Your ultimate guide of tips when flying with young children and babies

One of the most asked questions I see within the travel blogging and parent community is for advice on flying with kids.  For a new parent it can be very daunting when flying with a baby and, even as a more established parent, the thought of flying with toddlers or young children can be terrifying!  Children and babies are unpredictable and even adults can find flying alone quite a stressful challenge, let alone throwing a couple of kids and a baby into the mix too!  In this blog post I will share as many tips on how to make flying with children and babies a breeze, or at least a lot more worry and stress-free with some good planning.

We took our eldest on an aeroplane when she was just a baby.  We did the same with our son and have travelled by aeroplane around 6 or 7 times so far.  This was for one family beach holiday earlier this year with a 4-5 hour flight, but before this it was always to visit my husband’s family in Germany.  The flight is thankfully quite short to Germany, around 1.5 hours, but it was still a nerve-wracking experience to do it with a baby each time and a toddler.  It was the fear of them crying/screaming and not stopping!  I think I was always more worried about the other passengers being annoyed and disturbed over anything else.

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Zzzzzz… Bella flying in 2013

Tips when flying with babies

Babies are unpredictable and whilst you can’t be sure that your baby won’t scream the place down the entire flight, here are a few ideas that might make the flight go more smoothly:

Fly at nap-time

If you can choose when to fly then try and time it with a nice long nap-time.  Hopefully baby will still stick to this routine during the flight and your fears of battling with a screaming baby will be no more!  The first time we flew with Bella as a baby she was quite distressed at first and I thought my worst fear of flying with her was setting in, but I soon realised she needed a feed and as soon as the plane took off I was able to feed her and then she slept the rest of the way.

Take plenty of milk and food

Always be more than prepared with milk for baby, and food for baby if they are weaning or an older baby who eats meals.  Flights can be delayed without much warning, so you need to make sure you have enough supplies to get through a delay that could last hours.  Though you’re not usually allowed to take liquids through security and have to dispose of them or drink them before going through, you can take milk for baby.  I was just asked to take a sip from the milk every time I flew with mine as babies when we went through security.

Take lots of spare clothes

Yes, take spares in your hand luggage and then take extra spares to cover all eventualities!  The flight could be delayed, you could have an ‘explodapoo’ or baby could be sick everywhere.  I’d take plenty of spare clothes and even more, just in case!

Think about your clothes too

Don’t wear anything light or white on yourself in case of stains, sticky fingers, milk and more.  Dark clothes are probably the best when travelling with young babies and children.  Take a spare set of clothes or at least a spare top or jumper for yourself in the hand luggage too.

Pack too many baby wipes

Like with the clothes, pack extra baby wipes and then some more!  These are lifesavers for messy faces, sick burps, sticky fingers and of course nappy changes.  It’s always better to have far too many than not enough!

The same goes for nappies

Make sure you have more than enough nappies too just in case of extra accidents and flight delays.  You never know when you could be stuck for hours at the airport unexpectedly or even have a rerouted flight that delays your journey.  We once had a flight diverted to a different airport due to bad weather which meant we had to wait for a coach to pick us up and take us to the original airport where our car hire was waiting for us.  It prolonged our journey by several hours and luckily we had packed a whole pack of nappies in our carry on luggage.

Pack a spare bag

You’ll also need a spare bag packed such as a plastic bag or more eco-friendly washable cotton shopper to put any clothes in that are covered in sick/poo/food/wee!

More tips for when travelling with young children

Though you’re past specific nap times, milk feeds and changing nappies, the thought of travelling with young children who may be tantrum prone, travel sick, scared of flying or just need entertaining for such a long time can still be daunting.  Here are some tips to help the flight go a little easier with toddlers and young children:

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Big enough for her own seat in 2014!

Follow the last four steps

The last four steps up above count for travelling with young children too, not just babies.  Take spare clothes for your child, take spare clothes for you, pack lots of baby wipes/tissues, and a spare bag for any wet/soiled clothes.

Think about potty training

If you’re potty training then you’ll need extra pairs of pants, socks and trousers.  You may even want to take a portable potty with you.

Don’t be afraid to use technology

I feel like us parents are so often judged for letting our kids use iPads, but there’s no better time or place than letting them use one at will on a flight, or any other travelling for that matter!  iPads have prevented my kids from being bored on flights, distracted them from any fears and made the time simply fly by (pun intended!).

Some extra tips for iPads and tablets for kids travelling are:

  • Make sure they are fully charged
  • Switch off when not in use to save the battery
  • Load up with educational games that are fun, but valuable too
  • Download their favourite films or TV shows to watch without needing an internet connection
  • Invest in a shockproof kid-friendly case so the device is protected if the kids drop it accidently

Buy the kids some headphones

When we flew to Fuerteventura earlier this year, we purchased the kids a pair of headphones each from the electronics store in the airport.  It was the best decision as it meant they could have their sound on their iPads – something we usually wouldn’t allow with other passengers so close to us.  They absolutely loved the novelty of having their own headphones, a treat each from the airport, and it meant they could play games with sound, listen to music and even stories for the whole flight.  Reuben, age 3, was still a little bored and fidgety, but Bella, age 5 at the time, didn’t make a peep.  No-one would have ever guessed she was even on the flight!

Let the kids pack a bag

I let the kids take their own hand luggage too – usually a backpack with some items they have chosen, with a bit of guidance; a couple of books, smallish (but not losable) toys, colouring in pad, notebook and pens.  My kids are always more keen to use things that they have packed and chosen themselves.

Sticker books are a winner

My husband wouldn’t agree as he has a strange phobia of stickers, but my kids absolutely love sticker books.  Surprise them with a brand new sticker book on the plane and they’ll be happy for hours!

Take lots of snacks

Whilst you might not usually give your kids lots of snacks, they can be a lifesaver on the plane to keep hunger at bay when mealtimes might be a little different to usual, prevent boredom and also as a great distraction for take-off, landing and turbulence.  We love packing Organix snacks as well as pots of dried fruit like raisins and dates.

But don’t take drinks

For drinks it’s not possible to take liquid through security at an airport, unless it’s milk for a baby, so we always buy bottles of water as soon as we’re through.  We take the kids drinking bottles from home and just carry them empty in our hand luggage or drink/empty them before security.  Then we fill them with water once through to the main part of the airport.

There’s no need to queue for the boarding gate

I never understand why people start queuing at the boarding gate ready to get on the plane before the gate is even open.  Even when it is open, the queue is so huge you’re just going to be stood there with bored kids the whole time.  We always stay seated with the kids entertained playing with toys or on iPads and then stand up to queue once the queue is much shorter and most people are on the plane.  Obviously this can’t be done if they seat the plane in sections, but otherwise, why make the kids queue and get bored for longer than necessary?  If you are the first on the plane then you just have to sit there for ages waiting for everyone else to get on, so if they’re happy waiting in the boarding lounge for longer or they have something there to play with then carry on and don’t rush to get on the plane.

Don’t forget their comforter

If your little one has a comforter or favourite blanket to sleep with, then don’t forget it!  Take it on the flight so as they don’t struggle to sleep if they get tired.

Take a travel pushchair

Of course, take a proper pushchair if needed, but to travel lightly then consider a travel pushchair or lightweight collapsible stroller that’s easier to fold and load on the plane.  If you have a toddler then they might appreciate being pushed around the airport and it might save your sanity if they would otherwise complain about walking so much.  You can usually keep your pushchair until the boarding gate, so consider this before checking it in at the oversized baggage airport, especially if your child might have a nap whilst in the airport.

Let them have a window seat

On all the flights we have been on, I’ve had to sit either Bella or Reuben on my lap when they were under two years old.  Over twos get their own seat.  If we get to choose our seats then we’ve always made sure we had a window seat for either me to sit in with the little one on my lap or the children to sit next to.  They absolutely love looking out of the window as we fly through the clouds and this provides great entertainment from the plane itself.

Check the airport lounge for play areas

We once spent a couple of hours at an airport trying to keep the kids sitting nicely and playing with their toys when they were super fidgety, not wanting to stay still, and even wanting to talk to other passengers.  I remember Reuben loudly saying ‘hello’ to the man sat next to us and this man was not impressed and promptly moved.  Poor little Reuben was only being friendly! What we had failed to realise, until it was time for our flight, was that just around the corner was a kid’s play area with interactive screens, puzzles and more.  If only we had known!  Now we walk around the lounge and check out the whole area to see if there are places for the kids to play at the airport.

And finally, advice for the parents when flying with kids and babies

As a final word I want to reassure all parents that it will be fine!  Don’t worry about what other passengers think.  If you need to fly with children or want to fly with children, then that’s fine, that’s up to you.  Don’t let the fear of other people’s opinions put you off visiting family or taking a well-deserved holiday.  If being more lax with using iPads or other technology makes the whole thing easier, then do it and don’t feel bad!  The same with snacks too.  We always take Organix snacks as well as pots of dried fruit, so we’re not stuffing them full of sweets and chocolate, but if they have more snacks than what’s usual then let it be.  Whatever it takes to make the flight go smoothly, keep the kids happy and not stress yourself out!

Ultimately pack more than you will need – more wipes, more clothes, more nappies, more snacks and more entertainment.  That way the kids have plenty to occupy them, plenty to munch on and you’ll be covered for all sorts of accidents and flight delays or diversions.

What to read next – Welcome to the Travel Vixta blog

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