traveling with children

The right way to travel with your kids

Forget Snakes on a Plane. Toddlers are the real terror. Or let me rephrase that. Without planning ahead, that easy flight you were planning on taking with your kids becomes a full-fledged nightmare.

You see, kids need a little more entertainment than a magazine from the seat pocket and a miniature-meal from the airline. To stop a full-on meltdown occurring mid-flight, you’ve got to plan ahead. I’ve got a two-year-old. So far, she’s been to Japan twice, Australia and New Zealand, and I’ve lost count of the flights made between Bangkok and Yangon.

But that’s not the best part.

Travelling with my daughter these days is a breeze. The longest leg we’ve done was 36 hours. And that was without any hair-raising tantrums or tut-tutting from other passengers. Because we’ve learned a thing or two over the flights we’ve taken.

Here’s how to travel with your kids without having the entire plane hating on you.

Book a night flight

The single-greatest way to keep a young child still on a flight is to let them sleep. So, book a night flight and let their natural body-clock put them under for the duration. That is, if your kid is a good sleeper. It may not work if they want to stay awake and get all cranky, but once exhaustion kicks in they’ll be sleeping happily, especially after a bottle of milk.

Get to the airport early

One of my biggest lessons since becoming a dad is that you need more buffer time. Things will happen, and trying to rush through check-in, immigration, and security with a kid because you’re running late for a flight just doesn’t work. Trying to get your kid to do anything they don’t want to is a recipe for a tantrum, so give yourself a little buffer time so you can stroll around and explore.

Pack everything in a backpack

I always use a backpack as it keeps my hands free to deal with whatever you need, whether it’s immigration or carrying a sleeping child, and you can tuck it under the chair in front so you’ve got everything within arm’s reach. Inside, pack everything. Maybe two of everything. Changes of clothes, diapers, food, milk, water. Oh, and don’t forget wet wipes, and plastic bags just in case things get leaky. And a change of shirt for yourself is also a good idea.

Get them comfy in the seat

If you’re flying a low-cost airline, you may not always get pillows and a blanket. So, bring your own. Or better yet, bring a comfy soft toy that can double as a pillow for when your kid eventually falls asleep. Dress them in soft pajamas, and have a couple of layers you can add/remove if the air-conditioning starts getting too cold.

Be prepared to entertain

Spending a bunch of hours in a seat is bound to make anyone grouchy, your job as a parent is to have things to entertain your little one. Pack a coloring book and some crayons, a couple of normal books to read, and buy a bunch of new toys. Don’t go overboard, but even a couple of packs of small and cheap toys that are “new” to them can make a big difference.

Ease up on the screen time

No parent wants their kid nose deep in a tablet, but I’ve learnt to relax this rule a little while you travel. It’s for the sanity of everyone around you, and if your kid knows this is a special occasion, they’ll be on their best behavior. So, load a bunch of games and videos onto your phone or a tablet, and pack a pair of headphones so you’re not disturbing everyone around you with kids songs. I’d also throw in a charger and battery pack, especially if it’s a long-haul flight.

Deal with the equalization issue

On almost every flight you take you hear one screaming baby on take-off and landing. It’s due to the cabin pressure, as it causes a buildup of pressure inside their ears, and the kids struggle to clear it. What works for me is getting my daughter to drink, or eat. The chewing and swallowing motion helps her equalize, and we’ve never had a problem. You may need to use cookies or chocolates, but it’s a worthy trade off.

Enjoy your traveling time

Finally, it’s important you’re treating the travel experience as a fun one. There’s so much to do in the airport that is new and exciting for a little one, so make sure you’re looking for ways to make yours fun. My daughter loves riding in the luggage carts, counting the different color bags on the luggage belt, and of course, trying all the free snacks in the duty-free stores. Look at the airport through the eyes of your kids, and find ways to make it fun.

Traveling with your kids doesn’t have to be a nightmare, and you certainly don’t need to be handing out bags of “free candy” to strangers just because you’ve brought an infant on the plane. Just use a little common sense, plan ahead, and traveling with your kids will be a breeze.