Flying with Kids: Tricks of the trade

Oh my goodness, where has the week gone?! I swear I literally just got back and dropped a bed on my toe and it’s already Friday. We’ve been straight back into it this week – school and mandarin and gymnastics and ballet and even IKEA?! With a broken toe?! Don’t ask me why I do the things I do. I often wonder why my kids are so full on, then take a good hard look at myself and think, well…

I thought given that we’ve just gotten off our sixth international flight with two kids this year, and probably our 20th or so ever, it was time for my to share my top tips for flying with you all. I figure that after 250+ hours flying time with kids (I do not jest) I am officially expert at this? Which is exciting because at almost 30 I’ve yet to be an expert at anything in life.

My first, biggest, number one tip for flying before I even get started is: chill out. People seem to build flights up in their head so much (even two hour flights which in my opinion just don’t even count!) and get so stressed out before they’ve even started, it’s bound to be an ordeal, and it doesn’t have to be. I mean, freak out about jet lag. Freak out about being somewhere where no one speaks English and realising you don’t have any formula. But the flight? Not the hardest part of travelling, at all. Relax. You’ll be fine.

Tip #1 – Easy fold umbrella stroller/Babyzen Yoyo

We’ve always travelled with a little Maclaren stroller that we take through security and check at the gate. This is perfect because you can use it in the airport, and again when you land at the other side depending on the airline. It is completely necessary if you have kids who need sleeps, or runners – and also just handy to chuck all your stuff in if no one’s using it. More recently we invested in the Babyzen Yoyo stroller which can actually be folded up and put in the overhead locker: game changer. If you haven’t got a small stroller for travelling, definitely invest in one of these! You won’t know yourself.

Tip #2 – Snacks

My kids often don’t eat a lot of the food on the plane so I will pack sandwiches, fruit, crackers, cheese, squeeze pouches, water and of course a few treats like lollipops. You can’t overpack snacks as they will often get you out of a tight spot.

Tip #3 – Sleep is everything

If your kids will sleep on the plane, half the battle is over. Both of mine are great sleepers and sleep well on the plane, but I need to be prepared – I bring favourite cuddle toys, dummies (all the dummies!), small pillows and even toothbrushes and pyjamas. I also pack a sling for Walter in case he needs to be forcibly rocked to sleep (yes, that was me with a screaming toddler on the plane to Sydney)! I will do the whole goodnight routine on the plane and sacrifice my own comfort if need be to make sure the kids sleep. It makes life soon much easier! Be sure to always ask for a bassinet seat or an extra seat if you have an infant. Ask very nicely while looking very tired and overwhelmed!

Tip #4 – Cut the crap

I so often read about bringing new toys and books and craft onto the plane for your kids, even to the point of wrapping them up like presents! Do not do this! You will go to all the trouble and lug around all that rubbish just for five minutes of peace. When you get on the plane, all your kids will want to do is watch movies, eat and pester you. I would suggest bringing one favourite toy or book per child (for Walter I would take a car and for Heike colouring) and counting on spending a lot of time just goofing around and entertaining them.

Tip #5 – Manage your expectations

This will not be a relaxing 6/14/20 hours for you. It will be tiring and at times stressful and overall uncomfortable. But it’s just 6/14/20 hours and it is so worth it for the awesome holiday you are going to have! Just don’t plan to have lots of wine and watch a few movies (although wine can help!).

It really is that easy! Just don’t overthink it. Leave yourself plenty of time for everything, as nothing will stress you out more than tired/complaining/slow kids and time constraints. Be friendly to others – they will sympathise with you. Smile at airport staff – they might offer you a lift to customs in their buggy.

Before any flight J and I will always look at each other and laugh – “How exciting! 8 hours of family bonding time!”. It’s a bit of a joke but it actually works. A positive attitude is everything and it’s not often we all spend so long together in a confined space, we might as well make the most of it!

We are off to Berlin in just over a month! The 14 hours from HK actually seems okay compared to the usual 22 hours from Australia, but after a week of Walter waking up at 3am I’m not looking forward to the jet lag!!

Happy flying – any tips you have to add? I’d love to hear them.

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