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DXB2OZ

Thought it may be time for an up to date thread on flying with kids. It's the part every parent dreads for that nightmarishly long flight(s), so perhaps we could all share a few tips to make it more bearable. Here's some of mine - these are just things that have worked for me in the past.

1. If you are in the bassinet row, you will have to keep your bag in the overhead compartment for most of the flight, so there will often be times when you can't get to it. When you first get on board the flight, take some time to unpack the first round of snacks, bottles, toys, etc. Tuck them down the side of your seat, in the pouch in front, wherever you can to make sure that you can reach something.

2. If you are in an "ordinary" row (unless you happen to be flying business, in which case can I fly with you next time please), you can tuck a bag underneath the seat in front of you. I try to always make sure that most handbaggage can fit under the seat, so you have access for the whole flight. We usually put all laptops, etc (stuff that you are keeping for safety, not for use) in one bag and put that in the overhead compartment.

3. Most smaller kids love the idea of their own bag, but won't carry anything too heavy when tired, fractious (it will come) and just generally gatvol! You will have to make the personal decision between having a bag for their seat allowance that you will end up carrying or having a bag small enough to take a book and a tissue, in which case you lose a lot of the allowance. We usually went for the bigger bag (not as big as ours but fairly close) and just filled it with an age appropriate weight. On landing, we usually carried it.

4. Many airlines can get sharky about the one piece of handbagage per passenger limit, so if you want to double up, make sure the smaller piece can fit inside a bigger piece, even if only while you check in. There are sometimes check points before passport control, so having someone else hold it for you will not necessarily help.

5. Handbagage on wheels is a personal choice. I hate them, especially with kids. They become extra heavy to carry, impossible to wheel without causing massive accidents and just a general headache. I go for backpacks or an over the shoulder style satchel.

6. Investigate the onboard entertainment system. For exampl, Emirates has ice which has an enormous range of movies, TV series as well as games, all of which will start, pause, change, fast forward and rewind at the touch of a button. For ages approx 8 and up this is a God-send!!

7. If you are sitting in a normal row, coloring pencils, etc can be problematic as they will fall down below the tray table and unless you are an Olympic level contortionist, you will not be able to retrieve them!! Pack spares!!

8. Entertainment options include play dough, scratch off coloring pictures or those ones you do with water, dress up dolls , cars and trains (be prepared to double over to retrieve at various points of the flight). A simple fail safe is a box of paper clips to make chains. Be inventive - think of all those things you keep asking them not to play with, now is the time. Hand held devices work well, as well as books on tape.

9. Pre-order the child meal but be prepared. It usually comes with sweets and chips, as well as some crappy food. I would respectfully suggest that there are times to monitor a child's diet and focus on healthy eating. This is not really one of those times. I found it incredibly useful to pre-pack bakkies with crackers, popcorn, sandwiches, etc. Make sure you empty the food out before landing, but then you have bakkies when you arrive which is heavenly.

10. Drinks tend to come in open cups - just the thing for a bored, fidgety child. Pack an EMPTY juice bottle or water bottle per passenger and ask the hostess to fill it up whenever the drinks trolley comes around. Smile sweetly and be extremely grateful to each and every single host and hostess you meet - you may need them later.

11. Lollipops, chewing sweets, general sweets of any kind. Avoid gum (you will find stuck to your rear end only when you are standing in the customs queue) and chocolate. If you must pack chocolate, keep it in the fridge until the last possible minute.

12. If you have a bottle fed baby which is on a schedule and you are able to plan in advance, it sometimes works best to send a man (hostesses always feel sorry for him) to the back to get the bottle heated. Given that it is unlikely they have children, I found it worked best to get the water heated, have some spare cold or room temperature water to hand and then mix the bottle yourself to the perfect temp. Having a hungry screaming child and a boiling hot bottle is a nightmare.

13. If your baby is crying, your baby is crying. It's life. Relax. If you are able to walk around, do so. If you can't, then bounce. If someone makes a sarcastic comment (which I never had in many years of flying), hand them said child and ask if they can do better.

14. The changing stations are in the toilets and are small. Take out exactly what you need as you will not have much room to maneuver once you are in there. In a pinch, a child can be changed on the seat (raise the armrest) or the floor. It is obviously not ideal, but it is possible.

15. Wet-wipes. And tissues. Whatever the age. Oh, hang it. Even if there are no kids. You will thank me.

16. Save some sweets, paper clips, toys and wipes for the queue after you get off the plane. This is possibly my least favorite time. Everyone is exhausted, emotions are running dangerously high and nobody is in any state to deal with any drama. Toddler, picking up on all of this and feeling exactly the same (if not worse because you can add confusion) will often decide this is the best possible time to throw a tantrum. Be prepared. Bribery, distraction, whatever you have to do.

17. Many airlines say you can take your pram right up to the airplane and they will have it waiting on the other side. Many airports offer their own strollers (note - strollers, not suitable for small infants) and say that one will be waiting for you when you land. They all have the best of intentions, but your pram requirements are at the bottom of their list of priorities and if there is no pram, there is no pram. Plan ahead, assume there will be no pram (if there is one, happy days) and assume there will be at least one sleeping child who will need to be carried. If you have more than one child, assume they will all be asleep. Plan your handbagage accordingly (one reason I like backpacks).

18. I find the airline pillows extremely scratchy and uncomfortable. So I have my own sausage shape pillow which I travel with. For our last flight, a very dear friend made us each our own pillow case, to the size of the airline pillows. One side was velvety, the other smooth. Once we boarded, we put them over the airline pillows (took off when we landed) and had lovely cushions to work with. It's a fairly basic process - I urge you to consider it. If a child is grumpy and the pillow is scratchy that can be a recipe for disaster.

19. Often the flight gets extremely cold! Make sure you pack warm clothes as well. I like to chuck in a couple of pashminas.

20. Finally, some of you may have noticed that I like to be in control. Particularly when it comes to kids. I found it key to my survival. However, on a flight it works best to prepare for as much as possible, then go with the flow. They may not want to eat at meal time, they may not want to sleep when you think they should sleep. Jet lag is going to throw all of that out the window anyway, so relax. If they are hungry, feed them. If they are tired, let them rest on your lap or shoulder (this you can do while the seatbelt is fastened - always fasten seatbelt OVER blanket otherwise hostess will wake you) or put them in the bassinet.

Good luck to all of you. Remember, it may seem forever but sooner or later the flight will land. And it probably won't be as bad as some of you may be dreading ?

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HansaPlease

Great advice!

With the bassinet seat, we saw it as a bonus storage space rather than somewhere to put the baby. Was very handy to have bottles, nappy bag, toys etc all lined up and the baby on our laps.

We always just resign ourselves to expect the worst when flying with kids, expect not to sleep, expect to wait on them hand and foot for 17 hours, and we usually come out the other side thinking "that wasn't as bad as expected" as they pleasantly surprise us.

Spot on about the food. If the kid wants to eat nothing but Niknaks for 17 hours, so be it - as long as they are happy.

Spare clothes for both kids and adults in the hand luggage is a good idea. Whilst waiting for our connecting flight in Sydney once, my son performed a "super-spew" which absolutely covered me. Luckily I had a change of clothes.

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DXB2OZ

OMG, had forgotten about spewing kids. Probably just blocked it from memory. Amen to the spare clothes - for anyone in a 2m radius. Possibly a spare plastic packet for the dirty clothes. In desperation I once binned a pair of toddler jeans as had no alternative. Hosties can be lovely but they can also be the spawn of satan when it comes to help in times of crisis.

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I have pinned this topic, I think it is excellent advice for all those traveling with kids. Thanks to both of you for you excellent advice.

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I rememeber when we flew with our then 18 month old to Perth and months before we were due to fly I was absolutely dreading it!! I did all the research and most of things mentioned in the post.

Loads of wet wipes, a spare set of clothes as mentioned for all lof us incase of accidents, Its not nice sitting next to someone who smells of vomit. Incase of any mishaps also bring some plastic carry bags where you can put any messy clothes. Also nice to wrap a few little toys and give it to them every hour or so, something to keep them occupied. Our tablet was a godsend, best thing we ever bought and kept him entertained for a long time. I also agree with not bringing crayons, they ended up rolling all over the place, so best to bring something else. If you have a tablet get some cool apps for the kids and download them. Also wear something comfortable.

When waiting around at airport let the kids let off some steam, try and find a play area where they can run around a bit. Also if your child is one for running away from you Id get a leash (I really dont like using them but for our holiday I did at the airport) at airports you need to know where they are. Also dont forget to bring something for the child to suck on for the landing, alot of kids have problems with their ears so give them a drink or buy a lollipop to ease the pain.

My tip (depending on the age of the child ofcourse) Is I think that alot of parents do not train their children at home and then when they are on a long flight they automatically want them to behave. So start at home with your children, set boundaries and tell them what sort of behaviour is acceptable.

We were very fortunate that we had evening flights and Ethan slept all the way there and all the way coming back. All that stressing for nothing!

Also remember that if your child does misbehave, eventually the flight will be over and you will never see those people again, so who cares if they give you dirty looks:-) All you can do is your best.

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Alchemist

I am absolutely daunted by the trip we are taking in June......many flights in 2 weeks......my daughter will be 14 months so obviously cant be in the bassinet but can we still request the seats due to the space? How do i prepare her to sleep on me or hubby? Thinking of using a sling to secure her on me during the sleep but cannot imagine how uncomfortable it will be.......what did others do?

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Hello Alchemist. As I previously mentioned my son was 18 months old so he was went free of charge but had to sit on our laps. The domestic flights to Joburg he had to sit on our laps and it was a bit cumbersome. The international flight to Perth was virtually empty (maybe becuase we went in June) and we were able to get a whole row to ourselves. In hindsight I was glad that we didnt have to have him sit on our laps for the entirety of the journey, and if people can afford it I would recommend paying for a seat. We have flew several times since then and its so much easier now our son has his own seat. I would try and check in early and see if you can get seats where you know there may be a seat vacant.

Also you must check with your airline at what age and weight the basinets take. Some airlines basinets are alot better than and bigger than others.Emirates is particularly good with those, but if flying to oz it can mean a huge detour. We flew with SAA , simply because they were the cheapest. As regards her sleeping on you, it can get a bit tricky at times if for example there is turbulence, they want you to strap on the safety belt and this can mean you waking her up. This is another advantage of them having their own seat.

Honestly though it is not going to be as bad as you think. She will be absolutely fine. Take a walk with her up and down and stretch your legs, generally there are alot of kids on airlines which will be crying anyway.

Dont panic:-)

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HansaPlease

I agree with Emma, it's really not as bad as you think. Well, certainly not if you have perfect little Angels like mine. :D

(Thanks to my amazing parenting, of course)

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Love this post!!! we flying with our toddler and teenager on Thursday. Having sleepless nights about how we going to entertain the toddler :blush: And then in November, our infant coming with....... Infant, toddler, teenager, they outnumber the parents! This post has put my mind at ease abit. As the doctor said to us while doing our medicals the other day, "Take the path of least resistance with kids when necessary :ilikeit:

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angelamartins36

My son suffered with his ears due to the air pressure. We made sure to have some suckers/boiled sweets (or a dummy) and also some ear plugs available from the chemist to help relieve the pressure.

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Also just to add I would not recommend medicating the kids. I did at one point think about it, but I also read up somewhere that it can have an adverse affect on some children and make them hyper, which is what you dont want!

Lots of people travel with kids you wont be the only one on the plane.I remember when I first came to live in SA there was a lady who flew all the way from Manchester to Durban 3 flights with a toddler and a baby. She did marvellous on that flight and even left her baby with her fellow passenger when she had to take little one to the toilet lol If she can do it on her own then flying should be a breeze with 2 parents:-) Enjoy the experience

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Alchemist

i have heard that babies are left with fellow passengers.....onboard baby sitting :)

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  • 1 month later...

DXB2OZ, I think you're my new hero :-) I love this thread and the advice from everyone! We'll be travelling with a 3-and-5 yr old, any advice on airlines that are awesome when travelling with young children?

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DXB2OZ

Best airline ....... Business class!!

In all honesty, I found the flights a lot easier when I relied on the stewardesses as little as possible, which is about where you are at with a 3 and 5 years old.

My biggest survival tool was Emirate's ice system - loads of kids programs, kids movies as well as video games - all on demand, so you can stop start at will. They will hand out a little backpack before you take off which usually has a tiny Dr Seuss book, a toy of some kind and perhaps some crayons.

Haven't really flown much with anyone else and certainly not recently - perhaps others can comment on what they offer?

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HansaPlease

They all seem to offer an activity pack of some sort, but they vary in quality.

Qantas to me has a good attitude towards children, ie, check in staff go out of their way to make sure your seating works out (they usually put us in two rows of three seats for just four of us).

SAA I find are quite indifferent to kids but I guess it does depend on the staff.

That said, the bad news - I tend to find that the plane is usually quieter flying from Aus to SA so they have more scope to accommodate you, whereas flying from SA the flight always seems full.

Just in my experience, the check in staff in SA treat you like an inconvenience that they must fit in. Going the other way they are usually pleasant and treat you like a customer rather than a pain in the.....

Not sure it's just the luck of the draw but that's my perception based on trips home and back over the last 9 years.

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  • 9 months later...
DXB2OZ

Not my idea but too good not to share - I found airline food for kids to be lousy and one of these would have been fabulous.

 

Actually I wouldn't mind one for myself.

image.jpeg

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brilliant! thanks for the great idea...

 

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I didn't want to rain on anybody's parade but those containers only have a single lid for all those compartments.  Thinking about the average child opening that box, I can see little snacks flying all over the place.  I took small zip lock bags of stuff inside a plastic container.

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My first thought was (and I've seen this post with the snacks before) that there must be something wrong with us as I would never give my children so many snacks at any given time?  Is it normal to present children with so much food / snacks?

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Depends on the length of the trip. My kids prefer savoury stuff so no they wouldn't get stuff like this. I usually pack provitas, sultanas (raisins), baby bel  cheese, dried fruit, plain crackers and water. How much they eat on a trip really depends on the age of the child and whether they get travel sick. Also kids meals on planes can be strange and often served too late for a hungry child. Always better to have suitable snacks on hand. 

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DXB2OZ

Point 1 - I actually liked the idea of the multi compartments - especially for a small child. Choose a snack a set aside for later. Entertainment and a meal rolled into 1 - score.

 

Point 2 - I did my first long haul flight, one my own with a 3 month old baby and an 18 month old toddler. Many flights followed, the worst one being the one just before we had to pay for my son to have his own seat, but after the stage at which he wanted one - so I spent 6 hours curled up on the floor with my knees around my ears while he happily sat on my seat. The lesson learned is that you will do what is necessary to get through the long haul flight. Consider some compriomise - your normal rules may not necessarily be feasible.

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