Flying with a baby
If you live in or visit Dubai with a baby there’s a very high chance you will , at some point, travel by plane with a baby or toddler.
Mum was very daunted with the prospect of our first flight when I was 4 months old, especially as Dad wasn’t flying with us to help out. Since that first flight Mum and I have had plenty of practice (a total of 10 different flights, 4 airlines, 4 countries, and 7 airports in my 13 months) and we consider ourselves qualified to offer some handy tips we picked up along the way.
Travelling with me as a 4 month old was, according to Mum, a lot easier than when I got older. The key to travelling with a baby is being prepared, more so if there’s only one adult.
Research the airline you’ll be using in terms of luggage and seating . You will need to find out your total luggage allowance for the adult (s) and if any extra is allowed for the infant. Are you restricted by the number of pieces as well as the total kg? (Fly with Emirates and you can check in several bags up to your total allowance, fly with BA and it’s one bag per person). Are you allowed to take a stroller AND a car seat as additional items to your checked in luggage allowance or do these have to be checked in as part of the weight allowance? Or do you need to choose either a car seat OR a stroller if you’ve used your full luggage allowance (as we found out with Emirates). Find out if you can get a bassinet seat and if your baby is too old or heavy to use it. Even if they are, it’s worth having a bassinet seat if you can for the extra leg room which you’ll certainly need with a baby on your lap, unless of course you pay for an additional seat for them. In my opinion, up until the age of at least one, this is not worth doing as if your baby is anything like me, they will just wriggle out of it anyway. You can buy an extra seat and bring a car seat that fits the airline’s specification (which is normally very strict and often does not include rear facing seats – which most infant seats are) but this seems a lot of hassle (remember you will have to carry baby plus car seat to baggage carousel at the other end) and I have never ever seen anyone actually do this.
If there’s just one adult travelling then it’s a good idea to think through some of the ‘crunch points’ which we find are:
- arriving at the airport. That is finding a trolley, loading all your luggage onto it (including stroller and car seat), taking it to check in, all while holding the baby (at Dubai airport you can simply find one of the numerous porters in red to assist you for AED 25 – definitely worth it if you are struggling)
- going to the toilet (for yourself and to change the baby)
- getting through security (ie. getting all your liquids, laptops out, folding up your buggy and putting on the belt and / or taking the baby out the carrier to walk through the sensor. Tip – don’t wear shoes that are any more difficult to get off than kicking off with your feet in case security insist on getting you to remove them.
- carrying /pushing the baby (plus hand luggage and any shopping including food and water for the flight you intend to buy) around the airport until you board
- dealing with food / milk consumption on the flight. Bear in mind you are unlikely to get a proper meal for your baby / toddler and may find it difficult to manage to eat a tray of food yourself while holding your baby so bring snacks your baby will eat and don’t forget something for you – a cereal bar or something at least. Flying is another occasion where it’s brilliant if you’re still breastfeeding and therefore not needing to carry bottles, milk etc. If you’re self conscious of feeding in close proximity of others on the plane just take a breastfeeding cover and easily accessible nursing clothes (eg. a vest underneath a loose or easily pulled down top).
- dealing with crying on the flight
- carrying the baby (plus hand luggage/ shopping) from the plane at the other end
- getting a trolley and hauling your luggage / stroller / car seat off the carousel onto it (whilst holding a baby) and pushing through customs
- onward trip
We have found that if dad isn’t travelling with us then the only way we could manage is with a baby carrier. Our Ergo carrier is particularly great as even at 13 months I can comfortably fit in it (and will for a long time still), Mum can easily carry me in it for an hour or longer and it folds up fairly small and light.
Although many airlines will allow you to take your stroller pretty much to the plane door – and indeed Emirates do have complimentary strollers you can borrow in Dubai airport only (however don’t rely on this as out of 6 times in Dubai airport we have only been able to get our hands on one once) -there is often a huge gap in the airline’s thinking when it comes to you getting off the plane at the other end and quite often you are expected to carry your baby and all your hand luggage (and airport shopping!) to the luggage carousels.
After a long flight (and often little sleep the night before) I don’t think Mum would have managed to do this without me in a carrier. It may sound like a small thing, but trying to get a trolley, load possibly two suitcases, hand luggage, a stroller and a carseat on whilst holding a baby and then pushing the teetering lot through customs – especially when you’re a bit tired – is not an easy task. With me in my carrier, it becomes a possibility. Be prepared to have a few pound / Euro / whatever currency coins handy in your pocket in case you need them to get a trolley (you don’t need them for Dubai, but do for example in Manchester, Rome and Leeds Bradford).
Unfortunately you can’t rely on a nice person being around to lift your baggage off the carousel (unless you are at Dubai airport when you’ll hopefully be able to locate a porter who will, for AED 25, pick all your luggage off the carousel and take to your car, taxi etc – well worth it). There have been a few times when someone -usually someone who looks like a sympathetic mother who has once been in mum’s position- has offered to help by holding me while Mum struggles putting things in the overhead compartment on the plane or offers to pick up the contents of the baggage trolley that have spilled over the entire customs exit lanes holding up eager holiday makers, but many, many times (especially in the UK airports) people pretend not to notice or even worse, tut! Although Emirates staff are usually particularly good, it has been known for one to laugh and push past the aisle when mum has been struggling to put her hand luggage in the over head compartment whilst gently placing her knee on me on her seat to stop me wriggling off! However, sometimes you do just have to ask for help – the worst they can do is say no (or drop your bag with the laptop in it)….
In summary here are my top tips:
- get yourself a baby carrier (Ergo Sport is ideal) and practise using it a few weeks before hand so you can quickly get baby in and out of it without any assistance
- try and fly with an airline with a generous luggage or baby equipment (stroller and car seat) allowance. Make sure you know what you are allowed to take beforehand so you don’t end up with a huge excess baggage fee.
- use the porters in Dubai airport if you are flying without another adult and are struggling
- carry a few pound coins / euro coins easily accessible etc for getting a trolley at baggage claim (not needed for Dubai airport)
- breastfeed for as long as you can so you don’t have to faff around with formula
- minimise your hand luggage and airport shopping so you have as little to carry as you can get away with
Watch out for my next post on what to pack in your hand luggage.
If you have any tips on flying with a baby please comment on this post so others can benefit from your tips. One useful resource to look at is flyingwithababy.com – written by a mum who used to be an airhostess and has a wealth of info and ideas.
From → Travelling