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Infants and budget flightsApril 25, 2016

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Next weekend we fly again.
It’s only been a few weeks since our last trip and so the memory is fresh. Every parent hopes their child will sleep, we’ve learnt to know better. Luckily our flight is usually under the 3 hour mark, but sleep is not on his radar. Our flights with an infant are now in double digits, and our hours stuffed into the cramped seat with a child on our knees begin to tally.

We fly budget, that means no seat for the under 2’s and no hand luggage for them either, just a pushchair you leave at the door, then a spare life-vest and seatbelt placed into your overfull hands as you board. It’s worth noting that the premium seats are not always available to you either as wing seats can not be occupied by the accompanying adults, however you do get priority boarding freely if you wish to use it.

I’ve learnt a few bits that make things a touch smoother. Any time you are crammed into a small seat with a child on your knee, be it on a plane or a bus, you’ll be blessing any preparation you do.

1. Check in the car-seat early but keep the pushchair
If your child is old enough to sit in the pushchair proper then walk in with the car-seat attached and ask to check it in early. You then have a pushchair to carry your bags and sometimes your child but without the weight or restrictiveness of the car-seat.

2. If you have assigned seats board late
Originally priority boarding for families with young children ensured they could get well placed seats together, now more and more budget airlines are giving assigned seats. If your seats are set you have no benefit from getting in early, it’s actually just more time you need to limit the movement of your child.

3. Use lightly packed small hand luggage
Pop the coats overhead and keep everything else at your feet, it’s much easier to access and if you move your child will want to follow. Overstuffed bags are really hard to get items in and out of, aim to have your bag three quarters full at most. Take half a packet of wet wipes and limit the number of bulky items like nappies and spare clothes.

5. Prepare your snacks
Snack pots already prepared with familiar things are best. Pre-chopped soft fruit and other wet items are usually our favourite. The plane is dry, keep the water cup topped up and offer it regularly. Buy a bottle of water on-board if necessary. We also always buy our ‘Adult’ food in duty free because it’s both cheaper and usually comes in resealable containers.

6. Carefully select your toys
Toys are probably the hardest thing to decide upon. We are blessed with a bookworm, but fine motor skills like threading work really well too. Using phones/tablets to play games or video’s are ok but beware the sound volume will need to be high. Generally speaking noisy toys, anything bulky and things with wheels don’t work so well. 6-7 items is our usual for any journey.

7. Let them walk
Even if your child doesn’t walk unaided, or at all, walking up and down the plane is a lovely way to let them wriggle a bit and stretch your own legs that have had their weight on them. Usually fellow passages are friendly and will engage little ones well. Free entertainment score!

8. Use free seats
This one is cheeky but worth doing. If you notice a row of free seats near you move there with your child. Other passengers often try to do this to lay down for sleep. If you are bold you can ask the staff if there are free rows of seats or if you are sharing a row you can hint to the other occupants and they may move instead!

9. Use the window
Isle side for movement or window side can be a close call if it’s just 2 or you travelling. Window side is better for the toddler as the view will usually fascinate them during take-off and landing when they are strapped in place. It’s also better for breastfeeding and more protective for a tiny one. That said, night flights and new walkers will probably be better isle side so they can easily stretch their legs.

10. Play the infant card
Lots of places have provisions and wavers for small children. Some airports have family friendly waiting areas with carpet and toys, some cultures wave parents with young children to the front of lines in both retail and customs. If asked politely most travellers will be happy to add 30 seconds to their journey to let you through. While it can feel awkward you need to swallow your hesitations and just gush appreciation.

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