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Flying With Baby

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Tomorrow we're off to Canada on holiday (ay?)
So this week I'm commanding a small military operation preparing us for the flight. In the last year we have successfully circumnavigated the globe, passed through airport security in seven different airports, four different countries and we've even braved a budget airline. So today I thought I'd share some tips for flying with baby...
First off, booking your flight. It's a bit of a myth that kids under two fly 'free'. Well... sure, they don't have to pay the price of a normal ticket. But they still have to pay airport tax and a booking fee (plus a dozen more 'fees' if you're on a budget airline). So a baby will still cost you about £170 to fly to Australia or £130 to fly to the states.
Budget airlines are run by childless baddies who conduct social experiments with non-allocated seating just to see which passengers will kill the rest. It’s perfectly reasonable to kill whoever you need to to get to on the plane first.
On bigger planes you can request a bassinet but it's not actually confirmed until the day when they see how many babies turn up so it's best to get there early, unless you're a sadist. Another reason to turn up early, you can't check-in online when you've booked a bassinet. As much as the website looks like it will check you in, you'll get to a point where it won't go any further and you'll end up shouting "Why?!" at the computer a lot. It will look like the leg room seats have all already been taken but they’re actually reserved for people like you. So save yourself the cyber rage and get there three hours before an international flight.
What you gain in leg room, you lose in comfort because of the small person squirming on your lap but it's not as bad as it sounds so long as you lower your expectations of the whole flying experience and resign yourself to the following things: You won't get any sleep, you might not get to eat, you might not get to watch any films, your child will be 'that bloody kid' and everyone around you will hate you. (I console myself with the fact that I will never see any of these people ever again.) Once you have come to terms with this, you can make preparations.
Try to take a long haul flight that leaves as early in the day as you can.... (not like, crazy early, like 6am, that's just silly) but something in the morning would be ideal. When we flew to Australia we left in the evening, so by the time we arrived after 3 flights we'd been travelling for 36 hours but I'd been awake for another 12 on top of that... I was so tired I was having head spins while standing on an escalator with a kid strapped to me. Not ideal.
Babies are easier to fly with when they are oblivious to everything around them. I think the ‘golden age’ for long haul flights would be two to seven months old. Elliot was five and a half months when we went to Australia. Old enough to sleep for a few hours, young enough to be content sitting in one spot. When we came back things were different. He was seven months old and had started eating solid food, so mealtimes were messy, he could sit up on his own and he had to be constantly distracted from his main aim which was to find an escape route. He was quite happy sitting up in the bassinet but due to his massive head, if he looked over the edge it was enough to topple him right over head-first into my lap so I had to be on the ball all the time.

Next, what to pack. The airlines all have slightly different rules for luggage so check before you book your flight. The usual luggage allowance is something like:
Adults: 1 piece of hand luggage up to 10kg, 2 pieces of check in up to 32kg in total
Babies: 2 items of check in luggage which as long as it is either; a pram, a car seat or a travel cot, 1 small bag for hand luggage with necessities like baby food and nappies.
You will probably need to take a car seat with you because taxis don't always have them. The Bugaboos Bee is great because a MaxiCosi car seat clips onto it on top of its normal seat so you can hop in a cab if need be. In many countries they don't have car seats at all and they are happy for you to hold the baby on your lap.
Some airports have baby buggies in the terminal and most airlines, including Easyjet, let you take the pram right up to the gate and it’s there at the other end as soon as you get off the plane but even getting on and off the plane can take ages so it’s good to have a papoose (like an Ergobaby) too.
Babies get extra luggage allowances which makes things easier but consider the fact that you may have to carry all your luggage nad your baby on your own at some point, with no help and no trolley. You will end up looking like a creature from Labyrinth. For this reason we don’t use a wheely suitcase, it’s impossible to use while pushing a pram, we take a big rucksack instead. So I have a big rucksack on my back, small handbag over one shoulder, baby in the car seat, car seat clipped into the pram, hand luggage dangling from the pram, small baby bag under the pram, duty free liquor in with the baby.
Due to terror, disorganisation or invisible clouds there’s a good chance you will be delayed, so take enough supplies to last you for 24 hours… even if it’s a 2 hour flight. Your luggage may get lost or you may arrive somewhere after everything is closed, like in Italy on a Tuesday afternoon. You should also consider the following when packing your hand luggage; Imagine the biggest poo your baby has ever done, along with the most vomit that has ever come out of him. Now imagine that it happens all at once while you’re sitting on a plane. Take everything you would need in that situation. Plus some extra stuff in case it happens again. Things you will need to take with you…
In the small baby hand luggage bag:
Passports & tickets (derr)
Bottle with powder formula
Baby snacks - like rice cakes, muesli bars, bananas
Nappy bag with wipes, calpol sachets, hand sanitizer, sudocrem
Plastic shopping bags for soiled things
A blanket for baby to play on in the airport… the floor is disgusting except in Singapore where bacteria is illegal.
Hand luggage main bag:
Toys and books
More wipes
Formula - powder
Formula - cartons
Nappies x 10
Another sterilised bottle (in a zip lock bag)
Baby food and spoons
More baby food in case you're waiting at the airport
Snacks for you
More plastic bags for nappies, dirty clothes, uneaten food etc.
Baby clothes - sleepsuits x 3, jumpers x 2 (it gets really cold in planes)
A spare outfit for you in case Vomigeddon occurs
Muslins and bibs
If you’re breast feeding a new bra might be nice too 
If you're flying on your own eat as much as you can before you get on the plane. You may not get the chance to have a proper meal in the air. The staff will sometimes put it aside for you until your baby is asleep, but there’s a good chance another staff member will throw it out. Grrr! Even on a stopover, you'll spend most of your time in the baby change room so don't depend on grabbing some noodles in the food court. Eating less on long flights is actually really good a for jetlag. A new study has found that our body clock is dictated by our stomach. So if you avoid food altogether, your body will adjust to a new timezone more easily…. But if you’re like me you’ll also be really really grumpy.

Now, getting through security. It’s nice that airport officials are keeping us all safe with vigilant safety checks but getting through security on your own with a bub is a bit of nightmare because airport staff aren’t allowed to hold your baby (which is absurd). The great thing about planes these days though is that they’re full of retirees who are always willing to help. Line yourself up behind one in the queue and as soon as you start to struggle putting a baby back in a papoose you’ll be amazed at how quickly a granny will offer to help. Without the help of about a dozen grannies my trip to Australia would have been impossible. Grannies we salute you!
Getting formula through security is a right pain because you aren’t allowed to take more that 100ml of liquid onto a plane, but it is up to the security official’s discretion. They may ask you to taste it. I take two small 200ml cartons of formula and an empty sterilised bottle. They will ask you to open one of the cartons and drink some (they are meant to ask you to drink the 50% of it, but they rarely do). Then I pour the rest of the carton into the bottle and keep it for take off. I also bring some sachets of powdered formula so if the cartons are taken from me I can buy a bottle of water after going through security and mix it with the powder.
Taking a small sachet of powder through security could be an issue for obvious reasons! Last time I took powder in small sachets divided into one feed each, I bought some bags with cartoon characters on them to avoid looking like a drug mule… not sure it worked…
At the gate let the bubba do all the roaming, screeching and crawling he wants. This is where a blanket for the floor comes in handy. He will be confined to a small space for a long time so be as energeic and noisy as possible to tire him out and watch everyone’s faces as they secretly hope you’re not in the seat next to them.
Once you’re actually on the plane carefully organise your most essential items to be within arms reach. On one flight I plonked Elliot on the floor as we boarded and gave him the inflight magazine. This worked a treat. He happily shredded it up into tiny pieces for long enough for me to get organised with all our junk. Luckily we were flying Singapore Airlines so the staff were unfathomably polite and just said kindly, “Shall I clear this away for you now?” referring to the mountain of paper at my feet.
As you take off remember that little ears don’t agree with pressurised cabins (smaller planes are worse than bigger ones) and it can be very painful for them if they don’t pop their ears with the change in air pressure. Feed your baby some water or milk as the plane takes off and comes down, the swallowing action will help them pop their ears. But! Remember that you have to stay in your seat for ages so don’t start feeding until the plane is actually doing it’s run up, sometimes it toodles around the tarmac for ages and the bottle will be empty by the time you actually need it.
And one more piece of advice. Once you're in the air, crack open a sachet of Calpol for the little one, and get yourself a stiff drink! You deserve it!


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