Carrie is a British ex flight attendant who used to be based in Dubai. Twelve years later, she married an Australian and they continue to travel frequently with their toddler daughter. She provides helpful advice to parents flying with young children via her blog flyingwithababy.com.
1) Plan ahead before you even book your flight
Your biggest concern may well be how will your little one sleep in the unfamiliar environment of an aircraft? Different airlines have different sized bassinets which vary in either age restriction or weight restriction and even these vary on some aircraft types. As a guideline, many airlines put an age limit of approximately 6 months, but others including Qantas and British Airways allow up to 18 months/ 2 years respectively. (www.flyingwithababy.com compares many airlines bassinets restrictions in a convenient chart). Check which airline best suits your needs if this is a priority.
2) Pack a baby carrier in your hand luggage
Whether you decide to check your stroller in at check-in or at the aircraft door, a baby carrier is invaluable. Not only keeping you hands free for boarding the aircraft, but also for when disembarking and that long walk to baggage reclaim. Some airlines do bring your pushchair to the gate on arrival, but this does vary with each airline and even each airport. Furthermore some airlines provide courtesy strollers in their base terminal including Emirates in Dubai and Qatar Airways in Doha.
3) Pack extra baby food and milk for the entire journey
Delays are unfortunately commonplace, and there is nothing worse than having to hunt for baby food in a transit airport. . Remember, some countries such as the UK also have regulations which require baby food, milk, and water to be tested at security. Pack a little extra to cover all eventualities.
4) Choose the best seats
Several airlines, including British Airways and Emirates, allow you to choose your seats online as soon as you have booked your flight. Bassinet seats are at bulkheads. Check www.seatguru.com for your aircraft type (verify if need be with the aircraft type map on your airlines website) and this shows all the pros and cons of every seat. I find that if there are two of you travelling with an infant on a wide body aircraft with a 3-4-3 configuration, then the two seats in the ‘4’section either DE or FG are the best. These mean you do not have to climb over anyone or have anyone climbing over you.
5) If you have a crawling or walking baby, board last
Although many airlines provide priority boarding for parents, I recommend that only one parent boards first with all the baby gear. This enables you to secure space in the overhead locker whilst the other parent can let baby crawl and walk up to the last minute, before being confined to the limited space on an airplane.
6) Bring along some entertainment
For baby that is! For a younger baby, a favourite toy or familiar blanket helps to settle them. For an older baby or toddler, small toys wrapped up and handed out individually, help to entertain a little longer. Stickers and small packets if raisins, also keep little fingers busy. You can also download free apps. There are some great free Fisher Price apps for babies 6 months and older, including the Laugh and Learn collection. BBC iplayer allows you to download Cbeebies shows free from the UK and watch them within a month. However, once you have started to watch an episode, you have 48 hours to finish. And if that all sounds like it will only entertain your little one for 5 minutes, consider booking Gulf Air or Etihad Airlines who provide a free sky nanny in all classes!