Flying with a newborn: The Essential Survival Guide
"You're brave" people will say. "You must be mad!", "Is he old enough?". When your fellow adults discover you intend to travel on an aeroplane... WITH YOUR BABY! The list of commentary is endless. Nevermind the pressure to then keep said little ones in a civilised enough mood to please other travellers. I, for one, will not be found giving out 'Sorry for my kid crying, have a lollipop on me' gift parcels, or any other caboodle, to my fellow passengers. I've flown with my children since they were 11 weeks' old. Here's how I did it whilst keeping (almost) calm.
Make lists. Not just for your suitcase contents, but ensure you plan your Change Bag/Day Bag (I will be writing an entire article on just this, as I feel it's genuinely that vital in your chances of having a successful holiday away with littles!) and your own carry-on bag like a military operation. Yes you can wing it, yes you may be fine. But for me, knowing I have packed for all eventualities helps soothe that niggle that wakes me up at 2am worrying if I have packed enough wipes/calpol/crayons.
Don't forget to pack a change of clothes for YOU! I'm terrible at packing my own things as I'm so preoccupied with ensuring I have every last item for my kids. If you have a baby, you WILL get milk, food, sick, drool and possibly worse on your person. Take a change. If you're long haul, take skin care, brush, make up and toothbrushing kit. Skin care samples from magazines make perfect additions to your make up bag, and I always take an atomiser to reduce deydration. With that in mind, also take a blanket and pillow. Not only are blankets good for lining sky cots (chuck them in the wash when you arrive at your location) but they can be used to wrap up baby and then you or your breakable souvenirs on the way home.
You can take as much food, milk and even drinks for your child onto 99% of airlines. As much as is feasible that your child would consume on your journey. So in my son's case, WAY more than 100ml of anything! It's true. Yes security will take longer, as they will need to test items like milk (try to avoid the urge to make a remark about your boobs being explosive) and they may want to root through the contents of your bags, but once that's done, you're good to go. Ensure that liquids (other than bottles) are sealed though, else they will be going in the bin. Take more than you need. I took the equivalent of six, 8oz bottles, in powder form, on one journey. Even this was not enough! As I panicked over the Asiatic sea, the stewardess appeared with a bottle of Aptamil like a beacon of hope for all panic struck mums! Stackable formula pots (available from Amazon) were a god send for taking pre-measured amounts of formula, meaning you can travel much lighter as long as you have a clean bottle and hot water to hand (yes, that was me with a bottle brush and tiny bottle of fairy in the plane toilet, soz).
Prepare for a game changer. You can click and collect at a Boots airport shop after security. Meaning you can order medicines, nappies, baby food and other products to be delivered to, and collected from, Boots in most UK airports, in quantities far bigger than the pesky 100ml you can legally take through security.
Sandwich bags. The unsung, multi functional travel hero. Internal flights with (heaven forbid) no TV: Pre load your phone with Peppa/Bing/whatever will keep little Charlie quiet for a whole ten minutes, Put the phone inside a sandwich bag. The bag hangs perfectly on the tray locking mechanism on the back of the seat in front of you. Allowing a little TV like contraption to magically appear (you're welcome). I also use sandwich bags to pack individual satchets of calpol, medicine spoons, tablets/vitamins for myself, as well as make up or skin care for the journey. That means less rooting around looking for various items, as you can see them all at a glance.
Many airlines let you take a pushchair right up to the terminal you are flying from. Lots of airports have strollers you can use around airports. Some airports even have playgrounds! We spent hours at this one in Frankfurt:
Airlines are generally super friendly and helpful with families. We have taken over 15 flights with our 4 year old, and been amazed at how our flight staff have gone over and beyond their duties to help us and make our journeys better. We had an amazing stewardess on a flight to Kuala Lumpa who found us out formula, toothpaste and even Ella's kitchen pouches. She also brought us a drink whilst we were stuck under sleeping children, and even took polaroids of the kids for us to take home as souvenirs. A captain saw our daughter having a meltdown over the security scanner in Singapore and gave her his WINGS as a comfort (not sure Dean will ever give those back!). He also let us have a nosy around the cockpit after we touched down. Families travelling with under 2s generally get priority boarding which means you are normally sat down and settled by the time the masses flock.
Take off and landing: three words: Dummy, boob or bottle. They will help your baby's ears and comfort them at the same time. Double win.
Bassinets/Sky cots. These need to be pre-booked by telephone or online chat with the airline direct. I had not seen one of these in action until we used one with our 8 month old son en route to Malaysia. They are blooming fantastic bits of kit which allow you to be hands free (holy grail of parenthood, surely?) in order to actually eat a hot meal, go to the toilet, or even... enjoy a cuppa in peace, whilst your baby sleeps. The added bonus of this is they are. SO. DAMN. CUTE:
Think about your flight times. We try to fit around our kids' natural sleep rhythms as much as we can when booking long haul flights. For us, we find it best to take night flights (when flying East) for example. This allows the kids to have a 'normal' day beforehand then we put them in PJs pre boarding, give normal bedtime milk or snacks on the plane to ensure the best possible chance of a decent few hours' sleep for everyone. You can but try!
If and when you forget something, don't sweat it. As long as you have passports, the kids and an adventurous spirit, you'll muddle through. Remember that no matter where you are going in the world, children also live there too. I know this sounds ridiculous but when I was stressing over whether to take 100+ nappies/wipes I realised that actually they must have nappies in the Arctic Circle too, right? (Just be prepared to pay a lot more for them there than in Blighty!)