My wife and I have always loved to travel and we haven’t let having kids slow us down. As we live in Australia, travelling anywhere overseas (US or Europe) involves atleast one or two long haul flights. We have done numerous trips across Asia, Europe and the US with all three kids and following tips/strategies seem to have worked well for us.
1. Never travel with kids aged between 6 months and 2 years. Travelling with a baby is easy, as they fit in the bassinets on the plane and pretty much sleep the whole time. They are easy to manage and settle and just need food every few hours. Kids over two are again relatively easy as they can understand, and can be negotiated with. Also, they get their own seat making the flight a lot easier for all involved.
2. Toys and Entertainment. The older kids are usually entertained by the entertainment on board – however a couple of books or activity packs are always good to have. They are especially handy during take off and landing when the entertainment system might not be accessible.
For younger kids, get some cheap little toys from any toy store and wrap them individually in newspaper or wrapping paper. The first time we travelled with a 30 month old we took about 10 toys like tops, puzzles, cars, etc all individually wrapped. The wrapping makes it a surprise and also takes longer for them to unwrap. Little short books like the Mr Men or Thomas the Tank Engine series are also great to have.
3. Spare clothes. Always pack a spare set of clothes for the kids in your carry on baggage. You never know when a drink will be spilled or disaster will strike.
4. Long stopover. Flying to Europe from Australia usually requires two long haul flights – one to Singapore/Bangkok and the next to your final destination. We try and plan to have a long stopover whenever we can. After 8-10 hours on the plane, the kids are ready for a break. Also, airports are great as they are quite spacious and they all have some sort of a kids play area. A long stop over means they can play for a while and then you can have a proper meal in any of the airport cafes, before boarding for your next flight. If they are tired enough, they will fall asleep soon and give you a few hours of peace.
5. Prescription medicine. Finally, keep some kid friendly sedative or sleeping aid handy – speak to your doctor or pharmacist to recommend one. They usually work for kids over 2 years and we normally use it for overnight flights. We give the kids a dose as we board the plane and by the time we are in the air they are asleep. Make sure you test it at home before your trip as some sedatives could have the opposite effect….
6. Ear care. Kids struggle to pop their ears, particularly during landing, and this can cause a lot of discomfort. For tiny babies, breastfeeding or a bottle works best. For older kids have some sugar free lollypops handy as the sucking motion will pop their ears.
7. Food. Most airlines have special kids meals, and they bring them out right at the start of the meal service. However, it is prudent to have some snacks with you as well. Breakfast bars, dried fruit and biscuits/crackers are a great option. Stay away from chocolates or sugary drinks as you might not want to deal with a kid high on sugar in the air.
8. Prepare the kids. Before departing we always sit the kids down and tell them the route we will be taking, how long each flight is and so on. We also set some ground rules as to how long they can watch movies, when they need to rest etc. I also make sure that the kids are extra-polite to those sitting around us and to the cabin crew. You will be amazed how much help you get if you have kids who are well behaved and polite.
The bottom line is, don’t put off travelling because you have kids. We have taken our kids everywhere and they now love to travel as much as we do.