Flying can be stressful at the best of times, throw a kid in the mix and things can get messy! But with a little pre-planning, travelling with children can be an adventure not a hassle. I’ve put together some helpful tips that have been useful for me when travelling with Emma. She is a seasoned traveller now with 10 overseas trips under her belt, three of those, including our most recent trip to London, have been just the two of us, so I’ve learnt a thing or two about flying with a child and enjoying it too.
1. Get your travel documents sorted well ahead of time
Make sure everyone’s passports have at least six months validity from your planned travel date and at least two spare pages for stamps and visas.
If you or your child needs a passport, don’t leave the application process to the last minute. The passport processing can take around 3 weeks so plan ahead and organise passport photos and application forms at least a few months before you travel.
Baby and infant passport photos can be a little trickier to take than regular adult photos, so it’s handy to know that you can get them done easily at a participating Australia Post outlet. We always have all our passport photos done at our local post office because the staff there process passport applications and can ensure the photos meet all the standards required.
2. Request seats, bassinets and child meals when booking
Get your travel agent to request infant/child meals and a bassinet (for under 2’s) when you book your flights. Most airlines won’t allow bulkhead and bassinet seat reservations during online check in, so putting a request in through your travel agent gives you a better chance of bagging your seats of choice.
If you have older kids, check in online as early as you can to pre-book seats together and avoid getting split up if a flight is heavily booked.
Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to seats on the plane. I like to sit towards the rear of the plane near the toilets and galley areas. Most flights start food service from the back so it means you get meals first and saves waiting for the bathroom as you can just pop in when they are free.
3. Choose the most direct flights
It goes without saying that getting on and off planes and through security checkpoints with a small child can be exhausting for all involved. If it’s an affordable option, book the routes with least stops and avoid domestic transfers wherever possible.
You will be required to check strollers at the departure gate which can leave you without a pram at transiting airports, so if your child is small enough consider using a baby carrier. Micro strollers that can be carried on as hand luggage are ideal for toddlers and will save you when you have to walk miles to catch a connection at the other side of the airport.
Be aware that some airports like Sydney have separate buildings for domestic and international flights which require bus transfers so I recommend not flying through Sydney if you can avoid it.
4. Pack some entertainment and snacks but don’t go overboard
It’s always a good idea to pack your child’s favourite toy and a few small items to play with but don’t go overboard. Most planes have inflight entertainment systems that will keep all but the youngest kids entertained and you’ll be surprised at how fascinating a baby will find a paper cup or a snack food wrapper. The less stuff you have to lug around and go crawling under seats to find, the better.
Bring along a charged up tablet device loaded with movies or apps that don’t require an internet connection to amuse the kids during long stopovers. Pack the charger in your hand luggage, newer aircraft have power points in every seat which is handy for mid long haul recharging.
I’ve stopped packing snacks on full service flights as there is usually plenty of food on offer and I end up throwing most of it away in the end, but it’s always handy to have something with you for budget flights and if you have a long stopover. Obviously if your child has special dietary requirements, cater accordingly.
5. Embrace the chaos
Accept that things may get a little crazy and just roll with it. Sleep routines will be broken, junk food will be eaten, screen time will be maxed out but it’s only for a day or two and after all, you’re going on holidays so it’s all part of the fun.
If you accept some things will be out of your control you will feel less stressed out on your travels, I’m not saying you will reach a state of zen, but children will react to your anxiety, so staying relaxed will rub off on them.
I hope you find these tips helpful to jet your journey started off on the right foot. I’d love to hear about your experiences and suggestions that have helped you plan for an overseas trip.
Thanks to Australia Post for sponsoring this post.
Australia Post knows getting a photo of your baby or infant is hard enough, without having to meet the criteria for a passport photo. That’s why they are here to help. Your local participating Post Office is ready to take your child’s photo, while also ensuring the photos are of a high quality and meet all passport and ID standards. No more rejected photos, that’s one less thing to worry about.