My tips for flying with kids!
Updated: Apr 3
This is the blog post I've been meaning to write for years about my tips for flying (especially long haul) with small children. As a mum of three with a French husband who's family is all overseas, I've done quite a lot of flying with small children - and learnt a lot along the way!!!
Plan your flights
Not all airports are equal when it comes to keeping kids entertained! Do your research on what facilities are available in each airport and which terminals.
Some of my favourite airports to transfer through are Singapore and Heathrow. Singapore has an amazing soft play area that all of my kids have enjoyed and is great for burning off energy in transit! Heathrow also has a soft play area in all five of their terminals.
I also recommend thinking about your transit times. I find that anything less than 90 minutes is a really tight turnaround with children. My preference is around 2- 3 hours - enough time to burn some energy off and play, but not too long that they get bored!
I know some parents recommend staying over for a stop-over and this works well for some families. We never do this, we just get it over and done with. Long haul flights with kids are never amazing - its a first world problem as I like to say.
I've learnt the hard way to check the inflight entertainment ahead of time. I once flew with Ethiad and my kids knew none of the inflight programs (Lucky we had the iPad). Different airlines have different programs. If your kid only watches Bluey - check it's there. An iPad is always handy - but make sure you have downloaded what you need!
Pack kids headphones (and adaptors if needed) - the headphones supplied on the plane are not sized for kids.
I always buy lots of stickers, crayons, pencils and scrapbooks from Kmart before we go (and restock at Carrefour before we fly home).
Magnetic games/toys are also amazing as it's harder to lose the pieces. I've also been known to wrap toys/games specifically for the flight and pull something new out on each leg when my kids are little.
My older kids will read books and play games on the flight - magnetic snakes and ladders, magnetic chess, UNO and Monopoly Deal are favourites.
What else to pack
I always pack spare clothes for the kids (and myself - just in case someone is sick on me!).
Don't forget some airlines you have to request the kids meals ahead of time.
Kids can also struggle with take off and landing - so we pack a bag of lollipops if they're no longer taking a dummy or breastfeeding. If your kid is is a picky eater - pack more!
We take empty water bottles so they can have their own water bottles on the flight and some snacks when they need them - but also they have food that the like.
If you've heard me talk in class - you'd know I think travel prams are life changing. Going door to door with your own pram that can go in the overhead locker is super convenient - great for transit and you have it at either end of the flight.
If your baby/toddler still uses the baby carrier (I'm a Baby Bjorn fab) - make sure you take it on the flight - you'll be much more comfortable pacing up and down th aisle trying to get them to sleep.
Some people love to have the car seat on the plane - we've never used them. We do pack our car seats though to use at the other end (not counted in your luggage allowance). Renting car seats through car rental companies is usually very expensive.
My youngest has a JetKids (as did my older kids when they were little). You need to check if you can use them on your airline - but I'm a a massive fan. The JetKids converts their seat to a bed - plus they can "ride" on them through the airport (which can be a life saver and lots of fun in transit). We have used them even when we can't use them on the flight as they're a great way to get around the airport! There are other alternatives around.
My older kids take backpacks on the flight with their own games/snacks/toys. Backpacks are also handy when you're travelling so you don't have to carry everything yourself!
When I'm travelling the baby bag I take is always a backpack as it's more versatile and if we end up going for long walks it's infinitely more practical and comfortable. It also means my husband doesn't mind carrying it. My current one is from Tiba & Marl.
Once you get there!
We only pack nappies for the flight when we have small kids. Nappies take up a lot of space, so we'll stock up on arrival. We usually head to Carrefour (a supermarket chain in France) pretty early for nappies, snacks, play-doh and craft kits to keep the kids busy.
If you arrive in daylight, try to get the kids out in the sun as much as possible to reset their body clock. Jet-lag is inevitable (but I usually find it's worse on the way home). If you can get them outside and playing you're doing as much as you can to reset their body clock and everyone is happier.
If the kids sleep - one of you needs to sleep! We learnt this the heard way on a trip. The kids went to sleep early and my husband and I powered on all day - until we realised the kids would wake up eventually and we would be ready to sleep! The biggest challenge with jet-lag is that little people need to be supervised, so you need to work around them.
Self care at the other end!
Don't forget flying with kids is tough on your body (especially if your toddler climbs on you lots or you end up carrying them all the time) and can be pretty emotionally draining. Most airlines have some meditations on their inflight entertainment which can be a great way to destress. I always travel with a Jade Yoga travel mat, yoga block and some RAD recovery rounds (available in the studio) which are all light and don't take up much space. I've got some tools for myofascial release for the other end, and I'm all set for some Pilates and yoga! I always try and get to a class (and hopefully do something at the hotel or AirB'n'B) when I travel.
Good luck! It will be worth it once the jet-lag wears off!
If you're travelling in Australia - check out Tree Hut Village. They're the Air B'n'B for kids travel and you can rent a travel pram or pick up a car seat at your destination.