This blog is for Moms and Dads who have limited time and need quick parenting tips.

10 September 2010

Flying with Young Kids

We have done flights between the US, UK and Australia with our three youngest kids. The flight to Australia for us is 7 hours to the west coast of the US and then 15 hours to Australia. We last did this with 6 month twins and a 2 year old!

So how to survive:  Set realistic expectations.  Any long flight with kids is unlikely to be pleasant.  If you can, try to  travel during nap-time and on off-peak days.

Before the Flight
  • If it is long-haul, contact the airline and pre-book a bassinet.
  • Print boarding passes at home.  Kids love window seats.
  • Pre-order childrens meals or other special meal requests.
  • If you have infants, many airlines will not let you check-in online - ring them and they can do it on the phone.
  • Older kids can still get lost in an airport - talk to them about what to do if they lose you.  To avoid this, have Dad go first, then the kids (youngest to eldest), then Mom -  for things like escalators and security checks. 
  • Split your packing between bags so that if one bag gets lost or delayed, it does not contain all your child's clothes you need at your destination.

Packing for the Flight
If you have a few young kids, you really need your hands free and so I suggest packing only one backpack for carry-on and not a diaper bag.  Yes it can be done even with twins and a toddler.  What to pack:

  • Non-messy snacks - crackers, Cheerios, grapes etc.  Definitely no chocolate!
  • Check out the rules for traveling with breastmilk and/or formula from the TSA.
  • Lots of wet-wipes.
  • A change of clothes for each kid and yourself.
  • A portable DVD player if you have one.
  • A comfort item for each young child - blankie, lovey or favorite stuffed animal.
  • Diapers and change mat. Ziplock bags for dirty diapers.
  • Older kids can pack their own small back-pack. 
  • Plenty of cheap, small toys that the kids have not seen before - hit the Dollar Store for these.

Getting Through Security
  • Make sure both Mom and Dad have their cell phones.
  • Wear slip-on shoes (Crocs are great).
  • Don't wear belts etc that can set off alarms.  Empty all pockets before getting to security.
  • Talk to your kids about what to do so they don't get scared.  Make sure they walk through ahead of you and not behind (always better for herding).
  • Use an umbrella stroller that you can check at the gate or a Baby Bjorn / sling if you have a baby.  This is one time a toddler leash may be really useful.

Before Boarding
  • I suggest parents eat a decent meal before the flight as when you are looking after the kids you may not get a chance to eat on the plane (plus the food is generally horrible)
  • Bathroom stop for everyone and diaper changes.
  • Have young kids burn off some energy by running in a safe area of the terminal.

  • I personally do not board when they call for kids - it is often an extra 1/2 hour stuck in a small place whilst people push past you.  But, if you are taking your infant car-seat then it may be worthwhile getting onboard early. 
  • If there are two parents, one can board with all the kid's gear at the first call and the other joins them towards the end of boarding with the "worn-out" kids.
  • I always apologize to the people sitting near us as soon as we get on the plane.  A lighthearted "I am so sorry they put you near us", followed by "would you like an extra set of ear-plus" usually lightens the situation.

Once in Your Seat
  • You can bring your own car-seat for infants but that is a lot to carry.  I like the CARES product which is special restraint for use on planes.
  • Strap the kids in and give them an activity to do - I love Color Wonder books for kids.
  • Stuff the seat pockets with things you might need before the seatbelt sign is turned-off.
  • Make sure the most needed things - like diapers, bottles etc are packed close at hand - under the seat in front of you if possible.
  • To prevent ear trouble - give your baby a pacifier/bottle/breast during take-off.  Older kids can suck on a lollipop.

During the Flight
  • Bring out the new toys when the going gets tough.
  • Try to stick to your routine.  When it is nap-time for instance, get out their blankie, read a book and say good-night.
  • Ask the airline crew for help.  If you have multiple young kids there are times when you just need an extra pair of hands!
  • Accept help from people near you.  A lot of people would love to hold your adorable baby whilst you eat your meal or use the bathroom.

1 comment:

  1. Lots of good info. here. I personally don't like the CARES harness -- liked it so little that on the one international flight I took I stuck it in my checked luggage on the way home and just used the lapbelt on my 2 y.o. It doesn't have a crotch strap so combined with the shoulder straps it does have, pushes the LO down (IMO) and the bucket-style seats on the plane I was one meant that the strap that fits around the seat to hold those shoulder staps protruded. Happily I'd rented mine over Ebay for about $20 rather than buying one, so if you're contemplating it (or won't need it often) you might want to consider starting with a rental ...

    I'm a big fan of slings but would highly recommend a stroller, also ... you don't want to spend a 3 hour delay (or whatever) with a sleeping toddler strapped to your body ...