Traveling with kids is always a parent’s nightmare. A quandary of do or don’t… is it worth the hassle or not.
Ian is from South Africa and his parents and younger sister still live in Cape Town. His older sister, her husband and their kids live in England. Before kids we had a passion for travel and exploring new places. Even as we were pregnant, we planned for how to travel with kids. It wasn’t a question of if for us, but how.
The kids have been on flights as close as Florida and as far South Africa and Turkey. Each flight I prepare myself for the kids to cry and tantrum the whole time, so I will be pleasantly surprised when they don’t. I’m not going to say that any of these tips are going to solve the problems that arise during any flights, short or long, but they may with the help of a glass of wine or two get you to your destination with at least a small shred of sanity remaining.
- Pick overnight flights if possible. Especially the more time zones you think you will be traveling through. Also, look at non-conventional flights. The first time we took Noah to South Africa, we ended up flying overnight from Washington DC to London, laying over during the day in Heathrow, before flying overnight again to Cape Town. The little extra travel time was worth having some time to run and stretch between flights.
- If you can swing it, get your 12-23 month old their own seat for a long flight. Domestic this is totally not worth it unless you are going coast to coast. But any trip over 8 hours it is worth the added cost. Airlines let you bring your child’s car seat on the plane with you (check your airlines seat size requirements before traveling). They (and you) will sleep so much better in their car seat and not on your lap. Some airline will give discounted seats for international flights for children as well, making this a little easier to stomach.
- Don’t forget your gear! Strollers and car seats all bag and gate check for free. They don’t count towards your baggage limits either. Smaller planes might not let you take your car seat on with you (think 2×2 planes). We always bring our stroller all the way down to the plane door and the last point we can. Even if your kids aren’t in it, something else will be no doubt. Consider that you have to send your car seats and strollers through the X-ray machine at security. If it doesn’t fold down easily and quickly, consider bringing another style instead. I would not recommend checking your nice expensive car seat and hoping it will come out unscathed at your destination. We have bought a few “travel” seat second hand for this purpose. Check out my updated post, confirming don’t travel with your favorite car seat!
- Pack “new” toys for the trip. This might be as easy as hiding some toys for a month or so pre-trip or making a stop to the dollar store for things you won’t be too sad about losing when they fall in all the plane seat crevices. This is not a time to be a stickler about screen time. If there are movies playing on the plane take advantage. My kids would watch even without headphones. We personally had an iPad ready with some favorite shows and movies downloaded and ready to go at anytime.
- Pack way more snacks than you think is possible for your kids to eat… then add in a few more. It’s an easy pacifier along the way. You can’t count on what the airline might serve or if your kids will even try it (I can’t say that I blame them either). I take suckers for take off to help with ears (not sure if it works or they are just so happy to have a sucker they don’t care). Take advantage of the fact that you can take approved liquids and gels through security based on the age of your kids. We love taking the squeeze fruit and veggies packs along and haven’t had trouble as long as we identified them at security. This applies to water, milk, formula, etc for kids still taking bottles or sippy cups.
Last tip is to try to relax and go with the flow. Your kid is going to whine and cry at some point and as we all know there isn’t always a simple answer. Imagine yourself at your destination and order that second glass of wine. You will thank me later.