It’s a well known fact that in early childhood, food preferences are most influenced by primary caregivers…
Travelling with children
Travelling with children is definitely a daunting challenge. Having been a flight attendant for 13 years I know that flying with young children is something that most parents dread. It needn’t be, preparation is key. Here are some tips that will make your next adventure on a plane with children super easy.
If you are travelling with a small baby, you need to be well-organised. Airlines no longer carry milk or nappies or bottles or wipes. Premium carriers will have a small emergency selection of bottled baby food on board, I recommend that you pre-order infant or children’s meals for your children. This can be done at the time of booking or you can call ahead to preorder them for most full service carriers. For budget airlines you will need to bring your own as most of the kiosk foods are snack type foods. If you are bottle feeding, it is great to portion your formula in a dispenser so it’s ready to go. It might be helpful carrying a tin of formula in your carry on in case of international delays. Definitely pop a tin in your checked baggage, as your child’s preferred formula might not be available at your destination. Disposable bottles are also a good idea, or take enough bottles for the trip. Washing bottles in the bathroom sink isn’t great. The cabin crew can warm milk bottles on request, please just don’t do this immediately prior to take off as it won’t be possible. There are just isn’t time. Flasks to keep warm water are a good idea if you have the space in your carry on. Also, many mums give their babies room temp formula on flights to avoid this altogether. You are allowed to take liquids in your international carry on baggage for babies, just tell the security staff at the scanner that it is a baby bag.
Pack Smart. For toddlers or school aged kids, have a cabin bag for them with things to keep them occupied. This includes such things as snacks, toy’s, iPads or DVD players or small travel games that they can play with. Drawing or colouring books are great however, try to avoid pencil cases with lots of pencils or other small items that can be a disaster on the floor of the plane cabin. The last thing you want is for the crew to be tripping or you to be crawling around under seats looking for lost pencils. Paint with water or magic pens are my favourite. Some children prefer familiar toys and like to bring a few things from home, others prefer perhaps something new.
A few changes of clothes for bubs and one for you. You don’t want to be stuck on a longhaul flight in a shirt that is covered in chuck or worse…..
In addition, a great idea is a small pillow from home or perhaps a blanket or comforter. Aircraft cabins get very cold and most airlines don’t carry pillows blankets anymore. Especially not on domestic sectors.
A fallacy is the requirement to feed your baby on takeoff, it just isn’t necessary. Some babies like it just for comfort as they are in an unfamiliar and often noisy environment. Cabin pressure will not affect your child’s ear’s on takeoff. Landing is another matter altogether.
It is advised to feed on descent, have your child suck on something like a dummy or chew something. This will help the equalise their ear pressure. Small babies or children with colds may have difficulty with this. Babies not sucking will cry to unblock their ears, they may or may not be experiencing pain, but have no other means to achieve this. If your child has a cold and you still must fly, a decongestant prior to flying if you can, may help. If they are experiencing pain, and cannot clear their ears, don’t force it. It may cause them to perforate an eardrum and this is excruciating. The pressure pain will subside once the aircraft is on the ground and the ears will most likely unblock after disembarking.
The bassinet is great if you can book one, although it does only carry babies up to approximately 12 kg and if your child is long, then it won’t be too comfortable for them. From memory babies up to 80cm or so will fit. You will however be required to take the child out during turbulence or when the seatbelt sign is on. This can be more of a hindrance than help, as you will probably wake the baby. Some airlines have portable carrycots or bouncer type chairs that hook on to your seat.
When you can, try and time your flights at a time of day when you know your children are well rested, if they will sleep on a plane then it’s fine to schedule the flight in their nap times. Flying with an overtired child will be disastrous to you and your fellow passengers.
There are baby change tables in all lavatories. Do not change your baby on the seat or on the tray tables. Apart from being unhygienic, the tray tables are not designed to take such weights.
Most crew will gladly help if you need a hand of need to use the lavatory yourself. We are for safety reasons, not technically allowed to hold babies. This is in case of turbulence etc. that being said, a quick cuddle while you are in the loo is necessary. But, please understand we can’t and won’t walk around with your baby to give you a break. I have seen babies be bumped on the head in turbulence. So crew are not being rude if they say no, they are thinking of your babies safety.
Having your pram to use at the airport can be helpful, it is good for long transits or if you have more than one child or too much hand luggage, some full service carriers offer free prams to use in the terminal, or the ability to tag your pram and check it in at the last minute at the gate. Please enquire beforehand, as there are usually limited numbers or first come first served.
Another great thing to use is a baby carrier. These keep your hands free and make getting through airports much easier. Please be aware that most carriers are not permitted to be worn in flight. Baby Bjorn carriers are permitted by some airlines. This is for safety reasons. In an emergency the crew may need to remove the child from you and cannot if it is strapped to you. The Bjorn carrier can be unclipped easily from the front.
Try and get on the plane first, so that the crew can help you get settled while no one else is on board. If you have any special requests or your kids have allergies or other requirements, this is the time to let them know.
So, I hope this article has been of some help. If you aren’t sure, just ring your airline, or ask the crew. They know you are in an unfamiliar environment, stressed and most likely exhausted before you even take off and are happy to help.
Bec lives on the Northern Beaches and is a Customer Service Manager for a well known airline in Australia.