Flying with Kids and Food
Flying with kids. Are you mad? Just kidding, well sort of. I’ve travelled with Harry at various ages and watched my friends depart on many trips too, and there are things you can plan for that can make these adventures much more bearable. It can also be really confusing knowing what you can and can’t bring on aeroplanes with children, so I hope this helps you.
These are my personal tips that relate specifically to my trips. Remember that airlines do change their guidelines and rules so it is always best to seek out the most current information advised by them.
Flying with kids:
I flew to Singapore when Harry was 9 months and returned when he was 12 months. I have also flown to Melbourne and Fiji with him at 14 months and 18 months.
Best time of day to fly
- This depends on the age of the child, but for me, flying to Singapore, I chose a 7pm flight (Harry’s bedtime). This way I could feed him a good dinner at the airport and really tire him out before boarding, then once on the plane I did a quick nightly routine, breastfed him and put him in his carseat to sleep. Working with his natural rhythms paid off, to my surprise I had to wake him when we landed.
- If I was doing a long haul flight, I would try and time it so the longer leg was the nightly sleep time. The shorter trip includes the daytime nap and lots of activities on board.
- For shorter flights take in to consideration a delay. You don’t want to be stuck at the airport with an overtired baby or toddler, aim for an hour on the plane of awake time before settling to sleep.
Packing on board luggage
- Bring lots of nappies. Little tummies can get very upset on long flights, not to mention the germs and bugs they might pick up. You want to be well prepared for various poo explosions, yay.
- Bring sanitary wipes and be a bit of a clean freak. Wipe down everything before exposing your baby or toddler to it. Airports and aeroplanes are full of germs and it can really ruin a holiday to get sick before you land.
Food and flying
- Bring as much milk and boiled water as you need. The 100ml limit does not apply when you are travelling with babies and children so you can bring your sterilised water all measured out in the bottle and ready for the flight. You can also bring all your usual baby medicines including those that require refrigeration.
- You can bring an icepack on board with you if you need to keep food or liquid cool while wandering around the airport.
- You can bring your own baby food and prepackaged food on the flight. You are allowed to bring a “reasonable” amount of food on the flight with you, but I always bring a little more. You never know if you will be delayed, sometimes for hours at a time and it pays to have some decent food with you to feed your kids. This food is also great to have once you land and settle in at your location, it gives you a few days worth of food while you settle in and find appropriate shops.
- As tempting as it is to offer snack after snack to cure boredom on a flight this idea can also backfire. The dry environment when flying can cause bloating and snacking on filler foods can only make this worse. The last thing you want is a child with a tummy ache on a plane. Try and stick to fresh fruit, and good quality packaged food given at scheduled times. Always ensure you all drink plenty of water and/or milk.
- Pack all of your food and drink for the flight in a small roller suitcase in individual snap lock bags. This will make the checking in process much simpler for you to unzip and show the security people. They may ask you to taste some of the food and drink, this is a normal security measure.
- When you are eating at the airport cafe’s with children try and fill them up on nutritious food rather than junk. Sandwiches, water and plain foods are going to be much better for them as they will be sitting down for long periods of time.
- If you are stuck at the airport due to a delay with little food try and find some fresh fruit at the cafe’s. We were stuck in the sweltering heat at the Fiji airport on our return flight. The only options for food was deep fried, chips or chocolate. I asked at one of the cafe’s if they had any apples out the back – they did.
At the airport
- When you are checking in ask for the “express ticket”. They don’t often hand these out unless you ask. It means you can jump the cues and get to the gate and settled sooner.
- If you have a smaller child I recommend carrying them in a sling or carrier. I did this with Harry at 9 months and found it was far better than having him in a stroller. He was much calmer being close to me and didn’t get over stimulated with all the lights and people. It is also a good idea to keep them away from all the germs and coughing that will be happening around them.
- See if you can find the “kids zone” areas where your little ones can play. Just remember these places are also filled with germs, so have the hand sanitizer ready!
- Once you are at the gate, you probably have a good two hour wait. It’s a good idea to lay out a picnic rug with toys in a sectioned off corner and take turns with your partner finding food and drinks and bringing it back.
- If the budget allows, book a child’s seat on the flight and bring your carseat. You need to confirm that you will be bringing your carseat with the airline when you book as only certain seats on the plane allow for it. This was a lifesaver for me. Harry slept for most of the flight safely tucked in his seat and it meant I had my hands free.
- Book your seats as soon as you can. You want the family to sit together, so make sure you allocate your seats as soon as possible (usually this can be done online 48 hours before the flight).
- If you have the option to book a bassinet – do it. Even if you don’t think your child will be able to sleep in it it can be useful to sit them to play while you need to do things with your hands such as eat or drink. Also, this area can give you more leg room and an area for the kids to stretch out and play.
On the flight
- Bring your breastfeeding pillow on the flight. I had a ‘My Brest Friend’ which I used during take off and landing. As I flew an evening flight I simply fed on take off, then did the nightly routine of washing face, putting on the sleeping bag and feeding. He was soon asleep on the pillow in my lap and I transferred him to the carseat, covered him with his blankie and bunny, and that was the last I heard from him for 8 hours. Bliss.
- Organise a bag of tricks. In this bag are activities for the kids that you will bring out at designated times. Don’t whatever you do bring out all your tricks at once. Schedule the flight into little activities and let the kids know what is happening. I.e. watch a movie, then eat some food, open a plane present (a new toy wrapped up), play an app on the iPad, do a puzzle, colouring in, sleep. Etc. Scheduling out all your tricks will help the time go faster and keep the kids entertained for longer.
- When flying home from Singapore Harry had a terrible blocked nose. On take off he was screaming as his ears were sore. I used the Panadol syringe to squirt water into his mouth forcing him to swallow and unblock the ears.
- Pack blankets and toys that smell like home, this will help younger kids settle more quickly on the plane.
- Pack nappies and wipes together in individual bags, then you can just grab them as you need them and not have to rummage through a huge bag to get to them.
Food on the flight
- Most airlines will warm up bottles of milk and baby for you on the flight, just not during meal service.
- Let the airline know if you have allergies or intolerance’s so they can plan an appropriate meal for you. Also, if you are paying for a child’s seat you are entitled to a child’s meal. Try and find out what the options are, sometimes the vegetarian meal is more appropriate so you can always opt for that.
Once you’ve landed
- If you are landing in a different timezone try and get into routine straight away. Get up in the morning no matter how tired you are and start the day. By establishing the new timezone straight away in all areas of eating, sleeping and playing you should be on track within a few days.
Enjoy your holiday. If there is one thing holidaying with kids taught me, it was; there’s no place like home 😉