As expats we're used to hopping on a plane with hardly a second thought. Once you throw kids into the mix though, it all becomes a little less predictable. We've combined tips from real UAE cabin crew with insights from Dubai-based mums who've become seasoned travellers with their kids, to bring you our guide to flying with your little one:
What to take
• Start with the basics: you'll need fresh nappies and wipes, at least one or two changes of clothes for bubs (sleepsuits with a vest underneath are a handy option if you're travelling with a baby as there's no need to worry about socks etc) and food and/ or milk. Bring too much of everything in case your flight is delayed.
• Talking of food, low-mess snacks are the way to go. Baby puree pouches if you've got a wee one, mini bread sticks, carrot sticks, raisins or other dried fruits if your tot is fully weaned. Basically, stuff that isn't likely to spill or get smushed into something else is ideal. Favour disposable containers, since needing to clean and store tupperware from home adds an extra unnecessary step.
• When it comes to milk then if your child is on bottles, pack a cooler bag. You can’t bring ice packs through security, but cabin crew can fill it with ice for you once you are on the plane so you can keep bottles of milk chilled during the flight. You can also ask if they will store some of your milk in the fridge if you prefer. Although there is a limit of 100ml on all liquids going through airport security, you don't have to worry about the 100ml limit when it comes to baby milk. You'll need to point out where your milk bottles are and be aware that security may want to test the milk, but you can bring as much as you like with you. If you are breastfeeding, you should be able to feed your infant (under two) at any point during a flight, including take-off and landing, as long as you are able to keep your seatbelt and infant seatbelt on while doing so.
• Choose your luggage wisely. They may not be the most stylish option, but a rucksack really is the handiest way for you to carry yours and little one's things around, without adding a bulky shoulder bag or rolling carry-on into the mix. If you also take along a mini cross-body bag or neck pouch for passports and boarding passes, then you'll be all set!
• Also remember to bring spare clothes for you. Have you ever been thrown up on/ pooped on during a flight? It definitely happens.
• Include a couple of plastic bags in your carry-on. They're super useful if there are any accidents and you want to store wet or soiled clothes, plus they are very useful for collecting up rubbish and trying to contain the carnage that is inevitably generated when travelling with kids.
• Inside your main bag, pack a smaller wash bag or similar filled with essentials that you can tuck into the plane seat pocket - a mini pouch of wet wipes, a few nappies, maybe a dummy - so that you can easily nip to the loo or soothe little one without having to lug a huge bag or take your main bag down from the overhead locker.
• Consider bringing a baby carrier or toddler carrier, so that you can be hands-free when moving around the airport. Although DXB and some other international airports provide free strollers, these aren't always available, so the walk from the plane to immigration and baggage claim can be tricky without a carrier if it's a large airport. Or consider taking a travel stroller that can fold up into the overhead locker of a plane. The Baby Zen YoYo or the Geoby Pockit strollers are good for this. If you don't want to commit to buying a travel stroller, you can rent one from Hire4Baby.com. See more info: '17 Genius travel products every expat family needs'
• If you have a different surname from your baby you may need to bring a certified copy of his or her birth certificate. Some countries (eg the UK) will question an adult flying alone with a child that doesn't have the same surname as them.
• If you're flying with an infant (under two), make sure you request a bassinet row beforehand. Even if your baby is too long or heavy to fit in the bassinet (usually the limit is 11kg), it will give you much-needed extra space.
• Entertainment: While the in-flight TV is great entertainment for toddlers, remember that if you're in a bassinet row, you can't watch the foldable TV until the seatbelt sign is off, so there's lots of time - potentially up to an hour or more depending on how long your plane stays on the concourse - for little one to get grouchy before take-off. During this time it is also not allowed for electronics to be used, so you can't distract them with your phone or tablet. Bring a small collection of books and non-electronic activities like colouring, sticker books and flash cards to keep them occupied during this time.
During the flight
• Feeding a baby, giving them a dummy, or getting a toddler to suck on a lolly, during take off and landing will help ease any ear pain they may experience caused by the change in air pressure.
• Avoid giving your child sugar and fizzy drinks as they can cause fidgeting and more trips to the loos.
• Toilets get busy towards the end of a flight, so make sure your child has used them before the rush.
• Most airlines will stock baby food and purees in case you run out. If your child drinks cow's milk then they can also provide this if your supply runs low.
• Most airlines will let you take your child’s car seat on board; Virgin even have their own infant and child seats which you can book in advance. Check the website for specifications and information.
Real expat mums' recommendations
"While travelling or vacationing, I always carry some of my kids’ favourite toys. They not only provide familiarity and stability, but I can also use them to manage – or let’s say control! – their behaviour. I can take the toys away for bad behaviour and reward the kids with one of their toys for good behaviour." — Nisha Jain
"I download the programmes on the Netflix app and get onto BBC iPlayer well in advance of our trip and download CBeebies episodes to our iPad so we can still watch them when there’s no Wifi." — Jen Gibson
Plug ’em in
"Take headphones so you can resort to the iPad wherever you are without disturbing other people, and make sure you have an adaptor so you can plug their headphones into the aircraft socket. You can also get a dual jack so you can use two sets of headphones in one iPad – saves a whole lot of fighting!"— Rachel Stone
"For our recent flight I brought a new toy and a new book for our son so he was occupied with that during take-off and landing when he had to be seated. The rest of the flight we let him walk around and showed him the plane. At the in-laws’ house he slept in a similar cot with similar bedding he has here at home and I also brought along two of his favourite sleeping buddies, so he felt more at home. The transfer from the airport to the city took quite a long time, but I have some cartoon apps on my phone for these situations so he even started singing along. Last tip is not to show your baby you’re stressed or scared because of travelling; they sense it and will become stressed out too." — Dora Alfarra
"I relax my no-sugar rules when we fly but I try to be creative with snacks so I can still get healthy stuff in there. I’ll go somewhere like Daiso and get small, brightly coloured plastic boxes and fill them with a mix of cereal, dried fruit snacks and chocolate chips. Of course, I’ve also got the super-sized Smarties and Chupa Chups hidden in my handbag for when I need to get the big guns out!" — Anna Francis
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