I think we can all agree that airplane journeys with babies and toddlers can be, well, just a little bit stressful. But before you hit the panic button, check out our beginners guide to flying with kids for some top expert tips...
For years - and more flights than I can name - I watched with alarm as mothers and fathers walking menacingly towards me down the aisle carrying squirming infants and praying to God they didn't sit near me.
Unfortunately, at the moment there is no chance of escape, as the man headed my way is my husband and the baby he’s clutching is mine.
Thus, rather than a much anticipated break from my mobile, or a chance to catch up on my kindle, air travel is something I now approach with dread.
But I have discovered that with careful planning and research, there are ways to make this often harried and hassled experience into something closer to pleasant (yes, really!).
Here's my beginners guide to flying with children... If you can coordinate flight time with nap time, do it! (Credit: Getty)
Timing is Everything
Angela Enel, founder of The Air Nanny - a specialised chaperone service that flies with hundreds of babies each year - says: “All flights whether long or short haul can be daunting, so plan your flight in the most preferable time slots that can well cater for the baby’s routine.” In other words, even if it costs more, try and avoid times where there are likely to be extra cranky.
Preparation is Key
Whereas pre-kids, you probably put little-to-no thought into your time on the plane, Angela Enel recommends that you seriously consider how you'll spend your time in the air when you're travelling with little ones. “Plan ahead lots of different activities to make the travel time pass more quickly: sticker books, cards, invisible markers, snacks and their favourite toys," she advises. "A blanket from home will comfort your child as well as keep them warm if it gets chilly and have essentials stored in the pockets and under the chair." Meanwhile, wellbeing Expert Akcelina Cvijetic - who counts quite a few frequent fliers amongst her storied client list - told me: "Talk to your toddlers about the flight ahead of time. Read picture books and watch a film about airplanes to prepare them for the experience and inoculate against anxiety before you take off.”
Bring plenty of distractions with you! (Credit: Getty)
Get up and Go
Forget settling into your plane seat for a snooze, Angela Enel recommends you do the exact opposite: “Go for regular walks with your toddler down the aisle; this will keep them distracted and help to prevent boredom.” Also a good idea if you’re looking to prevent the dreaded seat kicking and table opening/closing that tends to occur whenever a restless toddler has sat for too long.
Yes, I know, this sounds unlikeyly - but the calmer you are, the calmer your child is likely to be. To help get you in a zen-like zone, Akcelina Cvijetic recommends you take a supplement pre-flight that promotes calm, such as Nutri Advanced MegaMag Camleze. It mixes easily into water or juice to make a refreshing, easily digested-drink. And it’s not just you that needs to relax, Akcelina adds: ‘It’s important to relax your child as well. Speak in soothing tones as much as possible to your little ones as this will have a pacifying effect and breathe slowly, deeply and gently to reduce your stress or anxiety levels and induce more calm in your children."
Talk to your children about flying before you set off (Credit: Getty)
And if all else fails... there’s always ‘The Hold'
If you've never heard of 'The Hold' this is about to change your life! Akcelina Cvijetic explains: “If your baby gets distressed in flight practice a highly effective technique The Hold: Take your baby into your arms and hold at a 45-degree angle. Next fold and secure their arms across their chest with your non-dominant hand supporting their chin. With your dominant hand grasp their bum and start rocking them gently up and down, left to right. This should calm your baby in 15 seconds.”
Still not quite sure how to do it? Then check out the video below...
Additionally, after much trial and erro, here are my three top tips for making air travel with children as easy as possible...
Kids may be small but they come with A LOT of baggage! (Credit: Getty)
Children may be small, but as all mum's know, they come with A LOT of baggage. If you want to avoid the extra weight in your luggage, order everything you need online from Boots and have it delivered airside at the airport Boots. Formula, baby sunscreen, baby shampoo, teething gel, these liquids can add a fair bit of heft to your suitcase. This way you can go through check-in and security minus all my heavy bottles and instead neatly pick them up just before you got on the plane. A genius idea that has personally saved me so much hassle and works like a charm. Just make sure you place your order at least a week before flying to make sure it’s waiting for you when you get there!
Silence is Golden
Your baby will hate the noise on the plane. The Magic Mitten Hush Little Baby is the first ever, handheld baby calming aid that plays white noise at a safe volume level, that only your baby can hear. Once in the air you can hold your baby while holding the Magic Mitten next to baby’s ear. Three sound options, including mother's heartbeat, ocean waves and rain on a tin roof.
Car seat to buggy in seconds (Credit: Getty)
Convertible Car Seat
You have to take a car seat to get to the airport – but what do you do with it once there? The world’s first car seat with wheels, Doona Car Seat Stroller, transforms from a car seat to stroller in less than 10 seconds. I am IN LOVE with mine - it is light and a lifesaver. At £299, it's not cheap (although you may well be able to pick up a second-hand one for much cheaper!) - but it works for children up to 13kgs, is FAA approved, and in my opinion well worth the investment if you're planning to travel a fair bit.
It'll all be worth it once you get there (Credit: Getty)
And finally, I have learned that it’s always a good thing to talk openly with your toddler about your holiday destination and how much fun is in store. Engage them and their imaginations throughout the flight so that they are as excited as you are.
And if your little one is too small to understand what you’re saying, they will certainly feel it and react when your stress levels rise - so above all, keep calm and focus on the sunshine and margaritas waiting for you when you land!