Will and I have always loved travelling and have continued to trek around since Miss S joined the family. Sure, it’s different with a child (and it should be – we would never risk taking her to malaria ridden areas for instance) but you can still do it.
Whilst travelling with Miss S is wonderful – the actual flight in itself can generate a lot of anxiety – and I mean a lot. I spend up to a week planning for the long flights – snacks, toys, naps, clothes – I am not kidding – this is a military grade operation. But let me tell you – my planning and type A personality has made all our flights much easier (Will has actually said this out loud) and after flying to Greece, India, Bali I can share my top 5 tips for flying with kids:
- Pack a “go to bag”
The nature of this bag changes depending on the age of the child. But I am referring to the small bag of essentials (in addition to your “in case of disaster” big carry on) that stays with you for take-off, landing, turbulence. It never goes in the overhead – it’s the bag of essentials you could need at any point in the war zone of flying with kids – consider it your armory. When we went to Greece with Miss S at 8 weeks the armory had 2 nappies, wipes, nappy bags, a spew rag and a dummy. It was a large sandwich bag that we clutched onto for dear life. A new born is constantly passing motions so there were regular nappy changes – and if any clean ups were needed it was easy – take the sandwich bag and make the magic happen. Now at 14 months the go to bag is a small sack with small toys, 1 book, water bottle, 3-4 snacks, Flopsy (Miss S’ soother that she ONLY gets in the cot unless we are flying – because we will use anything and everything people!!) and wipes. This is the essential stuff. If the aircrew try and take this off me for take-off or landing I will fight to the death – this is the stuff we NEED to survive when she is locked on our lap – the bag holds the key to distraction and bargaining. And it works! Try a small bag with the essentials – ONLY the essentials in here; keep it compact!
- Use your weapons
On the spectrum, I’m probably on the stricter side as a parent – my mother reminds me of this a lot! Miss S does not watch TV or play with screens and eats very healthily – as you would have seen on my Instagram. BUT – anything goes in the air. I have toddler games on the iPAD in case, Will has weird games on his phone to distract her if needed (though I suspect he actually normally plays these and uses her as the scapegoat!). I pack all her favourite snacks – wholemeal apple and sultana bars, frittata, broccoli nuggets, cheese, yoghurt – it’s all in there. If she wanted a Big Mac on that plane I would probably give it to her – it won’t kill her, but an unhappy kid for 6 hours might kill us. Eat what you want little girl – let’s just get to that beach!!
- Pick the time carefully
Will and I used to fly for 5 hours longer through 7 different countries if we could save a couple of hundred dollars when we were younger. You just can’t put kids through that though. You know your child best so pick the flight time when you know they are easiest – even if you have to pay a bit more. We know Miss S sleeps in her cot through the night and isn’t a good night flyer so we pick day flights and it works for us. Some would say “you’re wasting a day flying” – and trust me they have, but we retain sanity (so does Miss S) and we all get there a lot happier so it’s worth it for us!
- Keep them comfy
Kids are more susceptible to ear troubles when the plane ascends and descends. The reason is that they have smaller eustachian tubes – this is the tube that connects the nose and middle ear so essentially ensures the middle air has air in it. Middle ear pressure equalisation is harder for kids which is why they are more prone to ear pain. It doesn’t matter what it takes, children should ideally be sucking or chewing when the plane changes altitude. When Miss S was little I would chuck her on the breast ASAP so that she would swallow and help equalise the pressure. Later it was the dummy. Now we give her a favourite snack so she chews – do whatever you can to save them the distress. Most of us have experienced painful ears in a plane – imagine being a little one with no explanation as to why it’s happening – prevention is key here!! On our way over to Bali Miss S was having huge top molars rip through her gum and had been an irritable and grumpy bear – so a dose of Ibuprofen pre- flight was a pre-emptive tactic we used which helped I suspect – you will never really know if you’re pre-emptive battle plans work but if they’re happy, and no harm is done, who cares!
- Go in with the right mind set
A long flight with kids isn’t easy so Will and I board that plane in battle mode- I’m fairly sure I resemble Xena as I walk onto the aircraft. I will do whatever it takes to keep Miss S happy and healthy on that flight. On the recent Bali flights we walked up and down the plane at least 10 times each – we picked spots we could stand near exit rows and let her walk around. Little tips like 2 parents not eating at the same time makes life easier – we always ask the hostess to drop the second meal later so that we are not both struggling with a baby and tray tables. Finally, it’s worth reassuring yourself that you’re taking a baby not a bomb on the plane – I remember Mum telling me this before we flew to Greece with an 8-week-old. I was worried about upsetting people with a crying baby. I distinctly remember Mum telling me Miss S was a child and despite peoples stares if she cried she wasn’t a weapon, she was a child and we had all been a child at some point. FYI my mum gives excellent pep talks! My biggest tip would be do not worry about everyone else on that flight – there are other children and parents in your position and its a finite period of time. Just do what you have to do and if your child cries no one will implode – these are exactly the words I tell myself when Miss S chucks a wobbly.
When you feel the sand beneath your toes and see the huge smile on your little one’s face in the pool you realise it was all worth it – I promise you!
After our long-haul flights, these are our go to tips. This doesn’t even broach the topic of preparing for travel with kids from a health point of view – medical kits, vaccinations etc – that’s a blog all on its own. I hope you can find 1 or 2 survival tips in here to make your next journey that little bit easier! Happy travelling!