipop if older. Placing a hot towel on each ear can also relieve pressure on their eardrums.
- In your own hand luggage, pack a variety of activities for you both to do together such as books, crayons and drawing book, toys and anything else you know your child will enjoy. A small portable DVD player with favorite DVDs can be invaluable. The important thing is to make sure they are not noisy or likely to disturb the other passengers. Ensure that these activities and toys are kept for the plane only. Don’t bring them out at the airport otherwise your child will be tired of them by the time he is on the plane. Also try to pack some small wrapped presents. You can bring out a new gift for your child to open and enjoy every time you feel the need for a distraction or a break.
- Another idea is to bring a bag of snacks. Although some airlines will provide meals or snacks, it does not hurt to give your child some other snacks to choose from and to keep him busy at different times.
- An emergency bag is also a good idea and this should contain a sick bag and anti-nausea medication, plus something to help earache, ginger ale and anything else you might need at short notice.
- Bring a car seat too. This is useful for travelling in a vehicle both to and from the airports while some airlines are even equipped for the use of car seats, providing a familiar and safe place for your baby or toddler on the plane itself. A regular walk all around the plane with your child or toddler also provides entertainment and exercise for you both.
The trick is to have plenty of options to fall back on if your child becomes bored or irritable.
Take it in turns!
If both parents are going to be on the flight, agree beforehand that you are going to share the job of looking after your baby or toddler – something like 1 hour on/ 1 hour off and it immediately becomes an easier task.
When you get to your destination, you may well decide that the trip was even quite enjoyable especially because you have been prepared, organized and calm. Good luck!