The things we pack for a plane journey with our child

When we go out for the day with our child, my wife brings along a backpack that contains a solution to every eventuality. It weighs more than our four year old boy. But she likes to be prepared and she takes no chances, even though I can’t remember the last time we opened it.

We have the same levels of obsessive planning when we fly, although the bag is lighter and it gets used more often. Here’s what we pack in the bag every time we fly.

The practical stuff

The Bag

We think that it’s important that the bag we pack for our boy is one that he can take ownership of and identify as his own. This means that the bag we pack with his stuff in, is his bag and for him to own it, he has to love it. In our case, we’ve got him a Trunki.

If you don’t know of these, you’ve probably seen one wheeled through an airport. They’re a true genius invention and one that we take on every trip. If you’ve not heard of a Trunki, they’re a mini suitcase with four wheels, that kids can sit on and which parents can drag along behind them. Their size complies with carry-on baggage rules, so no need to check them in.

c/o Trunki website

You can also purchase an accompanying insert ‘purse’, which we take out and use as our go-to bag when we’ve sat down on the plane, avoiding having to get the Trunki down from the overhead compartment.

Toys – that he chooses

We get our son involved in packing his bag, and in preparation for the holiday, he can choose some small toys to take. He generally chooses a random collection, and this gives him some familiarity when he’s in new environments.

A change of clothes

We always carry a spare change of clothes, and not always because of an accident or in preparation for lost luggage. If we’re travelling on a night flight, we will take his pyjamas with us, in order to settle him in to his night time routine.

Empty collapsible water bottle

Something like this is a brilliant bottle to take away as when it’s empty (like, before you go through security) it takes up no space at all. When you’re on the plane, just ask the cabin crew to fill it up with fresh water and they’ll be more than happy to oblige.

c/o Amazon / Delong

Wipes

Where would we be without that flexible little packet of wipes? Before eating, after eating, cleaning up spillages etc. We take loads of these away with us.

Snacks

While most airlines provide excellent food options, having familiar snacks available for those times in between meals is a good idea. We tend to bring dried fruit bars, raisins, and other longer-life snacks that don’t take up too much room.

Entertainment

Although our kids are growing up in a digital generation, an iPad or in-flight entertainment system won’t hold their attention for the duration of a plane journey. Certainly not ours anyway. And with new rules preventing large devices being taken on board certain flights into the UK and US, parents have to get creative. So what do we do?

Prizes

We wrap and pack some prizes for the plane, to reward the little man for good behaviour. These are an incredibly manipulative but hugely successful method for managing children on long journeys!

Read about our Reward System idea in our Top Tips for Stress-free travelling here.

Headphones

Okay so it’s inevitable that they’ll want to watch something on a screen, so instead of using the in-flight earphones, which aren’t always suitable for little ears, we’ve bought our own. The first time we used these Batman headphones, we surprised him on the plane with them and he was delighted. Make sure that you also get some earphone adapters for the seat sockets too.

c/o Amazon

Playdough (or Play-doh for our non British friends)

They’re cheap, they come in transportable little pots, and kids can spend hours mashing around with these on a flight.

Good old fashioned pens and paper

When we’re on the way home, we get our little boy to draw pictures of his favourite memories from the holiday; making his own postcards for Grandma.

 

 

 

The time we took a two year old to Australia

When my sister-in-law moved from Britain to Australia, I was looking forward to holidays in the sun, surfing lessons and shrimps on the barbie. And the reality wasn’t far from that, until she decided to get married in 2016. What was meant to be an exciting and memorable experience turned into something a little more nerve-wracking for us… because we were travelling with our two year old boy.

Our son began his terrible two period when he was about 18-months old and was really perfecting his tantrums, meltdowns and stubbornness by the time we booked the flights. Our apprehension levels were peaking with the thought of a 14-hour flight from Dubai to Sydney and that’s ignoring the 7-hour flight before that.

We’d taken our boy on two long-haul flights before, so it wasn’t his first experience of spending hours cooped up in the cabin. But this one was twice as long with twice as many opportunities to scream the plane down.

The one thing going in our favour was the ample time we had to prepare for the trip. We had learned a lot from our previous flights and although he was younger and more predictable then (ha, as if kids are ever predictable), at least he was used to the routine. And it was this prep that made the trip bearable and almost stress-free.

Although it’s almost impossible for a long-haul flight to pass without incident, he was absolutely golden from the moment we left our house, to the moment we arrived at my sister-in-law’s house, 27-hours later.

Was this a miracle or did we manage it?

Ah maybe it was a bit of both, but I’ll take you through what we did in preparation.

Long before the flight, we talked to our son about the trip and that it would include a long time in two planes. We emphasised the importance of behaving well and this regular discussion did get through to him as he began asking us questions about it. We wanted to prepare him for the journey but also to embrace it as part of the holiday.

Before flying, we bought a number of small rewards, like toys, books and even snacks, which we wrapped up for him to open. We gave him one in the airport and told him that if he was a good boy, he would get more opportunities to earn one of these.

We’ve since evolved this to create a sticker system, whereby if he gets three stickers for good behaviour, he’ll get a gift and this worked really well. We carried this system through the holiday and it got to the point that he would be asking us whether he’d been good enough to get a sticker.

We also got him a pair of child-friendly headphones before we flew, with an adapter so that he could use them to watch the TV in the back of his seat. We actually got him used to wearing these in the weeks running up to flying so that he was comfortable wearing them. He was really excited about wearing these on the plane and as he was used to them it didn’t become a battle.

We also took some books, play-dough and puzzles on the plane as activities, although I was worried that the play-dough would become missiles and he’d target other passengers. Luckily, this didn’t come to fruition.

We flew with Emirates and we knew that they were good with kids. At the start of the flight, they give all kids a cuddly toy that doubles as a sleeping blanket and a sketch pad to play with. The food for kids was good also and they were generous with the snacks they had on offer.

We all suffered with jet lag to an extent although he got into his normal sleeping routine within a day. The wedding went well, although he didn’t like wearing a shirt in 25 degree heat and who can blame him.

We flew home via ten days in Thailand, which broke the journey up. Once again we deployed the above techniques and the little man was excellently behaved. Parents of the year we may not be, but when it comes to flying with children, I think we’re doing pretty well.

I’ve just jinxed us, haven’t I?

Top tips for stress-free travelling with kids

Tips for travelling with kids

Travelling on your own or in a group can be a stressful experience. Check-in, passport control, flights, transfers, language barriers and other such encounters can negate all the joy holidays bring.

Now imagine doing all of that with kids. 

Oh the carnage. I’ve been there, I’ve had a five month old vomit into my lap during take-off. However travelling with children doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. If you’ve got the time to plan a few simple things before you go, it may help reduce your blood pressure and increase your kid’s enjoyment.

We’ve been lucky enough to take a number of trips, both long-haul and short-haul with our little boy, and we’ve picked up a number of tips and ideas along the way that have made for a much easier ride (for him and us). (But mainly for us). And now we actually enjoy the travelling – even a 24-hour trip to Australia.

So here are our top six tips for travelling with a toddler that won’t guarantee to take all of the stresses away, but should make your experience that little bit easier.

1. Use a reward system

It can be difficult to keep your kids from melting down when you’re travelling, particularly with the excitement, new experiences and tiredness. One way to manage this is to use a reward system for good behaviour.

After a number of trips with varying degrees of success (spectacular failures in some cases), we nailed a sticker system that has worked a treat.

We set a challenge for our boy to behave well during stages of the holiday. This could be the check-in process, during takeoff, or while we’re at a restaurant and should he behave, he gets a sticker. For every three stickers, he’ll get a reward, which might be ice-cream or a chocolate or something more substantial like a toy.

My wife is amazing at preparing for trips, which has saved us on many an occasion. She’ll get a number of small, easy to pack presents (TK Maxx and Amazon are great for these), wrap them, and then take them away with us. These don’t take up much space in hand luggage and are hugely effective as a reward.

It’s even got to the stage where our boy has asked us whether his behaviour has warranted a sticker, and that’s when we realised we’d hit on something great!

2. Teach your child basic words in the native language

Teaching your child a few simple words in the language of the country you’re visiting is a sure fire way to win friends, as well as keep your kids entertained. A simple hello and thank you goes a long way and immediately scores you points with locals.

Check out language tutorial videos on YouTube before you travel, or even while you’re travelling, to get your kids engaged.

3. Make travelling part of the holiday

Someone once said that it’s not about the destination, it’s all about the journey, and how you get there. However when you go away on holiday with kids, it really is all about the destination.

However, a great tip for going on holiday with toddlers is to turn the travelling into part of the experience.

It’s tempting to tell your children about the beaches and swimming pools and all the activities you’ll do when you’re on holiday, but that means the journey is considered a hindrance to the good times. It’s blocking your kids from having fun. And that needn’t be the case.

Talking about the travel means that the moment your child sets foot outside of the house, they’re experiencing the holiday. Tell your kids about the plane, train or boat and what the captain and cabin crew do and how they’re taking you to your destination etc. This should introduce that element of excitement at the start of the holiday, not when you’re arriving.

4. Plan your flight times accordingly

Rocking up in a new country at 8am after a long flight might give you the opportunity for a full day’s exploring or chilling on the beach, but it might not be the best time for your nippers.

While it’s not always possible to choose the most convenient flight times (I’m looking at you Ryan Air), it’s worth planning your take off or arrival times. Of course this depends on the length of the flight, however the last thing you want is for your child to fall asleep during the journey and then be completely wired for when you arrive at your hotel at 10pm.

I remember checking in to a Bangkok hotel just before midnight and after a pleasant, sleep-filled flight, our boy was wide awake while we were exhausted and with no hope of getting him down.

5. Use a backpack for your hand luggage

Perhaps the most simple tip in this list. Using a backpack is so much easier than holding a bag – it means you have free hands for all the extra stuff you need when travelling with a child!

I made this mistake on my first trip away with my son. Carrying him in one hand and my bag in the other, and then his emergency bag (packed full with spare clothes, nappies, wipes etc.) around my neck wasn’t pleasant.

6. Have something organised for your first day back home

This is rarely planned yet so effective. I remember the days before child (BC) when our first day home was a mix of washing and chilling. And as any parent knows, chilling + children doesn’t go together.

Therefore in order to keep the kids entertained, it’s always a good idea to plan out your first day back so that you can keep their energy levels high and saves you from scratching around for ideas in that first-day-back-from-holiday-daze.

We also tend to do an online grocery order for delivery for our first day back (ensuring any delays are taking into account) so that we’re stocked up and don’t have to drag our kids around the store.