Travelling with kids – the Airplane Edition

As a Swedish/English Family we spend a lot of time travelling between countries. Either by plane, boat or car – all options have their pros and cons.

Traveling with kids… WHY would you put yourself through that you ask.

Well. Yes. Quite.

It can be stressful from the get go and you certainly have to know what you’re up against, but what I’ve discovered is that the more prepared you are the easier it gets. Really.

Happy kids, happy parents, happy fellow passengers, happy everyone.

It’s starts with the packing. Go light. Bare essentials if you can. (And I totally get that it’s pretty much impossible with kids in tow!) But you can buy a lot of the heavy, bulky stuff at your destination (sun factor, nappies etc) or you can pre order nappies and things like formula at the airport. (Check out Boots online)

If you are travelling on your own with your kids then the backpack is your best friend. It gives you the freedom to use your hands and arms when needed. When your toddler tries to run off and into every shop in the terminal and at the same time the baby needs feeding and your oldest has decided that everything is laaaaaaaame and will not help thank you very much – then you need your arms. Also, necessary for easy access on the flight, as you will need ALL the baby stuff at different points during the flight.

However, if there are two of you then backpacks and a push along cabin luggage combo is a good way to go. You can fit more items into a pull along (generally) and you can store it away over head. If you’re bringing a pram on holiday then it might be an idea to take it through to the plane. We generally do. You can load it up with the stuff you don’t want to carry – jackets, kids bags, the daughter’s bunny rabbit that she all of sudden doesn’t want to carry. Also, kids legs get tired quickly so sitting in the pram for a little while is a nice break. (Plus they’re strapped in. Bonus.). Just remember that they might ask you to collapse the darn thing at security. We once had to bring a “lease” pram on a flight and spent an agonising 10 minutes trying to collapse it and then later un-collapse it!

Double check where you’ll pick up your pram once you’re at your destination though. Sometimes you pick it up right outside by the plane staircase and sometimes it’ll arrive with your bags. Twice we’ve had to collect it from “special luggage” around the corner from the conveyor belt.  (One time at Edinburgh airport, Scotland, we left the pram on the “special baggage” conveyor belt and made it half way into the city until we realised! Luckily, it was still there! That’s baby brain for you.)

I always pack sets of clothes in all my carry ons. So for my three kids, I’ll have at least one spare set of clothes in each of the carry ons. I know it sounds a bit weird but you’ll thank me one day. You might end up needing a jumper or a new pair of joggers on the plane and Sod’s law the spare clothes are all in the cabin luggage stowed away in the above compartment and you have a sleeping babe in arms. (Yes, it has happened to me).

If you’re travelling with a baby for the first time then fear not! As long as you feed the baby on take off and landing then you should be okay.If the baby cries then she cries. Please don’t worry about anyone else part from your baby. I know how easy it is to get stressed and worry about everyone else on the plane. Of course you do. I still do. We don’t want the baby to cry! But the thing is – your fellow passengers will survive. Baby will feel better sooner if mum or dad is relaxed. Generally, I find that people are really helpful and willing to give you a hand. On every flight I’ve been on as a lone parent, and I’ve been on a lot of them, there are always people happy to help.  Now, obviously there are exceptions. The occasional tut or eye roll. I get a few of them nowadays when I board the plane with my brood. It’s just plain rudeness and ignorance and not worth my time.

Oh and do make sure you check where the changing stations are as they’re not always in every toilet. I made it all the way to front of a plane recently just to be told all baby changing facilities are at the back. Wonderful. On most European flights I’ve used I find them to be TINY. So make sure you’re prepared and have everything at hand.  Leave extra time. For everything. Getting to the airport, parking the car, check in, getting through the airport… Extra time. Because, well, kids. Prepare for any eventuality. Car breaking down on the M25, toddler needs a wee NOW!, baby vomits all over you in the check in queue… So many scenarios.

Waiting is a killer, particularly standing in a long line to board the plane and your kids are singing: “WHY ARE WE WAITING?!” and shouting “THE PLANE IS RIGTH THERE, I CAN SEE IT MUMMY!!!”If there are two of us, and we’re travelling from a civilised airport with a kids playroom/area, then one of us will queue whilst the other entertain the kids. Tire them out big time!

When travelling solo, and there is no kids playroom/area then I find that bribery is the only way forwards. You know those crazy expensive magazines your kids are always begging for at the supermarket with like a plastic Peppa pig toy or similar? Yes my friend. I pull them out and my kids are generally happy for the entire 27 minutes we have to wait to board.

Or, a quick game of “guess where that plane is travelling to” will entertain them for exactly 7 minutes.If there’s an option to go via Fast track then by Zeus do so if your holiday wallet will allow it. This goes for any kind of Fast track/VIP/queue skipping service. It’s totally worth it.  Once safely on the plane, my kids will happily watch an episode or two of “Hey Dugee” on their iPads. My kids are seasoned travellers and they know what to expect now. I tend to choose an aisle seat for a number of reasons. First, I can block the exit for the kids. They would have to climb over me to escape. (Not that I wouldn’t put this past them).

Second, I can easily get out in case the baby needs a nappy change or trips to the toilet for the older kids. Also, once we’re landed I can get up and safely help get my children out from their seats. A few times my toddler has wandered off down the aisle and some inconsiderate travellers will literally try and barge past her in order to get off the plane first.

Headphone splitters people. What a blessing. Because obviously the kids want to watch the exact same thing on the same iPad. Headphone splitters on and they can! This way you’re also saving the battery on one of your devices! Result.

If, like us, you have a child who suffers from travel sickness then firstly commiserations. We have battled with this for 9 years and it’s really tough, mostly for our son obviously. However, this too can be managed with a little bit of planning ahead.

8 out of 10 times my son will be sick on the flight. Pretty much always on landing (it’s got something to do with the pressure apparently) but sometimes mid flight and a few times upon take off. He can now take anti sickness tablets, but I’m not sure how much they do actually help. They certainly helps for longer journeys in the car! He always wear his sea bands too of course. You can buy the bands from any well stocked health shop. We tend to get ours from Boots. The seabands (or nausea relief bands) have a little plastic stud attached to the strap and, when applied to pressure points on your wrist, helps alleviate feelings of nausea.

We order sick bags online and bring these in our hand luggage. They’re the sturdy paper bags you will find on planes. Other bags just won’t really cut it. Always have a bottle of water spare, just in case they’ll need to freshen up afterwards.

But the best general advice is just NOT TO TRAVEL WITH KIDS.

Kidding. The best advice is to try and stay calm. Hard thing to do, I know, but it’s the best way. If you’re well prepared then it’ll be fine. And if you’re desperate, ask for help. You’ll be surprised how kind and helpful people can be if you give them a chance.

Kram

Jessica