When I first started flying with my little ones, I had several concerns, even though I was familiar with the aircraft environment. After talking to several parents, I realised many felt like me and they also worried. Here is a list of the main concerns and tips for overcoming them to have a stress free flight. We worried, so you don't have to!
The main concerns for parents are whether their child will disturb other passengers, especially by crying continually; running out of supplies, flying solo and needing the loo, privacy when breast-feeding, illness , wriggly children and 'looks' from other passengers.
Disturbing other passengers through crying or being wriggly. The first step here is avoidance. If your child is slightly older, prepare them for the trip with children's books about flying, being at the airport etc. Even role-playing can help. Ideas include pretend you are sitting on the plane and fastening your seatbelt. This can be played whilst in the car too.
Be aware of possible delays and potentially hungry or tired kids. If you have a late night flight, consider putting the children to bed at the normal time and waking them up, just before you leave for the airport. This should hopefully give them enough energy to get through the airport without a meltdown, but still leave them sleepy enough for the rest of the flight.
Make use of the airport soft play if they have one and burn off some of that excess energy. Bring some toys and entertainment to help while away time in queues.
Have one of you board first with all your child's stuff and the other parent board last- there is no point in letting your little one sit on-board waiting for other passengers to arrive...
Also EVERYTHING on the plane will be a source of entertainment - the seatbelt and in-flight entertainment handset especially! If they really let rip, speak to a crew member and ask if you can just let her calm down in the galley for a bit.
Running out of supplies. Airline amenities vary so much and whilst some are more than happy to provide milk, and have a limited supply of nappies etc on board, others simply don't have the budget to provide all this. Make the most of the exemption to the 100ml rule -you can carry as much baby food or drink as needed. Obviously storing it can also be an issue, with some countries airport security allowing cold packs, and others not. If you are not sure and don't want to be caught out, consider taking some zip-lock bags and filling with ice when you leave home, then refill at an airport restaurant, and again on the plane. You can also ask the restaurants for a refill of milk or, if leaving from the UK, make use of the Boots ordering service where you can pre-order baby supplies online and pick up at Boots after you have cleared security.
Flying solo and needing the loo. Every airline will understand your situation, so definitely ask a crew member to assist. Airline policies do again vary, so whilst some will be more than happy to walk the baby up the aisle and help soothe them, others will need to sit down in your seat, fasten the seatbelt and also use the infant lap belt.
Privacy when breastfeeding. Firstly, there are no restrictions on breast feeding on an airplane. There are some great products on the market for a little more privacy when feeding, but unfortunately there are no private areas on the aircraft, except the loo which is not a place where any woman would ideally want to breast feed. Therefore, the best option if you are concerned is to request a window seat. Do ask the crew for a spare blanket or pillow to make you more comfortable when you do so.
Illness. It's never a pleasant experience when your little one is ill, and the added concern that you are not in the comfort of your own home can be worrisome. Make sure you carry in your hand-luggage/carry on any medicine that potentially may be required, including any antihistamine's or inhalers. Calpol and Nurofen do come in handy 5ml sachets but Tylenol and Motrin do not. If you need to take over 100ml in your hand luggage, make sure you have a doctor's note accompanying it and the prescription details if necessary. Be aware that some stronger medicines may be illegal in some countries and in those cases a prescription and a doctor's letter is essential. Always pack a spare change of clothes for each child and at least a spare top for you. If you are in any way concerned about any serious illness developing on board- alert the crew immediately. For more packing tips, see here.
'Looks' from other passengers. My number one rule is smile and ignore. There is always going to be the odd person that will be grumpy and who forgets they were babies once. Some parents have handed out goody bags in a pre-emptive attempt to avoid these 'looks' and to create a little bit of humour in the situation. These packs have included a friendly note, a packet of ear plugs and a token sweet. But don't feel you have to apologise every time your child makes a whimper. Babies do cry and children get frustrated with delays etc, just as adults do.
For more information about flying and holidaying with children visit www.flyingwithababy.com