With some of Australia's adventure destinations open for business again, one of our team recently got back from a trip traveling solo with her two children and it got us to talking around the office about our best and worst experiences traveling with our delightful little terrors.
I think we all agreed that the very idea of flying with kids is enough to give even the most experienced parent a twitch. While there is no way to plan for every possible twist travel life can throw at you, we all agreed that there are some organisational highlights that help reduce the intensity of the experience.
Babies (0 – 2 years)
Generally, babies of this age tend to be cool with sitting on a parent’s lap for the duration of the flight. They aren’t overly mobile yet in most cases and still have 2-3 sleeps in the day. We do know that there are 9 months old who walk and crawl; if this is you and you are worried your child will struggle with wanting to be mobile then maybe read the next category too.
Pack more nappies and wipes than you think you need.
Pack a new toy that you are pretty sure they are going to be into. For tiny tots something that can stick on the fold down tray is handy.
Pack a change of clothes. I have heard of so many babies having poo-splosions on flights. It’s totally a thing.
Feed them as soon as the plane starts moving – even if it’s not their normal feed time. Do the same as the plane is descending to land. Just give them a little top up if you can to help them equalize their ears. The only time I didn’t do this was when my child was already asleep.
Book a bassinet with the airline for long haul flights. Do it as soon as you book your flights. It’s first in first served.
Take lots of little pouches of food. If they are unopened the airline will allow them to feed the baby. If you formula feed, take enough formula for the flight only + a few extra bottles in case of delays, accidental spillages etc.
Baby carriers/strollers – these are great for some hands-free action in airports. Some airlines won’t let you take a stroller to the gate though so if you don’t have one that folds down to be super awesome hand luggage then this option isn’t for you. For those using carriers, note that airport security will likely make you remove them. They also cannot be used as an infant seatbelt while on the flight. You will need to use the seatbelt provided by the airline no matter how annoying you think this is.
Favourite snuggly toys / pillows are a must.
Talk about the scariest parts of flying, the take-off and the landing, as if they are exciting and then (fingers crossed) they will be enthused about it too. Remember our little ones sense our nervousness so if we keep calm and make it fun then we are more likely to pull it off.
Favourite activities – think about some of your toddler’s favourite activities. Can that translate well to the air? You want things that will see them engage for awhile and that won’t drive you completely mad. My nephew loves reading books, my daughter loves playing with little animals, magnetic games a fun simply because they can pick things up and then stick them down again.
Headphones – some awesome airlines actually issue kid size headphones but for those that don’t you can buy some before departure and use them to play music or listen to an audiobook for those kids that enjoy that. There are a few kid friendly movies and shows on international flights, but it will depend on how you feel about screen time whether or not you go down that path. Obviously, iPads work a treat too, but they aren’t for everyone. What you choose is up to your family.
Even though I’m saying 2+ here you probably only need to micro-manage the experience for kids under 7. By 7, if they are cruisy flyers, then they are usually pumped to be traveling and simply need a rundown of events before departure to put them at ease.
Everyone under 7 needs a little bit more attention…
Firstly, read the Babies 0-2 years list above as you will definitely need some of those tips in relation to nappies and toys and comfort items and strollers for younger kids.
Seat nervous flyers away from the window. Pre-book your seats to avoid a seating catastrophe.
Contact the airline to pre-order kids’ meals. They often do not allocate one automatically, even though you have booked for a “child”.
All kids capable of wheeling a bag should have their own hand luggage. Kids LOVE these little wheelie bags and you can stash it full of their favourite toys and books to help occupy them while in the air and doing endless waiting around airports.
Have a stash of one or two emergency activities wrapped like a gift for when they become bored of their own items. Ideally, you won’t need to crack into these, but they are a great back up. Half the fun is the actual receiving of a present!
Discuss with your hubby/wife/fellow parent slave prior to travel on who does what. If it is a long-haul flight you might want to trade so that one of you gets some relax time while the other occupies the mini management team.
If it’s fun for you it’s fun for them! Try to keep the vibe as relaxed and positive as you can.
The important thing remember in all of this is that your little co-pilots, as humans, are unpredictable and as susceptible to a bad day as we are. Your perfect plan might need a tweak or two as events unfold or even a complete rewrite on the fly. THAT’S OK! The sooner you can make your peace with that the easier your entire experience will be.