I am a member of a few groups which are for mothers with young children and one of the most frequently asked questions is about travel.
Questions about mothers travelling alone with their child(ren), what to do to keep them entertained, what to expect for food, about sleep and about many other things. Here are a few tips and tricks.
- Children under two years do not get a seat on the aircraft. For short journeys of an hour or two, it is manageable to keep the kids on the lap. But when it comes to long journeys (international ones), ask for a bassinet seat while booking tickets and remember to ask them while checking in too. The bassinet is a life saver.
- Food – If the baby is below six months and exclusively breastfed, you have nothing to worry. Just learn how to nurse in public and you will be fine. For babies on formula, the crew will be able to help you with hot water to mix the formula, but please do carry your own as well, as you will need your own supply when waiting in the airport. For older babies and longer journeys, request for a low salt meal for the baby. Baby food that you get in the aircraft in general is just bottled pureed food. Also, be prepared with snacks like fruits and homemade stuff.
- When the question of food arises, the question of what is allowed to be carried arises too. Food in general is not a problem in any airport. Most airports will not allow you to carry liquids though. That said, I should say I have managed to sneak in soy-milk tetra-packs in hand baggage past security in eight different airports in India and abroad, without being questioned. In case of special needs like allergies, and if you need to carry your own food and drink, then getting a letter from a doctor will help.
- Always remember to carry small bottles of medicines that are for emergencies. Like for example a bottle of paracetamol can be a life saver at times. Also for children with allergies, you are allowed to carry your anti-histamine, epi-pen with the doctor’s prescription on board.
- Bring enough change of clothes and nappies and wipes for young children in your hand baggage. An extra blanket will be of help too, as they hardly have blankets on domestic sectors and sometimes the aircraft is too cold.
- Carry something the child likes – like a toy, a book, a small puzzle – something to keep the child entertained. You might need to walk up and down the aisle to keep your child entertained, that is ok!
- Feed the baby during takeoff and landing – This is to ease the discomfort in the baby’s ears.
- Most airports have a feeding / changing room for children. Just ask the staff for it.
- Some international airports like Dubai have strollers that you can borrow for your children to use when in transit.
- Babywearing helps! Invest on a good ergonomic sling. When you Babywear, your hands are free to carry luggage, push the trolley, etc.
- Travel as light as possible.
- If you have a choice, pick a flight, which suits your time – sleep time, nap time, feeding time, etc…
Some things I said for air travel, go for train travel too.
- Train tickets are for children over five years old, till there is no separate seat / berth for a child. I tend to get a separate ticket for my children on chair cars, even though they weren’t five years old just to make life easy.
- Carry your own food, water and plenty of snacks. Do not depend on train / railway station food for obvious reasons. Carry less messy food – like homemade cookies, rotis, etc as opposed to rice.
- Carry plenty of change of clothes and nappies and wipes for children.
- Carry a toy, book, puzzle, etc to keep them entertained. If all else fails, walking around with the baby will help.
- Carry medicines needed for the baby. Most stations will not have a medical shop in case of an emergency.
- Babywearing helps here again! Whether it is getting the baby to sleep or keeping the baby calm or keeping the hands free for luggage, it is great if you can wear your baby.
- Travel light is the mantra once again!
- If you are travelling by bus, the same tips as those for trains work. See what works for you. I prefered night journeys because it was easy for me to get into the bus and fall asleep with the kids and reach early in the mornings. For some, it is comfortable to travel during the day.
- By car – this is always a luxury for me. I can stop anywhere I want! If it is on a known highway, I would know the stops where I can get decent food for me and kids. I would still get all food and snacks for kids from home.
- Safety is a big issue, as much as possible do not put kids on the front seat. If possible use a car seat/booster seat for babies with seat belts.
- For slightly older children, taking a break in a roadside park for a few minutes helps them to calm down and enjoy the rest of the journey as it is not possible to walk around with the children like in other modes of transport.
Other than the above, while travelling with young children, remember to bring in mosquito repellants, requirements specific to your babies or the regions that you are travelling to as well. For example, if you are going to a resort with a pool and you are thinking of bringing the baby to the pool, swim nappies are a must. For formula fed babies, extra tins of formula is important, just in case you don’t find it where you are.
If going on a holiday –
- Plan on child friendly vacation spots or resorts.
- Inquire if they have a special meal deal for children or if food can be made on request for children.
- Look out for parks and play areas in the neighbourhood.
- Always plan for some free time or play time for children.
- Do not plan way too many things – children need their down time too.
- Be prepared to cancel out on things on your list if the children get grumpy.
- Pack a separate bag for slightly older children that they can carry with a notebook, some colouring pencils, crayons, a small soft toy or a toy of their choice, a blanket, some snack and water/juice. Let the little one carry it, makes them feel important and at any point of time they know they have things that will keep them entertained.