The bags are packed. The kids are counting down sleeps and I’m ticking the last-minute items off my to do list (and also running around like a headless chook getting our house ready for renovations, but that’s another post!).
Today I’m taking two long-haul flights over 26 hours with my kids, our first big overseas adventure as a family of five. My kids are aged five (nearly six), four and two and a half – aren’t you glad you’re not on our flight?
While I’m really looking forward to the trip, the thought of flying with my two-year-old for 24 hours is less than thrilling. I’ve flown a lot with babies, but never long-haul with a toddler. And while I
think hope my older girls will be fine, flying with Mr 2 is an unknown. It could go either way. So a little prior preparation doesn’t hurt, right? Here’s what I’ve been doing to get my three kids ready to fly to the other side of the world.
1. Explain the itinerary
As we’ve got closer to our departure date, I’ve been explaining more to the kids about the destinations we’re visiting and the number of flights. My oldest is a planner and loves to be organised, so I’ve written out a brief itinerary for her. We’ve all spoke about how we’ll sleep and eat on the plane, what we might watch (I checked the airline’s listings online) and what route the plane will take. This may all have gone totally over their heads, but I’m hoping for the best!
2. Visit an airport
We’ve had a few visitors to pick up from the international airport this year. So each time I’ve got there early, headed to departures and showed the kids where you check in and where bags go, and we’ve been able to watch planes land and take off. Brisbane international airport has the perfect set-up for this as you can see down to the passenger departures concourse and watch people board. Domestic airports might offer more accessibility (and also the opportunity to go through security) but either way, you can treat everyone to a milkshake or cino and absorb the airport atmosphere.
3. Read books about airports and flying
There are some fantastic plane books which my two-year-old, in particular, has really lapped up. His favourite? There are two and both are published by Osborne (how good are their books?). Look Inside an Airport is filled with flaps, dials and pop-ups and covers the workings of an airport pretty extensively. The other, Wind-up Plane Book, has an inbuilt track and a little wind-up plane that has been a huge hit.
4. Talk about the boring bits
While my kids are very excited about flying in general, I’ve been talking to my older girls about some of the boring bits that come with travel. Long queues, waiting for bags, going through security etc are painful for grown-ups, let alone little ones. We’ve chatted about waiting patiently and what games we might play to pass the time. While I have no doubt there will be whinging, you can’t blame me for trying!
5. Address potential scary parts
One of my kids is particularly sensitive to loud noises, so we’ve discussed the sound of engines roaring and even the flushing of the plane toilet! Bumpy landings, ears popping and turbulence are other things we’ve talked about. Obviously, this is more suitable for slightly older kids like my four- and five-year-old, who have an understanding of what’s going on.
6. Test earphones
This is one we’re still struggling with. I’ve been told some airlines are insistent on earphones being attached to iPads etc at all times, so we’ve been trying with Mr 2 and he’s not having a bar of it. I also borrowed some airline earphones last time I flew and have practised those with all the kids. Fingers crossed.
7. Stock up on pharmaceuticals
Yes, I’ve got the Phenergan and I’m not afraid to use it. I’ve spoken to the GP and pharmacist for the full low-down, and I’ve trialled it. Let’s hope it means a solid block of sleep for Mr 2. I’ve also stocked up on Painstop (available over the counter here) and I never travel without Imodium and gastrolyte (I’m still scarred from a food poisoning experience in Vietnam nine years ago!).
8. Pack a few snacks
We all know that plane food is questionable at the best of times. Throw in some fussy young eaters and you could have a recipe for hungry meltdowns. So in our carry-on I’ve packed muesli bars, sultana boxes and crackers that I know she will eat. I never leave the house without snacks, and these flights are no exception.
9. Create activity packs
I’ve bought a heap of colouring books (great for my girls), stickers and zip-lock bags, which I’ve filled with small toys like matchbox cars, fidget toys and animal figurines. I’ll be interested to see whether I need to use them, but better to be over prepared!
10. Charge electronic devices
Probably the most consistent piece of advice I’ve received about flying with young children is: iPad, iPad, iPad. I’ll be charging up all our devices today and bringing chargers/adaptors. I’ve been training Mr 2 on the iPad for a while (mother of the year, I know) and I reckon it’ll buy me a good few hours. Whatever works, right?
UK here we come — wish me luck! Any tips on flying with young children?