One of the worst parts of travelling with kids is long distance travel, whether it be on a plane, train, bus, car or boat. Kids like the fun stuff and the transit is rarely the fun part of family travel. Flying with kids can be one of the most challenging travel experiences and even more so if you happen to be flying with a toddler or baby.
Last year we flew with Singapore Airlines for the first time. Although it wasn't our first time flying with a toddler. However, being our first long haul flight with a toddler, we wanted to be sure to pick a quality airline to ensure a safe and comfortable trip... well as comfortable as it can get flying with kids.
We have a family friend who is a travel agent. While we normally book a lot of our travel ourselves online, long haul international flights tend to be one of the things we seem to end up booking through a travel agent, so he assisted us with planning our flights to Vietnam.
Initially I was reluctant because the flights left relatively early in the day and past experiences have meant that early flights have resulted in worse jet lag. Although Vietnam is thankfully a lot closer than Europe so we went with the earlier flights.
However he let us know that because our daughter was under 2, she was eligible for anonboard plane bassinet during our flights at no extra cost. I actually hadn't heard of these before, but it sounded good so we were happy to try it out. Plus it meant sitting in the bulkhead seats of the plane, which gives far more leg room. A luxury you normally pay extra for.
OUR SINGAPORE AIRLINES EXPERIENCE
Our check in experience at Brisbane International Airport was quick and easy, as was our stop over period to and from at Changi Airport. Thankfully there was plenty to do at Changi Airport to keep a toddler amused for a couple of hours during the stopover each way.
Once on board, we settled into our roomy bulkhead seats and a flight attendant came to see us almost straight away to provide us with an infant seat belt. These are mandatory for children under 2 seated on a parent's lap, and are essentially an extra seat belt that loops through the existing seat belt.
She also fitted the plane bassinet and explained the rules:
Children must be secured with the safety harness at all times when in the bassinet (a velcro waist strap)
No playing in the bassinet
If the seatbelt sign is on, the child must come out
Once we were up in the air, and the no seatbelt sign was off, we put our daughter in the bassinet. She wasn't too keen initially, however it soon became a novelty and yes we will admit at times during our flights with Singapore Airlines, she was unsecured and playing in the bassinet. But seriously, can you imagine keeping a 14 month old toddler restrained?
We were beginning to think she was never going to sleep in it though until finally she drifted off and gave us some peace and quiet to catch up on some onboard entertainment.
The problem was, she drifted off when the meals were coming around and we asked them to hold her meal while she slept. We were advised for safety reasons, they could only hold her meal for 2 hours. Thankfully she woke up just before the time frame was up.
She was provided a post-weaning meal due to her age. However it wasn't great. She barely ate any of it because it resembled baby slop. The other frustrating thing was that every time one of her meals came out on any of our connecting flights, they were so hot we could barely touch them, let alone give them to a toddler. It was very awkward trying to hold her with 3 meal trays cooling in front of us too. That was probably the one negative we found with Singapore Airlines and flying with a toddler. Our meals were fine thankfully.
One unexpected positive was the fact that Singapore Airlines have a supply of nappies and other baby essentials on board in case parents forget them or don't pack enough. We didn't need them but it was good to know the option was there.
They also provide an activity pack or toy for kids towards the start of the flight. For toddlers, this tends to be a toy and our daughter ended up with two stuffed plane toys from our holiday. I think she would have enjoyed the activity pack much more.
Overall we were happy with the airline and the service. The staff were friendly and quick to respond to requests. Our seats were comfortable... for aeroplane seats, mostly due to the bonus legroom of being in the bulkhead seats. The on board entertainment is good, with lots of the latest movie releases, however I found the headphones really difficult to keep on. This always happens to me on international flights. Either they make headphones for really large heads or I have an abnormally small one...
The bassinet was a fantastic help in allowing us to be hands free at times and have somewhere to put our daughter to sleep. The few times when there was turbulence and we had to take her out was a bit of a pain though. However, it also became useful for storing items such as toys or empty food trays when our toddler wanted to play on the floor or watch some onboard entertainment... with those giant headphones.
FLYING WITH A TODDLER
From our experiences of flying with a toddler, both domestically and internationally, there are a few things we have learned to help save our sanity during the flight time. Taking the time to plan ahead will make a huge difference to your flight experience, although nothing guarantees an easy time. Toddlers like their space and hate restrictions, so being stuck on a plane for hours is not much fun.
Here are some of our tips for flying with a toddler:
Pack extra snacks - there is never enough food for children
Try and time flights to suit the usual nap or bed times
Take a comfort item such as a soft toy or baby blanket
Have plenty on hand for entertainment
Give them something to drink or eat during takeoff and landing to avoid painful ear popping
Make opportunities for your toddler to stretch their legs up the aisle sometimes
Pack enough nappies, wipes, formula and other necessities to get through the trip
Let them be active during stopovers - they need to release some of that excess energy
Singapore Airlines Review:
We would be happy to fly Singapore Airlines in future, as the service was great, the staff were friendly and the facilities were modern and well maintained. The only fault would be the toddler post-weaning meals and how hot the meals are when they come out (although this is understandable for food safety reasons).
If you are flying with a toddler or baby, it is well worth booking a bassinet and a bulkhead seat since there is no extra costs associated and even if your child barely uses the bassinet, the extra leg room is a great bonus.
Check out our other airline reviews here.
Have you flown with Singapore Airlines? Do you have any tips for flying with a toddler?