I just sent this message to a friend. I’m copying it here so I don’t forget in the future.
1. Phone the airline beforehand to make sure you’re allocated seats together. Don’t wait till check-in, as you might find you’re all in different places – stupid, but it can happen. If there’s any way you can get bassinet seats (could be difficult as you’ve bought a seat for Kayla) get those for the extra space!
2. When you’re at the airport make sure you’ve plenty of snacks. Drink-wise just take water, as you have to ditch it all at security or drink some – you can buy more in Duty Free if you have juice etc – and just refill there if it’s water. We had lots of snacks like rice cakes which were a lifesaver when she started telling us she was hungry.
3. The airport was like a big adventure playground, lots of things to explore and look at – we got a Littlelife Backpack so we could hold onto her, as she found she wanted to check out everything once we were through to Duty Free – I’m guessing you might have something similar already anyway as Kayla is older!
4. When we go on the plane they offered us their standard infant fare – some spoons and jars of mush. They also said they have nappies there – so worth checking in case of accidents while you’re flying. We still had plenty anyway. We declined the mush too – she’s never eaten it – and had ordered her what we thought was a child meal, but seemed to be a very hot meal with snacks of crisps and chocolate! Fortunately I’m vegetarian, so we swapped things in my meal with hers, and again when my husbands arrived, with his, so she had things she’d normally eat. Things like breadsticks we kept for later for if she wanted to eat and food wasn’t being offered.
They had activity books for children which were fine for H – we asked for one and some crayons and got them with no hassle. They also handed out hand puppets which were just weird. They handed out little baby packs too which had spoons (pretty good solid plastic ones – I kept all 4!), nappy bags (for the loos) a large cloth (for spills) and wipes.
I think because they’re at the age where they’re not quite children (age 2?) they’re still treated like babies as far as cabin crew go – so if you want Kayla to have a meal, make sure you request one when you phone them up to allocate seats – they definitely wont do it automatically and she might get offered an adult meal!
5. In flight, apparently they had child headphones, but even with adult ones H wouldn’t keep them on, so we just put cartoons on (like the Mr Men) or programmes she knew (Zingzillas, Wiggles) and just seeing things she was familiar with seemed to help, even if she didn’t want to hear! That and reading books. I also went around a load of cheap bookshops and picked up some £1 sticker books – they were a lifesaver too, as she’s really getting into those so they killed 30 minutes at a time! I’ve read in a few places to do treats, like get new books that can be brought out at several points of the journey as well as old favourites. I packed anything which wasn’t too bulky, and seemed to get the right ones!
6, We took the car seat with us which while it was a good move meant we couldn’t put down the tray on her seat for eating. Having said that, I don’t think she would have eaten from it anyway, she’s just a bit too young! She found the drinks holder and the remote for the tv brilliant toys to play with, and soon worked out which buttons to press to put the light on and summon the cabin crew (sighhhhh).
7. Keep your watches on UK time if she’s in a routine! The biggest mistake we made was missing the signs as we had changed ours to Australia time thinking we could work it all out. You end up so tired that you just forget everything – so we missed some hunger and tiredness signals and had a few meltdowns. It was definitely better on the way back, but was still hard.
8. You’ll have to keep Kayla on your lap for takeoff and landing, you need to ask for a belt extension which loops around her and clips onto yours. It didn’t feel 100% safe, and I felt the car seat was more secure, but that’s the law as it stands right now – although that might change in the next year or so, apparently.
9. Food-wise, if she’s asleep and misses mealtimes they can keep the food for you. I’ve read of time limits they can keep food heated, but as H’s not really eating hot food, and everything’s cooled it wasn’t an issue.
10. In four flights only one attendant offered to take H off us for a walk up to the front of the cabin. You hear lots of stories about cabin crew being all over small children wanting to fuss them, but we didn’t come across that. The one cabin member that did was a lifesaver! She was a bit uneasy but it gave us five minutes to just tidy up and put books/toys/crayons away!
11. A bottle of milk always settles her at night – they’ve got milk on the flight, so we took one empty bottle (with a spare in our luggage – but they had the Tommee Tippee stuff in Oz so we would have been okay, had anything cracked/broken) and asked them to fill it with warm milk when she got really cranky – which settled her for sleep – so bring an empty container with you, as you’ll need one for water, one for milk!
12. As far as relaxing on the flight went, we had window seats, so one of us was always keeping an eye on H. I usually take the window seat as I like to lean against something to nap, so had to make use of the headrest bits on the seat and bend those out – little thing, but I hadn’t thought about it at the time. We could only sleep when H slept too – another thing we hadn’t thought about – at one point (pre milk) we were both sitting with our eyes shutting we were that tired – thank god for milk.
13. I’m still breastfeeding, and actually it was quite private when I had to feed her which I was surprised about. Some stewards would come and ask if we wanted anything and then realise what I was doing and apologise – which was quite sweet of them. There was plenty of room, anyway.
14. Nappy changing – amazingly it wasn’t too bad, space-wise. There were a couple of cubicles with changing, and fortunately we only had to queue once. I didn’t realise until afterwards they’d provided nappy bags (plastic bags, rather than nappy sacks) in the little kit we got at the start. There’s no safety belt to keep baby on the changing area though, that bit was challenging – taps on flights are so awkward to use anyway, let alone when you’re making sure your little one doesn’t decide to launch herself…
15. Strollers – we took ours (the freecycle one – not the nice one) and were able to use it up to the gate at Gatwick (where it was checked straight through to Perth), were offered complimentary ones in Dubai(they had plenty on racks), and on the way back had to check it in from Perth (they offered complimentary ones again) – so worth checking if your connections offer them. Ours is pretty battered anyway, but survived the journeys fine.