First time fly­ing

With some for­ward plan­ning, you’ll en­joy a stress-free says mum and for­mer flight at­ten­dant Car­rie Bradley

Mother & Baby (Australia) - - Contents -

Plan ahead for a happy flight with bub

What’s the se­cret to hav­ing a happy flight with your baby? As a for­mer flight at­ten­dant I’ve flown with hun­dreds of ba­bies. I’m also UK-based and have fam­ily in Aus­tralia, so I’ve flown back and forth lots of times with my two young daugh­ters. I can safely say, there are lots of se­crets to hav­ing a re­laxed flight with a child! Most of th­ese tricks of the trade are things you can or­gan­ise before you go, so you can for­ward plan, then re­lax and en­joy your flight.

Before book­ing your tick­ets, spend time re­search­ing dif­fer­ent air­lines to find the one that best suits your needs, es­pe­cially if it’s long-haul. Most air­lines will al­low you to fly with your baby when she’s as young as 14 days old, but with some it’s pos­si­ble from just two days. Your baby must have her own pass­port and she’ll also need to be added to your travel in­sur­ance pol­icy. Even if you don’t book her a seat of her own, you must add her to your book­ing, as she’ll need a ticket, and rel­e­vant visas.

Once you’ve booked your flights, make your first job to re­quest a bassinet. This is a type of cot that at­taches to the bulk­head wall of the plane, which sep­a­rates the seats from the toi­let and crew ar­eas. You’ll also need to book your seat in the bassinet row, which is di­rectly be­hind the bulk­head wall. It will be shown on the air­line’s on­line seat­ing plan with a cot sym­bol. Check that the bassinet mea­sure­ments are suit­able for your baby’s age, weight and length. Most have a 10kg and eight-month limit, but this does vary be­tween air­lines.

Most air­lines only have a few bassinets on board, so you’ll need to re­quest one early. If you’re book­ing a flight di­rectly with an air­line, re­quest a bassinet at the time of your book­ing. If you’re us­ing a flight com­par­i­son site, check whether you can add a bassinet on to your book­ing. If not, call your air­line di­rectly to re­quest one.

Use the ex­tra hand-lug­gage al­lowance for your baby... Many air­lines of­fer 5kg to 10kg.

If it’s not pos­si­ble to book a bassinet, con­sider whether you want to buy a seat for your baby. This means you can take your car seat with you, but ex­pect to pay around 75 per cent of an adult fare. On long-haul flights, or if you have an older baby, it’s a good idea for her to have her own seat, but younger ba­bies will be fine on your lap for the short haul. To use your car seat on the plane, it needs to carry an AS/NZS 1754 la­bel and many air­lines need to pre-ap­prove the car seat before you fly. You won’t be able to use your car seat if it has a sep­a­rate base or the air­line has fit­ted in-seat airbags. Also check on­line to make sure it will fit the seat di­men­sions and find out if your air­line has other re­quire­ments.

If you don’t buy a seat for your child, and she’s un­der two years of age, she can fly for around 10 per cent of the adult fare plus taxes. If it’s a full flight, she’ll have to sit on your lap the whole way, but there are ways to make this less stress­ful. If there are two of you fly­ing with your baby, re­quest seats A and C, D and F, or H and K. Sin­gle mid­dle seats are usu­ally the last to be booked, so if it’s not a full flight, you’re more likely to be able to use this seat for your child. Also, ask for an ex­tend­able lap belt.

Whether you’ve booked an ex­tra seat or not, ask if you can take your car seat with you, as you’ll be able to use it if there are empty seats avail­able. If not, it will be put in the hold as part of your hold al­lowance. You’ll also be able to carry on a small stroller, but again, it might be put in the hold if there’s no space in the cabin.

Also use the ex­tra hand-lug­gage al­lowance for your baby – you’ll get this whether or not you’ve paid for an ex­tra seat. Many air­lines of­fer 5kg to 10kg, and it can make your life on­board eas­ier. Pack an ex­tra layer of clothes for your baby, so she’s still comfy when the air-con­di­tion­ing kicks in, along with a full change of clothes for her and a spare top for you and your part­ner – ac­ci­dents hap­pen! Also pack nap­pies, a chang­ing kit, light blanket, baby pain re­lief, sling and charg­ers for a breast pump if you’re us­ing one. Bring some new toys and wrap them in pa­per so she can un­wrap them for ex­tra en­ter­tain­ment.

You can take as much ex­pressed breast­milk through se­cu­rity as you need for your jour­ney, as well as any food and snacks for your baby. Al­ways take enough for at least two ex­tra feeds in case of un­ex­pected de­lays. I buy ex­tra nap­pies and food from the air­port chemist as well.

If you’ve started solids, then feed­ing her on board needn’t be a has­sle. You can

pre-or­der baby food for most long-haul flights, and most air­lines of­fer baby purees and chil­dren’s meals for over-twos. If your baby falls be­tween th­ese stages, take your own food. It’s up to your cabin crew whether they’re happy to heat or chill food for you, but if they’re not, ask for a cup of hot wa­ter to warm pouches in, or a bag of ice cubes to keep milk cold. Also take plenty of snacks for your lit­tle one – I’ve re­cently taken fruit, raisins, cold pasta, mini sausages and pouches on flights.

At the de­par­ture gate, plan for your part­ner to board first with your hand lug­gage and set up camp. You and your baby should board last, so you don’t have to en­ter­tain her for an ex­tra 20 min­utes on the plane. If you’ve or­dered a bassinet, the crew will at­tach it to the wall once the plane is in the air. Dur­ing take-off you’ll need to hold her on your lap as you will when­ever the seat-belt sign comes on.

I’ve found it works best if you keep your baby in the same sleep rou­tine by get­ting her ready for bed and read­ing her a story at the same time as you nor­mally would.

Chang­ing her can be tricky in a small air­plane toi­let. Most planes have chang­ing ta­bles, but if yours doesn’t, use the toi­let as a chang­ing ta­ble, af­ter giv­ing it a good once-over with an anti-bac­te­rial wipe. Save time by strip­ping your baby to her nappy in your seat, then dress her when you get back. Plan for how many changes your baby will need and make up some sin­gle-change kits – in a zip-lock bag, place one nappy and a plas­tic bag con­tain­ing a few wipes.

Once you land, put your baby in her sling, so you have your hands free for the rest of your bags. Ask if there’s a fam­ily queue you can use at cus­toms, as it might help you avoid a long wait. Then smile and get on with your trip – you and your baby have en­joyed your first flight to­gether, has­sle free!

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