I don’t think you can ever find the ultimate guide to travel with kids. Each adventure is different, whether you plan a quick stop to the grocery store or a flight across the country. Regarding the latter, I can only share my wisdom and hope that it can benefit you somehow on your travelling adventures.
Remember, each child is different and what may work for one family might not be the perfect fit for your kids.
When travelling (and I would assume not only in this case) moms and dads work as a team. Together, this team can maintain the laughter, enjoyment and most importantly the sanity! If you are a single parent travelling with more than one child then don’t worry, you have done excellent so far, so what can go wrong?
If you are first time family-flyers, you are bound to receive tons of dos and don’ts from grandmas, aunts and uncles, but remember like in most circumstances you will need to do what is best suited for you and your little travellers.
Below are my top travel tips tried and tested, and no amount of bench presses, butt crunches or trail running can prepare you for this ultimate challenge called travelling with kids!
Be an early bird
Or at least attempt to be. Be sure to check in prior to your departure. Request your travel agent to do so, so there is one less thing to worry about. Arriving early at the airport means, a stress-free departure to get your luggage tagged and booked in.
Familiarise with your surroundings by locating the closest bathroom, cafe, boarding gate and the family lane. Parents with kids and babies are allowed to board after the priority passengers. So be ready when you hear that call.
Burn off energy
Before boarding, encourage your kids to go a bit ‘wild’, yet still keeping your eye on them off course. There are certain airports that have special designated play areas so when it is time to board, then all the kids would want to do is either sleep or relax.
This is always number one on my list but this does not mean I have to take along the favourite and second favourite toy, five various size feeding bottles, the nap time blanky and bed time blanky! I know its hard moms because we know if the little one is happy then everyone is happy. Flight travel is always tricky as we have to plan on how to keep the little ones entertained and make them feel safe in hopes that you don’t get branded as the nightmare on the flight! Remember you can definitely maintain comfort for you and your little ones by packing only in the necessities.
Carry-on snack pack
With baby and toddlers carry-on luggage is a bit different to most passengers. Certain airlines do allow a snack box (a tiny lunch box moms and not those mini backpack sizes!) and here you can pack in small treats for before or after take-off and during descend. Remember you are allowed to take along just under 100ml of bottled breastmilk in your carry-on luggage. Your travel agent would assist with the rest like comfortable seating, dietary requirements and all the extras on the flight to adventure!
By safety I mean emotional safety, reassurance as flying with kids is different to a family road trip. Being in a new and unfamiliar environment can set off all sorts of emotions. Naturally kids become anxious surrounded by new faces in a confined space. As parents we need to be aware of this as we often take their reaction as ‘nagging’. Therefore it is important to talk about the trip weeks before your departure to explain the 3 Ws:
- Why we are here?
- What needs to happen?
- Where we are going?
Have this conversation and/or discussion about your trip weeks before your departure so when the times comes, your kids are prepared for what needs to happen next. With baby there is no need for conversations and explanations. Mom and dad will need to play tag allowing one parent to get settled to ensure baby is settled and secure.
General safety is also very important. Adhere to airline rules and regulations. Note airports are huge, so if you do not have kids in a stroller, then they need to be close by at all times. There are other safety tools and gadgets you can make or purchase if your child prefers to be on his or her own feet like backpack harness, name and contact tags for kids, etc.
In- flight, the atmosphere is usually maintained at 32.2 Celsius (90 Fahrenheit). The temperature may feel a bit cool to chilly, so dress light and comfortable but have a jersey or light jacket handy. I usually let my kids remove their shoes and sit in their socks. Baby usually removes her socks but hey whatever works for you!
In-flight entertainment usually has this covered for the kids, as we all know children do not have any issues watching the same movie 30 times! It is baby that requires mom and dad’s attention and here we have to get silly – dad sings while mom tickles. On most airlines, kids receive a complimentary gift, which is usually any item ranging from puzzles, crayons, stickers, teddy bears or books. If your child prefers their own electronic device then this too is ok but you will still have to adhere to the airline rules and regulations, which you may enquire further details with your travel agent or airline.
On long flights make sure you make your kids stand up and walk about. Stretch and walk in the passage to allow blood circulation. It is not easy to sit for 3-12 hours straight.
Schedule bathroom breaks
Yes! We still need to remind our kids and ourselves we need to go to the bathroom. Avoid the moment where your child needs to ‘go now’ and you see a queue of people waiting to use the bathroom. Keep a nappy disposable bag handy to discard baby’s soiled nappy and be sure to dispose it in the bathroom as soon as possible.
Keep hydrated and fed
After boarding, certain airlines provide bottled water for each passenger. This is very handy as you not allowed to board with water. So keep them and share it amongst the kids when needed as flight attendants only pop around every couple hours. The same applies when your meal arrives; keep the water given instead of returning it with the tray after your meal.
It is extremely hard to maintain composure during and after long journeys. But trust me, it helps tons if mom and dad are calm and happy even if it means you have to be the most incredible actress or actor and smile all the way like two crazies – it will be well worth it! Kids are very perceptive and if mom and dad are not calm or happy then your kids will definitely know and this could spark a whole new level while travelling.
Dealing with other passengers
Passengers having issues with your crying baby or toddler? Remember that passenger is probably acting like a child himself/herself, so folks, try not to engage with that type of behaviour.
Share responsibilities and maintain happiness and all will be ok!
Flying with children isn’t bad – all we have to do is educate and help our children to be good flyers!