We have all been there- single, foot loose and fancy free, sitting on a plane with an empty seat next to us and a mother approaches with babe in arms. We hold our breath and when she passes us by we exhale in relief. Phew!
Fast forward a few years later and now as moms, we are that woman walking down the aisle striking fear in the hearts of fellow passengers as our baby wails and our toddler tries to open the emergency exit door. We give preemptive apologetic smiles to the passengers around us, scramble for our phones to entertain them, soothers, bottles and boobs for them to devour, forbidden treats to bribe them with- anything to avoid the dreaded stuck on a plane with a screaming child meltdown scenario.
After years of travelling with two kids from the newborn to toddler stage across the world multiple times a year, I am going to share my top momma travel tips with you.
Take one bag and one bag only
And make sure it is a backpack. This makes travelling with kids so much easier! When you are trying to wrangle a little person or little people dragging a bag or multiple bags through an airport as well is really challenging. If you can get a large backpack with plenty of sections and pockets it means everything is organised, in separate compartments and most importantly in one place. try to get a backpack with a zip and opening at the bottom so you don’t have to pull everything out to get to the items down low. One backpack and a small handbag for passports and valuables that you can wear across your chest is the key to breezy travel.
Sling it or Push it
Slings and baby carriers are a travelling families saviour- put your backpack on your back and strap that baby to the front! This means hands-free travel, a baby who will probably sleep more and feel safe and secure next to you. Being able to hold your toddlers hand while getting through airports without also having to hold baby on the other is a massive save in energy.
Carriers are so great for walking baby up and down the aisles of the plane when they are bored or you want to get them to sleep- there may also be an added unspoken benefit of your little one being less of a flight risk by being strapped to you too!
Buggies are also a great option for travel and can be brought right up to the gate. I usually travel with my toddler in a buggy, my baby on my front and our one bag on my back, or hanging off the buggy.
Some airports especially outside of Europe in Asia and the Middle East will provide buggies- just ask before you travel. Otherwise, a simple pushchair that can be folded down with one foot is essential. A bulky travel system is not your friend!
Pack in sections
Did someone say Zip Lock!? The travelling mommies friend. I pack my kids outfits in these and when I take off a soiled or dirty outfit it goes back in the ziplock. Nappies are down the bottom of my backpack that I can access from the bottom opening.
Medium size wipes, nappy change cream, disposable nappy change mats and biodegradable nappy waste bags are all in a large zip lock (you can get these little biodegradable nappy waste bags in Tesco) and I always put a bottle of hand sanitizer in there too.
Pacifiers are kept in zip locks in the side pockets. All treats and snacks are in a ziplock and toys too. I also keep a (small) section for myself too with make-up, my kindle etc. Gone are the days of a rolling suitcase full of my own beloved travel items!
Pack by the hour
Bring one nappy per hour, per child and a few extra for emergencies, bring 1 babygrow or outfit change for every 2-3 hours flying. Bring 2 small snacks for each child for each hour of flying. Bring an outfit change for yourself as well! Anyone else had to sit on a flight for 8 hours with baby poo all over your cream leggings? You’ll only do it once!
- Bring brand new toys that your kids have never seen before- this is essential for getting them engaged for some time with something new.
- Toys that do not have lots of little pieces are a good option (nothing like scrambling under the seats to find jigsaw pieces or connect 4 discs!)
- Disposable changing mats are a godsend when travelling. The thought of putting a changing mat that has been on a plane changing table back into my baby bag gives me the heebie jeebies!
- Bring antiseptic wipes. Planes are grubby and grotty and rarely cleaned properly, keep your kids safer from picking up viruses and colds by wiping any surfaces they will be touching with antiseptic wipes- tray table, seat arms, tv screen etc. Also keep hand sanitizer readily available for post bathroom trips and before eating.
- Breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby on take-off and landing to help with ear pain and pressure. For bigger kids it is a good time to bring out something they can suck on like a lozenge or pacifier.
- Bring a large muslin wrap for keeping babies warm and cozy. Planes are often either too cold or too warm and muslin is the perfect fabric for these fluctuations in temperature.
- Ask as you check in for the seats with the extra room and the baby bassinets- also ask for them to block seats next to you. This means that these seats will not be given to other passengers unless the airline has no other seats and your baby may be able to get a lie down!
- For long haul with small babies bring your cocoonababy or sleepy head type sleep pods. You can put these on your lap or the tray table in front of you (make sure baby is securely tied in and you are holding the side of the pod) to give your arms a break. Babies will also appreciate the familiarity of their own bed- if your sleep pod doesn’t have a bag with a strap that means you can carry it over your shoulder get one made or buy one.
- Don’t shy away from a pair of toddler reins or a backpack with reins on it for peace of mind at busy airports.
- If your baby is formula fed consider bringing the ready made bottles of formula instead of powdered just for the flights. You can travel through security with expressed milk, regular milk or formula.
- If you are travelling to mainland Europe pack plenty of nappies in your main luggage which are surprisingly expensive in places like Spain and Portugal
- For toddlers on a long haul consider noise-canceling headphones to block out announcements and general noise when they are sleeping
- For bigger kids bring their favourite soft toy or blanky. Travel can be stressful for kids too and small comforts like this can be really reassuring for little people.
- Find the playroom at the airport! Most of the larger airports have them and for long waits between flights, these are a great relief for parents.
Bring your car seat with you! You can never be too safe when travelling- the airline are obliged to check in any baby travel equipment and some will even let you bring your car seat onboard. Travelling by taxi or car hire overseas on unfamiliar roads means car seats are even more important than ever. Request that your car seat is walked to the plane by an airline employee and not put on the conveyor luggage belt. Car seats that sustain bumps are less effective- also request a fragile sticker.
Relax and Ask for Help
Everybody has been a baby, knows a baby or has a baby- no exceptions! 99% of people are friendly and understanding of parents travelling. You don’t need to apologise for your child being a child or your baby being a baby. You have a right to get to your destination without any judgement and the more you worry about it the more stress your kids will pick up on. Relax, try to get them excited about travelling and always ask for help from people nearby and airline staff. Most people are very happy to help and support a mom or dad travelling with kids. Enjoy the journey!