Recently, my husband and I took our two boys, 5 and 3, to Japan.
Our boys are no strangers to plane travel, having been interstate and overseas multiple times since they were only a couple of months old. Each flight we take, we streamline the process.
The flight between Brisbane and Tokyo is around 9 hours, but with travel time to and from the airport, waiting to board and take off, there were about 15 hours of transit time.
But these things are also important on short flights. Here are my top tips for plane travel with kids.
1. Select your seats before you travel.
You don’t want to be too close to the toilet (but not too far – toddlers are not known for their ability to hold on when toilet training) nor do you want to be seated in the very last row where the flight attendants will be chatting and rattling trolleys around.
2. If you have an infant, try to book the bassinet for long-haul flights for everyone’s comfort.
If you are travelling solo with a child, you can always ask at check-in if the flight is relatively empty and they can often block out the seat next to you.
3. Keep in mind they will board families first, but disembark from the front and rear.
You don’t want to be stuck right in the middle of the plane with a screaming baby!
4. Pre-order your meals if possible.
This means you will be served first and will get the meal of your choice and not be stuck with the cold chicken salad that nobody wants.
5. Pack lots of snacks and drinks.
You can take anything onto interstate flights. There are a few more restrictions on international flights. However, if you do have a child under 2 (and this can stretch to 3 or 4 depending on how sweetly your child smiles), they will let you take milk, juice and water on board.
6. Take some new toys and books.
You can give them to the kids one by one throughout the flight.
7. Take toys on the flight that you wouldn’t care if you lost.
It is guaranteed that you will be on your hands and knees at some stage during the flight searching for that car or pencil that was dropped. The boys dropped a toy car that rolled 3 rows back!
8. Fully charge all devices.
The last thing you want is the iPad to run out of battery 1 hour into a 12-hour flight! I did see some USB ports on the flight that we were on to Japan, meaning, you can actually charge your device on board. Handy!
9. Bring spare clothes.
I remember a fellow mum from my mother’s group who had a baby who would only poo every 5 days or so (perfectly normal for a breast-fed baby by the way). She was headed interstate in a few days time and, you guessed it, he decided that take-off was the time to release a number 3! I also had a few incidents with a vomit. So, pack a spare change of clothes for everyone!
10. Pack a towel.
A small hand towel is handy to clean up spills (or vomit)
11. Pack a light scarf.
It can be used as a light cover for you or your child. I find that I go between freezing and boiling hot on a flight!
12. Have everything easily accessible in your hand luggage.
Put nappies, wipes, nappy bags etc in a separate wash bag that you can grab and take to the bathroom in a hurry. Put your deodorant and toothbrushes in the same bag.
13. Take antibacterial wipes.
Wipe down the tray table (apparently the dirtiest place in a plane, yuck!), seat belt buckle (particularly if your child is prone to putting things into his or her mouth) and hands after visiting the toilet.
14. Use a baby carrier if your child is young enough.
Choose one that you can carry your baby in the front and once s/he’s a toddler, on your back. Having your hands free is invaluable for travel.
15. Take a narrow stroller if you have young children.
Some airlines allow you to take the stroller to the departure gate. A simple, inexpensive folding stroller is perfect or have a proper travel bag for your stroller. I have seen how those baggage handlers toss luggage around!