Completely change your dread of flying with kids with these expert game-changers. With 11 years of experience in the skies with Jetstar, Cabin Crew member and mum-of-two Sofie Ayres shares her top 10 parenting hacks to make long-haul flying with kids a breeze.
1. Checking in
When travelling with children under two years of age, you can bring a pram, stroller, portable cot, and highchair as checked baggage for free, and you won’t be charged the oversized item fee for any of these items. At some airports, you’ll find these items get delivered to the oversized luggage area, so don’t panic if you don’t see your essential baby bits and bobs come out on the baggage carousel.
2. Carry-on luggage
Check the carry-on allowances and, if possible, take two wheely carry-on bags. Pack one with a change of clothes for the entire family. I always find babies’ clothes take up the least room, but babies also have the potential to go through the most changes, so pack a few extra singlets. And don’t shy about packing nappies – you don’t want to run out! Fill the second bag with food, new toys, puzzles, colouring books, sticker books, and all the devices with screens.
3. In-flight snacks
Avoid fuelling the kids up on sugar – children and sugar highs (and lows) on a long flight are not a good combination! Bring low-sugar snacks, preferably ones that take little fingers a long time to work through (like a pack of raisins).
4. Baby requirements
On international flights, all travellers are limited to only bringing liquids, gels, or aerosol under 100ml – these rules, however, don’t apply when travelling with babies. To make nourishing your little ones a breeze, parents can bring pre-prepared bottles of milk, tins of formula, and baby food in sealed containers.
Don’t be caught short. Bring any medicines or baby paracetamol you may need, and pack these in your carry-on. Make sure you pack some plasters, too, if you have a child like mine who is always scraping their knee.
Mums and Dads, if you’re flying with kids, accept the fact you will have to be up and down doing laps of the aisles. Just go with it. To pass the time, I once gave my daughter a baby wipe and she proceeded to clean every armrest down the line on the flight from Honolulu to Sydney. A happy child and a spotless cabin – what’s not to love?
Above: Sofie and her daughter Daisy
If there’s one thing I swear by, it’s a surprise bag. Parents, listen up! Go to a bargain store and buy a whole heap of cheap and cheerful items. Wrap them up individually and let the kids unwrap one every couple of hours – I often find the novelty of unwrapping is just as enjoyable as the dinky gift inside.
Kids’ ears are always worse on landing than take-off. Little sips of water should soothe them on the way up, but something to suck on as you descend is always a good idea. I know I said to avoid sugar, but now’s a great time for a lollipop or, for babies, a bottle or pacifier. The good news is the kids can burn the sugar off running around while you wait for your bags.
Allow extra time for everything – kids can be slow or develop an issue at the last minute. Also, as all parents know, tired children are not as compliant as you would like them to be, so save yourself the stress and allow extra time to get things done.
10. Special tip!
After surviving a long-haul flight, if there’s anything mums and dads deserve, it’s for your children to think you’re the coolest parents on the planet. For a special treat, ask the cabin crew during the flight if the kids can visit the flight deck when the plane has landed. If they have time, the pilots are more than happy to have little jet-setters in the cockpit. It definitely makes a great photo opportunity!
By Sofie Ayres: Cabin Crew for Jetstar.
More travel tips from tots to teens: