Thursday, 10 January 2013

Travelling by Air

Travelling by plane as a family of four was much more painful than travelling as a family of three, especially when you have a poorly toddler screaming throughout the journey when not asleep and 3 hand luggage with you! Word of advice? Travel as light as you can!

Booking seats: Do this as soon as possible if you are flying with young children, as you will want the front seats for the extra space and bassinet if your baby is lighter than 15kg. Do confirm the seats closer to the time of flying as well, as airlines can change this without needing to notify you.

Airlines will see the need for a bassinet as a priority over you sitting together as a family, so do ask them whether you are sitting together if you are bothered about this. We requested them to put us together and gave up the bassinet space, although at the end due to the changes we managed to keep the front seat and sat next to each other with just the hallway between us.

Check-in: Counters open about 3 hours before the take off time. In the past we normally arrive 2 hours before take off to check-in, but with children, you will want to arrive the airport 3 hours before, even if it means waiting for the counter to open. If you have overweight luggage or seating problem, these can still be sorted. If you arrive late, your chances for changing seats or getting additional luggage allowance will be slim.

Do remember to check with the counter about your seats again.

Luggages: Each airline have a different check-in allowance (between 15-30kg), where each hand luggage should weigh between 7-8kg. Although this sounds great, do remember that you have children that you might need to carry as well. So if possible, check in as many luggage as you can.

If you are going to fly via a different airline to somewhere else between your journey (for example, we made a return journey from Hong Kong to Taiwan during our England to Hong Kong Journey), which provides a smaller plane, consider the check-in allowance for the smaller plane as well. We were allowed a total of 100kg with Emirates, but almost couldn't board Eva Air as our total allowance was only 70kg.

A quick thank you to Pink Lining and Matalan for letting me review their luggages (Pink Lining's Wheelie Case and Matalan's Sub Zero G Luggage), they have been most useful to us during our journey. The wheelie case was very strong, though the zip did opened up a bit when we came back to Manchester because we stuffed additional towels in it! It was very handy as well that you can carry it on your shoulder when you have lots of others to pull! 

We were extremely impressed with the Sub Zero G luggage. It has been carrying 30kg of souvenirs and junk and thrown from one plane to another (a total of 6 planes within 2 weeks), but only the bottom was cut a little bit by something else, and the handle protector was split a little bit (all fixed by Magic Tape!!). We expected worse as the luggage looked and felt quite flimsy. We also saw many other Sub Zero G luggages on the baggage claim conveyor belts, all looked very well!

Boarding: You as a family with young children have priority boarding at any airport, so don't be shy and just jump the queue. Airlines are more than happy to get you on the plane first to settle the children down. If anyone ask, just say that you want to settle the children down first. If you have a pushchair with you, wait next to the counter and one of the ground crew will help you check-in the pushchair before you board.

If your child is still in a nappy, it is best to change them first before boarding, as you might struggle a bit on the plane's toilet, or you won't even feel like changing it!

In flight entertainment: Forget about bringing toys on the plane, a good airline will provide toys for the kids and there are enough cartoons to keep them busy when they aren't sleeping. If you must, bring only one (or a couple, no more or YOU won't have anywhere to sit)

In flight necessities: We were so tired looking after the kids we couldn't be bothered with creams and teeth brushing. Yes, yuck, but when you are in that state, seriously, forget it. Bring a pack of chewing gum instead for yourself. Emirates provided a travel size toothbrush and paste that came with the children snack box, or you can ask for it. Most airlines should have them on the plane.

We brought a Trunki SnooziHedz (thanks to Trunki for letting us review it) with us, which was great for Abby to use, but unless you are prepared to keep the pillow inflated, it can be quite troublesome to pack it back up when you just wanted to get off the plane. You can ask for extra blankets and pillows on the plane, and since Emirates gave the children a fleece blanket with a cuddly toy each, the Snoozihedz wasn't really necessary for us. I do still like it though, especially because you can keep the blanket attached to the pillow, so we'll be using that in the car instead. (No picture I'm afraid as it was a stressful journey, we just wanted to sleep and Clay to be quiet!)

If you have a child with no seat, air stewardess (or steward) will give you an additional seat belt to attach to yours for your child. Sometimes they can be too busy to keep an eye on everyone until the last minute, so if you want to settle down early, feel free to ask for the baby seatbelt before they offer it to you. 

Plane food: If your child doesn't have a seat, be prepared that they won't get any food either. They can either share their sibling's children meal, or you should prepare your own for them. It is still ok to bring baby food and milk on board. Just remember to take it out when you go through the custom. If it's under 100ml it's not a problem, but if it's over they will make you drink/ eat it in front of them.

If you have a fussy eater, it is also better for you to prepare their food for them in case they don't like the plane food.

Next up, airports!