Planning a trip this Christmas and wondering how to cope with flying with your baby – especially if they are a twin? Let me help you out. First of all, we must admit it’s tricky and could be a headache, but you don’t have to repeat the horror stories of brave parents who have gone before you. In this piece, I put together some tips to help you have a seamless and enjoyable experience on your trip, no matter who you’re travelling with. These tips focus on travelling by air, by the way.
- Read the infant policy
All airlines have this tiny-print/text document where flight policies are kept. Okay, I have been guilty of not reading it many times – I guess you have too. Anyway, don’t do that again, whether you’re travelling alone or with children. Knowledge is power, and reading the airline’s policy for travelling with babies will equip you with the necessary information before your trip. The information is usually available on airlines’ website, you should read it to know what you’re entitled to and what you can expect once you get on board. Some airlines classify a baby as a child under the age of two and require that such child travels with a person who is over 15 years of age. Some have a dedicated check-in baggage allowance for babies. If you’re too busy to do this kind of research, just give the airline a call to ask questions. From experience, it’s best to do the research and be well abreast of the information to avoid any last-minute angst when you get to the airport.
- Pack smartly…but don’t forget the essentials
The trick here is to strike a balance between necessity and convenience. You want to be able to access anything you need with as little fuss and effort as possible. So, pay particular attention to your carry-on bag. Rebecca Walker of Virgin Australia suggests that traveller with babies should ensure they “allow two changes of clothes for poo-namis or spews (and a clean shirt for you, just in case!) and disinfectant hand wipes to deal with dropped toys, spews or any nappy leakages. Ensure you have the required number of nappies your baby would usually need over the flight time, plus two spares. Given the difficulties with changing a bub on board, try and find a roll-out change mat for your bag that stores a nappy, some wipes and a change of clothes. Have milk and food in side pouches so it’s close to hand. Be savvy with how you pack and ensure you have the items you’re most likely to use at the top of your bag where you can easily reach them,” I couldn’t agree less.
- Board early
Boarding first gives you more time to get you and your baby settled before the throngs of passengers come on board, so as much as possible, board early.
- Have a drink or a dummy ready for takeoff and landing
Rebecca Walker of Virgin Australia says whether you feed your babe using breast, bottle or sippy cup, having a feed prepared for takeoff and landing helps little ones cope with potential ear discomfort. While our adult Eustachian tubes usually do a good job of equalising the differences between middle ear pressure and outside pressure, this doesn’t always work for bubs whose tubes are relatively narrow. Sucking on something helps their tubes do the job. If it’s not your baby’s usual feeding time, try a dummy or any toy they would normally suck on.
- Know the onboard bathroom limitations
It’s no secret that on-board loos (particularly in economy class) are designed to provide the bare minimum of service. Unfortunately for travelling parents, this includes the change table facilities. Their necessarily compact size can make it tricky to change the bottom of a wiggly baby (particularly if you’re dealing with a poo-nami, YIKES!). Come prepared with a portable, lightweight change mat packed with the essentials so you don’t need to bring a bag in with you (see tip 3). Never put a dirty nappy (even a wet one) in the loo bins; these aren’t emptied every flight and can end up stinking out the toilet. Let a crew member know what you’re doing so they can be prepared to open the main bin cart in the galley for you to deposit your little bundle of joy’s, eh, deposit.
- Bring non-offensive sounding toys
Your baby needs to be entertained, but you must balance that need with the needs of the other passengers. It’s best to bring toys that could keep your baby occupied without ticking off other passengers. Examples of such include rattles without bells, teething toys and hardcover books. Remember, that co-passenger might be helpful at some stage during the flight, so you need them on your side throughout the journey.
- Disembark last
Yes, it’s time to disembark, but remember there is no trophy for whoever gets out first. So, “unless there is a critical reason why you need to be off the plane in a hurry at your destination, don’t rush it. Let the plane empty out before you so that you can once again take advantage of exiting through the front door and using the aerobridge where it’s available. It’s also nice to take your time, and make sure you haven’t left anything on/under the seats or inside the lockers.”
- Ask for and accept help!
Cabin crew and passengers on your flight want your baby to have a great flight almost as much as you do, albeit it for different reasons. This means there are plenty of willing helpers within arm’s reach. Granted it’s not always a great form to hand, but, if you need a hand getting your bag up to the overhead locker just ask. Likewise, if someone offers to grab your checked suitcase off the baggage carrousel, say thank you and acquiesce. People feel great about lending a helping hand and there’s nothing to be gained by trying to be a gladiator.
So there you have it. Follow our simple tips to take the stress out of flying for you and your babe the next time you travel by air.
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Ideas for this article, especially the content of the most technical parts are from Rebecca Walker of Virgin Australia