Being confined to a small space in an aeroplane for 12 hours with a baby and a toddler is enough to make many parents want to chew their own arm off and possibly inhale a bottle of gin. Tiny dictators who give a total of zero f***s about rules, brimming with boundless energy, minimal attention spans and a capacity for werewolf-like fury when overtired certainly demands some creative parenting skills. But the rewards for your efforts at the other end are huge. If you’re currently pondering how to survive travelling long haul with small children, here are a few nifty tips.
1. Invest in travel gear that will make your life easier.
If you have a baby under 6 months on board with you, a CoziGo/Fly Babee is INVALUABLE. Lightweight, compact and breathable, the cover fits over the aircraft’s travel cot and bassinet perfectly, blocking out bright lights, TV screens and passing people, allowing your bubba to switch off and have a snooze. As an added bonus, you can also pop it over your buggy when out and about for some handy shade. I’ve also heard wondrous things about the BedBox by JetKids.
Image – Fly Babee (left) over an airline bassinet
2. Figure out baby’s feeds in advance
If you’re breastfeeding, this part is easy. However, if your baby is on a bottle make sure you pack a Thermos for hot water and take pre-measured formula powder with you, that way you can prepare feeds without always having to seek out cabin crew. Pack as many bottles as you can, as there’s not often the opportunity to clean them.
Foodwise, Ella’s pouches are like nectar from the Gods. Perfect for baby and a nutritional snack for older children. Pack plenty in clear plastic bags (to go through Passport Control as well as prevent spillage). And don’t forget snacks, snacks, snacks – meltdown preventers, hunger keeper-at-bayers and boredom-preventers, don’t be afraid to heap them upon your children as you see fit.
3. Arrive at the airport early
Avoid manic rushing and give yourself time to kill in the airport. You can pick up emergency food and baby items, feed everyone and get the kids in their PJs for an overnight flight. Gatwick gets a HUGE thumbs up from me for helping families get through the faff of airport security. Friendly, accommodating, helpful staff, a seperate queue for families, a drinking water fountain (great for refilling bottles) and even a soft play in the duty free area.
4. Take a Trunki for the toddler
Simply pulling the Trunki along is fun, riding it equally so and extremely practical when one half of your parenting team is pushing a laden luggage trolley. Just don’t get overexcited, end up flipping them and split their lip open…that can happen.
5. Pack a sling
Having two free hands is a no-brainer, particularly if – like me – your bubba is so squirmy in their desperation to get going in life that it’s like trying to contain a ferret on crack.
6. Keep the buggy with you until you board
Most airlines don’t charge for baby equipment like buggies and they’re useful either for shipping children around the airport when little legs get tired, or for loading up with hand luggage when they are running wild. Sometimes, families with buggies are also invited to board first.
7. Keep a stock of brand new items for your toddler.
Pack colouring (those mess free Crayola felt tips are magic), magazines, figurines, felt tips, stickers and snacks (and an iPad obvs). Wrap for extra excitement factor and bring them out at strategic points throughout the journey. For younger babies, try and squeeze in a few shaky, textured toys and a couple of open-the-flap books.
8. Travel with friends and family
Willing, extra helping hands to hold, entertain, feed and distract the kiddies for the 12 hour flight, transfers and holiday, means it might actually even feel like a break. Extra bonus if you have same-aged kiddos with you for instant entertainment. Failing that, hope that the people sitting near you are happy to do the odd bit of peekaboo-type interaction with your children as they squeeze their heads through the gaps in the seats.
9. Travel overnight
This way you are only trying to get them to sleep, rather than entertain them. It also seems to really help with the jet lag adjustment.
10. Travel during the school holidays
11. Go for easy parking
Pay the extra to park opposite the terminal, organise a ‘meet and greet’ parking service or persuade a kindly family member to drop you off – the ‘faff-saving’ from not having to transfer yourselves, plus luggage, plus tiny humans on various airport shuttles is well worth every penny.
Have you got any advice to add? Let me know below!