Top 10 Musts When Traveling By Plane With Young Children. (In addition to copious booze, which goes without saying)

This summer I survived -among other things- a 23 hour journey alone with a 5-year-old, a 2.5 year old, two planes, and a final long car journey and this is what I learned.

Bad hand-luggage, good outfits. See 4a, 4b,5a. All rights reserved.

Bad hand-luggage, good outfits. See 4a, 4b, & 5b. All rights reserved.

1. Don’t pack too much. You are better off paying a fee to get laundry done somewhere then having to lug endless changes of clothes with you. If staying with friends, I’ve always found access to their washing machine has been no problem.

2. Following on point 1, expect to carry, pull, roll whatever cute case or bag you have purchased for your wee one. Your best bet is to make it small enough you can chuck it into your own hand luggage if necessary. Check to see if your airline still gives out kid-packs. I found that my kids were entertained with their free sponge bob giveaway activity packs and the in-flight entertainment for the 16+  hours of airport travel. Imagine my joy having lugged 8kg of books or about 50% of Usborn’s toddler line.

2a. Leave space in your hand-luggage for kid’s bag.

3. Have them pack their own bag. That way, if they suddenly want a toy they don’t have, they won’t be able to blame you.

by CNdR creativecommons

4. Never, ever, ever bother with hand-luggage that does not have a set of wheels on it. Not a rolling suitcase requiring overhead storage but something that has wheels and can fit under your seat.

4a. If you simply cannot get something small enough that fits in your own luggage for your  kids, best to follow same adult hand luggage rules and acquire a backpack type bag with wheels so it can stay at your feet and get easy access. (Trunki cases, as seen here, were a very bad idea)

4b. Make sure you do the tipping-test with said bags. Nothing is worse – yes nothing– than a 4-year-old with a packed Thomas the train wheely bag that keeps falling forward. Hello Tantrums, I didn’t plan to see you ’til halfway through the flight, not before we’ve even made it through security! (I learnt this on my previous long haul crossing. )

5. Always pack a change of clothes for each child and adult. Pack each one separately in a ziplock bag. It will be easily found and then you already have sealed bag for juice, sauce, vomit encrusted clothes.


5a. Ladies, don’t forget an extra bra. Vomit is far-reaching. I was a 34DD/E when nursing and learned the hard way on a 14 hour flight.

5b. While we are on the topic of clothes, dressing the kids alike is also helpful to spot them in a crowd of if you’ve temporarily misplaced one.

6. Insist on sippy cups. I don’t care how precocious your kid is at drinking with regular cups. They will spill something at some point, most likely on the stranger sitting next to them or your last spare set of clothes.

7. Many planes have headset plugs that only fit their headsets, which do not fit small children. Bring a small beany baby or bean bag to help create a fit that won’t budge. Spongebob giveaway on Qatar was an emergency solution but far from ideal.

By CNdR all rights reserved.

By CNdR all rights reserved.

8. Make sure the airlines/transit airports you are visiting’s planes actually go all the way to the terminal. Having to manage kids & bags down metal stairs in the desert [hello Doha] and on to bus to terminal only to repeat the process to get on the next plane will have you wishing you were never born.

9. Pack plenty of hand sanitizer, kleenex and wipes. Also pack lipbalm and an extra one if you have klepto kids like mine. Finally lollypops for ascents and descents. Caution: give them too early and take off traffic will mean they’ve finished them before the plane has begun to flex its flaps and rev its engines.

10. Pick an Asian or Middle Eastern Airline if you can. Seriously. I’ll take an extra flight and layover anytime with people who appear to adore my kids more than their own flesh and blood relatives than a direct flight with people who look at me with that ‘don’t think I am going to look after your brat while you go to the toilet’ look. Thai Airways, Qatar, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Tiger, Asia, etc… these people understand children, their limitations on flights, and how a welcoming environment makes everyone more relaxed and as a result better behaved than a hostile one.

And for those of you who noticed it is actually more than 10…well has anything ever gone according to plan with kids? My point exactly.

10 thoughts on “Top 10 Musts When Traveling By Plane With Young Children. (In addition to copious booze, which goes without saying)

  1. This is brilliant! I had a similar flight some years ago with my twin-daughters and son (then 3 and 7), but it was only a few hours flight (but with change). I did a similar list and was very glad about the extra clothes etc. ;-)

  2. Wow. You make me want to fly to asia! : ) This is a great list. Having done similar trips I’ve seen a lot of these types of list and they all seem the same – but yours has a lot of unique ideas – especially love #7!! And I’m also a BIG believer in packing light – even with kids.

    • Thanks! I was afraid I’d be repeating the same and yet for me, blogging about it was also closure. Glad there was some new material! I will be doing a post about some surreal travel experiences, like the parents who thought it was ok to leave me, a mum on my own with two kids, their own uncontrollable daughter while they took extra seats to spread out and watch a movie…and the runaway wheely suitcases in Paris Charles de Gaulles… Sometimes it feels like it was all a dream!

    • It’s their low cost airline Scoot that has banned kids from row 21-25. Of course, passengers have to pay a premium for one of those seats. I am ok if peeps want to pay more for a quieter atmosphere the same way some do for leg room on jet blue. What I found appalling was a writer on HuffPo suggesting parents should be fined for ill behaved kids.

  3. We flew from Sydney to Norway yesterday (hello jetlag), and I have to say that I’m in awe of any parents that travel that far with their kids – there were small (2-5 yrs) kids around us on all flights, and every. single. one. of them behaved fantastic – no kicking of seats, minimum crying/screaming/whining (of course there will be some, they’re kids – I wanted to whine myself by the end of the 12 hrs flight!). I talked with a couple of them for a bit, especially an adorable boy that was travelling with his parents and baby brother – he was so sweet :) But yeah, respect to the parents who can cope with that, I had enough with keeping myself entertained!

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