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How to fly with toddlers: 10 tips for a stress-free flight

Mother Debra Pally with two boys

Travelling with a baby, toddler or child is tough! And if you’re like me, you’ve already spent hours Googling for tips and tricks to make your flight less stressful!

 

I’m beyond grateful to the parents who’ve already shared their travel hacks, and thought I’d pass-on a few more tips of my own that I’ve discovered over the last 6 years flying long-distance with my 2 boys.

 

Before you fly

1) Don’t forget visas and ID for the whole family.

Check the visa requirements for the country you’re travelling to, and make sure you have 6 months left on your passport.

Learn from my mistakes! Once I forgot to apply for my Swiss husband’s visa to Australia after booking our flights!

You can imagine how freaked-out I was when we arrived at the airport ready to fly, and he was refused boarding. Thankfully the check-in staff helped issue an emergency visa, otherwise my kids and I would have been taking our long-haul adventure without him.

If that scare wasn’t enough, the last time I flew, I forgot to bring my children’s Swiss passports – I assumed the Australian ones were enough as we were flying into Australia. But apparently you also need to bring the passport or ID for the country you are returning to, to avoid problems entering your home country.

 

2) If you book car hire, select an agency that parks its cars at the airport.

You don’t want to get off a 23-hour flight and find out that you have to load your family and all your luggage onto a shuttle-bus to pick-up your hire car.

 

3) Pack like a pro.

Let's talk carry-on luggage...

There will be several times when you'll need to carry your carry-on luggage as "no trolley's are allowed beyond this point".

So make sure you're not caught-out trying to drag 4 suitcases with wheels, along with carrying your sleeping kids through the terminal.

For a family of 4 I recommend 2 carry-on suitcases with wheels + 2 carry-on size duffel bags that can sit on top of the suitcases with wheels, and a small handbag or backpack each.

A solo parent travelling with a child would follow the same logic with 1 carry-on suitcase with wheels + a hand-held duffel bag that can sit on top of the suitcase + a small handbag or backpack.

 

During the flight

4) Avoid sugar at all costs!

Based on how my boys react to sugar, I would recommend avoiding it during the flight.

The aim here is to have sleeping angels not pumped-up little monsters!

I’ve even quickly taken chocolate bars off their kid’s meal trays before giving them their dinner. With a promise that they can eat them later. Save these for when you need to keep them awake due to time changes!

 

5) Breastfeed with confidence.

I flew with both of my boys to Australia when they were 4 months old, and chose to give them bottles of expressed milk during take-off and landing. My boys were super fast drinkers, and I wasn't confident that my milk supply would last long enough to relieve the pressure in their ears if I was breastfeeding.

Remember if you have a transit long-distance flight this means 2 take-offs and 2 landings! For me this meant pumping during the long-haul flights. It’s tricky expressing under the cover of blankets, but don’t worry, no one will know what you are up to, as the sound of the plane drowns out any noise made by the pump, and usually the cabin lights are low.

Breastfeeding during long-haul flights is not a problem. But if you can’t find a comfortable position in your seat, ask if you can sit in the crew area at the back of the plane.

 

6) Inflate your Flyaway Kids Bed and relax!

As soon as the seat belt sign is switched off, set-up your Flyaway Kids Bed so your little-one can stretch out to play comfortably and sleep during the flight.

It’s the best way to stop snacks, toys, and coloring pencils falling on to the floor, and spills or messes are easily wiped away. You’ll also love the extra leg-room freed-up in front of your child’s seat to stretch out your own legs or stash things you may need during the flight.

 

 

Flyaway Kids Bed with child sleeping

 

7) Order special meals for yourself along with child meals for your kids.

Special meals are served earlier than the standard meal service – usually at the same time as the children’s meal. And it means you can all eat at the same time and beat the rush to the bathroom after the meal.

If your child is sleeping during the meal service, still accept their meal. There are usually a few snacks which you can save for later, and kids meals are often tastier than the adult’s – so enjoy!

 

Transit Tips

 8) Allow 1.5 - 2 hours transit time between flights.

Make sure you allow plenty of time between your flights to juggle carry-on luggage and sleeping children through a second round of security checks.

It’ll take at least 20 minutes to walk to your next gate, 30 minutes to go through security, and you’ll have time left over for a trip to the toilet and nappy changes before boarding your next flight.

 

9) Take advantage of carry-on luggage trolleys.

It's pretty difficult to juggle sleeping kids, carry-on luggage and push a stroller at the same time. So if I have a transit flight, I always check my stroller through to the final destination.

Singapore Airport has great luggage trolleys that double as a stroller for babies and toddlers. Otherwise kids are more than happy to hitch a ride through the terminal sitting on top of your carry-on luggage trolley, so they don’t have to walk.

Ride-on luggage is fun for kids before the flight, but you’ll probably end up stacking it on the trolley with your own carry-on luggage during transit.

10) Book a stop-over hotel.

If you are travelling with toddlers, consider booking a stopover hotel especially if you have over 3 hours between connections. You can usually book rooms by the hour. Relax, have a shower, change your clothes, and enjoy some quiet time before the next flight.

If you decide not to book a stopover hotel, take advantage of the airport facilities.

Take turns having a foot massage and find out which terminals have the best viewing decks or indoor play-areas next to restaurants.

Singapore Airport has a great transit hotel with a roof-top pool, which is perfect for fresh air and a quick swim before continuing the next leg of your journey. Plus, the kids will be exhausted after swimming, so they’ll sleep soundly on the next flight. Just don’t forget to pack swimwear in your carry-on!

Finally, relax and enjoy the flight! And no matter what happens, go easy on yourself.

You’re a wonderful parent for taking your child on this exciting adventure. It’s such a privilege to travel, and just think of all the special family memories you’re creating.