Traveling internationally can be a daunting prospect for any young family, and when you add an 11-month-old baby to the mix, it’s natural to feel a bit overwhelmed. However, our recent journey to Turkey with our daughter Mila Rose, turned out to be an unexpectedly smooth and memorable experience. Here’s how we made it happen and some valuable tips for young families considering a long-haul flight.
Emirates: Our Lifesaver in the Skies
We decided to fly with Emirates, they are our usual airline of choice, and it turned out to be one of the best decisions we made. From the moment we boarded the plane, we were pleasantly surprised by their family-friendly approach.
One of the standout features was Emirates taking a family photo on each leg of our journey. These snapshots captured precious moments and created lasting memories for us. Plus, it’s a lovely keepsake to have.
Emirates also provided a nappy-changing kit that included a disposable plastic bag, bum cream, a bib, and a spoon. They even gave us a bottle of ready-made formula, an organic lentil/veggie dish, and a fruit dish for Mila, which made feeding her on the go a breeze. Mila happily devoured all of it. They also have nappies available should you need one.
Tips for a Smooth Flight
- Book Bassinet Seats: If you have an infant, consider reserving bassinet seats for each leg of your trip. This gives your baby a safe and comfortable place to rest during the flight. And mom and dad get a little more legroom, which comes in handy when you have bags of toys and baby necessities that are frequently needed (or so we thought).
- Board Strategically: To minimise the time your baby spends on the plane before takeoff, have one parent board early to load your bags, while the other parent entertains the little one. In our case, my husband boarded first, and I joined later with Mila to ensure she had a chance to burn off some energy and eat a few more snacks.
- Night Flights: Opt for night flights if possible. We fed Mila before the flight and gave her a bottle during takeoff. This helped her sleep through a significant portion of the journey. 7 out of the 8 hours to Dubai and 2 out of the 4 hours from Dubai to Istanbul. When she was awake she was eating, waving to people and playing.
- Entertainment and Toys: While we brought toys for Mila, we were fortunate that she didn’t need them. Nevertheless, packing a few familiar toys can be a lifesaver if your baby gets fussy. We brought spinners that stick to windows and other interactive toys to keep her engaged.
- Stay Calm and Show Love: We were touched when fellow passengers commented on how well-behaved and friendly Mila was during the flight. It reminded us of the importance of showing love and understanding to young families traveling with infants. Remember that while you may feel uneasy when you see a baby on board, the mother is likely feeling even more anxious. Your empathy and support can make a world of difference.
Lastly, it’s important to remember that an international flight is a form of public transport, and your little one has just as much right to be on that airplane as anyone else. Be considerate of others, but also don’t hesitate to ask for assistance or accommodations when needed.
One of the keys to a successful international flight with a baby is staying organised, especially when you’re traveling through different climates. We embarked on our journey in South Africa during winter, so Mila was dressed warmly in a vest, socks, and a cozy tracksuit. To accommodate the varying temperatures we’d encounter along the way, I packed strategically.
For our stopover in Dubai, where it was considerably warmer, I included a set of summer clothes for Mila in our carry-on bag. This way, she could change comfortably during our layover. Likewise, I packed another set of summer clothes and a jersey for our destination in Turkey, where the weather was also pleasantly warm. Having these clothing options on hand ensured Mila was comfortable throughout our journey.
In-Flight Feeding Made Easy
Feeding an infant during a long flight can be a challenge, but Istanbul and Dubai airports made it remarkably hassle-free. I was allowed to travel on the plane with a flask of hot water, which was a game-changer. Each of Mila’s baby bottles had 80ml of water in them, and this posed no issue whatsoever. This convenience ensured that I could easily prepare her bottles when needed, without any delays or complications.
A Heartwarming Airport Experience
Upon our return from South Africa, we encountered a pleasant surprise at the airport. While some international airports can be overwhelming and chaotic, Istanbul Airport showcased unparalleled hospitality, especially for families with young children. Families with kids under 5 years old were allowed to cut through queues, streamlining the boarding process and making our experience much smoother.
What truly touched us was how everyone, from airport staff to fellow passengers, went out of their way to assist us. It was a level of support and kindness that we had never experienced before during our travels. To the staff at Istanbul Airport, we extend our heartfelt gratitude for making our journey home a memorable and stress-free one.
In the end, our international adventure with Mila was not just about the destination but also about the incredible people we encountered along the way. It reaffirmed our belief that with thoughtful planning, a positive attitude, and the kindness of strangers, traveling with a young family can be a remarkable experience filled with beautiful memories.
Traveling with Mila was an unforgettable adventure that proved international travel with a baby is entirely manageable with some preparation and the right airline. With a few thoughtful strategies and a dash of empathy, you can create a positive experience for both your family and fellow passengers. Safe travels, and may your journey be filled with beautiful memories!