Flying with the kids

Image: Vlado /
I do a fair amount of flying, and  having travelled over the holidays and watched parents struggle with their children in confined spaces think it's about time I offered some of my expertise and experience. It's worse than hard for's a nightmare!!  On many of the flights I do, parents cope admirably, but here are a few tips I can offer that would make your journey all the sweeter and help you enjoy your journey.

Travel light.  It's all very well being laden like a pack horse, but do your self a light! Take a light weight pushchair. The cheap telescopic ones can be pushed right up to the aircraft door. The larger your pram the less likely it will be loaded into the cabin. If your child is awake on disembarking, you can use the pushchair as a luggage cart, and if they're asleep...well, you have your pushchair.

Bulkhead Seats.Very often when you're travelling with an infant, under 2 years you may be able to book a bulkhead seat.  These seats are prime position for many of the frequently travelling public, as they have plenty of leg room and access is easy in and out of your seat.  My advice, if you them..  If your airline of choice has an online booking facility which many do these days, do it the minute online check in starts.

Board First  Saves the aggro of fighting your way through the hoards to get to your seat, and gives you the chance to settle and find space for your bags.

Book the "Child meals".  The meals are often delivered  prior to the other passengers, so you can get the babes down to sleep before you eat.  These are not available on the day so it's best if you book them at least 24 hours before you go.  Better still, bring some food with you, as long as it's not liquid. I make sandwiches for my lot (which are usually munched on, the minute we get in the car!), but if you can pack a few goodies for the plane, all the better.  I also take empty water bottles, so that they can be re-filled once on board. Take a few items to keep them occupied.  Lightweight, or stuff they can use and leave on-board.  "Trunki's" are amazing for holding all the little bits and pieces they may need and they can pull them along themselves!

Car seats.  Most airlines allow car seats, but as these have to be placed in a seat you may have to pay the full fare for them.

Cots and seats.  The ones provided by the airlines aren't suitable and are not safe if the seat belt signs go on.  I know it can be a hassle to take them out if they're asleep, but really, would you be happy leaving them in them if it gets bumpy.  I know I wouldn't.  Babies, fall asleep quickly especially if it's bumpy, and if you do it quickly they won't even noticed they've been moved. Don't be tempted to cover them totally in a blanket, to block out the light. They will sleep...I promise!

Don't stress!   This is really important.  If you do, it's likely that your kids will sense it and kick off! If they do, stay calm.  It's very rare that babies and kids cry through out the flight, and if they do...tough!

Make sure you take nappies, and dried milk.  Find out which toilets can accommodate you and your children.  Some are larger than others and some have a baby changing table.

If you're really concerned about anything, just ask the crew.  They'll put your mind at ease and are generally good for a chat. 

And....enjoy your flight.  It's easier and less hassle than you think it may be!


  1. As a veteran long-haul traveller with kids I would add -

    If your children like to go to sleep in the seat next to you with their legs on your lap or some such arrangement, then the bulkhead seats might not work because the arm rests don't come up. I had to abandon the bulk heads for this very reason.

    Meals - reconfirm your booking of a child's meal the day before your flight. If they have changed equipment for any reason (ie. scheduled a different aircraft) quite often, the meal orders don't get transferred for some reason. I always used to travel with a bagel or something in case they got served a stinky, over-cooked adult meal.

    Nappies - Always take a few more than you think you'll need. I have had so many experiences where I've had to beg other parents for a spare one, or go rushing round airports to see if anyone sold individual ones, it's not even funny.

    Stress - As I told one grumpy passenger, who was trying to make me feel bad about having children with me, "Happy Mother, happy kids". The kids pick up on your stress levels and everything escalates. A glass of wine sometimes helps!

    1. Great points, Expat mum!

      I was recently on a flight where a passenger jumped up and screamed at the toddler behind for kicking the seat...scared the bejaysus out of me-the child must have been terrified! Apart from strapping up their legs, there's little you can do! I just wish non family fliers would appreciate the issues with flying with toddlers.


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