What every parent needs to know before arriving at the airport
Perfect the Packing: Spend time packing your bags, particularly your hand luggage, give everything a place so that it is easily accessible and you know exactly where to find it, particularly all the travel documents for check in and the treats! Make sure to double check luggage weights and dimensions with your airline in advance of travel, you don't want to leave any of your perfectly packed items behind at the gate. Unfortunately delays can happen so pack extra food, snacks, toys, nappies and change of clothes just in case! Yes, this will make your bag bulkier and heavier than you'd like but in an emergency you will be glad of the extra supplies.
Checking in equipment:
The best advice is to check in as much as you can, you will need your hands as free as possible as you travel. You need to decide whether to check your equipment (buggy/car seats) in or not. Check with the airport as to whether they supply temporary buggies if you plan on checking yours at the check in desk, the collection points for buggies will differ by destination, it is not always possible to collect buggies at the aircraft door this might affect your decision. If they are checked in at a check-in desk it will only be available on the baggage belt at your destination. When checking the buggy in, I tend to opt for baby carriers/slings for infants and couldnt do without my the trunki for my toddler ( the novel method of transport which doubles as luggage space), for getting from check in desk to the gate. If checking equipment in, remember to secure it inside a cover to avoid damage in transit-the last thing you want at the start of your holiday is a missing buggy wheel!
Everyone, regardless of age must pass through the metal detector. Metal detectors are considered safe for everyone, including pregnant women. The handheld wands that are sometimes passed over individual passengers are also safe. You can request a hand search rather than a wand if you are more comfortable with this. You need to notify the security officer on duty.
Baby food and liquids are generally exempt from most airport security limitations of 100mls, be prepared to taste baby foods and liquids to prove that they are in fact what you state (even breast milk!) Most dried foods can be taken through security (e.g crackers, biscuits, fruit).
Charge Up Your Gadgets: Screen time rules out the window, gadgets are a godsend on a flight if your little one is old enough to appreciate them. Make sure they are full of juice and that you have pre downloaded games and movies to pass the time. Regardless of how you feel about sweets and treats during your everyday life, a lollipop is perfect for toddlers on an airplane. Whilst some frown upon bribing children with treats it works on the plane, if possible set your morals aside for the flight duration to help keep your sanity!
Anti bac and baby wipes: will be your best friend on flight. Babies are bound to love nibbling on the safety leaflet, rather than their pre sterilised teething ring that you have prepared, for younger babies a quick wipe with an anti bac wipe can help keep your mind at ease. Rest assured that here will be at least one major spill during your flight, baby wipes are a must as is a change of clothes for both you and your little ones.
Extra Legroom: If you can afford it, buy the extra legroom. The additional space makes holding a lap child so much more comfortable and it is cheaper than a separate child's ticket. On most airlines children under 2yrs can travel without an airline ticket (some airlines charge a small free for their travel). Airline regulations, allow children to sit on your lap until they are two years old. That said, child safety regulators promote children travelling in their car seat, which can be secured to the aeroplane seat. Please note that this will require you to purchase a separate seat for your child and you should also pre book a window seat for the car seat.
Get to your Gate: After you make it through security, go straight to the gate let the kiddos burn off all their excess energy, change nappies so that babies are as fresh as possible getting onto the flight. Aeroplane toilets and changing facilities are snug to put it mildly, the fewer changes required whilst on board the better! Whilst airlines usually prioritise boarding for those with young children, remember that the earlier you board the longer you will be coped up on the plane. If you do not have lots of hand luggage perhaps you should consider boarding last, the only problem with this will be the availability of space in the overhead cabins.
Feed the Baby/toddler on Takeoff and Landing: This is a tried and true tip for flying with babies. Make sure to breastfeed the baby or give them a bottle of milk or a sippy cup of water at takeoff and landing to help their small ears adjust to the plane pressure. And anytime you notice the pressure getting rough on your own ears, be sure to give the baby something as well--whether it be the bottle, boob, sippy cup or soother. Have a few lollypops to hand for the older kids.
And finally Don't forget to pack your thick skin : Cross your fingers and hope that your seat mates are understanding parents who have travelled with children and know exactly what you are dealing with. However, be warned and be prepared for the tuts, disapproving looks and at worst the bad parenting comments. Take a deep breath, hold your head high and smile...it is sure to annoy them even more!