Updated: Nov 6, 2019
So I did a 33 hour door to door trip to New Zealand with my then 4 month old , it was great. I got this , nannying for so many years I knew what I was in for and what to pack and what I will need. And it went great. ( of course it did , she was 4 months , slept the whole time, she had the flat bed, didn't need toys or entertaining ) But take her on a one hour flight from Belfast to London at 8 months old and presto , I realised I had to be on my game. Wriggle bum, throw stuff around, annoy all the passengers , kick the back of the seat, cry, yell and need constant food stuffed in face, whole different ball game. And that was just me, kidding !
But travelling with kids is fraught with disasters waiting to happen. My sister did the same trip to NZ with three kids and one got a tummy bug mid flight and vomited and pooped runny nappies that they ran out in every way ! Kind of disaster. ( I use this example as worst case scenario ) Our recent trip plane delayed 1,5 hrs , not a problem except it was 8 pm flight , so over tired baby was a real thing. But with a wee bit of crisis planning and a disaster kit ( as in pack the right things ) you can avert it.
What does come to light very quickly when travelling with children is exactly how, much you really need!! And how much you actually, need. It is easy to pack everything , and kids seem to need a lot. But in packing you can also really distil things and see how much you really need for them, and how much you just don't. Don't fall in to the trap and it is a trap of panicking and over packing , both carry on and checked bag by trying to cover all eventualities with a different thing. A lot of scenarios are similar and be covered by the same basics.
Here is a few things I learnt as a nanny and practise as a parent when travelling with my bubs.
Carry on, only take essentials and what you will cover the time you are travelling , ( that includes car time )
-If you are going across a feed time or snack or meal time, take it with you , then discard left overs and or wash out bottle. It can be used again, and again ( airports and planes are happy to steam clean a bottle or plate/bowl for you ) you can buy a bottle of water for a bottle of milk or take ready made. ( buy once you are through departures) I take powder for formula in a small divider that takes three measured portions. Get them on most pharmacies etc, god send for travelling.
- What ever they need to relax / sleep have two. For my wee one, it is two dummies, two muslins. One will get lost in the bottom of the bag at exactly the wrong moment !
- blanket, it gets cold on the flights
-Nappies ( rule of thumb for a day I do five ( and disposables, reusables too hard on a flight, who wants to carry around a soiled one in the plane )! Full pack of wipes, nappy sacks and cream. If ever they were develop nanny rash it will be then !
-Toys, I take very few , a couple of ones that either a favourite or are multi use and never small parts and or electric, talk about batteries going at the wrong time and or won't switch off ! Plus they just want to play with what ever is in the seat pocket anyway
-Medicines, calpol ( one off sachets ) teetha power ( great for calming bigger ones too ) vaseline of some sort, lips get very dry.
- Change of clothes, make them multi-use, like baby grow pjs so they can sleep or play and it's only one thing to change rather than multiple tops and bottoms. take at least 2 sets
- Snacks, bottles, juice cups, dummies, something to help pop their ears / distract them.
For older kids, who can have the attention span to watch something , forget all about talk about electronics and get headphones, and an iPad and load it up and charge it up. Take something that they have imprinted on , blanket, teddy etc , snack for older kids and a sticker book , boom happy flight.
- clothes, take things that can be worn twice or more unless filthy , cardigans/ jumpers that goes with everything. Tights that can be worn under several outfits etc. Tops and bottoms that go with other things. Take hat for sun or for cold and a good jacket to stay warm. Be practical
A lot of carriers now, if bubs is on your lap will charge you a higher rate but allow you to bring more and do more. Early boarding ! ( for free ) . For my one hour to London , I got free car seat,( checked in ) and buggy to gate. They also offered free travel cot, pushchair, double pushchair, buggy, car seat, collapsible or non-collapsible pram, booster seat and/or baby back carrier ( you can choose two items ) invaluable when packing for weight on holidays! Try to be down the back of the plane as it is closer to the loos and you will be using them more , just not so close to the galley that the air crew bustling and banging wake bubs, unless you are right up front with bassinet, happy days !
-few choice toys that keep on giving , cups that stack , shape sorter , ( for older kids puzzles are great , take out of box and in to cloth bag to save space, they can do them again and again, also crayons and colouring book / sticker book )
-Don't worry about bath toys or towels, flannels, places will have that and bath toys take up room , the stacking cups can used in bath !
-Take one or two bowls that have cutlery that go inside and or clip to top.
- toiletries, for a bubs do you really need them ?
When you need the space or the weight in a suitcase it is easy to pare down on what baby needs. Most kids are happy to be on holiday and you can find other ways of entertaining them. You don't need to bring the kitchen sink. It does make you realise that you have rather over indulged at home too , thinking you can't function with out this and that , travelling with a child is a reality check in lots of ways.
On the plane
Book a suitable time. if it a long flight, do a night one so that you at least have the hope that they will sleep. If you can afford it and this comes from the nanny side of things, book them a seat on the longer flights, anything over 2-3 hrs , even if they are under two (but over one as they won't give them a bassinet ). It gives you and them space. Its more expensive but invaluable in the long run, trust me for happy campers at the end of the journey. Try to be down the back of the plane as it is closer to the loos and you will be using them more , just not so close to the galley that the air crew bustling and banging wake bubs, unless you are right up front with bassinet, happy days !
Plan a good time if its short haul, not across their sleep time, as if they can't get comfy they will yell , and even though you should not care you will feel like every pair of eyes are on you. If it is very short haul , and you get to choose seats, have a window and an aisle , lots of people who are singles won't sit in-between so you get whole row to yourself.
Alot of carriers now, if bubs is on your lap will charge you a higher rate but allow you to bring more and do more. Early boarding ! ( for free ) . For my one hour to London , I got free car seat,( checked in ) and buggy to gate. They also offered free travel cot, pushchair, double pushchair, buggy, car seat, collapsible or non-collapsible pram, booster seat and/or baby back carrier ( you can choose two items ) invaluable when packing for weight on holidays!
Travelling with a bubs or small child doesn't have to be daunting, I promise, I have done it for 25 years . But you do have to plan for it, make the right choices and timings and bring the right stuff otherwise it can be hell , not going to lie.
Happy trails people