Who better than flight attendants to give advice about flying with babies and young children?
Lori Poon and Anu Bhardwaj have over 60 years of flying experience under their belts and have both travelled extensively with their own children. From having babies spew purple grape juice on their uniforms to calming down a distressed mom by serving her wine in a toddler’s sippy cup (so it wouldn’t spill), there is little these women haven’t dealt with when it comes to family air travel.
So what’s their most important piece of advice?
“Don’t stress,” says Anu. “Remember that this is just a small moment in a big lifetime.”
Lori echoes this sentiment, saying: “Try to relax as much as possible; children can sense when you’re panicked.”
These are words of wisdom I certainly didn’t heed myself. It was with sweaty palms and a deep sense of dread that I boarded my first flight with my six-month-old. What if he cried the entire time? The whole plane would hate us. As he got older and my daughter came along, there were even more worries. What if he had a temper tantrum while she was crying? Everyone on the plane would judge. But we muddled through, and so will you.
Perhaps the first piece of advice to stay relaxed might be as impossible for you to follow as it was for me, but the rest of these flight attendants’ tips are guaranteed to make your flight with kids as smooth as possible.
1. Check your stroller at the gate.
“That way you can hang on to it for as long as possible, which can be a lifesaver if there’s a delay,” says Anu.
2. Let young kids run around to let off steam before getting on the flight.
“You don’t necessarily have to preboard,” says Lori. “If you’re travelling with another adult, consider having one go on the aircraft first with all the luggage and the other board with the kids later.”
3. Buy an airline approved restraining device.
For children who are old enough to be in their own seats, Anu recommends CARES Harness, which is a shoulder harness that wraps around the seat to keep kids secure.
4. Nurse or bottle-feed babies during take off and landing to relieve ear pressure.
Lollipops work well for toddlers. “And it’s OK if they cry at this time,” says Anu. “It will actually help their ears.”
5. Bring a change of clothes for your baby or child AND for yourself.
Be sure to include extra undies for your child, too. And if you’re going on a beach vacation, bring bathing suits, flip flops and a small sunscreen in case your luggage is delayed.
6. For toddlers, try not to let them discover the aisle.
Put them by a window, and try to distract them. “Once they find the aisle, they won’t want to come back to their seats, and you’ll be chasing them the entire time,” Lori says.
7. Restrict liquids somewhat and avoid sugary drinks
(especially bright purple juice that can stain a flight attendant’s uniform).
8. Remember all medications.
Anu’s first aid bag when travelling with her son included: Advil, Benadryl, Gravol, sanitizer, puffers and a mini hot water bottle. “On almost every flight, I’m asked for children’s Tylenol,” Lori says. “And I can’t provide it.” Keep in mind that carry-on liquid restrictions apply to meds as well, and ensure that you have a way to dispense it (i.e. a dropper or a plastic spoon).
9. Pack a small washcloth as well as wipes.
You never know how many messes you’ll have to clean up.
10. Carry documentation for your child
(including a consent letter documentation if you’re travelling outside the country without your partner).
11. Book direct flights if at all possible.
It’s easier on their ears as the effects of air pressure are cumulative.
And one final tip? “Warn kids about the loud flush!”