Seeing that I am an over-planner, I’ll also share my tips for flying with children with you to make your life easier.
Everything you need to know about flying with children:
As any mother knows, a trip with children doesn't just start on the day. It starts a week before. You need to make a packing list, make sure the laundry is up to date so that the items you want to pack are clean and ready, then you need to gather the suitcases and start packing, while a tiny human keeps reaching into the bag and taking things out.
Why is my house a mess even tho I’m only leaving next week? Because packing with kids is a challenge.
For hand luggage you'll want a soft structured backpack you can put on to have your hands free to manage your baby or toddler. The more free hands to carry your toddler and block them taking things from convenience stands the better.
In your backpack you'll need a change of clothes for your child, diapers, wipes, diaper disposal bags, wet face and hand cloth, sippy cup with water, snacks that make minimal mess (Isn't this what all mothers want?), toys that doesn't make sounds because we don't want to bother the other passengers, a blanket, your child’s ticket, birth certificate and your ID.
If you have a baby carrier to carry your baby in on you, that would be ideal and make your life much easier.
Alternatively, you can take your child’s infant seat or stroller up to the plane if you’ve checked it in beforehand as fragile and received the tagg. You leave it at the front and they’ll load it for you.
When packing my daughter’s travel bag, I always think, “will I be able to survive for a couple hours with only these items if something doesn't go as planned?”. Then I know if I’ve packed all the essentials.
Dress your child in various layers of clothes that can be removed once aboard if it's too hot. Rather have a child that's too hot before boarding than having a shivering child during the flight.
Convenience and privacy can always be of concern when a mother is breastfeeding, as some prefer a bit more privacy.
Flying with a breastfeeding child;
Since my girl is easily distracted, I always prefer to nurse her in the car before we get out to go. Alternatively, you can nurse your little one at any restaurant after checking in. There are changing rooms at airports but sadly most of them don't have comfortable nursing chairs if you prefer privacy.
Booking a window seat may also be more comfortable for you, that way you have the view from the window to entertain your child.
Children often cry due to the pressure change during takeoff and landing and it's advised to have them suck on something. If you're a breastfeeding mother, you can latch your baby for a nursing session or offer a bottle of expressed breastmilk.
If you're not nursing, you can offer a dummy, bottle, your pinky of if your child is older you can give her a lollipop.
Getting some saline nose spray from your pharmacy to spray in their nose during take off has also been said to help.
If you are concerned that your breastfeeding baby wouldn't want to nurse during takeoff, you can consider holding off on feeding them immediately before you know you’ll be boarding and distract them with a toy.
For example if you are standing in the cue to board and you know it's only a couple of minutes, having a fussy baby for a little while might be better than having them experience ear pain during takeoff because they were too full to want to nurse.
It's important to be mindful of how sensitive babies are of changes in schedules and surroundings. If your little one experiences a nursing strike during the trip or after reaching the destination, it's important to identify and address it quickly.
If your baby becomes upset during the flight or starts to cry, you can get up to rock her. The other passengers will likely be less bothered by you rocking her than having her cry the whole flight.
Planes also have changing facilities if your little one needs a diaper change.
Flying with expressed breastmilk:
For domestic flights, you are allowed to fly with expressed breastmilk with little to no restrictions. Mothers usually take their breastpumps and expressed breastmilk as hand luggage.
You can use a small cooler box with ice bricks to keep your milk cold. Freshly expressed breastmilk can be kept at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours and in a cooler box with ice bricks for 24h.
If frozen breastmilk starts to thaw, it can be refrozen if the core is still frozen or if it is completely thawed, it needs to be used within 24h.
Breastmilk should be packaged in clear plastic resealable bags and clearly marked as human milk. As far as I could determine, there is no limit to how much milk you can transport on domestic flights.
International flights are more strict and each airline and country can have specific requirements e.g. maximum 1 liter of expressed milk and only if travelling with your infant etc.
It would be best to phone the airline before hand and possibly getting it in writing. Especially for mothers traveling Internationally for work, having to pump for days to keep their supply up.
Keeping a toddler entertained on a plane:
As children become older it gets more difficult to keep them entertained for longer periods. Especially when they can't run around and explore.
While they are infants, they mostly fall asleep while nursing during takeoff and sleep through the flight but toddlers, not so much.
If your child is over 2 years of age, limited screen time can be incorporated to keep them occupied.
Books are a wonderful option, especially interactive books with flaps to lift and different textures to feel. There are wonderful mom owned craft companies that make “quiet books” out of felt to keep little ones entertained.
Puzzles are also great, just remember to count the pieces to be sure none go missing on the plane ride.
Colouring books and crayons can provide lots of fun, especially when mom joins in and draws some pictures for your child to colour in.
These are just a couple of suggestions for keeping toddlers entertained.