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Posted by Mama Max - - 0 comments

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

1.  Choose the right bag for the job. Let's face it... you are going to have your hands full if you are flying with a child.  Make life easier for yourself by choosing a bag for your carry on hand luggage that allows you to use both hands!  You also want to streamline the process rather than carrying your usual diaper/changing bag AND your handbag!  For this purpose, a backpack is perfect.  Choose a roomy one with lots of pockets, and a top handle is ideal.  You can even get backpacks that double as a baby/toddler carrier such as the Kelty Junction Child Carrier, which may be worth considering if you are going to be checking your stroller in the hold (or won't be able to pick it up until baggage reclaim).

2.  Have separate bags for older children.  Once your child is 2 years or older, they will have their own seat on the plane and consequently, their own baggage allowance and you can make good use of this.  A Trunki is a fabulous invention for children between the ages of 3 and 5 and can get you past that awkward phase where you don't really want to take a stroller for your 4 year old, but in order to get to the boarding gate you need to go faster than the snail's pace most small kids make!  We used a Trunki for the Big One on several holidays and used it to carry his items for the flight... snacks, toys, books etc...  It also doubled as a toy in itself, both in the airport and while on holiday.  However, things to note with these.  You have to be confident that your little one will be able to hang on, especially when going around corners!!  Also, we have chosen not to get another one to use with our twins... I think that managing more than one child at a time on these things could be tricky as there is the inevitable temptation to race!!

Alternatively, a small manageable sized backpack can be useful, especially at limiting the amount of stuff your older child may want to bring (especially if they are told that they must carry it)!

3.  Compartmentalise your bag.  Make good use of ziplock or plastic shopping bags so you can group things together in your backpack.  You will need to do this with your toiletries/liquids anyway for passing through security checks.  However, you can use larger versions of these handy bags for other things.  For example, if you bag up a change of kids' clothes in a ziplock bag it is easy to grab in the case of an emergency spill or accident, rather than having to rummage around your bag tracking down socks, underpants etc...  It also protects things like clothes from leakages in your bag.  You can make more room in your backpack by squeezing the excess air out of the ziplock bag before closing, and compressing with elastic bags.

4.  Pack an empty cloth grocery bag in your bag for use on the plane.  The seat back pockets are never big enough to store everything you need for the flight and it's a pain in the neck to keep having to reach up into the overhead storage.  So a handy tip is to have a small bag you can put essentials in under your chair.  A great example of this is this foldable grocery bag.

Once you have boarded the plane and settled the kids into their seats, pull out the items you know you will definitely need on the flight... e.g. 3-4 diapers, wipes, sippy cup, pacifier, snacks, kids' headphones etc... and put in the cloth bag.  You can then stow the rest of your hand luggage above your head and hopefully you won't need to get up & down too many times!

5.  Bring sippy cups/sports bottles for the kids (including big kids)... but make sure they are empty.  Cups with lids are definitely the way forward when you are travelling with kids and I would recommend packing an empty cup/sports bottle even for an older child to use on the flight to prevent unnecessary spills.  A little turbulence plus an open cup spells disaster!  There is a limit on bringing liquids through security so bring your child's usual drinks cup/bottle through empty and purchase water/juice once you are through security.

6.  Baby milk needs some planning too.  If you have a younger baby/toddler that requires formula or pumped breastmilk, there are exceptions allowed at security for "reasonable amounts" of "medically necessary" liquids.  You may be expected to taste the contents of a bottle to prove to security its contents are not dangerous, in which case, you may prefer to tip some on your hand and lick it rather than contaminate the sterile bottle in your mouth.  Rather than bringing formula made up it is easier to bring powdered formula in pre-measured amounts ready to mix with sterile water as necessary.  I used this method for carrying formula even when not flying as you don't need to have an insulated coolbag then!

If it's going to be a long flight requiring a lot of bottles, you may want to use one of the brands of bottle that have disposable bottle liners, so you can reuse the same bottle without needing to wash the entire thing.  Alternatively, you could even use a pack of disposable bottles.  It's worth considering especially if you use the bigger 8oz bottles as these will be very tricky to fit in the sink in the bathrooms (plus the bathrooms in planes are always a bit icky in my opinion)!

Another thing to consider is getting your milk to the right temperature.  If I can offer any tips from my experience of parenting, it's try to get your baby accustomed to drinking their milk at room temperature (I learned this lesson the hard way with my first child!).  Cabin crew are not obliged to help you warm bottles, but may help out if you ask nicely.  Planes don't have microwaves, and the best you can hope for is for some hot water in a dish or even an air sickness bag (make sure it's definitely water tight first).  There are portable bottle warmers available, but most utilise gels that may or may not pass through security checks.  Check in advance.

7.  Prepare for accidents & spillages.  Fingers crossed you won't need them, but pack a change of clothes for everyone, including the adults (even if it's just a t-shirt and shorts).  Save space in your hand luggage by packing in ziplocks as described above.  A small pack of wet wipes is also essential, even if your child is older and potty trained.  You may even like to pack a travel sized pack of disinfecting surface wipes.  A few plastic grocery bags or a pack of diaper sacks is essential too... if you/your child does end up needing a change of clothes, you will want a bag to put the dirty ones in!

8.  Food suitable for your baby/child can be hard to come by, so make sure you have some appropriate meals and/or snacks with you.  When booking your flights you may be given the opportunity to book a child meal for the flight.  Some airlines do this well and provide a selection of kiddie friendly foods & drinks - some airlines even have a policy to feed the kids first, making parents' lives much easier.  However, provision on other airlines can be hit or miss.  Consequently, you may wish to pack your own snacks/meals.  For babies, cans or jars of ready made baby food are probably the easiest to transport.  They are also the easiest to warm up.  As mentioned with regard to baby milk, there are no microwaves on planes.  Some have convection ovens, but plastic food pots will melt in these.  Some don't even have an oven, just a special plug-in food cart that warms the food inside.  You may have to resort to using hot water in a dish.  This can pose particular problems when catering for older babies/toddlers.  Remember, if your almost 2 year old child is travelling on your lap, they won't get a meal of their own, so you will either have to share your own or bring something suitable and most baby food jars aren't suitable for this age group.  A finger food cold dinner might be easier in these circumstances, e.g. sandwiches, crudites, etc...  If your baby will tolerate their food cold, you can buy convenient purees in easy to transport pouches, such as these fab Ella's Kitchen ones.  These are even good for older toddlers who can suck them through the straw by themselves as a healthy smoothie!

For snacks, avoid all peanut products, even if no-one in your family has an allergy.  In the pressurised cabins, even the smallest whiff of a peanut can cause people with allergies problems, so it is best to play it safe.  Go for dry, easily consumed, low-mess snacks if possible.  Raisins, granola bars, graham crackers, etc... are all safe bets.
On a final note, travelling is not the best time to try new foods, so go for foods that have been well accepted by your baby/child and that are popular with them!

9.  Pacifiers/comforters can be essential for an unsettled child, but bring backups if possible.  We lost the Chubby Cheeks One's beloved Taggie on our recent holiday to Lanzarote and suffered a bit of grief for our trouble.  If your baby/tot has a favourite toy or pacifier that will ease their journey, don't forget to bring it.  However, it's worth taking steps to stop it getting waylaid.  You can buy clips to secure them to clothing.  Another tip is to add a tag to your child's comfort toy with details on how to return it to you if it should get found by someone.  If your child has only just become attached to an object, a good idea is to buy several of them (this is a good idea anyway... switch them regularly and your child will never know).  You can then keep a backup in the hold luggage just in case.

10.  Bring some technology to help!  Some airlines/routes provide seat back TV screens which can provide a useful distraction for little ones.  However, the headphones provided for free are adult sized and frustrating for little ones to use.  Invest in child-sized headphones so your child can enjoy some cartoons as a distraction!

If there aren't seat back screens, little people can find it hard to see the screens that are high up in the cabin.  Also, some budget, low-cost airlines don't provide any TV/Audio entertainment.  If you have an iPad, iPod or other handheld device that plays movies, it is worth downloading a few of your child's favourites from iTunes or elsewhere.  Portable DVD players are also useful for this purpose... just remember you may need a headphone splitter for more than one child to watch at the same time.  Older children with handheld game consoles can be kept quietly occupied for ages, just make sure they use the headphones or they'll upset their fellow passengers!


11.  A few toys/activities to keep your child occupied will be invaluable.  Especially if they are new to your child!  However, remove all packaging before packing it, as it can be a pain to unwrap toys with lots of packaging... some even need scissors (which you're obviously not allowed in your carry on luggage.  It can be fun to wrap them like a present, as the unwrapping becomes a fun activity in itself, but you may be better leaving one end open so that airport security don't spoil your suprise!
Other tips:

  • Don't pack games where there are lots of small pieces, especially where those pieces are essential to the playing of the game, e.g. a jigsaw!
  • Don't pack toys that are noisy and/or battery/remote controlled.  Firstly, you may run into trouble with security, but you will also annoy your fellow passengers and quickly become persona non grata!
  • Colouring in books and a few crayons are good, as are the water 'painting' books, e.g. Crayola Color Wonder.
  • Sticker activity books are an easy favourite that can occupy little hands and minds for a while.

See more in this series of posts:

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Mama Max

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