My life as a mum is a little unconventional these days; in the 8 last weeks, I will have been on 8 international flights with my wee travel buddy of 16 months.
I am currently living with some of the most well travelled mums and babies from around the world. I have been living in a mainly expat compound in Beijing with families from Holland, Austria, Poland, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, England and the US to name a few. No, sadly we don’t get to fly business.
These mums are frequent flyers, often travelling alone with babies; to reunite with extended family, have a holiday or most importantly to give ourselves a reprieve from China’s poor air quality. One of my Australian friends has taken her daughter on 40+ flights in her first 3 years of life.
No matter how many times we fly, we are always a little nervous ‘how will it go this time?’, every flight is different, and we often share travel tips and advice on how to deal with the next long haul and the aftermath of urghhh that jet lag!
So, these are the top tips from my international group of mummy friends, to help make that next flight a little easier.
• For long hauls, try and fly overnight; at least you will have 5 – 6hrs of peace.
• If it’s a day flight, schedule the flight for their sleep time to fall half way through, so they can play at the beginning, have food and sleep for the last half.
• Once the little one is over 1 1/2 yrs consider booking a child seat, or just beg the airline for a spare beside you. 9/10 times they will do it if the flight isn’t full.
• Be sure to book the child meal in advance if required – just booking the child seat doesn’t necessarily mean the child meal is booked. Also consider requesting a vegetarian meal for yourself as sometimes the food is cleaner and more baby friendly for sharing with little ones.
• Consider your carry-on luggage and pack essentials wisely. 1 trundle bag, 1 shoulder bag and a child is manageable (6 pieces of carry on is not). Essentials include Calpol, thermometer, nappies, wipes, a good changing mat, water, formula/milk,sterile bottles, food, sleeping bag, books.
• Don’t pack a lot of unnecessary toys. The babies are normally more fascinated by the new environment and all the faces to see. However a couple of favourites and one new special treat can buy you some distraction time. It can be as simple as a new little key ring. If it has lights even better!
• Have a little travel bag of their own, that fits snugly into your carry-on suit case. Fill it with their favourite, toys, snacks, books. As they get old enough they will love wearing it themselves through the airport, like mum and dad.
• Preparation is key. Fill in landing/departure cards before the flight if possible, collect them from your home country for future flights. Standing in line with a baby in one arm while trying to fill in a customs declaration isn’t easy.
• Be prepared for mess! Pack a spare set of clothes for yourself along with 2 spares for baby. You can guarantee if you don’t come prepared this will be the one where you need it most! Think huge mess from either end, all over you, mid air. We’ve been there. Not pretty! moving on.
• Pack appropriate snacks. Do not give babies anything you’re not happy to be thrown up, squeezed or smeared on you – be warned squeezy packets of food and juice. Dry biscuits, raisins, rice crackers, a ‘special/favourite’ for emergency (tantrum) situations are all good snacks.
• At the airport, look for the ‘special/assisted’ lane as you can usually get express immigration.
• Put a nappy on a toilet trained child until 4 yrs old incase they have to wait inline for the toilet or the seatbelt sign is on.
• Don’t wake a sleeping baby on take-off or landing to give milk for their ears, their ears will naturally adjust on landing (pediatrician advice).
• Do not stress at all about other passengers having some inconvenience or interrupted sleep for ONE night, you’ve got 3+ years to deal with it. Most will be understanding.
• Be flexible in terms of giving little ones what they want for the flight. ipad/phone/TV maybe off limits at home but they can be your saviours in an uncomfortable flight situation, so save your sanity and load up some cartons!
• Some airlines provide toys, stickers, drawing books & pencils to take away. Worth asking!
• Always have your wet wipes and disposable bags in reach to contain mess.
• In transit, sit near and strike up conversation with other mums & dads travelling with children or that lovely older lady that loves babies. They might end up playing with your child and providing hours of entertainment when you need it most.
Finally just think ‘ This too, will pass. ‘ No matter how long the flight, no matter how many stop-overs, delays, tantrums, puke & poop situations; no matter how many times you walk up and down the aisle, even if you are flying in sickness, or with the occasional scratched eyeball you’ll get there in the end. No journey lasts forever!
Good luck! x