It’s great to be able to bring young children on holiday for the first time, but it’s natural to come across challenges. If you haven’t done it before, then there’s no doubt you’ll have plenty of questions that need answering.
Kelly is the face behind the vintage silhouette at Domestic Goddesque. She is a thirty-something mother and blogger, who has picked up some invaluable tips when it comes to flying with young ones. Drawing on her experience, we’ve asked for her spin on some of the most common questions and concerns raised by those planning a holiday with babies and toddlers.
tombola: Do you have any key tips for flying with a baby?
Kelly: The key thing is comfort. Make sure you book as far ahead as possible if you have a young baby and if it’s a long-haul trip, notify the airline so that you can get a bulkhead seat with bassinet. Do bear in mind that you will have to stow all luggage in the overhead lockers for take-off and landing with these seats.
tombola: Do babies need their own seat on an aeroplane?
Kelly: Babies under two years old generally travel on parent’s laps, free of charge. Airlines will often provide you with an extension seatbelt if needed. Some choose to bring a car seat with them on the plane, but it’s important to check with the airline if you want to do this.
tombola: How do I keep them entertained on the journey?
Kelly: If they are old enough to need entertaining, pack lots of small things, and bring a new toy/snack out every half hour to help keep them occupied. It’s not always very easy for small children to watch TV or use the adult-sized headphones supplied/sold on flights so they get bored quite easily. Things like stickers and paper, kids’ magazines, books and small toys can often spin out half an hour. Snacks like packets of raisins and small packs of cereal are also a good way to keep them occupied. And then there’s high-tech kiddie distraction tools like iPads and other tablets stacked with books, games and apps.
Dawn Howe, from tombola’s marketing team, took her 18 month-old daughter to Florida recently. She broke the nine hour flight down by handling an hour at a time:
“It was the simple things that kept my daughter entertained – playing with the seat belt on the plane and simply moving grapes from one pot to the other is fascinating to her at this age! My advice is to think beyond the toys in your bag!”
tombola: What about formula? Will they let us through airport security with it?
Kelly: While liquids are restricted, it’s possible to take baby items, although you may have to go through additional security restrictions, so make sure you leave yourself plenty of time. You can usually buy what you need in chemists once in the Departure Lounge too, if you’d rather. I found that travelling with the correct number of sterilised bottles, then travelling with one extra carton meant that I could taste one carton, rendering it un-sterile, dispose, and then still have the correct number for the journey.
tombola: What should I pack in a baby travel bag?
Kelly: Packing needs some serious thought- you are allowed to take a handbag as well as a baby change bag on board, so on long-haul flights you can make the most of the space given to you. Bear in mind you will need to carry it on board and down narrow aisles though. I pack everything in ziplock bags so that if you should have an exploding nappy or vomit event, you have plenty of waterproof bags in which to seal things.
Make sure you bring all the creams and potions you use for nappy changes in travel size containers, rather than full size. I also package up a nappy or two with a disposable change mat and small pot of cream in another ziplock bag so that when I need to use the baby change facilities, I’m not trying to squeeze myself, the baby and a giant change bag in the cubicle. I refill the bag as needed if on a long journey.
Bring an empty sippy cup with lid if your baby is a bit older- staff always have bottled water and juice and are usually happy to fill it for you. Likewise, bring age-appropriate food, or check with airline if you can book children’s meals.
tombola: Anything to bear in mind when going through the airport?
Kelly: Individual airlines vary, but you should be entitled to check in one piece of luggage, one pushchair and one car seat per child, free of charge. In some cases, if you have paid for a seat for your baby, you may also be allowed to bring the car seat on board for the journey, but always check with the airline beforehand.
Bear in mind that although you can take a pushchair through the airport, you will need to take everything out of it, fold it down and put it on the x-ray conveyor, all whilst holding the baby. You’ll then have to repeat the exercise, once you have walked through the machine yourself, to reload it all. Try to keep everything packed and compact until you make it to the Departure Lounge.
If you have any prescribed medication, you will need an accompanying doctor’s note to show that it is essential that you take it on board. You may want to take a couple of sachets of Calpol or Nurofen in case of pain, or teething sachets which contain calming chamomile.
Another great suggestion from Dawn at tombola, was to bring a body wrap to carry your little one in:
“Children can tire with all the travelling, so you may have to carry them more than normal. Consider taking body wraps top carry them around in; they take up less room in your bag and can also be useful so that you have your hands free to carry passports, tickets and luggage.”
tombola: What documents do I need for my child? Do children need ID to fly?
Kelly: You may not need a passport for your child if travelling on a domestic flight, but airlines often ask for photo ID to confirm identity. Check with your airline before you travel.
From 2012, all children travelling internationally with any airline require their own passport. There are stringent rules about the photographs, which will need to be countersigned by someone who has known the principal parent for more than 2 years. It takes at least three weeks to get a passport by post, so allow as much time as you can.
If you and your child have different surnames, you may need a letter from the other parent giving permission to travel. It may also be worth taking birth certificates and so forth. Check www.gov.uk for full details, or this Mumsnet post, which is particularly helpful for those with differing surnames.
tombola: Any other useful tips when travelling with a little one?
Kelly: I think you have to remember that all you can do is your best. It’s hard to anticipate everything before you go and if you end up being the parent of the child who screams the whole journey, try not to beat yourself up about it.
Travelling at nap time may mean a pain-free journey for you, though not always. Try and get children to drink/chew at take-off and landing to help with the air-pressure in their ears.
Bring a baby sling or carrier. You can take a pushchair free of charge on almost all airlines, though do check this online. These are usually allowed up to the gate but are then taken away. At your destination though, you often have to wait until the luggage collection point to get it back, and a sling will make the walk through the airport much easier. Reins are a great asset for toddlers! They can run safely along through the airport to let off steam (especially if they’ve been cooped up on a flight for a few hours!).
Allow extra time for checking in so that you don’t have to rush for your flight. Everything takes longer when travelling through an airport with children.
Do you have any other queries or concerns surrounding taking your child on holiday? Let us know in the comment box below and we’ll do our best to answer them!