Flying can be a stressful experience even without children. When you throw your little ones into the mix, things can get a little complicated. I’ve flown with my children when they were both weeks old. Although they now seem to take it in their stride, there are things you can do to make travel easier. Here are my top tips for flying with young children for a stress-free start to the holiday.
When Tickets Are Booked
1. Check in online as soon as you can (24 hours before) and choose your seats to make sure you are sitting together (we have had occasions when we have been separated). If your airline allows you to book seats earlier – even better. Print off your tickets or have them downloaded on your phone.
2. If your child is young (under 4 months) and you are flying long-haul book the bassinet with your airline as soon as possible – they are limited.
3. If it is possible on your airline, book your child a meal and ensure it is ordered when you check in.
4. Try to book the flight around nap times – to either avoid or coincide – whichever works best for your family.
5. Take bottles/beakers for milk/water and plenty of snacks! Don’t rely on the airline to provide them. If your child doesn’t like the plane food, you could be in for a bumpy ride.
6. Pack a variety of toys, remember how many you pack so you can count them back. Sticker and colouring books are great for older children. Space out the activities/toys through the flight to keep things fresh.
7. How did parents cope before iPads? They are just brilliant for travelling – so are smart phones. Have them prepped with appropriate Apps, games, movies and Peppa Pig episodes to watch. (Mrs T is watching the ‘Peekaboo’ app in this picture).
8. Ditch the handbag and just have one carry-on bag for you and the baby – a rucksack is ideal.
9. Dress young babies in old clothes you don’t mind throwing away in case there are any major code brown incidents!!
10. Have several changes of clothes in your hand luggage for your child as well as plenty of nappies. But also take a change of clothes for you too – projectile vomiting can happen!
11. Take medication – having Calpol, teething gel etc at the ready in case they are unwell could save plenty of tears.
12. Snacks for you – travelling with a baby means less sleeping/movie time and you’ll be busier so keep the energy levels up with snacks and lots of water. It is also harder to eat your plane meal when looking after kids.
13. For little babies, a baby wrap or sling is amazing as they can sleep and feed while in it. Also great for the airport when hands-free is the way forward and help with lugging suitcases. I recommend the KangaWrap. You can read my review here.
14. If breastfeeding take a nursing blanket so you can do it discretely (you never know who you might be sitting next to).
At The Airport
15. When checking in, enquire whether it is a full flight. If it isn’t you may be able to snag a row with an extra seat so you can spread out with your little one.
16. If you can, check in the buggy and just use the baby carrier – this is particularly useful if travelling on your own – far less hassle getting through customs, security etc and connecting airports have trolley-buggies. Ideally, use a buggy suitcase to stop damage although check tip number 19 for working around this.
17. If you want to take the pushchair up to the aircraft door, make sure you know where you can collect the buggy at the other end (it is usually the same place but sometimes it will come out in the baggage hall, often on the oversized baggage carousel).
18. Some buggy bags can be expensive, we used a suit cover as a makeshift bag which has done the trick carrying the top part of our travel system OR if using the buggy to get to airport, take a roll of cling film with you and wrap it at the airport! You just have to ensure there is somewhere to attach the baggage labels (don’t want it going missing).
On The Flight
19. Feed your infant on take off and as the plane begins to descend to help your child cope with the air pressure (a pacifier is also good for this or even a toy they like to chew on). For older children, a lollipop always does the trick (and keeps them amused for half an hour).
20. If travelling with your partner take it in turns to look after and amuse the children so you can have a bit of time to relax, read, watch TV. Entertaining small children in a confined space can be exhausting.
21. Be patient and prepared with everything you need in your hand luggage (nappies, wet wipes, snacks, toys). Use the pockets in the seat in front of you to store the essentials so you aren’t up and down getting the bag out of the overhead lockers.
22. If your children are sleeping on the flight, keep to their bedtime routine as much as possible – pyjamas, story etc.
23. If flying long haul and your child has their own seat, consider getting a TravelSnug – it makes a adult seat, child sized. Read my review here.
Don’t be put off by the flight – it is all worth it in the end.
A big thanks to my friend Sarah for some of these tips. She has heroically flown from New Zealand to the UK scores of times in the first six months of her daughter’s life – many times on her own!! She certainly knows a thing or two about flying with a very young child (and puts my travel exploits to shame).
Other posts you may like to read
5 Ways To Keep A Toddler Entertained On A Long Haul Flight
11 Tips For Booking Holidays
TravelSnug: A New Way To Fly With Children
12 Tips For A Successful Multi-Stop Trip With Kids
Going On Holiday: What To Pack For Your Baby
What To Pack For The Beach