Flying overseas with kids can be a daunting task. There’s so much to consider – packing clothes and toys for the trip, keeping them comfortable on the plane and trying to manage jet lag.
In this article, we’ll share our top tips for international air travel with kids… so your trip can get off to a flying start. (See what I did there?)
Because travelling with kids really doesn't have to be a nightmare - it can even be a fun and exciting part of the holiday experience!
Here are our top tips:
✈️ Choose your flight time wisely.
Having flown at a range of times, we think flying at night (in line with our son’s usual sleep time) is easier. We hate it, of course, but we hate having a tired and grumpy child more. Also, spend the extra and book the most direct route – always!
✈️ Budget for and book an airport hotel.
If you have a long drive to the airport before departing or a long trek to your final destination, it’s always worth booking an airport hotel. It’ll make the travel day so much better for everyone, and you can all get some good rest before or after your international flight.
✈️ Start shifting your child's sleep schedule to the new time zone two weeks out.
This helps their bodies adjust to the new time zone and makes the transition a little smoother! Apps like Jetlag Rooster can be helpful, as can melatonin gummies for kids (we like and use these ones from iHerb – check with your GP first, of course).
✈️ If your child is older than four, get a bag that they can carry independently.
Not a Lugabug or Trunki suitcase – honestly, a regular old school backpack is great. While Trunki-type suitcases look cute, they’re not practical, fit virtually nothing in them and are tricky to roll around when your child inevitably gets tired of them. If your child is younger or can’t manage their own bag, a bigger backpack for you, organised with packing cubes (one for each traveller), will be your best bet.
✈️ Pack anything essential for the first 48 hours in your hand luggage, including swimwear.
Airlines lose luggage all the time, and when you arrive at the resort, your kid is going to want to jump straight into the pool. I’m speaking from experience on this one - load up your carry on!
✈️ You don’t need a Pinterest-worthy bento box full of flight snacks.
Flying can be an uncertain time for kids. Pack snacks they’re familiar with (that includes the packaging) and pack double what you think you'll need. Trust me, you'll be grateful for those extra snacks if you have a delayed flight, get put in a holding pattern, or land and realise nothing is open at your destination till morning.
✈️ If you’re flying a full-service airline, order a special meal at least 72 hours before departure so that you’ll be served first.
Asking your child to sit patiently while everyone else get their meals is asking for an irritated child.
✈️ Invest in comfortable headphones.
The ones they give you on the plane are terrible. We like the 80’s sports headband type because they’re comfortable enough to sleep in, are wireless, and stay secure. Kooshy Kids have a great range of these headphones (for kids and adults), and you can even personalise them, so you know whose are whose.
✈️ Pack a balloon or an inflatable beach ball in your handbag.
It’s a great way to help kids burn energy in the terminal pre-flight, and will save battery life on your devices.
✈️ Pack a gift!
Our destination-based travel diary and activity books are perfect. We currently have a Bali, Thailand, Fiji and Australian edition, and more are coming soon! Some people choose to gift the book to announce the trip to their kids, others give it on the plane, and some pull it out once they’ve arrived and settled.
✈️ Ensure the movies on your device work offline.
I once forgot to check, and let's just say it was a LONG flight to Thailand with nothing our son wanted to watch. If there’s room on your device, you’ll be able to download a selection from Disney+, Netflix or many other platforms. Again, familiar is good.
✈️ Dress everybody comfortably.
No one likes being uncomfortable, least of all fidgety kids. Plain coloured slouch tees and pants made from elastane jersey are perfect because they look cute with a pair of Converse shoes and a denim jacket – BUT they double as PJs!
A few bonus tips for any kind of travelling…
✈️ Allow extra time.
Kids always need the toilet at the most convenient times, don’t they?
✈️ Plan for the worst and hope for the best.
When you travel (especially with kids) things will go wrong, and kids will have their moments. There’s often some nervous energy and excitement that can bubble over – for you AND for them.
Try and roll with the punches as best as you can, be flexible, (maybe have a cheeky vino) and BREATHE!
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Owner of My Big Adventure Kids Travel Diaries