S.O.S. We Are Going Overseas: Flying with Babies!?

Our little Oscar has clocked up quite some air-miles in his three year old life. When he was four months old we went to Holland, at eight months we flew to California, at one year to New Zealand and Hamilton Island, and last year back to Europe and New Zealand. And this year we are on the countdown to Europe again, this time with baby brother Felix in tow, who will be six months by the time we take off.
For a lot of people who go overseas with little kids, it’s not just the desire to have an exotic adventure with little kids but the simple need to see overseas family. I personally wouldn’t go explore a new continent with a toddler in tow, but for us a Europe or New Zealand trip means we will have grandparents, aunties and uncles waiting at the other end to help and make the trip worthwhile. Without that I would wait until babies and toddlers are a little bit bigger (six years old?) so you can actually enjoy your holiday rather than ‘survive’ an overseas trip. And also, your kids probably won’t remember much of the mammoth effort you are putting yourself through – they will be just as happy building a sandcastle at Rottnest Island instead of Lake Como 😉
But if you really want and need to go, here are a few personal tips to fly with your baby:

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1. Airline: Fly Emirates and Emirates only if you can. They are fantastic for children.
2. Timing: Take an evening flight if you go to Europe. The 10pm one to Dubai (11 hours) is brilliant. Kids are guaranteed (99% of the time…) to fall sleep when the plane takes off. Once in Dubai it’s “only” six more hours to most European cities.
3. Adjust their biological clock: The week before travel, adjust your kids sleeping pattern slightly; I stretched Oscar’s sleep out to 9pm so he was not going crazy during boarding.
4. Medication: avoid any sedatives. I looked at all the options but decided it is not worth it. They can sometimes have the opposite affect and also once you have “knocked them out” they wake up very grizzly and disorientated. Let them sleep when they want to. A bit of Panadol for kids can sometimes work well before bedtime. To deal with jetlag you could use Melatonin, but only if prescribed by a GP.
5. Hand luggage for kids: as little as possible. Emirates is great in providing kids toys, colouring books, a little kids blanket, eye pillow and kid headphones. You don’t need much if anything at all.
6. Food: again the food from Emirates for kids is fantastic. They have baby food, even nappies and wipes, they will heat your bottle and the food for the bigger kids comes out 20 minutes or so before yours so you can help and then enjoy your own meal in ‘peace’.
7. Stroller and car seats: don’t bother with a stroller or carseat, most airports have strollers and frankly it’s just a hassle. Take a baby carrier instead if you have a baby. And for the toddlers it’s much nicer to run around and stretch their legs once they are out of the plane. I did at one stage have the Skip Hop kids backpack with a rein for Oscar so he wouldn’t run off.
8. Age: if you can plan it I would avoid longhaul travel with a one year old. Babies (up until they start walking) are quite “manageable” in a plane and so are toddlers (two years plus); they can watch TV, enjoy the food, even make a friend on board. One year olds are usually the ones that you hear crying in a plane…
9. Sleep: whenever kids sleep, you should try to sleep or at least close your eyes.
10. Don’t worry: about all the looks you get from grumpy and annoyed fellow travelers. Why care about them? They might snore louder than your baby cries and you will never see them again anyway!

Safe Travels & Enjoy your Holiday!