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Jennifer Nagu: 9 Factors to Consider When Travelling by Air with Your Children

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Traveling by air with children can be a pretty daunting experience,  especially in cases where delays and further delays are encountered. When you consider the hassles of checking in, passing through airport security, navigating your way to your gate and finally getting on your flight,  you realise you require much preparation to avoid the stresses related with it.

You need to research and know the privileges accorded in one airline and absent in the other. Not all airlines are equal when it comes to servicing families. While one might let you board early if you have children, others won’t. Some carriers have in-flight entertainment, and others don’t.

So, to survive air travel with children you need a plan ahead of your travel date.  I have highlighted some guidelines on how to prepare adequately to travel with infants and children, with ease.

Understand the charges and regulations for each airline
If you’ve ever flown with children you will know that there are so many variations in the charges and regulations involved with flying with on. Different airlines have different rules. Some charge for some things, while with another it’s free. Look through airline websites to see rules and charges that apply to individual carriers.

Also, read through each airline’s unaccompanied minor program to select one you may be comfortable with. In general, Nigerian airlines consider infants to be from (birth to 2 years) & children (2 years to 12 years). You will be expected to pay a separate fee for the child, and no fee for the infant.

See the table below for details of the regulation of a few airlines – both international & local – that operate in Nigeria.

Airlines Free Luggage Hold allowance for Baby Equipment Priority Boarding For Family with Kids Infant Age group
Aero Baby Cots Only accepted without Charge Unavailable 0 to 2 years
Air peace Baby Cots Only accepted without Charge Mothers with Infants Only 0 to 2 years
Arik Air Available Available 8 days to 23 months
Dana Airlines Baby Cots Only accepted without Charge Unavailable 0 to 2 years
Med-view Airlines Available Available 0 to 23 months
AZMAN Unavailable Mothers with Infants Only 0 to 23months
Emirates Available Available 0 to 2year
Qatar One-stroller, collapsible carrycot, or pushchair  is accepted without charge. Available 0 to 1 year
Etihad Available Available 0 to 2 years
Delta Available Available 0 to 2 years
Virgin Atlantic Available Available 0 to 2 years
KLM Available 0 to 2 years
Air France  Available ( with exceptions to equipment designed for children to sleep horizontally) Available 0 to 2 years

Booking the Best Seats
When booking your tickets, use seat maps to book your preferred seats right away. Follow this by including a note that you’re traveling with an infant or a toddler. If you have an infant, ask for the bulkhead (front row) and request a cradle. Contrary to popular advice, it’s best to avoid the bulkhead with older babies and toddlers because these seats offer neither under-seat space nor seat pockets, so you’ll have to store all your toys and supplies in the overhead compartment. The food trays in the bulkhead also pop up from the armrest, effectively trapping you in your seat when food is served. Also, avoid the aisle seat – it can be dangerous for children. Just as the food and beverage cart passes by, little hands may try to reach for hazardous items along like hot water or beverage.

Lap Children
Nearly all airlines allow children under the age of 2 to ride as “infants,” which means you don’t have to pay for a ticket, and your toddler can sit on your lap for the flight. Domestic airlines in Nigeria may require proof your child is younger than 2 years old for this benefit. A birth certificate is typically what’s required. Also, be aware that most carriers only allow children under 2 to fly free on domestic flights. If you’re going somewhere more exotic on an international flight, you’ll need to ask the airline if your child needs a ticket, can ride on your lap for free, or can get a ticket at a discounted price.

Checking In your Baggage
It is helpful to consider checking in most of your luggage, so you’re not carrying much on your flight. Print out your boarding passes at home…if possible, so all you have to do is check in your bags. This will allow you room to monitor the kids and preserve energy.

Managing Delays
Be prepared for possible flight delays or cancellations by having extra diapers, wipes, bottles, powdered formula, water and even extra clothes for long haul flights.

Diaper Changes
You may need to change your infants diaper frequently in the course of you flight, so you have got to factor in the seating location to accommodate dashing in and out of the bathroom, as often as you need. This could be at the pre-boarding stage or in-flight.

In-Flight Entertainment
The importance of entertainment to children cannot be over-emphasised.  Bring along certain toys on the trip, to distract the kids from the boredom of the trip. Consider doling out a toy every hour or so, or wrapping them like presents. Travel with books, drawing boards, headphones, stuff animals, calculators, coloring sets and snacks as carry-on baggage. This will serve as a much needed distraction for the kids.

To avoid painful ear pressure during takeoff and landing, consider offering chewing gum or gummy vitamins to children.

Security Screening
You will likely have to take your infant through the screening machine out of a stroller and carrier, so carry the baby in your arms. As you head to the gate area, take note of the nearest restroom should you need to take care of a baby, or toddler emergency before boarding the flight. Get to your gate early and take advantage of pre-boarding so that you and the child can get settled before the masses begin to board.

Car Seat or Not
Ask the gate agent to gate-check your stroller or child car seat before boarding so that it will be waiting for you when you land. Be aware that some checked items, such as car seats or large strollers, may arrive at an oversized or special luggage section separate from regular luggage. If you brought a stroller and checked it at the counter, you may as well take your time getting off the aircraft, since it needs to be retrieved by a baggage handler and brought up to the door of the aircraft. This takes time, so rather than disturb your baby or toddler even more, wait until the crowd is off the plane and your stroller may already be waiting for you.

Photo Credit: Photographerlondon | Dreamstime

Jennifer Nagu is a Lagos based Freelance-writer, editor and Aviation professional, specializing in Aviation, wellness and travel related matters. She has published work with notable media platforms across Africa, like Ynaija of the Red media group, Guardian Nigeria Newspaper, New York based wellness publication Thrive global, founded by mogul Arianna Huffington and Ndalo media's Habari Magazine. She holds a degree in communications from Covenant univerity and an IATA diploma in Airline Quality diploma from Geneva.

5 Comments

  1. mamaisabel

    September 4, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    Well written Ms. Jennifer, this is quite insightful!

  2. Meee

    September 5, 2017 at 2:25 am

    Well written ma’am. The nightmare of travelling with children eh… entertainment is key very key or else you will just hate yourself. Have a game or something they can watch handy. Food!!! Always have a snack handy because when you start hearing whines of ‘I am hungryyyyy!!!’ You can run mad. Toilets or diaper change too very essential. I once took my two little ones to a park. The eldest (4 year old) decided she needed to pee. Unfortunately the only available toilet had a queue. Before I knew what was happening I saw a steady trickle of wee on the floor. The embarrassment no be here…. so just be prepared.

  3. Pete

    September 5, 2017 at 8:06 am

    Thanks for this, it is very well written and very informative.

  4. weather

    September 5, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    Nagu! You killed it. Welldone.

  5. Lydia

    September 5, 2017 at 5:00 pm

    Good job n timely now dat children are resuming school

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