As families living in Qatar, it is inevitable that at some point we will be flying with our kids. Maybe you’re planning your move to Doha with the children in tow or perhaps you’re preparing to travel with an infant for the first time after having given birth in Qatar. As families living in Qatar, it is inevitable that at some point we will be flying with our kids. Maybe you’re planning your move to Doha with the children in tow or perhaps you’re preparing to travel with an infant for the first time after having given birth in Qatar.
No matter your child’s age, here are some tips to keep them occupied, maintain your sanity and ensure everyone arrives happy and safe.
- Skip the Trunki—dragging your child on the ride-on child-sized suitcases while corralling your own handbags may be more trouble than it’s worth. Instead, provide a child-sized backpack for younger children to carry their own toys. It will encourage responsibility and help lighten your load—at least when they’re willing to carry the bags themselves. When the novelty wears off it’s easy to toss their bags over your arm or strap them to your own carry-on bag.
- An FAA-approved car seat is the safest place for your child on an aircraft. It also provides a familiar setting for your little one amongst unfamiliar surroundings. With the car seat in tow you won’t have to worry about acquiring one when you reach your destination. You also won’t be required to move your sleeping baby in case of turbulence as you would if your infant was asleep in the bassinet. If you want to use the car seat on the plane you will need to purchase a seat for your little one, but thankfully these tickets are often discounted as “child fares.”
- Bring a change of clothes for you and the kids and consider two sets for your youngest traveller. It’s worth noting that Qatar Airways often has packs of extra nappies, bottles and wipes on board—always good to have in case of an emergency.
- If you are a family of four or more, consider splitting up the seating so there’s one parent per child on opposite sides of the plane. This means that each parent is responsible for one child—minimizing the possibility of bickering between the kids and guaranteeing that one unlucky parent isn’t saddled with taking care of the kids while the other enjoys a leisurely flight.
- If you are travelling with a baby or toddler, pack a smaller bag filled with a few necessities (diapers, wipes, cream, etc.) into your main carry-on bag; once onboard slip the bag into the seat pocket in front of you for easy access. This is much easier (and safer) than having to lug a big carry-on bag down from the overhead bin every time you need a diaper.
- The U.S. Transportation Security Administration allows families travelling with young children to carry baby food, milk, formula, breast milk, medicine and other medically necessary liquids through security in excess of the 100 ml limit. However, these liquids may be subject to additional testing so plan for more time to go through security.
- If travelling with an infant, ask for a bassinet seat. Even if your baby prefers to be held, that extra space for blankets, diapers or even just a safe place to put baby down for a moment can be a great help.
- Arrange for a “travel buddy” if you are flying solo with your child. The Doha Mums forum is a great place to shout out for a co-traveller. A travel buddy is another mother or family who can lend a helping hand—watch your bags while you go change a diaper, hold a baby while you run to the toilet, let their older kids entertain your little one or any number of small but valuable tasks.
Keeping them entertained
- If there was ever a time to break the “no TV or iPad” rule, it’s on an eight-hour flight. Load the iPad with kid-friendly apps, movies and TV shows and enjoy some time to yourself.
- If your child is young, hide several small toys a few months before your trip then wrap them up as presents and place them in your child’s carry-on for the plane. They’ll have fun unwrapping the gift and the “new” toys should keep them busy for some time.
- Qatar Airways, Emirates, Etihad, British Airways and United Airlines offer special child meals with healthy and kid-friendly food options for children between the ages of two and twelve. Not only are these meals fun for kids but they are also served first. Be sure to reserve these meals when you purchase your tickets as they are generally not available on demand.
- Depending on the age of your child, let him or her wear a costume onto the plane; the child receives loads of attention and feels like a rock star. As long as there aren’t any issues with itchy costumes or “OMG, I have to get this costume off before he pees himself” situations then you will have one proud child on your hands.
Documentation—more than passports
- Make sure you have a “No Objection Letter” from your spouse if you are travelling with the kids on your own. Some countries require permission from the other parent in order for you to travel into or out of the country. Take the time to research this as countries have different requirements. Some just require a birth certificate while others might want a notarised letter from the other parent.
- Carry a photocopy of your child’s birth certificate and your marriage certificate.
- Double-check the validity on your family’s passports and visas before booking your flights. The last thing you want to deal with on your holiday is the discovery that your youngest child’s residency permit expires two days before you return to Doha.