I’m sure that some of you may have holiday plans coming up real soon. And if you’ve more than two kids and are flying for the first time, you may want to pick up some tips from Veraday who blogs at Life is in the Small Things. As a mom of two adorable tots, she’s had her share of nightmare on the plane. To save yourself some frustration, I’ve invited her to share her experience and how you can prepare your kids and yourself for the flight.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – — – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – As any parent would tell you, travelling with a young child in tow is an entirely different proposition from travelling without. Bringing two young children with you takes it to a new level of crazy!
If you read my blog, you would already know that my first experience flying with my two kids didn’t exactly go so well. In summary, I was stuck alone with a fussy and unhappy baby during take-off, had to nurse in less than ideal (or private) conditions, and barely got any sleep on our 8-hour overnight flight to Sydney. So when Susan approached me to guest post on tips for flying with two young children, I asked her if she got the right person!
But after I thought about it, I realised there were things I did learn from the experience. With the benefit of hindsight, and some pointers gathered from friends, I am attempting here to give you some things to think about, and some tips, should you decide to take an infant (under 1 year in age and mostly not so mobile) and a toddler on a plane.
First, some pre-flight considerations:
Day flight or Night flight?
Aside from your destination, one of the big decisions you have to make is the timing of your flights. Where you have a choice – ie. there is more than one flight a day to your destination available at a decent price – should you choose to fly in the day or overnight?
If you fly in the day, the likelihood of at least one of the kids being awake at any one time is higher. In fact, both of them are likely to be awake for most of the flight. But on the plus side, you’re also more awake and would have more energy to deal with them. If you fly at night, chances are they might sleep. If you hit the jackpot, both of them might sleep at the same time, allowing you to sleep too (hurray!). But on the down side, if they sleep badly, it’s that much more painful to deal with when you’re tired.
The answer very much depends on how well your children sleep generally. I think it’s fair to expect them to sleep a little worse than usual. When my son Noey was a baby, we never considered the night flight when flying with him cos he was a frightfully bad sleeper. We flew in the day and were rather worn out entertaining him on the flight but at least we were awake enough to do it. Only when he was older and started sleeping through the night did we even consider flying at night. When flying with two children, do also bear in mind that they might sleep and wake at different times, which means that you get even less rest than they do. If they are generally good sleepers, I think you have less to fear.
Should you buy a seat for your infant or get a bassinet?
Children under 2 years on most carriers are considered infants, which means they don’t get a seat on the plane. They sit on your lap and use a lap-belt during take-off and landing and when the seat belt sign is on, and you can request for a bassinet for them otherwise. The different bassinets used by different carriers have different measurements and weight restrictions, so do check these out before assuming that any child under two would be able to use one.
Generally speaking, I think a child under one-year in age would be fit alright into a bassinet, but if you’re flying with a child between one to two-years old, you might want to consider buying a seat for him/her if the flight is a long one. He/she might not fit comfortably into a bassinet, and a long flight is uncomfortable enough without having to carry a child the whole time on your lap, let alone a wriggly, not-so-tiny one at that. Also, one of the most annoying requirements when using the bassinet is that you have to take the child out of the bassinet every time the seat belt sign comes on. After all the effort expended getting the child down to sleep in the bassinet, the last thing I want is to take him/her out! It might be worth buying a seat for the child to avoid the inconvenience.
Aisle, Window or at the Bulkhead?
This is again a matter of preference. Breastfeeding mums might prefer to sit at the window, which would offer a bit more privacy. But that might also mean having to climb over someone else to get in and out if your family does not occupy the whole row. With a young child, getting in and out of your seat repeatedly is a regular occurrence, so the aisle might seem a more convenient option. If your child (like mine) loves the window seat but you are not assigned one/have chosen to take aisle seats instead, if the flight is not full, it doesn’t hurt to ask the flight attendants if there are any spare window seats just for the take-off and landing.
Related to the question of getting a bassinet for your child is the question about sitting at the bulkhead. That’s where you will sit if you do get a bassinet for your child. While the bulkhead potentially offers more legroom, there are a couple of disadvantages.
One, the armrests usually can’t be lifted up. This could be a problem if your other child wants to lie down on your lap. We found that on SQ’s A380, the armrest of the centre seat in the centre aisle was the only one which could be lifted up, so we stuck to the middle row on both legs of our trip so that Noey could stretch out.
Two, there is no seat in front of you to stick your things under. Everything has to be stored in the overhead compartments during take-off and landing. This was how I found myself in a bind with no nursing cover when I desperately needed one at takeoff. This is annoying, but can be overcome with proper planning.
And we’re ready to fly! If I haven’t scared you off, that is.
Here are some of my favourite tips when you’ve finally made it to the plane with two young children:
Take advantage of the priority boarding usually offered to those travelling with young children and board early. This gives you more time to settle the kids in an unfamiliar environment, plus gives you first dibs at picking the best spots in the overhead compartments for storing the bags you will be carrying on board. If you’re travelling with kids, its a given that you’ll have many things to carry on-board!
Have take-off essentials at hand before take-off
This is especially important if you’re sitting at the bulkhead and cannot have your carry-on bag within reach during take-off and landing. Some things that might be useful:
- Nursing cover for breastfeeding Mums
- Packet drinks/Water bottles for kids to ease the altitude pressure changes
- Milk bottles and formula
- Comfort objects for kids, eg. pacifier, loves, etc.
The airport staff tend to be more lenient when kids are involved, but do bear in mind the restrictions on liquids and comply with these to minimise potential problems.
Entertainment! Bring toys and activities for the flight
I think every parent knows this but it bears mentioning. It’s always useful to have some books to read, activity books, drawing paper and crayons/colour pencils at hand for your older child. We usually travel with our iPad fully charged as a backup as well. Chances are, he’ll be quite happy to watch movies or have a go at some games on the in-flight entertainment system, but bringing some extra activity materials won’t hurt! For the younger child with a shorter attention span, you can consider bringing a couple of new toys or trinkets along to whip out as surprise treats on-route. The novelty factor will probably buy you some extra time.
Bring a million snacks, and then some more.
I brought double our usual haul for our road trips on our flight, but that was a bit of a joke. The kids started on their snacks on the way to the gate, and shortly into our flight, there wasn’t anything left. So, yes, bring a lot. Snacks keep everyone happy!
Close one eye. Or both
On regular days, I do restrict the kids’ TV time and the amount of junk food they eat. But on the flight, hey, if watching TV and playing video games is going to keep them happy and seated, I’m not going to say no! In fact, how about a snack to go along with that? A long flight is not the time to insist on having standards.
Try to hold off walking the aisle
Walking the aisle is usually my husband’s job, and he always tries to hold this off for as long as he can, using the other methods I mentioned. While it is very effective as a distraction for young tots, unfortunately, once you let them out of their seat, it’s really hard to get the kids back into them again.
If you have any tips to share for plane trips with young kids, do share! I’d love to hear what worked for you and what didn’t!