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7 quick tips to make travelling with a baby and young family on a plane just that little bit easier…

Travelling with a baby or toddler can be a challenging experience, especially on a plane.

Here are some tips to make the journey as smooth as possible:

Plan ahead: Research the airline’s policies on travelling with children, including the allowed number of bags, and any other requirements. If you’re wanting to make up a formula bottle on the flight make sure you understand what you can and cannot take through security. The air crew will be absolutely prepped on making up bottles for babies so just ask for advice once you are strapped in and comfortable on the plane. Also, consider booking a seat with extra legroom or booking a bulkhead seat with a bassinet attachment for really little ones. Some airlines now allow you take on cabin luggage which can convert into a toddler leg rest like the Stokke Jet Box which may help your child relax and be more comfortable on long flights. Check ahead of the fight so that you know you can take it on board.

Pack carefully: Make a list of essential items you’ll need during the flight, such as nappies, wipes, bottles, formula, and extra clothes!! Bring along your child’s favourite toys, books, and snacks to keep them entertained. Download films or favourite cartoon episodes onto a device and make sure you have charged it up fully before the flight the night before.

Arrive early: Arrive at the airport early to allow time for unexpected delays, security checks, and to board the plane early. Most large airports will have a separate security check for families making it less stressful than trying to be super efficient in the queue so as not to hold up any non-parents behind you! Also, consider checking in online and printing your boarding passes in advance. Yes, you can add your boarding passes to the wallet on your phone but in my opinion having to access and swipe each pass one at a time whilst trying to get the kids through can be a faff compared to handing over the printed ones to a member of staff.

Use a baby carrier: A baby carrier can help you keep your hands free while boarding the plane and moving through the airport. It’s also a great way to soothe your baby during the flight. It’s worth bearing in mind that you are used to the noise and size of an airport but for tiny ones it can be really overstimulating and unsettling.

Bring earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones: The noise of the plane can be overwhelming for babies and toddlers. Bringing earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones can help protect their ears and make the flight more comfortable and will hopefully help them zone out when watching their favourite programmes that you have downloaded.

Offer a dummy or bottle during take-off and landing: Sucking on a dummy or bottle can help your baby equalize the pressure in their ears during take-off and landing, which can help reduce ear pain. I also struggle terribly with ear pressure, particularly when coming into land, and if I’m not feeling good then my tolerance to help my kids will be stretched so think about yourself too and what you need to help you manage. I often ask my husband to make sure he’s in control of passing them sweets to suck on or getting them to drink water during this time so that I can try to deal with my own pain!

Stay calm and be patient: Travelling with a baby or toddler can be stressful, but try to stay calm and patient. Remember to take breaks and ask for help if you need it. I guarantee there will be people around willing to help if they can. A fair percentage of passengers will have experienced travelling with young children and won’t expect children to just sit quietly and not be a little disruptive so don’t panic if your kids are playing up, it’s not a reflection on you!!

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Adventures underground

According to Marie Curie, “nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.’ I’m pretty sure she wasn’t talking about the London Underground system, but when it comes to me and the Tube, her words ring all too true. When my eldest was three and my daughter eighteen months I’d taken them on the Tube twice. In total. And not even at the same time! I was ashamed of my cowardice because there is just so much to explore in and around London, especially as the grow up. I didn’t want them to miss out due to my fear of the struggle.

But I did always feel the travel struggle was real. Clambering on the Tube with kids in tow? Fretful. I’d be flustered at navigating the steps and stairs. Minding the gap to spare their little feet and my big buggy. Looking so hapless and helpless that a kind commuter would have to save me, my children and all the ‘essentials’ I’d have on board. The cultural ‘shame to be saved’ may be a British thing, but I’m sure many of you taking young ones on the Underground would also ‘get the ick’ asking a stranger for help.

When I have taken the train, I’ve planned out my route in meticulous detail. And by that I mean I went the long way round to make it as step free as possible from platform to pavement. Add to the mix that I really do not like crowds and the fact the Tube seems to house half of London’s population (plus almost every tourist in the UK). Truth be told, I just avoided the whole situation as best and as often as I could.

Yet possibly the worst part of it all: my son adores the Tube! We spent a not insignificant amount of his second year hanging outside Willesden Green station simply to watch the trains speed by. To watch. Yet not to brave jumping on board. And to think back then I only had him to look after…

A little while ago my daughter and I stepped outside my comfort zone. We dared to take the Tube to Central London. Please believe me when I tell you this: it was so easy! In fact, I was somewhat aghast at how I had built it up to be something it honestly wasn’t. Simple, and actually quite pleasant. Of course it wasn’t seamless. I had to hike her up the stairs at Great Portland Street. But she’s little, the buggy is light and my personal training is clearly paying off. We arrived earlier than expected and, for the return journey, took full advantage of ‘zone one’, enjoying a sunny stroll through Regents Park to catch the Overground home.

This adventure taught me to embrace my fear more often. I will certainly go again. And next time I’ll take both kids and plan to be out for longer. I will pack less, be lighter on our feet, and remember to have options for my kids of different ages, ability and stamina. Taking our wheeled board and a sling I can alternate between walking, sitting, being pushed and being carried dependent on, you know, tiredness, mood, need to nap etc. (And that’s just me…!)

Pro tip: if you do do this often, invest in a lightweight stroller. It doesn’t have to break the bank. There is so much choice for easy-to-collapse, foldable, carry-on-your-shoulder models. ‘Fully reclining’ is a bonus so you won’t be held hostage by nap times.

My no longer fearing the Tube has (re)opened a whole window of possibilities for me and my two. So watch out, Daddy. We’re coming to meet you for a lunch date soon. Marie Curie would be proud!