Is the idea of flying with a baby or a toddler scaring you? Look no further: our twins Liam and Santiago are 2 years and 8 months old and have been on 52 flights, so we have had plenty of opportunity to test several things to make flying an enjoyable part of our travelling and not just a necessary evil.
We have many tips to give you based on our experiences with them from their first flight at 3 months old!
Each child is different, but don’t forget they are influenced by any feeling you have even if you don’t realize. Keep a positive attitude, prepare yourself in advance, and things will be smoother than you fear.
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Here is my best advice:
Choose the right time
Most of the time I hear people suggesting to new parents to book night flights (especially if we are talking long-haul) so your child will sleep, but I’m not so certain as I feel this it isn’t going to work for everybody. Unless you book flights before your baby is born, you should ask yourself if your baby is really going to sleep.
I don’t want to be negative, I’m just talking from our experience: Liam and Santiago have always been good sleepers when in their own cot at home, but it has always been difficult to have them sleeping in the pram when around.
Especially until they were one and half/ two years old they would have struggled so much to fall asleep while we held them that they would have almost made themselves sick with crying.
This is the reason why, for example, when we went to Japan I choose a daytime flight. Now they are 2years and 8 months old and I feel a bit more comfortable at the idea of a night flight.
So know your chicks and plan accordingly, we found it easier to entertain a baby for 8 hours than dealing with a screaming baby too tired to sleep.
Choose a direct flight
…or plan a long layover. Before to have kids I would happily stop twice on a trip to Bali to save some money, now I prefer to spend what I could have saved but go direct.
A 10 hours flight can easily become 16-18 hours if you add stops along the way. Only the idea of leaving the plane to then start again the boarding process, packing all the stuff you had spread out, needing again to negotiate seating time at take-off and landing is already exhausting!
The other option of course is to plan a couple of days stopover, many airlines even allow you to do that without additional charges.
Invest in the best Travel Pram you can
Invest in the best pram you can afford to travel: the market now offers amazing models so super compact that you can bring them with you on the plane.
Unfortunately I haven’t found the best travel pram for twins yet. I’m in love with our Joolz Geo (you can read my review in this article) but I’ve considered many times to buy 2 gb pocket +. But why is this so important? I have 2 big reasons why I want one…or I should say two…
-first one: in most airports the pram arrives at the luggage carousel (or special places close by the luggage carousel) that means, especially in big airports (like in London), that you need to walk a lot… sometimes 15-20 minutes or more, and then you need to queue for the passport control and then wait for your luggage…all this while holding/carrying your child plus handbag and maybe hand luggage. Can you see the advantage of having a pram you can carry onboard?
-Second reason is not strictly connected to flying but to travel in general: our beloved Joolz Geo is really compact to be a twin pram, super agile to go around, but of course it takes up a lot of space in the boot of a car. When we go on holiday and we rent a car, I always wish we had a mini pram because sometimes we really need to play Tetris (have a look at the picture below). Of course we could rent a bigger car, but usually the jump in price when you go up in size is becoming so much more, so we always end squeezing everything in.
My next point is really connected to the previous one:
Bring a baby carrier in your hand luggage
….unless you have a pram that you can bring on the plane (see point before). Haha!
The reasons are basically the same as before. It is incredibly difficult to carry a child while you need also to pull your hand luggage, coats, handbag, nappy bag etc…
We have 2 Ergobaby Carriers and have been using them from soon after they were newborn. I have an ERGObaby Adapt that I choose because I could use it in three position: in front, on the side, and now I still use it with Liam or Santiago on my back. The boys are now more than 17kg but I can still take nice walk with them on my back.
Mark choose the ERGObaby air, he loves it because it is lighter than the others and when travelling in hot countries it is a big advantage to not have a bulky padded things over your body.
These 2 models are a bit more expensive than the basic one, but we both didn’t like the fact that the base model has an insert that makes it even bulkier.
Pre-book passport control
This is an amazing newish feature at London Heathrow and London Gatwick, while in many American airports something similar has been available already for some time! This is one of the best ways to spend some of the money you saved somewhere else. Almost every time we arrived back to London we haven’t queued less than 20 sometimes even 30 minutes at the passport control. Entertaining a 2 year old in a queue, or worse carrying him, is the least fun activity of any holiday.
We have had the worst meltdowns in line for the passport control. In small airports we often wait out of the line, but in big airports it is just impossible, flights land every few minutes so the queue during the day never goes down.
It isn’t cheap but I believe this service could be worth the money!
Put your luggage in the hold
I know that budget airlines could make you pay to have your luggage in the hold even more than the ticket itself but, again, it’s really worth the money to be hands free and able to move more freely with your child.
Even if you only have one child and you have a baby carrier, I would still try to minimize any other stuff.
Anyway you will still probably have your big handbag or a nappy bag, you still need to have one hand free for passport/phone/boarding card.
We now organize ourselves this way: we try to fit everything in a big suitcase, I then travel with a handbag where I keep laptop, kindles, all electronic devices and passports. Then separately we use a light foldable bag (we got rid of the nappy bag a long time ago because they’re too bulky) where we keep water, snacks, a few books, changing mat and related stuff, and a change of clothes for the boys (on a long haul flight I would also have a light change of clothes for us too).
Even this way, in winter, when we use coat, scarf, and hat we end with our hands full!
Hot tip: If you want to put your hand luggage in the hold, then it’s worth it to ask at the check in desk if they want to take it (for free of course). With all major airlines it always worked for me and sometimes even on Ryanair or EasyJet flights (if they know the flight is full)
Hot tip: don’t disregard the possibility to need to change your child completely, accidents happen in the least expected and wanted moments!
All the previous tips focus more on preparing you and the kids to have a better flight. I can promise you that when you arrive more relaxed then the flight will be better. Now some tips for the flight itself
Always plan to be self-sufficient: don’t rely on the airlines for food or entertainment. This is regardless of the age of the child.
If you are breastfeeding your child then you are safe (the beauty of unlimited supply!) but if your baby is on formula then bring at least double quantity of what you expect your child to drink.
Be aware: many airlines are not allowed to warm up bottles with a microwave, they will put your bottle in hot water and it will take around 20 minutes to get warm…you know where I’m going here right? 20 minutes with a screaming baby could stretch your nerves, so act in advance!
For toddlers it’s the same: even on a flight where the airline will serve food you can’t be sure it will meet your child’s taste!!!
Be cautious also about the quantity of food/formula you bring with you. It isn’t uncommon for flights to be delayed. I tend to bring double the quantity of food we should need. I never had problem to pass security with liquids when Liam and Santiago were babies, but please check because things could change. Same airports sell ready-made formula after security and you can even prebook it (I checked this info only for the London airport to be honest)
Hot tip: particularly with babies, try to make sure your young child is sucking, chewing, or drinking during take off and landing, even if it is just a dummy. This means they will swallow frequently which helps them to deal with the pressure change in their ears without realizing it.
I apply the same rule to nappies, I always have double what I think I will use.
Choose your seat
This tip applies mainly to long haul flights. Some airlines offer this option for free to families travelling with kids under 2. British Airways is one of these, but it is something I would definitely consider spending money on when travelling with babies. The possibility to sit at bulkhead wall (especially on long haul flight) will give you more space to move around and also the choice to have the sky cot. Be aware that aircraft usually carry a fixed number of skycots, and they are offered on first come first served basis. I also heard that some airlines will prioritise kids by age…so be prepared because it isn’t guaranteed you will get one.
Skycots: Each airline follows different criteria for eligibility (weight and/or length of the baby and/or age), so check in advance to not be disappointed.
HOT TIP: When we went to Japan I choose to fly British Airways also because they offered an alternative to the skycot, a sort of reclining seat that was better for our boys age/size, you can look at this post for more details.
When you are travelling a lot in Europe with budget airlines, you will realize that choosing a seat is a privilege that cost money. To be honest in Europe I never bothered selecting the seat in advance. Even on Ryanair (before they started to oblige you to pay to allocate a seat for the child) we always found the cabin crew happy to help to seat us together.
If you board last your child can burn as much energy as possible, you will avoid tantrums connected to queuing (remember how many times you got stuck in the air bridge? or in the plane to reach your seat?), and you will also reduce your time on the airplane
Second reason is that you will be able to ask at the gate if there are free seats and/or if there are any better seats you can take. This is really useful in case you haven’t selected your seat and your family is split over different rows or in case you fly with an infant. Infants don’t need a ticket because they can sit on your lap, but of course if the crew can move you to where the seat beside you is free then you will be much more comfortable, and, as I said before even Ryanair crew always tried to help especially when the boys were infants.
Airline bassinet cover
If you are going to fly a lot on long haul flights in your child’s first year and plan to take advantage of the skycot, another great product to consider purchasing is the black out cover. It is proven that we sleep better when in the dark. Fixing this cover over the skycot will create the perfect environment for your baby to fall asleep more easily.
It is a very versatile product because you can then reuse it on your pram when on the ground!
We tend to travel as light as possible so we don’t have much space for toys and books, but I’m conscious that I also warned you about be self-sufficient on entertainment, so how we do it? Well here are our preferred gadgets:
–water magic colouring book: I find this an amazing product, they are solid cardboard books where the drawings come out in colour when you scribble over them with a pen that you just fill with some water, then after 15-20 minutes the colour disappears and you can start over. Just brilliant
–sticker books: we buy sticker books with their favourite characters, Liam and Santiago are not able to stick them with any logic yet but they love them anyway, and it is easy to create a story and place them on the window or the seat tray, all the ones we bought were always super easy to remove just a few minutes before disembarking (also from Mark’s face!)
–kindle Amazon fire 7 kids edition: I know here we take out the big guns…I know many of you will disapprove, but at some point after stickers, books, and snacks we think that some cartoons or games to do together during a flight is ok. Liam and Santiago got them as a present for their second birthday. We are still only using them during flights so they haven’t mastered the use of them and so to use it or play they still need us. The amazing thing is that this kindle kids edition comes with a 2 year no questions warranties, so if your child breaks it throwing it in the water Amazon will give you another one. It is also coming with all the gear you would expect in a product well developed for kids like a bumper cover, parental controls, and a one year subscription to content designed for kids, with great variety of video, games, books…
I am not a doctor so I’m not going to suggest anything in particular, but I found really useful some natural remedies our local homeopathic pharmacy gave us before our trip to Japan. They were three different things just to help with the long flight and to help the body to adapt quickly to the new day time and to fight the jet leg. We used them for us and for Liam and Santiago and I think they really helped.
These are all my tips to fly with babies and toddlers, based on our experience of almost 3 years flying with our twins, I hope you find it useful and if I forgot something let me know in the comments!
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