So you’ve booked a family holiday and you’re pretty excited about it… until you realise you’ll be sitting on a plane with your young children for many, many long hours. And that’s when you figure it could be a good idea to find some insider tips and tricks.
And voila! Here all the best trip and tricks in the book for that long haul flight with babies or young children.
BOOKING YOUR SEATS
If you have a baby or babies under two then they’ll likely not have a seat for themselves. Some carriers, like Qantas for example, reserve the bassinet seats at the bulkhead of the plane until check in and then assign them on a first-come-first-served basis. So the trick is to check in at the airport desk as early as possible and request it.
Other carriers, however, will ask you to pay extra for them, Etihad for example. In that case you either book online or call the airline and talk to customer service.
The other thing to consider is that once your children are over 8-10 months (depending on their size) they likely won’t fit into the bassinets anyway, so all you’re really going for with the bulkhead seats is extra room for your legs and your baby bag.
As babes become toddlers it is sometimes better to ask at check in how busy the flight is and if you can be seated beside an empty seat. Then you can let baby sleep on your lap using the spare seat for their legs.
Post two years old, you have to buy a seat for your little one/s. Then it’s a good time to consider purchasing something like a Plane Pal. This is an inflatable cushion that fills the gap between your child’s seat and the back of the seat in front giving them a kind of leg rest and allowing them to sleep more easily. Though I’ve not used one myself, people swear by them.
WHAT TO BRING
Less is more when you’re flying with kids. I strongly suggest doing a pack and repack several days before and really paring down what you take on board with you. The less you take, the less rummaging around that will be necessary.
Using packing cubes helps a lot (or you can even just use cloth bags) to separate different categories of things – nappies, snacks, entertainment, clothing.
We choose to carry backpacks, take the pram right up to the gate and then put baby in a sling or carrier so that we are hands-free. Older kids can wheel their own bags, or ride on a Trunki, but only if you have a single child. If you have more than one I’d say keep your hands free because it is you who will at some stage end up wheeling their bags. I would often have a backpack on my back, baby on the front, and a light shoulder bag with a few basics for easy access, like wipes, passports, boarding passes and wallet.
PREPARING FOR SECURITY CHECKS
Ensure you have put all your creams, lotions and liquids (which must be under 100mls for Australia, 125mls for most other countries) into zip lock sealable plastic bags and leave them at the top of your pack so you can just grab them and pull them out onto the conveyor belt at the security check.
Make sure all your drink bottles are empty. Also have your devices like computers, laptops, tablets, iPads etc handy to be placed in the tubs outside of your bags.
If you have a buggy be sure to clear out the basket and pockets before flying, they’ll usually be fine with you leaving the rain cover underneath though.
If you can book flights so that bedtime is soon after takeoff, do so. This will allow you to go through a modified bedtime routine – put on pyjamas, read a story, do whatever you do at home – and give baby the best chance of sleep. Remember it can take a while to get through customs, security, gate and boarding so allow plenty of time for all of that. Try not to let your baby or child become overtired or distressed.
Remember that children feed off their parents emotionally so do all that you can to remain relaxed. Take what you need to be comfortable yourself and grab rests whenever your little ones rest. I always take an eye mask that is fluffy and lavender1scented to help me drop off quickly. Sometimes a small beverage with dinner will help you relax and take a deep breath, and there’s no harm in that if you ask me!
SUGGESTED PACKING LIST
- Baby eye mask
- Muslin or face cloth, just in case
- Bach Flower Rescue Remedy (the spray is great for kids – you can spray it on their bedding)
- Something to suck/milk or drink bottles / pacifier (if not breastfed) for takeoff and landing
- Snacks (in containers if possible)
- Drinking cups/bottles (emptied for going through security)
- Nappy bags
- Teething powder
- One spare change of outfit (in case of spillage)
- Neck pillow for older kids (you can get junior-sized ones)
- Small bag of toys for ‘discovery’
- Water colouring book (like this one)
- Sticker books for older kids
- Adult eye mask
- Adult neck pillow
- Lip balm
- Hand cream
Take anything at all that you need for your own relaxation with you, but again less is more. You likely will be best to just focus your attention on the littlies and then sleep when they sleep.
The more relaxed you are the more relaxed they are, so chill out, take a moment and a breath when you feel yourself getting stressed and remember it’s just a day like any other only this time it’s at 20,000 feet.
If you have any question, post in a comment below. And tell us your stories, share your tips or your horror shows as well!
Alena // Soul Mamma is a writer, educator, ethical digital creator and mum of three little darlings doing this compassionate care stuff in Freshwater near Sydney, Australia. You can join her and bumble through this parenting malarkey together with other lovely souls in the Soul Mamma Crew.