Flying with kids and how to land excited for adventure.

Travel is something that keeps me moving forward. I constantly need to be planning or packing for my next holiday. My husband would rather I didn’t but what can I say when travel is actually linked to my mental health and my general happiness? I hadn’t traveled for a long time after having a baby until I was researching raising a child lacking in emotional intelligence. A girlfriend had a very high functioning child and was heading off on a trip around Australia in order to get him out of his comfort zone and get him to start making friends and living life. The thought was to push him a little bit essentially hoping to change his personality. Oh how dreadful is she in that she thinks she needs to change her child? Yes, some people do.

Relating to this and wanting desperately to reconnect with my child after my second baby we set off. I soon realised the setting, the planning, the trekking, the adventures and the challenges lit something in me that had been asleep for a long time. We started travelling again. Locally, and further. We do what we can within the limitations of school and working lives. Does it solve all our problems? Does it make us stronger? Is it a waste of money taking children overseas when they may not remember it? My husband claims he can’t remember anything prior to 5 years of age.

Forget all those pressures and questions. Its about sharing experiences and time together. Sharing that outside of your regular lives is different. Overcoming challenges and hardship and enjoying great adventures gives you something to reflect on. Something to draw on for conversing at later stages. Memories that will last and foundations of future dreams. How then can we travel with out arriving feeling exhausted and frazzled? I have prepared a list of considerations for getting to the plane and off the plane. I refer to products that will help you get there as peacefully and calmly as possible. Enjoy all of the trip not just the cocktails at the hotel.

Getting to the plane.

Under three’s

Baby carriers do make it easier to get through the airport but be aware you will need to take baby out of the carrier at security.

I prefer to use a car-seat on wheels. This means you not only have a car-seat at the other end but a much easier way to contain baby on the plane. Any child that is moving – either crawling or walking needs to be contained. Any trip longer than a few hours it is a must for you to rest and be able to be bring you’re a game at the other end.

I know that airlines don’t charge for under two and they can sit on your lap. Are you really saving by travelling with them on you? I arrived in Fiji without being able to stand upright as the long walk to the gate and on the plane, then off the plane and over the tarmac threw my back out. I spent 4 days of our holiday barely able to walk.

Check with the airline what the rules are. In Australia, you must have an Australian Standard sticker AS1754 attached, fit on an airline seat, allow the seat in front to recline, be in good condition, showing no signs of damage. Be aware that you will need to advise the airline when you book and you may need to arrive early to ensure you get the seats available to put seats on the plane. In my experience some of the ground crew are not even aware you can fly with a seat. Read here for more information.

Click here to view the Virgin Australia rules. Click here for the rules for Jetstar. Click here for Qantas.

If you are not able to put car-seat on the plane and you could consider a seat that attaches to your luggage. Click here for a link to Mountain Buggy’s bag-rider. My children would of grown out of this pretty quickly as they are both tall and heavy.

Courtesy of Mountain Buggy

Or, better yet invest in one of these. Strollers are an absolute pain when travelling. Fitting them in the hire car, the taxi or even the hotel room. We used our for Disneyland and once we arrived in Hawaii left it at the airport as we couldn’t fit it in the car nor would we need it for that part of the trip. Click here for the very clever iTravel strollers. Super compact and can fit in luggage compartment on plane. I am not sure they fit down the aisle. Sure for quick trips an umberella stroller will do the trick, but if you travel a lot or plan to, then a folding one is key. If you have numerous destinations, invest in a lighter and smaller one. Click here for a list of competitors to the iTravel stroller.

Courtesy of Travel Strollers.
TIP

If you are carrying baby – who is carrying the seat on and off the plane? I recommend BRICA Roll ‘n Go Car Seat Transporter to help. Click here for a link to purchase.  

Note

People will stare at you. Not to worry – it is because you are super clever and winning at travelling with kids and they are deeply envious of both your ease and comfort but also your brain strength and forward planning.

Over two

I cannot tell you how far away the gates are in all airports. I have a solution. Not only does this help you get from A to B but allows you to burn off some energy when you have landed.

Scooter bags. I bought mine from Zinc Flyte – they are little so if you have tall boys like I do, look for the adult version. Not as fun but will last longer. Click here for a link. Click here for a Micro scooter in an adult version. Sydney airport is the only airport that has ever stopped the children from riding on them – that was in the arrivals lounge. Click here for an alternative that allows you to adapt for differing needs.

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My children pack their own scooter with anything they want to bring. I add a change of clothes and basic toiletries. They pack a toy, a book or two, colouring in, matchbox cars, cards and all sorts of things they want on the plane. Headphones are put in here and I button their travel pillows to the handle. They both like a blanket on the plane. I invested in some over-sized bamboo cot blankets and they both pack those. You can’t be sure if you will always get them on a flight. They are more likely to sleep if they are comfortable. I even buy pyjamas that look like pants and a t-shirt for flights. Comfort is key. Planes can be cold so the blanket is good for keeping them warm.

TIP

Talk your children through the importance of being able to see you in a foreign place. Speeding through an airport may be fun but they can’t get so far away from you, They need to understand that you need to be in site. Don’t worry there is always a part of the airport that is not busy and they can release some energy and get their speed up there.

NOTE

Carpeted airports like Singapore are problematic, but just fold up the scooter and use as a carry-on bag.

It’s all in the planning

Plan ahead.

What mealtimes are the children going to want during the flight? In the US you are only allowed bottles for under two. Difficult as many two and three-year old’s will still want milk before bed. Consider what is your regular routine and try to provide as much as you can on the plane. Often the plane food is rejected and then tempers are frayed because they are hungry. I try to pack rice snacks and other snacks that I can use on the plane and at least tide them over. Portion sizes are useful to be able to pass between seats.

Anticipate delays.

The amount of times I have packed an extra bottle, extra change of clothes and extra nappies and not used them is small. The number of times I have packed one bottle for one feed and no nappies and needed bottles, nappies and extra clothes are numerous. Airports don’t always have children’s clothes, nor do they seel nappies in small size packs. Bottles are almost out of the question and as for formula – forget it. Be a girl scout and prepare for delays and setbacks. A dehydrated and hungry baby is not what you want.

Allow more time than you think.

That time when you could run to gates and still get on the plane is a thing of the past and the vision of a family of ten running for their plane a la Home-Alone-style does not happen. I mean where was all their carry-on luggage. Who gets on a flight with just their ticket in their hand? Little legs take a long time to get to the gate. Some airports (Bali comes to mind) are expansive to say the least.

Problems at security and check-in counter can always happen. The more people in your party, the more likely it is that problems or delays may occur. Be prepared. Allow for multiple toilet stops before boarding. Allow time to eat or get water. Airports are a waste of time and need to lift (click here for my article on the short comings of airports) Give yourself time, rushing creates stress. No-one needs that on vacation.

Determine the gate location.  

You have time to find the location of your gate, I often send my husband to determine how far away the gate is and where so that we can then prioritise eating, drinking and shopping. He will often get food and bring back to where we are sitting with all the bags. We have gone in two by two to run airport errands. Dividing and conquering. Travelling alone I need to do all this myself and I am often laboured with carrying luggage, a child and a car-seat. Getting to the gate can be a mission in itself. My scooter luggage has helped an enormous deal with this.

Consider seating allocations.

You may want to sit between the children to avoid bickering. Do you have one of each toy? It might be best to seat the oldest with the youngest and move the middle one to across the aisle. Or, sit between your two darlings. The child who frequent s the toilet should be in the aisle always. The one likely to sleep should be in the seat next to the window so they are not disturbed.

Strongly consider this product for longer flights. Plane pal is an inflatable pillow that allows your children to stretch out. They can be used in the window seat or middle seat of each aisle. Click here to purchase.

Crowds.

Before we went to the states I was panicked about my free-range children who are used to running off from me and turning around to find me. How were they going to do that at Disneyland in huge crowds? I bought watches that I could track their whereabouts with and ensure I could find them. And of course, only one of them worked the whole time without Wifi. Disneyland now has Wifi so it would be a different experience now. Talk your children through what to do in a crowd.

Be aware pushing and shoving at a busy airport is easy to get separated. I once had a six-week-old baby in a sling and with numerous delays at the airport people were shoving me with little awareness there was a baby with me. My stress levels were certainly increased. Stay calm and remind the children to stay nearby. Going through customs in Bali can be tedious to say the least and you wonder why they don’t have more staff on duty, but you will get through but use distraction as the best method for getting the children through.

Timing of flight arrivals and departures.

If you are travelling with several children you might want to consider bed time. I am always wondering why families travel with their kids at 9.00pm at night. How do they get three small children off a plane when they are all asleep? You can’t carry all of them? You don’t want to either – it’s a long way to baggage collection. Fly at times when they can rest on the plane and be up to help disembark. For long haul try to arrive in the morning so you adjust to the time change with greater ease.

Checking luggage through

If you are flying long haul with a stopover, you may want to consider having the essentials with you for an overnight trip and check the luggage through to your final destination. It certainly makes getting in and out of your airport hotel much easier. Last year we had a layover in Los Angeles. I found a airport hotel that would allow us to pay to use the pool. The adults appreciated the shower to freshen up and feel alive again. The kids liked the chance to get wet and run around.

Getting from the plane

Transfers.

Those added extra travel agents used to always add to your trip that you thought you never needed. I would book one always when travelling with kids. It is so much easier to land and know you have a transfer to your hotel than relying on taxis. Obviously, cities like New York, Paris and London there are so many taxis that these may be the best method of transport. Consider if the line is an hour long wait? Are your kids and you going to cope with waiting for that after a flight, customs etc?

Hire Cars

Hire cars can be really time consuming to collect. Last year when we arrived in Los Angles we had booked a car to get to San Diego for a few days. To get to the car rental office we needed to get a bus. That involves all the luggage onto the bus and off the bus and into the car rental office and out of the car rental office and into the car. I can’t help but think a driver would have been so much easier. That said once we were at our next destination we had a care for exploring for the next few days.

TIP – the car-seat you used on the plane is handy now with hire cars as you know the seat fits your child and is ready to go. There are no further delays waiting for a seat to be fitted to the car.

Strollers

For one child, I recommend the iTravel stroller or similar product as discussed earlier. Click here for a link to purchase.

For numerous small children I recommend the Uppa Baby stroller. Click here for a link to purchase or find out more. These will not fit into overhead luggage but you will be able to transport more than one child around and some airlines allow you to use the stroller and leave as you board the aircraft. They take the stroller and put in the luggage hold for you.

This of course helps you get to the plane but not off the plane. If only their service returned it to you as you disembarked. Never mind some little legs need to let of some steam and the walk helps.

Airline travel is without doubt not something to crave and look forward to. I myself don’t travel first class and I think for the vast amount of the population a first-class seat on a plane is a dream rather than the reality of travel. The travel blogs who post about their flat beds and leg room would indeed think it’s fun. Emirates have suites and bathrooms with showers. For the most of us this is merely how the other half (in reality top ten % of people) live. For the mere mortals amongst u and for me to be able to travel with my family economy is a reality. It need not be as and as we all make out. I haven’t got cancer or some disease, yes, it’s dreadful and cramped and the food is off but I’m getting away from my everyday life. I’m travelling and sharing adventures with my children. We have stories to tell and discuss at length as a result.

With careful planning and considerations, travel is not so terrible we dread the arrival. Plan your trip and plan your packing. You will reap rewards from careful considerations.  More importantly lets hope you are so well organised you have time for a pre-boarding cocktail at the airport.

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