Just like with our first experience of travelling with our newborn, our first experience of air travel with our baby gave us mixed feelings. Excitement at the fact that she would be going on her first flight, but nerves at how it would go.
Normally I love air travel and airports (even those early morning flights). I love getting there and sitting in departures, people watching with a coffee in hand. Getting on board and listening to some great music to get me in the mood to travel.
It was not quite like that this time round however.
I now realise why most family travellers get to the airport 3 hours before their flight.
For reference we took this flight before the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown, and when our baby was 5 months old.
Pre trip planning
I am known to be the most unplanned traveller. I’ll pack a day or so before and as long as I have my passport and some money or bank cards then I know I will be fine.
My husband on the other hand is a super planner, overpacker and mega organised. So between us we make travelling work.
Following on from our first road trip with our then 7 week old, and our long trip to Northern Ireland for Christmas, we have pretty much sussed what sort of stuff we need on a day to day basis when travelling with a baby.
At the airport
When you become a parent, you suddenly have access to some great perks, for example parent and child parking.
The same goes with travelling.
Some perks include dedicated family check ins, a family/assistance line for security, and getting to board the plane first (though we missed boarding first as had to deal with a nappy change first).
The other great thing is that some airports will have dedicated family security lines. They do at London Gatwick Airport, as well as Heathrow, which is fab as they have wider gates to scan you through (great for the pram/stroller) and generally the whole process is a lot quicker.
Each airline is different, but when travelling with a baby you are normally allowed to check on 2 items of additional luggage such as a stroller, pram, car seat or travel cot. You can then have hand luggage or an extra check in luggage if you need to. This was the case with us flying with British Airways.
Each airline also charges different fares for flights. For some it could be a percentage of the adult fare, whilst others such as EasyJet are a flat fee of £25 each way (a little annoying, especially when you find an adult fare for £19 for example). Always best to do your research in any case.
When we had unloaded the car onto a trolley at the airport, I had to laugh – the amount of stuff we had, looked like we were going on a month long trip not 4 days!
Baby milk allowances
I was a little worried about milk allowances prior to flying and so had to do a little bit of research. Turns out you can take quite a bit on board.
As I am still expressing breastmilk for my baby to drink, I needed to take on board what she would need to feed,
With breastmilk you can take in containers up to 2 litres, which is a fair bit. However, not needed in our case as once expressed, breastmilk is good for 6 hours without being in a fridge.
You are also not allowed to pack them in a cool bag with ice packs to keep them cold on board, as we normally would when travelling. We therefore decided to feed before we left, then take a feed in a cool bag, later left in the car at the airport and feed within 2 hours, then express on the go with the Elvie pump.
The downside to this for me was that I normally have a bigger stash in the fridge and am a few feeds ahead, so we had to take a few bottles of pre-made formula on top instead, which was also allowed, and can be purchased once through security also.
Before you board
Before boarding a flight, I would often wander around the shops, grab some food or drinks and use the toilet. This time round I was busy trying to keep a rather active baby entertained, whilst my hubby ran to Boots to grab a sandwich meal deal for us to eat later.
Before boarding I’d definately recommend using the baby change room to change your baby.
However we ended up changing our baby several times before our returning flight due to a poo explosion at check in (resulting in a repack of cases on the terminal floor).
Also, our experience of using the baby change station on the plane wasn’t as bad as what I was expecting.
What to take on board
What to take on board will vary depending on the age of your baby. Our baby is quite an active little thing and needs to be kept busy, so we had brought a small selection of toys on board, which mostly kept her entertained. That and flirting with all the cabin crew with her cute smile.
One thing I did worry about was the cabin pressure change and whether our baby would be ok with it. In the past the suggestion was to feed on take off and before landing, but apparently that is not reccommended now (perhaps as not 100% safe if directly breastfeeding). So we offered our baby a dummy (pacifier) which she takes well and this did the trick.
Our flying experience
Overall, our experience of flying with a baby was postiive. She was a little agitated every now and again as she had to stay sitting in one place for some time, rather than be able to move around, but managed to sleep pn board and charmed the pants off the crew members.
The experience certainly did not put us off flying. However, in the current climate witha global pandemic, it sadly may not be for a while. However, we are so glad that we were able to achieve this little milestone with our mini explorer.