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Flying With Kids

Author: Lisa Soeno

We fly to Lanzarote over Easter and I was feeling pretty smug about how prepared I am (see below Holiday Packing pin), until it occurred to me that I am going to have to find a way of keeping Jenson entertained on the flight. For OVER FOUR HOURS.

In general, Jenson (11 months old) is the happiest little chappy you could wish to meet. Whenever we’re out and about, I often notice him cracking a huge, beaming, crinkly-nosed and gap-toothed grin at whoever is in his line of sight from his pushchair. (The day he gets too old to be doing the crinkly nose thing, I will be devastated). It’s got to the point where if I’m not in the mood to talk to people/strangers/the general public (just me?), I have no choice in the matter because he will be there smiling at little old ladies and a conversation about how HAPPY he is is inevitable.

But try and hold him still for two seconds and it’s a different matter. He goes from Happy Chappy to Angry Bull in a flash. Doing his nappy is a full on wrestle: I have to put him on a changing mat on the floor and then contort myself into a yoga-esque pose that involves holding him down with my FEET so he doesn’t flip onto his tummy and so I can have my hands free to wipe his bum. Thank God for pull-ups, that’s all I can say.

Wiping his face/cutting his nails/getting a pair of trousers on him all involve similar wrestles.

So to say I am dreading the flight with him is an understatement.

We flew to Eurodisney recently and I used the following tactics:

– I tried to keep him awake through the whole journey to the airport, checking in, getting through security palaver. So during take-off he was happy to have a bottle of milk (apparently the sucking action helps avoid popped ears) and then snuggle down on my lap for a snooze.
– When he woke up (mid-flight) I plied him with rice cakes, raisins, veggie sticks and Pom Bears.
– I took a couple of toys and books (these Usborne Touchy Feely ones are great).

But there’s a big difference between a 55 minute flight and a 4 hours 20 minute flight and I’m not sure it’s advisable to ply kids with food for that long!

Lyra was a dream on the flight to Eurodisney: a magazine and a new Water Magic book and she was a happy bunny. She is also excellent at getting her little brother to chuckle so I’m hoping they can entertain each other for a little while. (Big difference from our first flight with Lyra – which was when she was two years old – and culminated in the tantrum of all tantrums and her screaming ‘Out Out OUTTT’ whilst pointing at the airplane door…).

Have you travelled with a baby? Any tips? Should I take a sling and plan to just walk up and down and bob around with Jenson in it for the entire journey? Are there any amazing iPhone apps for babies that might keep him entertained? Answers on a postcard, please!

And I will probably regret asking this question, but do you have any nightmare stories?!

P.S. Since writing this post Becky has pointed me in the direction of disposable bibs and changing mats. Travel gamechangers!


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Author: Lisa Soeno
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19 thoughts on “Flying With Kids

  1. V handy, I fly to Mallorca on Sat with a 4 and 1 year old and I haven’t started packing yet so I’ll use your list as a basis! We are tied to school holidays now but snuck a holiday in before little one turns 2 so she’s essentially a freebie. But we’re now worrying as she’s ENORMOUS for her age and obviously won’t get her own seat so it’s going to be a real struggle to get her strapped on one of our laps. She’s a very placid, happy child but kicked off when we flew to Greece last year so I am under no illusions. I will be taking lots of books, snacks and maybe a tablet too, which we don’t usually use but I imagine we may be feeling quite desperate. I just hope our fellow travellers don’t mind a bit of screaming… !

    1. Hope I’ve remembered to include everything on the list then Abi! Hee hee.

      Eek yes this is my fear. Jenson is a big baby too and not far off walking I don’t think, so he’s not going to be impressed when he has to stay put for several hours.

      Fingers crossed your littlest is good for you on the flight. We found Mallorca was brilliant for kids – have a fab time x

  2. Very timely for us too as we fly to Houston in America on Friday with a 3.5 year old and an 8 month old!! We had a ‘test’ flight in December to Tenerife which went really well, I actually found the whole experience less stressful than trying to do a weekly shop round Asda with them both, as there’s so much to distract them. My 3.5 year old happily plugged into Cinderella and Paw Patrol on the iPad for most of the journey and my then 5 month old slept for a lot of it and was exclusively breastfeeding at the time so easy peasy. However fast forward 3 months and the baby has entered a new zone: baby led weaning, wanting to touch, grab, pull, bite, lick EVERYTHING, and is altogether more wriggly. We’re flying with Singapore Airlines and I’m told they are brilliant with kids, we’ve booked a bassinet although baby will be at the limit of whether she can fit in it. I’ve bought and individually wrapped some new toys (half the fun is the unwrapping, right?), I’m stocking up on snacks, in the hope we can get them through security (the rules seem vague), and I’ve downloaded some previously unseen episodes of Paw Patrol. Other than that I’m just planning on making use of the duty free! At least we are meeting family at the other end so can just hand them over…

    1. I flew with Singapore Airlines a few years ago and they were brill. Great air hostess uniforms too 😂. I took half a rucksack full of snacks to Eurodisney, didn’t realise there were any restrictions on food?! Thanks for reminding me to wrap a few toys! Have a fab trip.

  3. I’m laughing at that packing list. Sorry! I don’t take half that! And the sleepyhead?! Cripes! Nail clippers?! Can’t you just bite them off if they grow that rapidly in a week!?

    I can’t believe you missed the best tips! Take your buggy in the hold for free – pack it before you go then load your buggy bag with all the nappies and wipes and things you need. That way you don’t need to pay for a bag in the hold and you don’t have to pay excessive charges for products abroad.

    I took a small hold bag with everything we needed – swimming costumes and clothes for the week in her normal hand hold bag under the seat. I don’t bother with special baby shampoo these days – we all use kids L’Oréal strawberry swimming shampoo for curly hair!

    Our packing list was nappies, swim nappies, swimming costume, suntan lotion, I-pad, charger, sling, calpol. That’s it.

    In terms of entertainment, ipad will keep a pre-schooler entertained for hours. We like Endless Alphabet and Phonics Play for good apps. For younger kids, we watched postman pat. I would also thoroughly recommend a sling. Let them burn off as much steam as possible running around the airport before hand and have loads of snacks. The v-tech camera is also quite good as it has some games on but also functions as a camera they can use on holiday.

    For long haul flights I’ve seen these used https://www.flylegsup.com/kids-fly-legsup-info or similar.

  4. Are you flying from Heathrow? They have a brilliant family room (change facilities, soft play and sensory room for babies) in T3 departures that was super helpful to us when we flew last year, I found it took the stress out of battling in the crowded noisy terminal which left our baby more calm for actually boarding the flight. Hope you have a great holiday! x

  5. Have done a few flights with J since he was born including a return flight to New Zealand when he was 12 weeks old (that’s easy, no entertainment required, just boobs, and emergency instant formula which was a godsend when he melted down five hours out of London and wouldn’t latch on!) and most recently aged 2. Been to Portugal, Greece (similar flight time) and Edinburgh in between. Jenson is a tricky age because he’s old enough to be mobile, but not quite old enough to be entertained by things for long. My top tips would be:

    1. All rules about screen time go out the window. ‘ Baby’ apps I’d recommend for your phone or an iPad are one called ‘balls’ (every time your fingers touch the screen it makes a different coloured ball that bounces across it) and piano ball (turns into a jingly piano keyboard – Lyra would like this one too). There are some annoying free fisher price apps they seem to like as well!
    2. Buy a series of cheap small new toys, put in a seperate bag and gradually introduce over the course of the flight (finger puppets were popular, or small cars etc)
    3. Lots of snacks, but you’ve got that.

    My horror story was flying back from Greece, far too hot in the plane and he got a bleeding nose. When he saw the blood he freaked out (22 months old) and starting having a full body massive screaming tantrum when we tried to hold his nose/ place anything in his face/ do anything to stop it. Blood was flying around everywhere and we had two flight attendants and a doctor who was on board trying to help us. The Dr told them to get some ice which we held in his head (or tried to) to cool him down a bit. Eventually it stopped once we calmed him down. While this was going on obviously the whole plane could hear the goings on and knew something was wrong. The people in the row behind us were offering tissues, and afterwards the flight attendants came over with raisins, sweets a little toy and some baby wipes that had been offered by other passengers. People were so nice and when we were disembarking a couple of people came up to say don’t worry about it we are just glad he is ok. So although a ‘horror story’ (and our seats literally looked like one!) don’t be too worried because I think most people have a lot of sympathy and understanding for you – especially with two!

    1. Emma your story really made me chuckle – sorry! Lovely to hear that people were so nice about it to you. The lady we were sitting next to when Lyra has her mid-flight tantrum was awful and snooty about it! so unhelpful!

      Great tips re the apps and small toys too – thank you x

  6. I haven’t attempted a flight with my boy yet (18 months) as he’d be a nightmare! Took my daughter on a plane at 14 months though (to Lanzarote actually!) and it wasn’t as bad as I expected. I did find a sling helpful as when she got tired I got her to sleep in it, but she was a big sling fan! I would definitely take an iPad / tablet with Night Garden / Teletubbies on it… this really helped us on a long car journey a few months ago! Good luck and enjoy! Please can you do a post on the holiday when you get back?! 😄 x

    1. Jenson is not a fan of the sling but it DOES make him go to sleep 🤷‍♀️

      Yes I will try and report back about the holiday! X

  7. We flew a lot with Silvia at about that age- she was 12 months when we did Ireland (very easy), a month later Portugal (2 hours 30), 2 months later Italy (same) and Portugal again a month after that- between work and family her baby carbon footprint was huge!! Paddy has only flown once at 6 months but we are going to a wedding in LA on NYE so staring down the barrel of that flight…

    What we found amazing through that 1-2 age was flash cards. There are these ones you can get from TK Max with photos on which open and snap shut- we had the animals and alphabet ones- and they are so great! Picking out each thing, making noises, hiding one, just opening and shutting them, talking about body parts etc! I also really recommend those 1000 Words In… books in whatever language even English as you can look for all the different things and talk about them. Ditto some kind of animal encyclopaedia.

    And if you do nothing else buy a bag for the car seat and stuff it full of the heavy annoying crap- Daddy’s shoes, duct tape a bag containing the shampoo and suncream inside the seat to protect it. I’m also very keen on getting rid of the pushchair asap and using carrier plus Trunki. But I think if I was travelling alone and outnumbered I would keep the pushchair for crowd control.

    Cup of Jo blog often has great features on travelling with children, worth a mooch through their archives.

    1. Baby carbon footprint 😂 Lucy S please tell me more about this LA wedding!

      I’ve already got flash cards on the hand luggage list which were more for Lyra but you’re right – Jenson likes playing with them too. I think a trip to TKMaxx to hunt down a new pack is a brill idea, thank you x

  8. We’ve literally flown back from Dublin with our 23 month old today. She was a dream the whole time (though obviously a short flight, so I’m not sure she’d have maintained it on a longer one) – except that she started making a game of running away whilst we were queuing for security, at first just crossing the barrier, gradually pushing the boundaries to see what she could get away with. We were carrying a lot (coats, buggy, change bag) and we’re trying to get all the things out to go through the machine, when she suddenly sets off back down the queue, necessitating me chasing after her and hauling her back up to join us. She was giggling her head off and I could feel myself getting a bit stressed. We made it through security with only minor upset after that point – and I was pretty relieved to find we had time for a coffee before boarding!

  9. Bit late commenting on this one but anyway after a bit of a stressful 3 hour train journey recently (where at least we could stand in the vestibule to avoid annoying people) I was dreading our first flight later this year with what will be an 13 month old by then. However my husband recently flew by himself with some babies on the plane and he pointed out the background noise of a plane plus the fact that about 80% of other travellers have headphones in means even a baby really going for it doesn’t disturb people as much as you might worry about 😀 That made me feel better plus will be using these tips! Regarding tablets are there any headphone makes that are safe for young kids to use? Obviously in ear buds are a no no but I find the noises of cartoons or apps sometimes more annoying than crying 😆

    1. I think recently I saw Clemmie Hooper’s twins on Instagram flying with headphones but I can’t remember what brand, I’m sure she tagged them at some point so might be worth a look back through!

  10. I’m a bit late to the party on this but OH MY GOD I AM FLYING FROM SYDNEY TO LONDON IN 3 WEEKS AND I’M FREAKING OUT.

    I did it when my little girl was 6 months old, and came back when she was 8 months old (alone – my partner had flown home early). It wasn’t SO bad then, because she was crawling but still fairly stationary. She started walking last weekend (she’s just turned 10 months) and now she’s like a crazy ball of energy, getting louder and more frustrated by the day!!!

    My top tips for flying with a relatively stationary baby are:
    – Cozigo. Oh my days they are a godsend. They slip right over the bassinet and they block out all the light and distractions and air con so bub can actually sleep. I’m PRAYING that my little one is still small enough to fit in that bassinet or we are all in trouble…
    – Snacks. So many snacks.
    – If you’re feeding formula, take a bottle brush and Milton sterilising tablets so you can sterilise each bottle on the go (quart of a tablet is about right for one bottle).
    – Baby’s gro bag / whatever they sleep in/with
    – Baby carrier

    The most important thing is PATIENCE (something I have in limited supply). Ultimately, it is totally worth it to get where you’re going. It’s only a day. But it is hard. I’ve been told to sit separately from my partner – which sounds mad but actually having done the flight with and without support, it was kind of worse with him there! Not to sound mean – he is a super helpful person – but I think you expect it to be so much easier with 2 of you and actually it’s exactly the same amount of hard, and that makes you angry/frustrated/grumpy at each other! This time we are going to do shifts – 4 hours on, 4 hours off. Whoever is off shift needs to try to switch off and relax and ignore whatever chaos is going on (the person who recommended this said you should try to sit separately!!). Then they will be nice and refreshed (ish) for when it’s their turn. Who knows…!

  11. I flew with our six month old for the first time to Spain recently and found the old rock my style and family posts on travelling with little ones super helpful! I did the car seat trick as others have said (as suggested by an old post from Charlotte) and managed to do four nights with just hand luggage. Agree totally that taking a carrier is a lifesaver, I actually just stood up with my son in it at the front of the plane to get him to go to sleep and nobody batted an eyelid. We also took toys, snacks and he loved looking at everything. Next week I’m flying on my own to Ireland with him and he is teething so may feel less positive after that! Will look forward to hearing about how you get on and I hope you have a lovely holiday! Xx

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