Every year, we sell an organ (this year, it’s my left kidney) to afford the tickets to take us over to England to see the family. This time, it’s four of us, heading off at the end of the month and I’m so excited. It will be the first time my family meets the youngest member of our tribe.
We’ve done this long-haul flight with Rosie, flying Emirates, 3 times – that’s 6 flights in total – so we’re pretty good at knowing what to pack and what to leave at home. With two girls of varying ages, I’m trying to be smart in my choices, knowing that if I pack too much, I’m just going to end up carrying it all. At the same time, there is nothing worse than having a bored child in a confined space.
Here are my top recommendations and suggestions for flying with babies and toddlers:
For Babies 0-12 months
I traveled with Rosie for the first time when she was just over 3 months and fortunately, at that age, she slept through. Now I’ll be flying with Cece who will be 8 months, and this is what I’m packing:
-Depending on whether you’re exclusively breastfeeding/bottle-feeding, you’re basically, to them, a walking and talking food bank so you fortunately don’t need to bring much in terms of food. If however, your little one is now moving on to solids, don’t rely on your chosen airline to have food options. I will be packing a variety of Rhodes Squish and Woolworths chunky veggie pouches, rice cakes and teething biscuits. I’m also going to pack some formula in our Tommee Tippee bottles so that, if I need a break, Daddy can take over.
-If you are breastfeeding, I would definitely recommend having the Haakaa Silicone Pump in your bag. It doesn’t require batteries, or hand-held pumping; it is silent and discreet, and if you miss a few feeds in the commotion of flight changes etc, you can quickly use this in a bathroom AND with the new sealed lid, keep it safely stored in your bag – it can be a life-saver for breast relief.
–A well-packed nappy bag stocked with more nappies than you think you’ll ever need.
–Extra clothes are essential. Think you have enough clothes? Add more! If you’re flying long-haul and through the night, pack pjs so that you can try and emulate a routine to “inspire” sleep.
–A dummy is a good idea for soothing and for keeping baby’s ears from popping on take-off and descent. My kids have never had an issue with their ears so I do recommend not forcing a dummy unless your kids genuinely love them.
–Love To Dream swaddle is a great way to keep baby’s temperature regulated and it offers a bit of relief from wildly flinging arms and legs.
–A sling or baby carrier is a good option for those trying times when you need to walk and bounce your baby to sleep – they are also super handy if you have a change-over and need to rush through an airport.
–I recently bought the Toy Toggle from Kids Emporium which comes with three straps: one long, two short and one silicone band which slips around your bottle or sippy cup. These straps fix easily to your pushchair, or seat and basically prevent your baby’s toys from ending up on the floor….which is a bit of a hero item when you think about how dirty airplanes can be.
For kids 1-4 years
When it comes to toys and activities, less is always more. The older the child, the less you have to pack as they spend more time on things. Building toys seem like a good idea, but things always go missing in an airplane as it’s far too easy to lose items down the seats, or to leave them in the seat pocket. Don’t waste money on pricey toys unless you’re prepared to watch them for the duration of the flight.
If the airline you’re flying with has TV sets in the back of the seats, you can bet that your kids will be riveted by this and that’s fine – TV time in exchange for your sanity is ok!
One of the most important parts of the trip that often gets overlooked is actually the time spent in the airport which can often lead to meltdowns from both the parents and the kids. Here’s where I find that the Trunki comes into its own by providing distraction and giving your kids a bit of responsibility. I don’t know about you, but Rosie always wants to pull my suitcase, or carry my bag, with Una the Unicorn, she couldn’t care less. She loves being in charge of her own case and, when she gets tired, she happily sits on it whilst we pull her along.
I buy mine, in bulk from china town and, alongside a notebook, they are a good diversion during taxi and take-off.
For something more lasting, the Doug & Melissa reusable sticker books, available at Takealot, are great and come in a variety of scenes.
Coloring books and pens
Head to your nearest stationary store and stock up on some cheap coloring books and two packets of pens or pencils (double because you’re bound to lose some). Puzzle books are also a good idea for older kids.
The Melissa & Doug Wow Water painting book is absolutely brilliant and has provided Rosie with endless play time. No mess involved, you simple fill the “pen” with water, wipe over the image and suddenly the colors appear. The page then dries white and you can start your “painting” all over again.
These are a lovely touch and they don’t have to be big, or expensive, just a little something that is wrapped up which gives your kids a) unwrapping time and b) “surprise”!
Snacks & juice
I pack so many snacks because hungry kids are angry kids and food is a great distraction on a plane.
Kiddylicious veggie straws and fruit wiggles are top of my list for flying. I’ll also add in some squish pouches (strawberry and banana are Rosie’s favorite) and some smarties for distraction.
I encourage Rosie to drink lots of liquids (which is why I state that you should pack more nappies and clothes in case of accidents) because it can be very dehydrating. I feel my own skin tightening up so I can imagine she’ll be feeling it too.
Rosie has two special pink blankets that go with her everywhere and it would be a grave mistake to overlook them on this journey. If your child has a comforter, or favorite toy, make it part of the trip. Help them pack it into their luggage so that they can see that it is going with them.
Again, just like you would with a baby, have pjs for keeping to your bedtime routine. If your toddler is still in nappies, opt for pull-ups so that you don’t need to try and lie them down in a cramped plane toilet.
And my absolute must-have items – wet wipes and hand sanitizer!!
The very best thing you can do though is give yourself grace and accept that some times, no matter how well you planned and packed, things will go wrong. It’s okay. You’re human, your kids are human. Try and stay calm and offer affection and explanation where possible. Also, give yourself lots of love because traveling with kids is not easy.