How to fly with small children: Travelling Circus

A friend recently mentioned to me that she was flying to New Zealand (or it could have been Australia and I misheard over the kids being kids) which is exciting. They are a family of four, including a newly turned four year old and a newly turned one year old, and it will be the first time they have flown with the kids.

Being a serial vacationist and all, I thought I would look back over my travel blogs and amalgamate them into one big updated travel blog for her, and anyone else who is brave enough to fly with small people.

Where to start… tips for travelling with small children:

Packing: I am OCD when it comes to holiday packing.  I start about a week before we fly.  I get the clothes out and make sure they are washed.  I put together a weeks worth of outfits and thats the cut off as I use washing facilities while away, and I make sure everything matches – this is for each person as well – so that it minimises the luggage.  I’m actually going for a PB on our next trip, we can fly with either two medium suitcases, or a medium case and a surfboard bag – this trip I’m going for a board bag and a cabin suitcase, and no buggy!  Its going to be epic.  A week also allows me time to organise things like sunscreen and nappies which can be pricey abroad, and also travel money (I do not go shopping with the kids because its a pain in the ass, so sometimes I need to have all this planned five days in advance depending on the husbands work schedule).  I could dedicate an entire blog post to just packing.

Car seats: I have travelled with car seats and I have rented them from the car rental companies.  Obviously its easier to rent them but they seem to rapidly be heading north in the expense region.  Flying with them is fine, you just need to wrap them up and use an isofix protector if you want the bars to stay intact.  I’ve had to claim a new car seat before and it was pretty easy.

Sleeping: I never fly with a travel cot, I always order one through the accommodation and check that it comes with sheets…  My kids both use/used grow bags to sleep in at home, so I fly with a grow bag for my youngest so that he’s sleeping in what he’s used to.  If he sleeps well, everyone sleeps well.  And whatever you do, don’t forget their sleeping feely’s/stuffed animals.  Also ask for a mattress protector or take one with you if they are newly nappy free at night.

Plane cot: If you’re flying long haul, you can be put on a list to request a bulkhead seat where a plane cot can be attached to the ‘wall’.  I have never had this luxury due to age and timings, but seeing people fly with them – they look like they make life easier.

Food: If you’re flying long haul then pre order the kids meals.  You can also take their favourite foods/snacks with you as well.

Milk: If your kids/babies/toddlers like milk then you can fill your bottles up before you fly and travel with a cool-bag.  This will be put into a machine and tested at security.  You can also buy milk from a restaurant or cafe in the airport and fill the bottles up then.  Or nicely ask an air hostess once on the plane.  Another friend of mine travels with small bottles/cartons of follow on milk which is sold by the baby formula brands, which I think is a great idea as it doesn’t need to be kept cold.

iPad: Another friend of mine once told me to buy an iPad before we flew to Florida.  We now don’t fly without one, especially on the short haul flights where the seats don’t have personal TV sets attached.  They are also very handy for delays.  Make sure its fully charged and that you’ve downloaded a couple of movies and a few episodes of their favourite programmes.  Travel with the charger handy.  If delayed, find a wifi spot for some kids you tube.

Goodie bags: The kids are allowed hand luggage, so I pack their little backpacks with activity, sticker and story books.  Also a set of kids headphones, snacks, small favourite toys and their cuddly toy.  They are set.

Baby/toddler carrier: Out of all the times I’ve flown with the kids, I’ve only had the buggy brought to the plane on landing once.  Is this an option?  Can you request it to be there?  It has never been there and one time it just magically turned up.  We learnt this the hard way – walking from the plane, standing in immigration lines and waiting at the baggage claim, all while carrying our baby/toddler.  From then on, we always fly with a carrier, that way the baby/toddler stays in one place, is usually quiet because they’re on you, and you have your hands free to keep taking your passport out and putting it away again.

Supplies: I always travel with a spare set of clothes for both kids.  If they spill something or wet themselves with no change of clothing, you’re fucked.  Make sure you have enough nappies on board to last an extra day incase delayed.  Don’t wear white.  Order wine when you can.

Nappies/wet wipes: I take them everywhere with me.  I have checked the supermarkets in Spain, France, Portugal, America (Florida), Dubai and South Africa and the standard packs you can buy from Aldi for £4 (52/56 nappies) cost anywhere between £18 – £25 in said countries.  I’ve also had a packet of baby wet wipes cost £8!!  WTF.  Worth checking before you fly if you’re pushed for space.  I put a couple of packs of nappies in the car seats before I wrap them and duct tape them in bubble wrap and bin liners – glamorous, I know.

Calpol: I used to take calpol with me to quieten the kids down but I’m not sold that it actually works.  I always fly with it though incase they are actually ill, nothing worse than a poorly baby on a flight.

Thick skin: If you have kids you know that they are not aways little angels. What better time to perform to an audience than in a confined aeroplane cabin.  If you baby/toddler/child is screaming, someone will always tut, sigh loudly, glare at you, turn around and look over the seat or give you some advice.  You know your child so you know they’re just bored, tired, agitated or their ears hurt while the planes descending.  Obviously you try to keep your kids on a leash, physically and emotionally, but it doesn’t always go to plan, and the sooner you learn not to care when it all goes tits up, the better.

Holiday: At the end of all the travelling you have a holiday!  Which is not like a pre kids holiday, but its quality family time, which to me, is awesome.  Its definitely getting a bit easier now they kids can walk, eat anything and sleep well.

Happy holidays!

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