We see the topic of flying with kids regularly making the rounds in the media, especially social media, these days. As our world has become a lot ‘closer’, kids these days are being taken on planes so much more than we were as kids. My own daughter has clocked up more than 50 flights by the age of 5 and my 3-month-old son has already been to Europe and Africa.
But safer, faster and cheaper flights have not quite eradicated that feeling of dread we get as parents when we consider taking our little ones on a plane. Whether it’s a couple of hours or long-haul, we stress about keeping them clean, entertained and quiet. Gone are the days of relaxing back in your seat with a wine and watching movie after movie. Instead, we have to keep our eyes and ears open as much as possible to avoid any in-air disasters that might possibly irk your fellow passengers or at worst go viral on social media!
As a regular traveller, I have always been keen to seek as many solutions to making flying with kids as easy as possible and thankfully there are some clever people out there designing products to make this happen. So, along with some of the tips I have picked up over the last 5 years of flying with kids, and some of my very favourite flying products, here are my top ways to keep flights with small ones smooth…
My favourite products
- Top of my list at the moment is the Cozigo. I wish I had this for my first-born but luckily, have discovered it for my second. If your baby fits in a plane bassinet, then this will be your best-friend. It simply (and I mean simply) clips on to the bassinet once the seatbelt sign is off to provide a dark and cosy cocoon for your little one to sleep without the distraction of lights and people (it blocks 97% of light!). There are zips on all sides so you can easily peek through to check on them and the fabric is 100% breathable.
We recently used the Cozigo on four long-haul flights with Etihad and it was hands down a winner. My baby (8 weeks old at the time) slept throughout the flights (only waking for feeds and nappy changes).
Better still, you can use Cozigo at your destination too (and of course, back at home) because it doubles as a sun/sleep shade for your stroller! We used ours pretty much every day so our little one could nap in a cool, breathable and dark space protected by the harsh European sun.
2. Very Busy Bag. Up until now, I have scrambled before every flight to curate a collection of activities for my now 5-year-old daughter to keep her entertained on flights (and at our destination). Running around the shops trying to think of and find small toys, activity and colouring books and more is a stress I could do without and thankfully I recently found the perfect solution.
Very Busy Bags come complete with all the activities and toys kids need, grouped by age. My daughters face when I presented her with the calico bag that holds it all on a recent flight to Abu Dhabi said it all. It became her favourite bag on the flights and during the holiday and had enough products inside to keep her entertained throughout.
Back home now, she is still playing with many of the items! This bag honestly just makes life easier!
3. Plane Pal. This is the one product that makes me super jealous of my child. It is an inflatable foot rest that sits on the floor between your child’s seat and the seat in front, effectively turning their seat into a first-class flat bed. I have seen the difference one of these makes to a child’s rest on the plane and it is worth every single cent.
We make sure we always fly an airline that accepts them (and so many of them do but always check) and as soon as we are in the sky with the seatbelt sign off, it takes me less than a minute to inflate. My daughter then has a foot rest and can then simply lie down as soon as she gets tired and sleep soundly as if she is in a bed.
No more restless flights trying to sleep in a seat alone, or on top of you! We have also used the Plane Pal on a train and as a seat in various places on holiday, so it really is multi-use.
4. A baby carrier. When you have a child that is small enough, popping them in a carrier through an airport and onto the plane is hands down the easiest way. It leaves you hands-free to carry bags and the hand(s) of any other children. My favourite carrier? The Ergobaby 360.
5. A travel stroller. We have had the Babyzen Yoyo for almost 5 years and it has travelled around the world with us like a dream. If you are a regular traveller, this is a great investment as you can take it on board the plane with you, and use it right up until you get to your seat then fold it up and pop it in the overhead locker, unlike other strollers which have to go in the hold.
It is light, folds and unfolds with one hand and is fantastic at any destination as it’s super simple to use on public transport or getting in and out of taxis. There are quite a few cabin strollers on the market these days and are definitely worth looking into.
6. Tablet device and child headphones. Each to their own but we are liberal with screen time when on a plane. Whatever works. We download entertaining (and educational where possible!) apps and new movies prior to travel so they have something exciting to watch. Kid headphones limit the volume levels and make them feel pretty special too.
7. CARES travel harness. When your child graduates into their own seat at 2 years of age, the safest way for them to travel is using the CARES harness in conjunction with the plane’s own seatbelt. It not only makes your child safer, but it means they can’t wriggle out of it like they can a seatbelt and keeps them from kicking the seat in front!
We used ours until our daughter was almost four and will use it again once our baby moves into his own seat. It also eliminates the need to lug a car seat on board the plane like many people do.
My top tips – things I have learned over the years!
1. Let kids who are old enough carry their own backpack filled with what they need for the flight. It makes them feel important and keeps their things together in one place, plus relieves you of a bag!
2. I recommend packing lots of snacks you know your child will like/eat, especially as they might not like the meals they are given on the plane. Limit sugar and also try not to bring nut products on board a plane.
3. Bring more nappies than you think you will need. The pressure of the cabin seems to cause more ‘blowouts’ than on the ground! Have a handy nappy clutch with everything you need in it so you can carry and use it one handed.
4. Carry a change of clothes for all children AND yourself! I carry two changes for each, after a particularly bad flight to New Zealand when my daughter wouldn’t stop vomiting on herself and me… Also, dress everyone in layers. A plane can be hot, cold and every level of in between so it’s best you can add and remove layers so your child can be comfortable.
5. Pre-select your seats well ahead of time. If you want a bassinet, find out the age and weight limits for your airline and reserve it as soon as you can. Get to the airport to check in early to maximise your chances. If you do not need a bassinet, consider selecting seats that are not in the bulkhead if you want to be able to raise the armrests. If you don’t mind armrests that can’t be raised, then the bulkhead does offer extra floor space which is great with kids, and no people in front of you that can be kicked/annoyed by your darling offspring.
6. Feed your baby on take-off and landing to help with their ears (I take lollipops for my older child). Whilst there are 100ml limits on liquids generally, baby items are exempt – simply declare them at security. I have needed to take more than 100ml of non-dairy milk and cooled water for bottles through in the past and have never had an issue.
7. If your child uses a dummy, consider a dummy clip so it is not constantly falling to the very suspect floor of the plane and needing to be cleaned.
8. I always use a backpack as my own carry-on bag, so I am hands free through the airport. Usually I have a baby on my front and a bag on my back!
9. My other top items I always take on board include antiseptic wipes for tray tables etc, familiar pjs and sleeping bag for toddlers, their favourite teddy, any medication needed (or might be needed such as pain relief), a child’s water bottle as many airlines only seem to give out cups of water, USB charger for tablet and a portable power bank, a thermometer (you never know when a fever can arise on a 24 hour flight), and pairs of socks for the kids to keep feet warm and clean. If you have a recently toilet-trained toddler, pack pull-ups regardless as it is not always possible to take them to the toilet on board in time!
Do you have any tops tips or products you would add to this list? Tell us in the comments!