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Flight Of Fancy: How Fathers Can Survive Plane Travel With A Baby


When I was a younger man, I was one of the masses that would roll their eyes when I saw a parent lurching through the aisle of my flight with babies and toddlers in tow.

“Great, it always happens to me,” I would mutter, as I stuffed my headphones in and pulled the hood of my jacket over my head. Oh, how things have changed.

Now, I am a father of two children under four — beautiful little boys who love trucks, trains and cause as much chaos as humanly possible at the slightest hint of provocation.

I’d often walk down the aisle of a red-eye flight back home to visit family, baby and toddler in tow. I knew it was going to be a challenge, and to survive a flight with two energetic young gents under four, I needed to employ every trick in the book.

But here are some tips I learned to navigate the skies with my little ones by my side.

The safest seat in the house

Where you are going to park your little ones on the trip will become one of the most important decisions you will make prior to take-off.

First of all, getting free tickets for children under the age of two is fantastic, but are you really prepared to fly the entire time with them sitting on your lap?

One thing that you might not know, is that you can actually pay for a seat for your infant. If they can sit upright, you can tuck them in next to you to prevent the wriggling and writhing on your lap. However, if your child is unable to sit upright — or you are looking for that added safety — you can purchase a seat and put a child restraint on it.

There are several Britax Safe-n-Sound products — like the Millenia™ child seat and the Unity™ ISOFIX compatible baby capsule— that are designed with travel in mind. Your young ones will have all the familiar comfort and smells of a traditional car ride, and they might even fall asleep for the duration of the trip.

Entertaining ideas

Most airlines provide entertainment options, but there is no guarantee that these are going to keep your children occupied. I recommend pre-planning and loading up their backpack with fail-proof options.

There is no hard and fast rule here, as only you know what is going to keep your children happy. But remember, space is confined, so things like Lego might not be a great idea if little parts start to hit the floor.

  • Colouring in and Playdoh are good options, as they can easily rest on the tray table, and you can even put together a little craft project for toddlers to build on the journey.
  • Interactive books (preferably with stickers, not noises) are another crowd-pleaser, especially when they are suited to your little one's interests. You can even take this a step further by getting books about the plane or your destination to help get them excited about the trip.
  • If you are travelling with a baby, be sure to pack their favourite comfort toy(s), like their teddy or blanket — that little bit of security for them can make all the difference.
  • If all else fails, the trusty iPad is a handy tool to keep in reserve. Before you leave, ensure it is loaded with their favourite shows and apps — it could be the perfect way to halt a tantrum.

Air pressure

Adults can easily adjust to changing air pressure as ears will 'pop' when the Eustachian tubes that connect the ears to the nasal passage adapt naturally. Children, though, have more narrow Eustachian tubes and this adjustment may not come as easily, causing pain.

This can be agonising for a parent (and the passengers around them), not just the child. But there are simple techniques you can employ to help get those tubes moving and end the pain.

Sucking on a lolly (sugar-free is best) can promote the opening of these tubes, so maybe give them one to work on for take-off and landing. Alternatively, you can teach toddlers the trick to force open the tubes (close off your nostrils and mouth and try to push air out of your nose).

Another thing to consider is illness. If your little one is battling a cold, a children's inhaler will be your best friend to help keep those passageways clear, as well as plenty of water in the lead-up and on the flight.

Food for thought

When it comes to packing tucker for the little ones, refer back to the Lego principle—you don't want anything that has small parts and can tumble to the floor.

Being pragmatic with food is important or there is going to be crumbs scattered all through your seats. Anything loaded with sugar is also a no-no, as the last thing you want is hyperactive little ones in a confined space (trust me, I learned that the hard way).

Simple treats like muesli bars, sliced veggies (carrots, celery etc.) and cheese sticks are reasonably safe options.

Your survival kit

Whether it is a short trip up the coast, or a multi-legged journey that requires changeovers, you are going to need a survival bag packed with all of the essentials.

Little ones can have all manner of ‘whoopsies’, from soiling themselves, throwing up, or sneezing volumes of gooey substances. Your survival kit should include plenty of wipes and spare nappies, changes of clothes, reserve water bottles, formula or milk if required, any medications the child may be on, a spare mini towel and a spare blanket.

Be prepared though, and check the size of your survival bag against your airline's carry on regulations. The last thing you want is all of your vital tools stowed under the plane, where they will be no help at all.

Travelling with children doesn't have to be arduous, it just has to be meticulously planned. And if you pack for every contingency, you can almost be guaranteed smooth sailing.

Did you know?

Britax are launching their first ultra-lightweight stroller Holiday™ — the jet-setter’s choice of wheels!  This stroller is perfect for carrying on-board as it fits into overhead lockers.  Hello Holiday™ — just in time for Christmas/summer vacays!