The Hols are almost here and many of us will find ourselves looking forward to a long anticipated family trip. The downside of these trips can often be the stress related to travelling on planes with kids. I’ve put together a number of tips to try and help alleviate some of the angst and make the trip to your destination, if not pleasurable, at least bearable!
BEFORE YOU LEAVE:
Check the kids’ passports to make sure they are valid, as generally a child’s passport does not have the same lifespan as an adult. Some countries require you to have a 3-6 month validity from AFTER the day u arrive home so this is the number one thing to do before you fly as getting a new passport at the last minute can be a costly and stressful process.
Book ahead to get the best financial deal.
Plan your flight based around your kids’ schedule. We always try and take a night time flight as we found there was a better chance of the kids sleeping and therefore less time to keep them amused. Basically, know when your kids tend to get sleepy or are more energetic and try to plan your flight around that if you can. BUT be aware that with toddlers and babies, in particular, keeping the child up and skipping naps in the hopes of a longer sleep on the plane; may backfire and everyone will regret it.
Pre-book kids meals as they usually come with an activity pack also.
Look at a site called seatguru for “best” seats and if you can afford it pay the extra for a seat for your under 2 – if on long haul you will appreciate it in the long run. If you have a baby - pre-book your bassinet seat also.
Fly nonstop – simply less time having to deal with the stress of travel and more time at your destination.
I always try and make sure at least the first night’s accommodation is always booked in advance – tired and grumpy kids (and adults) lugging the bags around and looking for a hotel is not ideal when you first arrive.
If you a booking a hire car and need a child’s seat pre-book it – they can run out quickly at airports!
Pack your clothes for the climate you are going to – it’s generally all about taking layers and easy to wash, non-iron required clothes.
Spare clothes for the plane trip for the kids and for you. A plastic bag or 2 for soiled/vomited on clothes and the spares come in handy if, god forbid, you have the lost luggage scenario
Luggage in general – you may find yourself alone with the kids and mountains of bags more than once or twice on your trip whilst Dad is parking the car or has gone to the restroom so think realistically about what you can manage on your own while watching and dealing with the kids so pack appropriately.
Pack the essentials but remember you can usually purchase the things you forget when you reach your destination (yes easier said than done I know).
Remember also that if you have connecting flights that are domestic rather than international you may not be allowed the same baggage weight so pack to the smaller allowance.
I’d suggest giving each child their own backpack not a pull along – trust me you’ll probably end up carrying it and its far easier to carry an extra backpack than a cute overpriced pull along bag.
Backpacks should contain their special toy or comforter – whatever they need to sleep or calm them down. Colouring books and individual packs of crayons, or textas are a good idea – don’t make them share - think about when they both want the blue crayon at EXACTLY the same time. Favourite or new books can also be a lifesaver in times of melt down.
Screen Time – load your tablet or iPad with offline games, and preload some of their fave shows/movies – can’t guarantee you’ll always get Thomas, Dora or Minecraft on every inflight entertainment menu
Babies – bring LOTS of baby wipes / wet ones / nappies and an extra bottle/formula. A spare dummy can be useful too if your baby uses one. Remember to reserve the bassinet seat well in advance
Medicine – pack some Panadol and Ibuprofen, Bandaids and Clarantyne this should cover you for any minor mishaps, aches and pains on the plane – remember to put in a ziplock bag and in your carry-on.
Individual food bags with a few snacks is also a good idea to cover you in case of delays or if they simply hate the food on the plane – I don’t suggest high in sugar food or you’ll pay for that later when they wont sit still.
SIM Cards / WiFi / Technical:
Travelling with TEENS? If you are then you know they will NEED to use their phones or tablet to stay in touch with friends, use Instagram or Facebook or play their fave game. Whilst holidays are often an excuse to back-off from screen-time usage, the reality is, to avoid major withdrawals and teen-tantys, you are going to need to let them use their devices. Perhaps agree on a daily amount of screen-time usage before you go so those expectations are set and can be managed when away without too much angst. You will also, no doubt, want to check your emails and perhaps have a sneaky peek at your Facebook page too and the youngsters may also need a dose of their favourite Disney episode so make sure you all able to access data when you need to.
Portable WiFi devices that come with built-in international sim cards that allow cheap data use for a fixed cost across multiple countries can be a godsend. roamingDATA is an example of a great portable data solution and you can tether 5 devices to it at the same time. There is a fixed daily usage charge and there should be plenty of data to satisfy the whole family. Check it out at: https://www.roamingdata.com.au/ and buy or rent a device before you go so you don’t come home to horrendous bill shock. Of course always use free WiFi whenever you can also.
Speaking of techno gadgets and the like be prepared with enough country appropriate travel adaptors and chargers as the last thing you want is to not be able to charge or use your devices which could be the only thing that keeps the kids busy when you are looking for some down time.
Also consider, for your phone, getting a Roaming SIM card (which can be used across multiple countries) - www.roamingsim.com.au so you can stay in touch with home and each other without breaking the budget. Do this before you go so its one less thing to stress about when you arrive. Worth buying an International Sim card for the Teens in your family too – I’ve heard stories of them sneaking their phones on the holiday and coming home to hundreds of extra dollars on the bill.
AT THE AIRPORT
Take your time; arrive early as no situation involving a child has ever run to schedule. Allow extra time to relieve yourself of extra stress.
Find a Kid Zone:
Lots of airports have kid friendly zones and many of the airline loyalty lounges also have a special section for kids – use these to your advantage and let them run around and get rid of their energy.
Some people suggest investing in a child locater, which can be in the form of an electronic armband. Myself, I always go the cheaper option of writing my mobile number on their arm in permanent marker.
If you have a baby or toddler invest in a compact stroller – they are not expensive and you can usually go right to the check in with them. Lifesaver when you have a tired child or need to get somewhere fast or you just need somewhere to hang the duty free bags.
Security – this is a MUST - easy to get on and off shoes for everyone. Taking shoes off at the checkpoint is not always enforced for kids but you don’t have time to unlace and lace up shoes for you or them when you are trying to hurry through this process, not hold others up and if you have other kids in tow too.
Remember to pack any liquids into a small ziplock plastic bag – details as to what needs to go in these bags and how much can be found at most airport and airline websites. You will need to take these out of the carry-on bags when going through security so have them all together in an easy to reach place.
Some airlines will issue you with a priority security pass if you have small kids – never hurts to ask.
Take advantage of pre-boarding – they usually allow you to do with small kids and try and stow your carry on luggage right above your seat.
Keep your stuff handy:
Once on board make sure you keep any items you need during take-off or the beginning of the flight within your reach.
Courtesy to other Passengers:
Ignore those giving you the evil stare – they clearly have not had kids before or have conveniently forgotten what it was like - but also be mindful of fellow passengers and make sure your kids are not yelling (if possible), kicking seats and that you are changing your kid’s nappies in the toilets not on the tray table etc.
My ears HURT:
Kids will tell you their ears are hurting during take off and landing often by screaming - try to avoid this as it can be really painful for their little systems and horrible for everyone around you. For older kids gum, a lollypop or earplugs usually work. For younger kids a drink, dummy or a breastfeed can help relieve the pressure.
I can’t SLEEP:
To drug or not to drug to help your child sleep? If you want to give it a go make sure you try before hand to ensure the dose is right and that your kid isn’t in the group where you might end up with the opposite effect—a hyper child or a groggy and cranky one. My personal experience is that kids will go to sleep on their own and I prefer to use the medicine, once we arrive, to help them adjust to the new time zone if they can’t sleep then.
Give older kids an eye mask and ear plugs (usually supplied once on board) – it can help them sleep. I always ask for extra blankets and pillows as soon as I get on board before they are all taken – these can help make the kids a little more cosy and comfy.
Don’t pull everything out of the backpack at once; one activity at a time is good.
Snacks can help too but again not too much sugar and one thing at a time.
Older kids and teens will generally be content with their iPad, tablet or the on-board entertainment but many kids also like to read or do a Travel journal and inflight is a great time to start writing.
Move around with the kids once the seatbelt sign is off; good to get the blood circulating and gives them something different to do.
Try and get some rest yourself. If travelling with another adult take turns in having some downtime/sleep.
Time zone changes– to avoid jetlag – get straight into your new time zone where possible. Don’t succumb to the “I’ll just have a little lie down” or you will probably not sleep later when you need to. Keep busy and whilst kids may need a nap or rest try to assimilate them to the new zone asap.
Instead of booking the traditional hotel accommodation it’s worth checking out airbnb or other similar sites as they often turn out far cheaper. You can often get a full house or apartment to yourself with multiple bedrooms and they nearly always come with kitchen and cooking facilities so you can save money by cooking your own meals also. Many also come with washer/dryer too which is so useful. This type of accommodation can also be a lifesaver when travelling with Teens – best for everyone if they can have their own space.
What to do:
Kids love new things so plan your agenda around having new and different experiences and you will have a wonderfully successful holiday. Involve them in the decisions where you can and let them choose a couple of activities they want to do. Older kids especially will appreciate this. Let them be in charge of things and take turns with things like official photographer for the day – you’ll be amazed at the shots they take and it keeps them engaged.
I’ve travelled on planes with my kids since they were a couple of weeks old and its never easy but using these tips can certainly reduce the stress. Nothing wrong with a sneaky glass of bubbles or a frothy ale to help ease the burden also.
Happy and Safe Travels.
Roam More for Less!