Surviving air travel with your little ones

Flying with kids: 24 tips from us (and an air hostess)

Nov 2, 2021
5 min read

Anyone who has ever traveled knows that everything from the minute you leave home, check in, go through customs, get on board, arrive, collect bags and get to your destination can be very stressful and tiring. Try adding a few children in the mix! Children can distract and frustrate you by asking ten billion questions, losing toys, losing shoes, losing themselves, getting hungry, getting tired… and so on.


We recently went on a family holiday to Fiji. Here are a few tips from myself and a flight attendant friend to make your trip more enjoyable.

Flying with kids: Tips for the airport and onboard

Pack lite

My husband and I share a suitcase. My two girls share a bag. We also have only one carry on bag per person. You will have enough to think about with whether they have eaten, slept, still got teddy, if the baby has lost their cuddly, had their travel sickness medication, got your duty free to survive the flight, still have your passports and filling in the endless forms to leave the country… But when you arrive, the last thing you want to do is leave a bag at the airport! The less bags to worry about, the better.

Have bright bags

This is a pretty common one. We have one pink checked bag and one plaid grey and white bag. You can see them as soon as they hit the baggage carousel, which makes it so much easier to scoop up your bag and get out of there!

Check each individual bag isn’t overweight 

If you are travelling on Air New Zealand especially – they have automated check in counters now, which won’t let you average your baggage allowance over all your bags. This means you either have to pay or take things out and move them to another bag. It is much easier to do this at home without your kids trying to “help”.

Strap your kids in/on:

Airports are VERY busy places and a lot of it involves going through customs, through x-rays and standing in lines and waiting. If possible have a travel pram for any child under 4 and a front or back pack for any child under 2. Ideally a travel pram that can go on-board (I love my Mountain Buggy Nano). My flight attendant friend said the gate-to-gate service with umbrella strollers only logistically works 50% of the time.

Give your child the chance to sleep at their usual sleep times

Whether it’s in a pram or front pack or plane bassinet, let them sleep. They probably won’t sleep as long as they usually do but if they are on a good sleeping pattern they will want to sleep at the same times as per usual, so make sure you at least give them the chance. My 2.5 year old who hasn’t had a nap in a pram for almost a year and a half is so used to sleeping at 12.30pm, I popped her into the pram at Fiji airport and asked her to have a sleep – she went straight to sleep! I didn’t even have to do anything, but you may need to do some rocking or push the pram because things are obviously very different to their cot at home.

Do ANYTHING to get your child to sleep on travelling day

This is especially important if, for some reason, you couldn’t let your baby sleep when they usually do. Don’t worry about bad sleep associations just do ANYTHING to get them to sleep. Babies under 1 year old can’t cope with becoming overtired and unfortunately, because they are in such an overstimulating environment, things will only be made worse if they don’t get some sleep.

For takeoff and landing give a bottle

During takeoff and landing the pressure changes are huge, so if you can give your baby a bottle the swallowing can help with equalizing their ears. If they start screaming don’t worry too much – screaming is sometimes how babies equalize. A little known fact is that there are no microwaves on-board, so come prepared with hot water before you leave or be prepared to wait for your bottle to heat up in a jug of hot water.

Double nappy your baby

Before getting on-board double nappy your baby. Plane toilets are very small and the change table is even smaller, so by having the other nappy already there and ready to go it will make the change much easier. Put pull-ups on any child under 5, especially if you’re doing a long haul flight. Turbulence can mean you’re in your seat for over an hour or after a meal service you can end up queuing for a toilet for quite a while.

Plane toilets have a hook

There is a hook on the back of the door to store your bag/nappy bag so you don’t have to put it on the floor. This would have been good to know 2 weeks ago!

Get someone to go on-board first

If you’re travelling with your husband or someone else get them to go on board first and set up your bags and kids toys. This allows you to come on with the kids and have a smooth transition so the little ones can get comfy straight away.

Book a bassinet row

If you can, book a row with a bassinet for your baby. Even if you end up not using it, it gives you more foot room. Just bear in mind that you won’t have a seat in front to put your bags under so they all have to be stored overhead.

Pack snacks and more snacks

When sitting for long periods kids can get hungry. Don’t rely on the plan to have enough food; even the on-board options sell out 90% of the time.

Check your child’s dietary meal 48 hours before

If you have ordered a special meal, call the reservations number 48 hours before your flight to guarantee that the order has been made. Checking on the day is too late.

On board supplies

There is pureed baby food, wipes, nappies and olbas oil (for the little ones to sniff) if needed. These are all part of the plane amenities so you can just ask a flight attendant if you need anything. Flight attendants are happy to hold your baby if you need some time out or a bathroom stop.

Children’s birthdays

Flight attendants are more than happy to wish your child a happy birthday over the PA, they can even get the Pilot to do it too!

Travelling alone with little ones

You can get special assistance from the ground staff to help you through customs and get your bags. Your friendly flight attendant on-board can arrange this during the flight.

Make sure you have spare clothes for you and the children

It’s never fun being vomited on, especially if you can’t get out of the clothes that smell of spew. Make sure you have a personal change of clothes.

Fill in all arrival forms on-board

Your children will be tired and grumpy when they land and won’t be wanting to wait around while you fill in forms.

Have entertainment for them other than your phone

Most electronic devices including cell phones need to be turned off during takeoff and landing. Don’t let your child have a tantrum because they can’t play angry birds.

Order duty-free online: 

This way you won’t be shopping with your favourite rascals and you won’t have to queue to pick it up.

Travelling with kids: Tips for your destination

Pack any medication possible

We recently went to Fiji and our youngest was sick the ENTIRE time. The week-long trip started with diarrhea, then the poor bubba got a fever, bilateral ear infection and a full body rash (which turned out to be hand foot and mouth). We were able to get a doctor to come to our room when she had a fever – he found her ears were infected but he only had amoxicillin antibiotics on hand. My daughter is resistant to amoxicillin, but luckily I had brought her usual antibiotics from home. It is a good idea to have plenty of paracetamol and ibuprofen on hand as well. Getting sick on holiday is sometimes inevitable but being prepared can make it as bearable as possible for everyone.  

Take disinfectant wipes

Disinfect EVERYTHING, especially for crawling babies. Some of the high chairs we used while in Fiji were stored outside, so had mould on them. Clean surfaces well before you let your baby eat off them.

Drink bottled water

Let your kids drink bottled water and if you are pregnant don’t take any risks.

Invest in travel insurance

Doctors visits can be extremely costly and you definitely don’t want the cost to dissuade you from seeking medical advice.

Hope these tips help if you’re thinking about or planning a holiday any time soon! It can be really awesome having time away with your little ones – even more so if you’re prepared for any situation!


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