Every mom remembers the first time they boarded a flight with their kids. Entrepreneur and stay-at-home mom Thando Moleketi-Williams says she took one-year-old Bathandwa on his first flight when he was five months old. He’s now a seasoned flyer with just under 20 local and international flights under his … nappy.
Model and café owner Shiela Ho says she first flew with three-and-a-half-year-old Ethan, when he was five months old, too.
Tips when traveling abroad
Pack enough formula
On her most recent trip to Bali with Ethan and one-and-a-half-year-old Kira, Shiela didn’t pack enough formula. Add to that, the kids didn’t like the food on the island. “I knew it would be difficult, but I never would have imagined my kids would be that hungry at night and need double the amount of milk as a result.”
“On our flight back, we were literally on the last two bottles. It’s the absolute worst knowing all your child wants to do is drink milk and you just don’t have enough to feed them. Next time, I know to pack triple the amount of formula. I would also recommend packing formula into all your various luggage pieces in case it gets separated from any of your luggage,” she says.
Keep your nappy bag close
Thando says Bathandwa needed a nappy change as the flight was taking-off from JFK to London. “It was 30 minutes into the flight, the seatbelt lights were still on and Bathandwa was getting grumpier by the minute sitting in his own mess. I eventually took the risk and went to change him. I now know to always keep the nappy bag at my feet so I can change my baby on my lap if I need to.”
Traveling with a baby is worse for the parent
Praying you won’t get seated next to a parent flying with a baby is always a serious joke among seasoned travelers. “I still feel much the same, but trust me – it’s far worse for the parent than it’s for other passengers.”
Shiela confesses she used to get annoyed when kids cried incessantly on flights she was on. “I used to travel frequently before I became a mom,” she says. “But now I understand it’s not always in your power to control, but you can make it more pleasant and easier for not only the baby and yourself, but for everyone, too.”
So, the question is how do you to it? Both Thando and Shiela agree it’s all about what you pack and how you prepare to entertain baby.
“I prepare snacks at home, pack his favourite toys (a rattle, a bunny, a car and a peek-a-boo toy) and books to read to him. And now that he’s a bit older, I’ll start adding activity sticker books. But, in all honesty, the buttons on the handsets and arm sets as well as the head sets also keep him occupied,” says Thando.
“I usually make a bag filled with toys for each of my little ones for when they get tired of the on-board entertainment programme. Also, just for back-up, my husband and I make sure our phones are fully charged so the kids can play games on them,” says Shiela.
Top tips for moms traveling with kids for the first time
What items do you never travel without?
- Ergo Baby Omni 360 carrier
- Meals and snacks including water
- Antibacterial wipes
- A fully stocked nappy bag that includes the basics plus sunscreen, teething gel and Bepanthen
- A wet bag to store wet clothes
- A change of clothes
- Sun hat and swaddle
- Sample sizes of baby’s bath-time products
- NoseFrida snot sucker and medication
- A change of clothes for the parents/caregiver.
- Spare pacifiers
- Milk (more-than-enough formula)
- Spare clothes in case of an accident
- Nappies, wipes and a sanitary bag
- A favourite stuffed animal to cuddle.
What suitcase do you use for the kids?
I have a four-wheeler that I can manoeuvre with one hand. It’s also lightweight so you can lift it off the conveyor belt with a baby in a carrier.
Hands-down the Samsonite Cosmolite family suitcase. The quality is exquisite (we travel often) and it’s super light. The kids have their favourite, themed luggage plus a Happy Sammie backpack for each. The integrated TSA lock is also convenient because we’ve lost so many locks in the past.
What is your top travel hack?
“Especially on international flights, always do a fresh nappy change between 10 and 20 minutes before landing. Also, just take your time and be methodical about your approach when going through security checks.” Read her Instagram post for more detail.
“We use our hand luggage as a leg rest for our son when he’s going to sleep.”
What’s the one thing you wish airlines would change or implement for parents traveling with kids?
“Certain international airlines request parents with young kids board along with assisted passengers before all the other passengers board. This allows us to get settled without having the pressure of someone behind you grazing your butt as you try to pack luggage away while keeping a baby settled. I just wish this was a standard for all local and international flights.”
“More entertainment – beyond the screen – for the kids.”
Most child-friendly airport?
Hong Kong airport with all the travellators, which make the walk feel lighter. Any airport with trains between terminals is a blessing for tired feet.
Singapore Airport (and Airlines). When I traveled alone with my son, the flight attendant helped me a lot by taking him while I used the washroom. The airport has a garden, indoor jungle gyms, butterfly garden, a futuristic slide and the biggest indoor fountain called Jewel.
For luggage to suit your family, visit www.samsonite.co.za
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