I posted this in the newsletter, had a ton of great feedback including that I should share on the blog. So here it is with a few updates after our last set of flights (arrived in warm and sunny Belgium last night yippee).
20 or so Tips for travelling long distance with children
1. Buy a trunki if you have a 2-3 year old! I don’t think I would have survived without it. From 2 years old, we raced along to terminals and gates, he had a blast zooming along behind me and enjoying all the attention it brought. I could get where we needed to quickly and with a smile. Long queues were easy, he would happily sit on the trunki and play with a small toy rather than run around in a tired frazzled state. Never had to carry him. We still use it, great for packing his plane entertainment and as a seat for queues, though it’s now slung over my shoulder (nice and light) or he rides it like a push bike.
2. Take an empty water bottle with you through security and fill it up on the other side (you can normally find drinking water fountains or taps). Or fill using one of the water fountains inside the plane (often found on wall panel close to the toilets). Sometimes the water fountains produce murky water so I’ll ask the hostess to fill it for me from their bottled water.
3. Get a passport/ticket holder that hangs around your neck. Then it is always accessible and you’re less likely to lose your boarding pass/passport (always place them back in the holder before continuing, no matter how many people push by while you do so!).
4. Take a neck cushion for each family member. Far more comfortable for sleeping and avoids crooked necks and falling asleep on your poor stranger neighbour.
5. If you do need to sit next to a stranger, place child in seat next to them. Then avoid two adults fighting over cramped space and arm rests.
6. Take ear plugs and an eye mask. You’ll be desperate to sleep and the light and noise can be incredibly frustrating.
7. Ensure you seated in the aisle and your children in the middle or window seats so that you can sleep securely knowing they are blocked in. You will feel them climbing over you if they try and escape (though where they would escape to I don’t know). Last year we flew with Hainan Airlines to China and one of the Air hostesses took my son to get a snack. He didn’t return for what seemed like a very long time so finally I went looking for him. He was seated on a crate in the corner of the kitchen surrounded by three hostesses who were crouched around him. He was in the middle of telling an animated story, was very adorable.
8. Take extra socks on board. Once you are airborn, all shoes come off and an extra layer of socks go on (bit of protection in the yukky toilets) plus the plane often get cold.
9. Take an extra jumper/cardi and don’t wear anything too warm. The planes can alternate between freezing (pop on the extra jumper) and hot (strip off jumpers and have summer top on underneath).
10. Take on board plenty of snacks. Chips, bars, biscuits, nuts, anything to keep you going in the middle of the long flight where you are sure to get the munchies. If you forget or don’t have enough, take a walk to see the hostesses. They will have snacks and often airlines have hot noodle soup available.
11. Eat and drink to avoid blocked ears during take off and landing. Save the lollipops and chips or your childs most favourite food for this time. Take off is quick so not so bad but landing is an entire 20 minutes long. Eating and drinking (which is why I fill the water bottle before we take off or landing) helps to avoid painful blocked ears. If you are breastfeeding, this is the time to do so.
12. Pack in the kiddi pyjamas. I used to dress him in pyjamas after the first meal to help with comfort and the encouraging sleep. Now we don’t bother but I still pack them in case we have a short sleep during stopover. They also act as emergency clothing in case there is a spillage during the flight (happened while travelling to Brussels our last flight, soaked with water so he arrived in Belgium in his pyjama top. Better than spending the rest of the long trip soaking wet).
13. When eating, use the blanket as a bib. I pull it right up and tuck it into his shirt so any spills fall onto the blanket and avoid again having wet or dirty clothes for the rest of the long trip.
14. Seatbelt is always worn. The seatbelt rule was set from an early age so he clicks himself in as soon as he sits down. I don’t have to ask anymore so never have to worry during turbulence.
15. Drinking a ton of water not only keeps you hydrated but means frequent visits to the toilet. This avoids not moving for the entire 10 – 14 hour flight. We always go before the meal is about to begin (you can hear the plates rattling or see the drink trolley) as this avoids tricky maneuvering while the trays are out. We always go after the first movie (which we’ve been watching while eating our meal) so we can fall asleep comfortably. We always go before the descent as the last thing you want is your child shouting he has to go NOW when the plane is about to touch down. Likewise before the ascent, make a trip before boarding. If you are 2 or less, book an aisle seat to avoid having to bother sleeping or eating neighbours.
16. Pack enough entertainment to keep busy on ascent and descent when the movies don’t run (or if your child isn’t really into watching movies for long). A new little toy for the trip is definitely a good idea. You could wrap a small little toy for the start of each leg.
17. Bring your own headsets. The plane headsets are horribly uncomfortable plus bringing your own means you don’t have to wait for the plane to be airborn and the hostesses to hand them out. Often the programs will start much earlier. Air New Zealand is great as you can start watching movies as soon as you are seated. Reducing the amount of entertainment that needs to be bought and great way to have everyone relaxed, especially if you are a nervous flyer.
18. Tie a bright ribbon around your bag handle to spot it amongst the hundreds of similar bags falling out of the luggage hold.
19. Changi airport in Singapore has a hotel and pool in the airport. This means you can get a great 6 hour sleep or more plus swim without even leaving the gate area. There is nothing like falling horizontal into a dark quiet bed after spending a long night trying to sleep vertically… before having to do it all over again for another 10-14 hours!
20. Often families or young children can board before everyone else. Great to have the extra time to get things set up for the long trip and grab a space in the overhead locker directly above you.
21. You can often choose your seat online months before you fly and often now, you can also check-in online which means you get the fast queue at the airport.
22. Ensure your laptop is the last thing you pack in your carry on bag so you can easily lift it out and back in when going through security.
23. If flying with a baby, book a seat with bassinet (limited number so book early)!