Let's face it flying with babies, toddlers and kids under 5 can be stressful and for a lot of parents overall not a very pleasant experience. But it is totally doable without a mental break down with lots of planning and preparation. I promise!
I have almost 55000 miles under my belt with twins including 2 trips to New Zealand, the first one took place when they were just 8 months old - bonkers right? We had various flights to Europe with little ones in tow, one occasion when I flew solo with the then 2 year old twins.
In fact I am currently enjoying a holiday in New Zealand with my now 3 year old twins, I thought I would share my experiences and tips to help you to master the art of taking mini ones on flights including long hauls.
In this blog I also included some product recommendations, things that can keep little ones happy and make parents life easier while waiting at the airport or up in the air for numerous hours. This blog is not sponsored so all the products mentioned here are chosen by me based on my experience and research and I think they can do the job well.
HERE ARE MY TOP TIPS FOR FLYING LONG HAUL WITH CHILDREN
1. Book your seats in advance
Don't wait until check in to choose seats or worse get seats allocated to you as that can leave you with some unpleasant surprises.
If you are travelling with babies you can have bassinets on long hauls but you have to reserve these when you are booking your tickets. There are limited number of bassinets available on a flight and they are often located in front of seats with extra leg room so they can get snapped up quickly.
If you travel with 1 toddler then a window seat is the best option as it gives them something to look out of. A window seat will also contain them a little bit more and less likely they can escape to run down the aisle.
With twin toddlers we needed 4 seats and the middle aisle was our best option as we could all sit together and it was easier to juggle the kids between the two of us.
It is a good idea to choose seats close to the bathroom to make those toilet trips quick and easy.
2. Prepare the kids in advance
Talk about how fun it will be travelling on the plane for a WHOLE day, how you will sleep on the plane and have breakfast, lunch and dinner on the plane.
I read the kids the book called Amazing Aeroplanes many times prior to our current New Zealand trip. It’s the perfect book for toddlers going on the plane as it’s got the whole airport and plane experience including some rules like you must keep your seatbelt on!
3. Book an evening flight
Whenever possible try to schedule a chunk of your long haul flight at night.
The last thing you want is the kids to fall asleep before boarding the flight so it's worth giving them a nap in the afternoon not long after lunch to make sure they will last a little longer in the evening and are ready to sleep after the lights are out on the flight.
Keep them active at the airport and make use of the airport soft play.
It's worth investing into the Trunki suitcase not only because it's spacious so you can make the most of the kids carry on luggage allowance but also because the unique ride on design will keep the little ones entertained and active at the airport and will help them burn some energy and they will hopefully ready to sleep soon after boarding. You can also pull the Trunki while the kids sit on them so you don’t have to worry about taking the buggy up to the gate.
4. Make them feel comfy
I think we all know how challenging bedtime can be at home let alone on a flight! Making them feel comfortable will help them to relax and more likely they will have a few hours of sleep. It's a great idea to get them an inflatable footrest so they can stretch out but be aware that not every airline allow you this to take on board so always check it with the company in advance.
If they have a favourite cuddly toy consider getting them a spare one if you can, disaster can hit if their comforter is lost in transit.
Even though they will be provided with headphones on the plane consider buying them one as the ones on the flights are not particularly comfortable and you definitely want them to enjoy the movies as long as possible rather than refusing to wear the headphones as you will have to find other ways of entertaining them for long hours.
We bought our twins the Snug Play + Kids Headphones. These are just so cute, soft and comfortable. The kids will love the bright colours and they are volume limited to protect eardrums.
Don’t forget your child’s favorite blanket. First, it smells like home, second a good quality blanket will keep their body at the right temperature. The MAMAS + MINIS bamboo cotton blankets are perfect for plane and car journeys as they are light weight, thermo - regulating which will prevent discomfort on a sometimes too cold and sometimes too hot aircraft. They are also super soft and comfy and no static electric. Let them choose their favourite patterns which will be another way of making them excited about the journey.
Click the link to see our range of muslin blankets
5. Pack smart
Pack light but pack all the essentials. Have change of clothes for the little ones - I pack 3 sets of extra outfit each kids for a 24 hour flight - and I pack them into plastic zipper freezer bags and label them. This way I find the bits I need really quickly rather than franticly looking for something and making an absolute mess in the bag. Also pack change of clothes for yourself. In case you end up with spills and messes all over you will feel a lot more comfortable if you have change of clothes to get into.
Pack some empty bags too for wet and grubby clothes to keep them away from the clean ones.
Take a backpack for you as a cabin luggage so you can have both your hands free. The one I got is large with 44 litre capacity, it's lightweight and what I like the most about this bag is that it has long zips which will allow you to open it almost like a traditional suitcase. This is really handy as it will be easier to fill it with your belongings and will be easier to find things and keep it tidy throughout the journey. Nothing worse than a messy bag and not being able to find things when you need something quickly.
Pack individual carry on bags when you travel with toddlers. Fill the bag with cheap and cheerful surprises so they get excited about the new treats on the plane.
Get them a special plane bag like the Trunki. My kids personalised their suitcases with stickers (these came with the Trunki) so they really got excited about the holiday plus it was a good opportunity chatting to them about what to expect on the plane and the airport whilst decorating their luggage’s.
If you travel with babies take a baby carrier with you even if you will get a bassinet on the plane. You might have to walk endless circles on the plane with them to get them to sleep or comfort them and it’s easier if you have a carrier. Also if you change flights it will come handy as most airlines won’t give you the buggy back until your final destination and you will have to wait for it at luggage reclaim so a baby carrier can be an absolute life saver for parents and baby. Some airports like Dubai has airport buggies which really come in handy but I’d say most airports don’t have this facility.
If your kids are toilet trained take a portable potty with you. We took our favourite portable potty the Potette Plus Convertible Travel Potty with us as it is so compact. It can be used as a potty with a disposable bag and so whenever little ones need to go quick you don't have to worry about looking for a toilet. It also folds out as a toilet trainer seat so the kiddies can be comfortable using the big toilet at the airport or on the flight. I'd say this item is an absolute essential with little ones who are toilet trained.
However even if your toddlers are toilet trained you might want to pack a few nappies just in case. They can get an upset tummy on the flight a few nappies can be a life saver.
Don’t forget to take a couple of muslin swaddles with you. This multifunctional item is a must on a flight, messy moments are almost always guaranteed on a flight and this highly absorbent item will come very handy. It can also function as a light blanket, changing table cover or a breast feeding cover. Click the link to see our bamboo cotton muslin swaddle range.
6. Keep them entertained
According to a research carried out by Emirates and Dr Sandi Mann a renowned psychologist and behavioural expert children under the age of 12 start to get tired and bored of a long haul flight after just 49 mins! So fill the little ones bags with lots and lots of activities to keep them occupied and entertained.
The toys and activities should be small and compact something with no noise so you don't start annoying other passengers. Apart from taking a few of their favourite small toys buy quite a few new - nothing expensive - toys and activities so you can surprise them with small gifts throughout the journey.
This is my list of things I packed for our most recent trip to keep the twins entertained:
Even though the children will be able to watch some in-flight entertainment the Ipad can come in handy if you have to wait long at the gate or when you are changing flights for example. I always download their favourite shows from Netflix so there will be no need to have Wifi connection or 3G to entertain them.
You can also download some apps for them for extra entertainment. For example the CBeebies Go Explore app is really fun and it's free.
Do you know any children who don't love stickers? These can entertain them for a long period of time.
The Melissa and Doug Crayon sets are great because they have a triangular shape so they won't roll of the table. They come in a handy flip-top case with handles. The kids will get excited by just the packaging, they come in the pink Princess and the blue Truck packaging.
Search and Find books
These are my twins favourite, they love looking at the bright illustrations, talking about the different characters and finding and counting objects. These books keep them engaged for a really long time.
Lego Mini Figures
Little ones will get excited about finding out what's in the mystery bag, will be busy building the small characters and then play with them. This one is a guaranteed 20 - 30 minutes entertainment on the plane.
Card Games, Matching and Memory Games
This cute Gruffalo snap card game went down a treat.
Buy some small and compact books which won't take up too much space so you can take quite a few with you. I found this small box full of books at The Works. As we will be travelling in November I thought it was a good idea to get them a selection of Christmas stories.
Snacks, snacks and more snacks
Pack LOTS of snacks. A hungry toddler isn't a happy toddler so best to have plenty of snacks with you. Can the right snacks help with cheerful moods and good behaviour on a long and boring flight? Yes absolutely! I am all about healthy eating most of the time but when it comes to travelling long haul with the kids I relax the rules as it is all about surviving the flights and to avoid major tantrums! See a selection of snacks I packed for the twins:
7. Board last when flying with a toddler
Although a lot of airlines give priorities with small children to board first, I think the best to keep a toddler off the plane as long as possible and let them burn as much energy as possible. With early boarding you will end up keeping a toddler restrained on a plane longer than necessary and by the time it’s time to take off little ones had enough.
8. Sleep when the kids sleep
It is highly tempting to watch a good movie in peace while the kids are sleeping but they can wake sooner than you expect them and you will end up not having enough rest. Make the most of those few hours when the kids are asleep to recharge your batteries.
9. Dress in layers
Cabin temperature can vary widely. It’s a good idea to be able to quickly pull on a jumper if your child gets cold or take off a layer if they’re too warm.
10. Pack your sense of humour
When you travel with kids, things often don’t go as planned. Try to accept these challenges ahead of time. Use your sense of humor to turn them into fun and memorable experiences!