Before you head to the airport with a baby or toddler in tow, make sure you are as prepared as possible for a smooth flight by following our top 9 tips.

Also check out our post on In-flight Entertainment for great ideas on activities to keep kids busy on the plane

  1. Take lots of kid friendly snacks – even if meals are provided by your airline

For travel friendly kids snacks, stay clear of too much added sugar and instead go for some of these options:

  • Fresh or dried fruit
  • Rice cakes or dried biscuits with Vegemite or peanut butter
  • Savory muffins made with ham and cheese or shredded veggies
  • Yoghurt pouches
  • Natural popcorn

There are also some low sugar commercial snacks that are good to have on hand for the flight. These are also great to keep in your suitcase so you have something for day trips during your holiday and for your return flight.

Popular ones for us are Bellamys Organic Apple Snacks, Organix Goodies Mini Oaty Bites, Yummy Lunchbox Superbars and Little Munchkins Nibble Sticks.

Snacks

If your airline provides meals, call ahead and see if you can request a child meal. On our recent international flights with Emirates, the children’s meals were really kid friendly with mains like pasta and lots of yummy kid sized snacks like cheese and biscuits and fruit packs.

On some of our long haul flights from Australia to Europe though, the meal times didn’t match with when she was actually hungry, due to timezone changes or early wake ups.  Of course about an hour after meal times she would be starving and so the pre-packed snacks I brought on board came in super useful.  I also wanted to avoid the cookies and lollies provided by the airline, so having some healthy snacks in our bag made things much easier.

My go-to lunchbox for travelling is from Fridge To Go, it is great for the plane as it’s nice and light, has a shoulder strap and pockets for cutlery etc.  I also always take a couple of Take and Toss containers which are good for storing snacks and reusing again.  We also sometimes use them to grab another piece of fruit or toast at breakfast which can then can be given as a snack later in the day.

Lunchbox

2. Pack more than you think you will need in your carry on bag

Pack double the nappies you think you might need.  On one occasion when flying from Australia to New Zealand, we had prepared for our 3.5 hour flight, plus time at each end for travel.  What we hadn’t prepared for was the 12 hour delay we faced after clearing customs, stuck in the international terminal at Melbourne Airport with a 6 month old baby in tow.   We ended up spending a heap of money on extra badly fitting nappies from the terminal convenience store as we ran out about halfway through our flight delay.

Pack extra snacks in case of delays on the tarmac or in the air when no cabin service is available.  If your kids use dummies make sure you pack a few in your hand luggage to have in easy reach on the plane.  It’s much easier to grab a clean one from your bag than queuing to wash one in warm water in the plane bathroom if it drops on the floor.

    3. Take a change of clothes

I always take a full change of clothes for our daughter and have often had occasion to use it. Whether it be a bottle of water tipped over herself or a leaky nappy, it’s always worth having a full replacement outfit at hand. Its also worth considering taking a change of clothes, or at least a top for yourself as inevitably whatever ends up all over bub is also all over you.

  1. Keep to your regular bedtime routines as much as possible whilst on the plane

If your kids are used to milk before bed or naps, then ensure you take some milk in their familiar bottle or sippy cup.  For long trips I have occasionally used mini UHT cartons of milk.  Whilst I wouldn’t want to use this as an alternative to fresh milk on a regular basis, I was glad to have it as a backup if the airline was unable to provide fresh milk.  It was also handy to have these little cartons in the suitcase for if we needed it during the night or early morning if we did not have a fridge or 24 hour room service at accommodation on our trip.

If your kids are using sleeping bags or wraps, make sure you take these with you on the plane.  If it’s a night flight, change your kids into their pyjamas, give them their special blankets or toys or anything else they associate with bedtime, so they know when it is time to go to sleep.  Pick your flight times to suit sleep schedules if you can.

  1. Plan ahead for seating

If you are travelling with a young baby make sure you request a bassinet through your travel agent or airline as soon as you book your flights. If you are lucky enough to be allocated one, this will not only give your arms a rest from holding your bub, but also give you extra legroom in the bulkhead seats where the bassinets are located.

If you are travelling with an older baby, ask at check in to see a spare seat may be available in your row. If there is a free seat, the airline staff are usually happy to help out where they can – especially if you are friendly!

For long haul flights it may be worth looking into the cost of an “infant with a seat” fare when you are buying tickets. When an older baby or toddler has their own seat for playing with their toys, eating meals and especially for sleeping, it makes the journey much more relaxing for the whole family.

  1. Travel Pram or Ergobaby

For traveling with babies, a baby carrier is indispensable at the airport.  I have an Ergo Baby Carrier which I used on all our flights up until my daughter was about 18 months old.  It folds down to be pretty compact and makes moving through the airports and on and off the plane much easier and allows you to have your hands free for everything else.  Be warned through, you do need to take the baby out of the carrier to go through security checkpoints as the carrier needs to be scanned.  One of our few truly disastrous trips home occurred when our bub had just fallen asleep in the carrier and then needed to be taken out for security.  Of course she wouldn’t go back to sleep again, missed her nap and cried the whole way home.

For older babies and toddlers our greatest travel asset has been the Mountain Buggy Nano Travel Stroller.  So compact, light weight and can even be taken as carry on luggage for some flights.

  1. Bags

If my partner and I are both travelling together, we usually take a backpack for one of us and the nappy bag for the other.  I like having the nappy bag at our destination as it’s easy to hook over the pram handle and holds everything we need for a day out with plenty of space and convenient pockets.  I use this OiOi bag as my everyday nappy bag and I find the amount of pockets it has is just perfect for storing everything I need.

Having a backpack is great at the airport as it gives you two hands free for finding tickets, holding hands, carrying kids etc.  Taking both bags on the flight means we can split the load between us and have plenty of room for everything to get us through a long flight.

Our daughter loves having her “school bag” (a little backpack) when she travels.  She knows where her toys / books are when she wants something to play with and she likes to wear it when we walk through the airport.  See my post on in flight entertainment to see what we take in her bag.

  1. Our advice: travel as early and as often as possible with your kids.  

Whilst it seems very daunting the first time, getting kids used to travelling as early as you can really helps.  Our 2 year old took her first flight at just 3 months old and has travelled regularly ever since.  With all our in laws living in New Zealand, we try to head across the Tasman as regularly as possible so she gets to see her Kiwi family.   Two years on, she is used to the routine of airports, sitting in plane seats, riding in taxis or hire cars and staying in all sorts of accommodation, and this makes our trips much smoother as she knows what to expect.

Have you found this article helpful?  If you know someone travelling with kids soon, we’d love you to share this with them using the share icon at the top of the page.

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