Travelling has always been a passion of mine. I have always enjoyed travelling in the past and there is still a lot of the world I would love to see. I live in Iran, my family lives in the UK and my husband’s family live in South Africa, therefore travelling is pretty much inevitable for me. Travelling with children has its challenges and prior to embarking on journeys of long distance, a lot of planning and calculation have to take place.
When we travel as a family it isn’t too stressful. It’s when I’m alone with a child, (which I have done plenty of times!) that poses the most challenges. There is a lot to take into consideration. Direct or indirect flight? How long should the stopover be? What needs to be present in the hand luggage? It’s important to consider all possibilities and things that may happen, which won’t be in your control. For example, missing your flight… Yes, that has happened to me. I missed my connecting flight to Johannesburg, due to the take-off in Tehran being delayed. Best thing to do in a situation like that is to remain calm. There really is no point having an anxiety attack in the middle of an airport. I have always found airport staff to be really helpful, especially when children are involved.
Compass. Most airports do have prayer rooms. Most are quite spacious, especially in the Middle East, however in Istanbul there is a small curtained cubicle designated for prayer in the boarding lounge. I found this to be very useful especially when you have to be at your boarding gate at a certain time that coincidentally clashes with prayer time. I take my son into the cubicle with me and he sits there until I’m done praying. For ‘runaway’ children, it might be useful to have a harness that you can hold whilst you pray. This way they will stay with you and you won’t have to worry about them running off when you’re in prostration! However, most airports do not have a prayer room near the boarding gate and therefore, you will need to have a compass or app handy for situations like this.
Snacks. Packing enough snacks is always useful. Giving your child snacks that will make them more hyper during the journey probably isn’t the best thing. But making sure there is food at hand has proven to be a great way to keep the noise level down! You never know when hunger may strike and how long it will take for the flight attendants to serve the food. It isn’t guaranteed that my child will even like the food served. Hence, it’s vital that I’ve got ample food that my son likes in my hand luggage.
Chewing gum or a chewy sweet. Yes, a definite item in my bag, when travelling on aeroplanes. I have found chewing on gum or a sweet, during take off and landing alleviates the ear pain immensely. It’s important to bear in mind, that this will not be completely appropriate for all children, as it can be a choking hazard. You know your own child, so follow your own instinct on this one.
Timing toilet breaks. The last thing I need on a flight is my child needing the toilet whilst the seatbelt sign is on. What I tend to do is keep fluid intake to a minimum before the flight and make sure my son has been to the toilet before boarding. This is imperative before landing as the wait for the plane doors to open and getting into the terminal can be time consuming. The same can be applied to most journeys even when travelling on the ground. We had a 16-hour journey to Najaf by coach from Qom, which was most challenging. With a journey like that, we had to make sure the toilet was used at every rest stop, just in case.
Liquids. Certain regulations have been put in place, when travelling via air. For example, when travelling with liquids, they have to be divided into containers of no more than 100ml and placed in a bag that must be transparent. It is important to keep up to date with these kinds of regulations to save the hassle at security, especially when travelling with children. I always buy bottled water or drinks after passing security and adding it to my hand luggage. Flights tend to make everyone in general quite thirsty, but as mentioned before limiting the fluid intake to a bare minimum is essential towards the end of the flight.
I find it important to make sure your pushchair/ pram is tagged appropriately for your journey. Some people check their pushchair in at the check-in desks, but I find it as a huge help to have the pushchair in use, as close to the plane as possible. I make sure it is tagged for use in transit, in cases of an indirect flight. I’ll get off the plane and it’s there, ready for me to put my child in and to store the hand luggage. Essentially, you do want to have a pushchair handy just in case the child is asleep. The last thing you need is to have to carry a sleeping child, as well as your bags. One thing to be prepared for is having to take your child out of the pushchair to pass through security. The security staff have always helped me with this. I hold my child, they ask how to close the pushchair and put it on the conveyer belt for me. For my next journey I will be taking a baby carrier to help me carry everything during the times the pushchair is not available.
Booking a direct flight may seem useful where children are involved. However, after speaking with other mothers and their experiences, I have found that booking an indirect flight may be the way to go, depending on your child. A majority of children are opposed to sitting in one place for a very long time, so by booking an indirect flight can give them some time to run around, some time to see a different setting and it also help us to get a walkabout in between flights and reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis! Depending on your place of stopover, you may be able to get Wi-Fi too.
Travelling with children may seem pretty daunting, but being organised is key. Having documents in separate compartments, liquids stored within the guidelines and packing your hand luggage appropriately will be a means for a smooth journey. Pack bearing all kinds of possible scenarios. Kids are unpredictable, so being prepared for all the different kinds of moods they may have during your journey is definitely something to consider.