An Idiot’s Guide To Flying With Kids


Whilst I like to think of myself as a seasoned family traveller who likes to dole out advice left right and centre, I recently got it wrong.  We were at check-in when my tired and grumpy 4 year old started playing up.  I reached into her backpack to get her comforter (picture a furry flannel with a face on it).  The same comforter she has slept with every night since she was born.  Then I realised I HAD LEFT IT HOME!  After much deliberation, we realised there was nothing we could do and at the time of going to press (we are still overseas), she is coping ok. As a parent, it’s difficult to stop making silly mistakes, no matter how trivial they seem in the grand scheme of life.  However, here are some easy guidelines to help idiot-proof your next flight with your kids!

  • Print off my hand luggage packing list and check items off methodically. For last-minute items such as toothbrushes, gro-bags and comforters (!), tape a list to your front door.
  • Don’t assume you will be sitting together at check-in. I’ve lost count of how many times we have checked in as a family and they have split us up around the cabin. I don’t understand why it keeps happening, especially as we are traveling under the same booking. It normally gets resolved by the time we get onboard but it is not something a parent with young kids should have to worry about.  All you can do is phone the airline in advance to remind them to seat you together and then check in as early as you can when the online check-in opens (although you can’t necessarily do this if you’re flying with an infant).
  • Take everyone to the toilet before you board.
  • Never let kids drink unaided from an open cup. They will always spill it! Especially when it’s orange juice.
  • Always pack a spare pair of clothes and a spare top for you
  • Bring a few plastic bags. You’ll need something in which to put the leaky bottles, vomit covered clothes etc
  • Before you leave the house, triple check you have your child’s favourite toy (especially if they sleep with it at night)
  • Even if you rely heavily on the iPad, bring other entertainment for that window where you aren’t allowed electronics
  • Don’t assume your seatback TV will work. Load up an ipad/iphone with all your kid’s favourite movies and TV shows. Even better, bring ‘real activities’ that don’t involve a screen from colouring & sticking to toys and books.  Here are some ideas on how to entertain a baby and here are tips for the under 5s.
  • Pack healthy snacks for kids. If you resort to junk then the sugar may make them crazy in that confined space! My favourite is homemade popcorn.
  • Pre-order your children’s meal at least 24 hours in advance.  They are usually pretty good and also arrive earlier than the adult’s meal.
  • Pack your electronics chargers in hand luggage as you are often able to charge onboard these days
  • Always be considerate whether that’s forcing your kids to put their headphones in when they are playing computer games or telling them they cannot kick the seat in front.  That said, you can still turn a blind eye to moody passengers who’ve forgotten they were kids once.
  • Wet wipes are king.  Even if your kids are out of nappies!  Do yourself a favour and wipe down all the tray tables and armrests, so many hidden germs lurking around there.
  • Start packing up your goods and putting on shoes before you come in to land.  Do an audit of the seatback pocket, under the seat, in the seat as it’s amazing what can get lodged in there!

See these handy FAQs for your burning flying with kids questions:

How do I fly with a baby?!

How do I book an airline infant bassinet?

What happens at the airport with my buggy/car seat?

How to sterilise bottles on a plane


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