Indispensable Guide to Air Travel with Kids.
Flying with your baby or your children can be a challenge. Unfortunately the stresses of air travel are all amplified when you also need to worry about your little charge who has a very short concentration span, likes to wander off in busy places and doesn't care who listens when they feel like screaming with joy or anger.
Night or Day?: The first decision you will need to make is whether to fly at night or during the day. Many people will choose the night-time red-eye in the belief that their child, who always sleeps 7pm till 7am, will sleep through the night and arrive at their destination happy and refreshed. Unfortunately where flying is concerned all bets are off. You may know someone whose baby sleeps the moment the plane engines come on. You cannot count on this. My own children have never slept well on airplanes though they now sleep through the night at home. I know many other children and adults who also find it nearly impossible to sleep on a plane. If it is very important that your baby or child gets a good night's sleep you may want to consider flying during the day.
Sleep: If you have chosen a night-time flight consider what items you can bring to help your child settle down and give them the best chance of sleeping. You can pack some pajamas, a wash cloth, a small bottle of lotion (which you will need to place in your ziplock bag at security). Bring a book to read and a toy to cuddle. If your child uses pacifiers to sleep bring at least 6. It is unbelievable how easily those things fall between the seats and get lost forever. If you have plenty, any that get dropped on the floor can be quickly swapped for a clean one to try to avoid all those awful airplane germs. Bring a few blankets. You can find all sorts of uses for them. You may choose to use three blankets; one to place between your skin and your sleeping child, one to keep your child warm while they sleep and another to block out light. If a neighbor has a reading light shining right at your child's face they will have a lot of trouble falling asleep. A carefully placed blanket can save the day. Some airplanes provide bassinets or reclining baby seats but you have to be sat by the bulkhead in order to get these. Bulkhead seats are in high demand by all sorts of people who need more room for their legs so don't get your hopes up too high, you may be disappointed.
Amusement: Pack your child some new toys they have not played with before. For a baby try to find things that light up and play soft unobtrusive music, for an older child computer games, coloring books, stickers and magnetic puzzles are all great options. Bring slim lightweight books and magazines for story time that won't break your back.
Food and drink: Snacks will keep your children busy. Just make sure they are easy on the stomach to avoid any unfortunate digestive issues. If you bring liquid formula for your baby, security may ask you to taste it. Procedure with liquids appears to vary slightly from airport to airport. If you are planning on mixing powder with water to make the formula, security may stop you bringing water through. If this happens you will need to buy water when you get to the departure gate from one of the overpriced stores. Boiling water may be available on board, check with your airline. If meals are provided on your flight and your child has their own seat, kids meals need to be ordered in advance, otherwise your child will receive an adult meal.
Clothing and Supplies: Depending on the length of your flight, you are going to need to bring plenty of clothes changes. Don't forget clothes for yourself. Your child is going to be spending a lot of time on you, if you are travelling with a baby, the chances of not getting poop or spit up on you at some time are slim to none. To be safe always bring at least 2 changes of outfit for each child even on a short flight. If you are going to be in the air for an extended period consider bringing a couple more outfits. Onesies are great for babies as you can just throw a few in your bag. Over estimate how many diapers and wipes to bring. If your child is eating and drinking more for amusement, they will go through more diapers. The last thing you want is to be in the air, have a diaper blow out, and run out of clean ones.
Seats and Equipment: Babies are usually allowed to travel on your lap without their own seat up to the age of 2 years old. If you are only going on a short trip you may decide this is an acceptable option. If you are going on a longer flight or trying to find a solution to keep your child extra safe and comfortable you can buy them their own seat and attach an approved car seat with the existing airplane belt. Think carefully about how you are going to manage carrying the car seat all the way to the airplane. There will not be anyone to help you. There are some other options available to keep your child safe in an airplane seat. Harnesses are available which attach to the existing safety belt and turn it into a 4 point harness, this is for children up to 44 lbs. For infants there is a flight vest available which keeps your child safe while they are sitting on your lap. If you decide to bring a stroller all the way to the airplane, make sure it is lightweight and folds easily. You will then be able to put it through the x-ray machine at security and leave it by the airplane door to be stowed by the crew. A stroller is a good option as you often have to walk vast distances in airports to get from where you check in to where you board the plane.
Good luck with your flight and above all enjoy your stay wherever you are going.