May 23, 2020

Flying with children: top tips for making travel painless

With half his family on the other side of the pond and a mother with a penchant for travel, Grayson racked up an impressive number of flights at a young age. Before our first, (visiting the US, aged 3 months), I stressed endlessly about what could go wrong. The flight was a breeze, but it gets harder as he’s got older! I found some questionable advice about flying with children, so here’s a round-up of what works for us in the hope that it helps you!

1. Plan, plan, plan!

It seems to be that if you over prepare for a situation, it never arises. The only time I’ve needed spare clothes is when I’ve forgotten them, for example. Make sure you have more wipes, nappies, spare clothes etc than you could ever imagine needing. Also bring medicine in case you suddenly need it. Grayson cut a molar at 10 months on an overnight flight. Our neighbours did not love us for forgetting the Calpol!

Double check what hand luggage your airline will allow before flying with children, plus extra checked luggage like pushchair or car seat etc. The airlines vary massively and you just don’t need any extra stress at the airport.

As boring as airports are, get there early. Nothing worse than corralling an uncooperative kid when you’re in a hurry. An increasing number of airports have play areas for kids now too.

2. Get some sleep

Our journeys are always smoother when we’ve managed to stick to nap / bed times. It isn’t always possible but travelling with an overtired, cranky kid is AWFUL! For example, if you can time your car journey to the airport with a nap you get a happy child for the airport. Flying to South Africa was amazing; we got on at bed time and he slept nearly the whole way (plus no jetlag on arrival – definitely my favourite travel destination with kids from the UK!)

When Grayson was younger we always took his cotbed pillow. We found that having a familiar pillow made settling go much more smoothly than the scratchy airplane pillows. It’s another thing to carry but it’s always been worth it for us. Plus, you have it at your destination…

3. Hooray for screen time!

I know, I know, it’s not recommended but long flights with small kids are made so much easier with screens. You can put books on them (lighten your luggage), educational apps, download their favourite TV shows and more. And it does make the time fly when you just need a few minutes peace.

We invested in headphones from a young age so he wasn’t disturbing everyone around him. Make sure you’ve practiced lots with them at home before you set off!

As Grayson gets older free games like i-Spy, Would You Rather and so on pass time, especially in car journeys to and from airports.

4. Flying with kid friendly luggage

I have found G more interested in taking ownership for his own luggage since he was allowed to pick his own bag. Yep, it takes ages to get anywhere but he is responsible for his own suitcase. Plus, he’s the envy of everyone (adults and kids!) with his cool bag so makes friends wherever he strolls! 

cool kids plane luggage

Plus, he gets excited choosing what he wants to pack for the flight. As well as his choices, I buy a few new bits for each journey so that he has some “surprises” that can be brought out at various intervals. I lean towards things that can be played easily in his seat space, without small pieces. Sticker or activity books, notepads and crayons and a big hit. My favourite crayons are Crayola Twistables because they can’t break and there are no lids to lose.

If your kids are a bit more reliable with not losing pieces I’d highly recommend the MudPuppy magnetic tins. There are loads to choose from like build your own robot, mermaid, funny face etc and all the pieces stick to the box. Probably only suitable from age 4 or so though.

The best find, however, is definitely washi car tape.  We would now never fly without it! It deliberately never gets played with at home so it’s so exciting when we’re on a plane. Every trip he picks which vehicles he is going to bring for his road or train track. Make any shape on the seat back table and this keeps little hands occupied for ages. It also works really well on hotel room carpet and tables in restaurants as we found out during an unplanned snow storm layover.

5. Food for the plane

Make sure you order a kid’s meal for the plane and also arm yourself with a thousand snacks for when they refuse to eat any of it! (Or when they forget to load the kid meal which has happened to us on FOUR flights to date)

Did you know that if you’re flying through a big airport you can order fruit pouches / pre-made formula etc to pick up at Boots air side to save you carting it to the airport or dealing with it through security?

Again double check –  babies are allowed food and drink through security. Turns out the over 2s are not which resulted in a bit of a yoghurt-pouch-in-the-bin related tantrum on one trip. My bad 😉

6. The one big no from me

One of the supposed “best hints” for flying with children that I read about was buying and wrapping “presents” so your child opens a new gift each hour of your flight.

I tried this. Once.

Never again!

I found that on top of the general mess kids make on planes, I had a footwell full of ripped wrapping paper and an over-excited 2.5-year-old who kept scream-singing Happy Birthday to himself each time a “present” appeared. It was doubly embarrassing when the whole crew made him a birthday note!

My advice is keep it simple. Kids love new stuff enough without adding to your headache having to wrap presents and deal with plane chaos. It’s a firm thumbs down from me!

I hope some of these tips about flying with children will be of use. I’d love to hear where you’re off to (or are dreaming of going!) and how your flight goes!

And did you know that I also travel with my families to capture their holiday moments for them? If you’re planning a weekend away why not consider a photo shoot while you’re at your holiday location? Check out the family photography gallery to get an idea of the style of photography you can expect.

About Tori

Hi I’m Tori, welcome to the home of all things happy! Here I reckon you’ll find some of the happiest photos in Hertfordshire…I love being around love so I was made for photography. Your wedding, your family days, your passion projects; they all give me the grins. Anything you want to chat about, I’ve probably seen it so get in touch because I love a good natter. Plus, maybe we’re friends that just haven’t met yet, who knows?!