Thursday, 10 March 2016

Travelling with Bebe: A London Mother Discovers the Wisdom of International Travel

London Heathrow Terminal 5

Okay, so I spun the lines a little of the fantastic book ‘Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting’, only to hint to you what I had learnt on the 4 flights that my son Chance had taken before he was 3 months.

This post particularly focuses on our recent trip to NYC with British Airways, and is long so grab a cuppa, your notepad and settle down.

When travelling to the US, one needs an ESTA, so always check the visa requirements before you travel, do so here, you will also need to check whether there are additional requirements for travelling with children under 18, using the same link.

When I booked our flights via BA, it was the same day that my son had gotten his passport, he was about 10 days old and funnily enough having been past security a few times, his passport photo no longer looks exactly as he did at 10 days old, but is still a funny sight. I had his picture taken at Snappy Snaps it took all of 2 seconds; 1 passport photo was signed by a friend and the other was left (don’t get both photos signed it will be rejected) and this was included in the passport application alongside the full birth certificate (see here for the process), which took 1 week to be processed.

When you book with BA, travelling with an infant, on short haul it’s best (and economical) to travel with them on your lap (you can use this travel mattress for laps), long haul you will be assigned a bassinet seat. I have this thing where I always have to check where we will be seated and pick seats as close to the centre as possible, as my husband is a nervous flyer and he is less likely to feel the effects of turbulence, when seated closer to the centre.
My favourite site is SeatGuru to plan where will be seated using the online seat maps, and the pros and cons of those seats. If you’re travelling in First or a silver Executive club member (you should sign up to any airline loyalty scheme if you are a frequent traveller as you can use points to upgrade or pay for flights) you can book your seats for free. You can also book your seats for free if you are travelling with an infant, those under 2, as it’s quite important to be seated together when travelling with little ones.

Before baby, MrL and I carried 1 piece of hand luggage each, and checked 1 piece of luggage. With baby, we now carry 3 pieces of hand luggage, the baby’s cabin bag will consist of everything they need during the flight. My recommended list is here. Always check the hand baggage and the checked baggage allowances, as they differ between different airlines and classes. You can also take a fully collapsible pram to check in, or gate check your buggy. I love my Cybex Priam, firstly because it goes everywhere with me as I can swap between carseat and carrycot :) and secondly as I am able to gate check the 2 pieces which make up our travel system, the Cybex Cloud Q and the frame. You can actually gatecheck the items by themselves (so far as they are tagged) and aircraft staff return them back to you gateside; if you want to protect the carseat and frame/buggy you can purchase this carseat travel bag and buggy travel bag, although they will need to be replaced every so often, so it’s up to you as to whether you purchase one.

Grosvenor Passport Cover from Smythson and Chance's passport

When flying to New York, I chose flight times that fit with Chance’s schedule, mostly to minimise disruption to his routine and secondly to avoid those ‘death stares’ you hear about and see when babies cry on planes or out in public.
So far on every single flight he has been on, he has slept through...hopefully that continues, fingers crossed!

I chose to check-in online before getting to the airport, to maximise the amount of ‘home time’ we had,as anything can happen which could delay your journey...explosive poos anyone? Checking in online means that you can plan to be at the airport at least the 1 hour before your flight closes, which is the latest time you can check in for long haul.
It’s best to have your passports close to hand, I kept mine in my chain bag on my person so that whenever I needed to show them, I didn’t have to rifle around my hand luggage.
When packing your hand luggage the best thing you can do, to avoid delays at security is to have all liquids within a clear bag ready, I like these ones from MUJI. MrL unfortunately has the pleasure of unpacking the bag which has all the things that need to be put into the security containers such as the liquids, laptop etc, it is best to have them all in one bag, to avoid delays but also to avoid having to go through several different bags to unpack and pack. I have a list of what should be included within your hand luggage such as disposable mats, baby carrier etc here.

Once you have cleared security, you can begin to enjoy the aiport. I don’t know about anyone else, but my holiday begins from when I get to the airport, not when I land at my destination. Travelling with a little one means that all that fun duty free shopping, needs to become fun efficient duty free shopping. Check online in advance, at least a week to plan which stores you will be going to, and what you will be buying at discount prices. I love the reserve and collect service at London Heathrow which is a great time saver; you can essentially reserve and collect all toiletries, food for yourself and bubba and avoid the hassle with liquid items in your hand luggage. If you are a frequent traveller, as mentioned above sign up to the airline loyalty scheme, and the airport loyalty scheme as there are lots of savings to be had; if you drive to the airport you could save on parking, if you spend a lot at duty free you can receive discounts. As I travel a lot from London Heathrow (and it’s the nearest airport to me as I live in West London) I have a Heathrow Rewards card. Another great thing about airline loyalty is the access to the airport lounges, where you can relax (skipping the hustle and bustle of the main terminal) and enjoy food and beverages, and settle your little one down in advance of the flight. If you aren’t able to enjoy the benefits of a lounge, you can find a restaurant to decamp to in advance of your flight or alternatively head to the gate and find a nice quiet spot to rest with blankets and the skybaby travel mattress. In some airports you can check to see if there are children/play areas, or position yourself close to the nursing and changing facilities.

Luckies of London scratch map

Most airlines but particularly British Airways are very good at priority boarding for families, which MrL and I benefitted from; this is useful for the main reason that we have to gate check our travel system as well as settle within our seats preparing everything we need to hand. My must have items for take off are a swaddle blanket, cushion, antibacterial wipes for both baby and armrests, TV etc and myself as I exclusively breastfeed. If you aren’t breastfeeding, ensure that you have formula prepared within a bottle (without the water) add some warm water either from the flight attendants or better yet add some cold water, and heat with something like the hotpoc. I would bring enough bottles so you don’t have to sterilise, pre-made with the amount of formula needed so you can just add water to ensure that it is as hygienically made as possible, or alternatively pre order and collect formula in cartons to the airport terminal so that you can just pour into a bottle.

I personally think carrying your child on your lap, is more comforting for the child (and yourself) and also economical. Flight attendants will provide infant belts to ensure that bubba are properly secure, especially in times of turbulence or when the seatbelt sign is on, and they cannot be in the carry cot. If you would like to place your child in the carry cot, I recommend disposable changing mats to line the cot, your child’s own blanket which can be comforting and also the SkyBaby mattress which can be used when they are in your lap or in the cot, and if the lights are still on in the cabin use a snoozeshade to block out the light.

Any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me, and have an enjoyable flight.



1 comment

  1. I love traveling and so far I've traveled about 14 beautiful countries of the world. I am using a Scratch Off Map which I bought from an Amazon Store. This product is really helpful and its really fun to use.


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