Back in the spring of 2019, I took a trip to the Caribbean with my boyfriend and my 16-month-old son, Atti.
The trip (which was gifted by Beaches) entailed an eight-hour flight to Antigua, followed by a 75-minute stopover where we had to stay on the plane, followed by another two-hour flight to Turks and Caicos. It worked out as just over twelve hours on a plane once you factor in the boarding and disembarking.
It was LONG. And I was a bit (read: EXCEEDINGLY) apprehensive about that length of flight with a super small person in tow.
We flew economy with British Airways, and pre-booked front row seats so that we could use the bassinet/bouncer attachment (there is a shelf that folds down and if you request it, the cabin crew will supply a bassinet or bouncer that attaches to the shelf). We didn’t book Atti an extra seat – he was on our laps.
But we survived. I am here to tell the tale. And the wounds are small. I am not sat rocking in a dark room pleading with my brain to rid me of the traumatising memories. And so I thought I would share everything we packed for the flight, the things which were a success, the things which weren’t, and the things which I’d bring with me if we were to do it all over again. I hope you find it useful.
What we took on the plane…
We kept our hand luggage as minimal as possible to avoid having too much to carry. Chris took a rucksack and I had a giant tote bag (bit of a pricey fella from the Whistles sale, but super cute and am using it every day now back home) which we used to split up all of Atti’s necessary equipment. I also packed Atti a small rucksack and we had the Babyzen YOYO stroller (gifted) which folds small enough to fit in the overhead locker.
Chris took the iPad and snacks, Atti’s rucksack had all toys and activities and I had the changing stuff and blankets etc.
We also obviously had passports, boarding passes, phones, keys and wallets.
The packing list…
Nappy pouch: I’ve used an Elizabeth Scarlett pouch to hold nappies and wipes since Atti was little. It was especially convenient when getting up to change him as I didn’t have to take my entire flight bag or search for the individual components – I did have to keep his nappy cream separately in my liquids bag though.
Extra dummies: We’re still using dummies (the MAM ones are the best) for nap and bed time as well as during periods when he needs extra comfort like when he’s feeling unwell or teething. I packed four for the flight to make sure we were catered for some falling on the floor and getting lost – he also sucked on it during take-off and landing so am wondering if it helped with ears popping etc.
Snacks: I avoided anything messy and stuck the classic dry toddler snacks from brands like Kiddylicious and Organix. I think I’d packed about eight different bits (vegetable straws, oat bars, smoothie melts etc) alongside a sandwich and fruit pot I’d bought from Pret. They were all demolished half way through the flight. Pack as many snacks as your back will carry. They are the ULTIMATE plane-tantrum-ender.
Spare clothes: I dressed Atti in a navy pyjama set because I wanted him to be as comfy as possible and I opted for a dark colour so that it wouldn’t be obviously stained by anything suspect within two minutes of boarding the aircraft. I then packed two spare sets of pyjamas, a short sleeved vest and a hoodie to help deal with fluctuating plane temperature and spillages but didn’t need to use them.
iPad: Atti was actually fairly happy to watch Peppa Pig on our in-flight screens without any headphones, but the iPad was really handy during take-off and landing when he had to be strapped to one of our laps (and wasn’t particularly happy about it) and the in-flight screens had to be put away, as it meant we had something to distract him with. To be honest, the plane was so loud anyway that we had the iPad on full volume and you could only just hear it, so I doubt it was too much of a problem for fellow passengers.
Headphones: I bought some toddler-suitable headphones on Amazon and tried to get Atti to try them a few times before the flight so he’d get used to them. Dear reader, he did not get used to them. He did not use them. They were not needed.
Calpol sachets: I rarely go anywhere without these lifesavers. Not all supermarkets/chemists sell the sachets rather than the bottle – which are obviously much easier to travel with as they pack so easily – so you do have to hunt them out.
Sippy cup: We took Atti’s empty sippy cup through security and then filled it up with water from the airport water fountain and refilled it with bottled water throughout the flight.
Sleep bag: I wanted to take as many of Atti’s sleep associations with him in a real bid to convince him to GO TO DAMN SLEEP ON THE PLANE, including his sleep bag. I put him in it immediately after take off and placed him in the bassinet ready for a nap. He slept for 30 minutes, it was the only sleep he did for the entire 12 hours we were on that outgoing flight. Lol. Would likely not pack next time.
Peppa Pig magazine: Atti has never had a magazine before and I thought there might be some curiosity about it, about flicking the pages and looking at the Peppa Pig characters (it is his current fave cartoon after all). It occupied him for about five minutes – and three of those were watching us battle to get the free plastic crap out for him). I think he might be too young?
Stacking square cups: I made a mistake in that thinking that because Atti was low-key obsessed with his round stacking cups from January to March that he might like these in April. I was wrong. Occupied him for 90 seconds and then they were cruelly cast aside. (They were purchased from B&M).
Stacking tower: Atti has a full size wooden stacking tower from Hema and it’s been one of his fave toys from the past six months, so when I spotted this mini version in a charity shop for £1, I bought it. Again, it was played with for about 90 seconds. Excellent.
Whale toy: This whale came highly recommended via a random ‘long-haul flying with a toddler’ blog post I stumbled upon. I panicked and bought it from Amazon. It is basically a cuddly toy with zips and buckles all over it – the fun being undoing and doing up said buckles. Again, Atti was not particuarly interested in it, but I could see him coming back to it in a few months time, so maybe something to save for a future flight.
Posting box: Atti’s favourite activity at nursery is playing at the posting station where there’s lots of things like wooden sticks and giant buttons that he can post through slots in boxes etc, so I made him his own version for the plane by cutting some holes in an old Birchbox and some coloured sticks from The Works. HE WAS OBSESSED. Better than Peppa. He posted the sticks in the box over and over again, and then he transfered them from seat to floor and back again for the entire flight. Lifesaver.
Blanket: I was going to just pack a giant muslin and then at the last moment realised that his Aden + Anais dream blanket (gifted) which is much thicker and cosier, actually folded up quite small. We didn’t touch it on the flight out, but then the flight home was positively Arctic and the supplied BA blankets did nothing to warm us up and the Aden + Anais one was incredibly appreciated. Wrapping it around both of us was actually the thing which helped us both drift off for a bit. I would definitely pack next time.
What I wish I had packed…
More for me: All I had was my water bottle and a couple of bits in my liquids bag (lip balm, hand cream, face oil). I decided to save all space for anything that was likely to help me have an easy flight with Atti. But I wish I had catered to myself a bit more – I really wish I’d packed a cosy chunky cardigan or sweatshirt (v dumb move from me), as well as some top tier snacks to look forward to. Even just a sneaky bar of chocolate to gobble up from the comfort of the plane toilet would have been nice. Ha.
A pillow: I had planned to listen to the advice from This Is Mothership and buy a vaccum bag to easily transport my own pillow onto the flight to make sleeping with Atti in my arms easier, but for some reason, I didn’t. For our night flight home, Atti wouldn’t sleep in the bassinet or bouncer supplied by BA (he was simply too big for either and too small for his own seat), and we all struggled to get comfy enough to drift off. The supplied pillows are about as big as my foot, so not particularly great. Next time I would definitely find the room to bring my own on board.
Other things to consider…
Baby carrier: We took an ergobaby carrier on board a flight when Atti was a lot smaller, but because we didn’t use it huge amounts at home, he wasn’t particularly calm about being in it. But I know a lot of people swear by baby carriers for flights because it frees up your hands and also is another way to try and get your baby to sleep on you.
Milk and bottles: Atti is not a milk fiend, so we decided to make our lives easier and just not bother with milk for either of the flights. You can take as much formula (and baby food) through security as you need, regardless of the 100ml liquid rule – it just needs to be flagged when you do. But had I wanted to bring milk with me I think I would have bought some bottles of formula follow-on milk (we use cow’s milk at home), and then some Milton sterilising wipes if I needed to clean a bottle between uses.
Further reading you might find helpful: ‘The Essential Packing List For Travelling With A Baby Or Toddler’ from This Is Mothership and ‘Travelling Alone With Children‘ from my gal Susie.