Flying with young children can be a daunting prospect.
There was a time when I thought that flying with my husband and our newborn baby was a mission. It wasn’t until our son was a toddler and our daughter a newborn that I understood the concept of said mission! But, living abroad and returning home often left us with little chance other than to find practical ways of flying without huge stress. Soon enough we picked up a whole ritual around flying, that assures our flight is stress free for us and the children.
1 Bain Marie with the kids
Prior to embarking upon our journey to the airport (which unforntunately is a couple of hours away) the kids get bathed (in true "bain-marie" style. There is no mood that cannot be fixed with a long bubble bath for these two, it’s the tantrum antidote. It will relax them and get them sleeping soon after we jet off.
2 Meet & Greet Parking Service
If like us you must drive yourself to the airport, arrange the meet & greet parking service. It will make the world of a difference. You will be dropped off in the drop off zone and not have to worry about parking or travelling from the car park to the airport—one less worry.
Let’s talk logistics...
3 If you cant carry it, scrap it
More often than not we travel with surfboards and our ratio of 2:2 means we must think carefully about what we bring along. Two many bags will mean a lot of stress and strain because there just aren’t enough hands to carry everything. Specially when the children adventure around or need to be held. There must be one free pair of hands in your team to make this work, So think it through. If you can carry it, scrap it.
Our limit is two big suitcases, that my husband will pull along, a backpack each and the children’s stroller. Around the airport I maneuver the stroller, my husband the backpacks and each of us carries a backpack.
4 Double your time
Allow yourself double the time you would give yourself if child free, to get through customs and duty free through to your gate. This, for many reasons-first it can save you money-with children under 5 as a family you receive priority boarding, assuring that, if you get there early enough you can chose the seats that suit you, without shelling out for seating fees. Another reason is, you never know what mishaps will occurr, from full clothing changes, to feeding crisis and lost blankies-if you have the time you can do it all witout stressing yourself and the kids. You want to reach the gate alive and kicking! Walk to boarding gate early.
5 Wear practical clothing
Not for the sake of being practical, but because costums is a complete nightmare when you have baby bags and strollers, high heels (guilty), belts, jewellery etc. Costums may potentially (or shall I say usually) ask you to take apart the stroller and place it in the conveyor belt. This means setting free the little birds, and just as they begin to run or crawl away, costums will ask you to remove your shoes, belts, jewelerry and bagged items (for the whole family).
So far this part of the trip wins the medal for stress levels. Babies running wild amidst trillions of strangers, escaping, material possessions falling all over the floor, whilst i walk barefoot in filthy tiles and attempt to put it all back together, and keep the kids safe. The less hand luggage and removable items you have at this point the easier it will be.
6 Division, division!
There will be many things you need to dig out of your bags at different points of your journey. To begin with, passports and tickets. It's essential (for your sanity) to have such things divided. All passports and tickets in one holder, so every time they’re needed they re not falling everywhere. I use this rule with everything that I need to use inside the cabin.
7 Planned entertainment
Once we board, I get out everything I know will be needed for the fligt. The nappy and wipes pouch, activity and surprise bag, food bag (or bottle bag depending on age) and portable dvd player with a couple of movies. And the essential, dummy and muslin square. In the holder there will be one spare change of clothes per child, at least(absolutely essential). And that is all I carry on board, only that which is fundamental.
Children get tired quickly and feel secluded in their seats. I’m all for unstructured play and imagination but in such a constrained space. entertainment is limited and unfortunately it is not acceptable for them to climb the neighbours seat for fun. So for an enjoyable flight for all I plan entertainment carefully.
This (9 hour) trip my surprise bag includes two new packs of play doh, my little pony and the bakery. There is also a lego set and an art pack I put together which includes stickers, colouring in books, pens and crayons. And last but not least the DVD player and three of their favourite movies. All of the above were chosen because they are truly engaging.
So that's it, that should get you to your destination with the least stress possible.
8 If your babies fit in a sling use it now
Once off the plane, for those with younger babies, it’s really useful to have the sling at hand so you may carry bags confortably, with the baby safely strapped to you, until you reach your stroller.
Last but not least remember to relax, crying is a constitutional right, just accept it and don't fret. Breathe deep and walk on, we were all children at some stage! :)