Tips for flying long distances with kids

I’ve always taken my kids on trips, from road trips to long-haul trips and now, with 4 kids, flying with them for 13 years, I think I have a few tips to make life easier.
The necessary items change as they get older, so I’ll separate it into groups.

dubai airport

José, at 14 months old, playing in Dubai Airport during a connection

For everyone:
– Take a spare set of clothing. Accidents happen. All kinds of accidents. Trust me.
– Take a few meds, like eye drops, ear ache, headache, a nose spray and something calming, like Rescue Remedy.
– FIND the sick bag before anything else.
– Use hand sanitizer and a napkin to wipe remote controls, arm rests, magazines and everything else that might’ve been there for a long time.
– Order especial meals as soon as you can, but at least a few days before the flight.
– Reserve the seats nearer to the toilets.
– Take toothbrushes. If you need, take also toothpaste, ear plugs, and sleeping masks.
– Headphones are great, even more, if they’re noise canceling.
– Charge all devices and keep them as charged as they can.
– An empty water bottle is a great thing to have as staying hydrated is super important.

guarulhos airport

Melissa (3) and João (18 months) waiting our boarding time

With infants, toddlers, and little kids:
– Take enough nappies for the flight, the waiting time, the time after you land and until you get to your hotel. And always – ALWAYS – carry a few extras. Even though nappies can be found almost everywhere, it might not be ideal to have to hunt for them after a long flight.
– Take extra clothes for EVERYONE who’ll take care of the baby, and the baby because accidents happen. Trust me.
– Take something they’re used to eat, like a jar of baby food. Make sure you give them the exact same one a few times BEFORE the trip, so they’re used to it and you know it doesn’t affect their digestion. Also, ask for the baby food – maybe it’ll come in handy if your baby gets horribly hungry during the flight. Just make sure you ask for it before the day of the trip.
– Take their pacifier, bottle and comfort tool, like a little blanket, a toy, a book, whatever they love
– By the way, take a little blanket (it can be a large travel towel) to put on the floor and give the baby some down time. It’s also amazingly easy to scatter a few toys over it and when it’s time to board, just gather the towel with everything inside.

in-flight play

Origami tsuru – best toy ever in any flight

– If you have an infant, make sure you ask for the crib and the seats at the front row if your baby is used to a crib. Two of my kids slept better on the sling during the flights, but the other 2 preferred to sleep on the floor and they’re not always allowed to. Well, they were never small enough for the plane crib.
– Take little toys. I never really liked the idea of buying new toys, so we just kept some toys away from them and handed them on the plane as we needed. They loved them again.
– Put them on the breast if they’re breastfed for take-off and landing to avoid pressure on the ears. If not, use a chew toy or a pacifier.
– Keep them hydrated by breastfeeding on demand or giving water from time to time.
– Lastly, let people complain. It’s NOT your or your baby’s job to keep them happy. Pay no attention to people and tend to your baby only, aim their comfort. Babies cry. Toddlers cry. Toddlers also like to roam, so go roam with them.

in-flight meal time

Coral (with HER headphones) while Angelo had his meal peacefully

With not-so-little kids:
– Let them choose a few eatables to take, just make sure they’re allowed on the flights. For national flights, almost everything is OK but on international flights, things are a bit more complicated, so make sure you check everything.
– Let them also choose something to play with: a few small and not noisy toys, and make sure you play with them from time to time if they want you to. I always take some origami paper, paper, pencils (crayons work best as they don’t need to be sharpened not have caps to lose), and some tiny figures. A book, a sticker or coloring book might be great if your kid likes these things.
– Take something they like to watch on the computer, phone, tablet or anything AND take a set of headphones for them because it’s pretty annoying when airplane phones don’t fit their heads or ears. Oh, don’t forget the chargers! You might not be able to charge them in flight, but you can do that in the waiting areas of most airports for free.
– Remind them to drink WATER from time to time.
– By the way, take an empty bottle and fill it after you cross security. If possible, take one for every kid and ask them to finish it during the flight.
– Ask for the child meal (usually done during booking, but definitely before travel day), as they come first and they usually look a bit better than the regular food.
– Let them watch movies and play, but remind them when it’s time to keep voices down and/or take a nap. Also, talk to them about what’s OK to watch and what’s not and about talking to strangers on the screen (most planes now have an in-flight chat).
– Take some ear plugs if your kid is a light sleeper. A sleeping mask also might help. Some companies give them out, but some don’t and since they don’t take any space, take your own is safer.
– Talk to the flight attendants and people around, be kind and respectful. Give the example of the person you want them to be.

in-flight nap

Little Coral (4) sleeping in the airplane: Angelo only had to go to the toilet to lose his seat

For tweens and teens:
– Talk to them beforehand about what’s OK to watch/play and what’s not. Set out a few rules or guidelines about in-flight chat, noise, food, drink, and respect for the people around you.
– Tell them about the carry on baggage (what can go in it, weight and size restrictions) and give them advice on what you think might be wise to take (phone, tablet, computer, anything valuable, a change of clothes or 2, something to pass the time, toothbrush, hand sanitizer, a snack, an empty drink bottle) and let them handle it. Let them make their own decisions. You can always check with them, ask if they really need the Lego and that they should really take at least one change of clothes, help them fold and pack everything nicely, but letting them make their own bag is a precious lesson.
– I like to keep all the passports with me because it’s more practical but you can always choose to let your kids handle theirs if you think they’re responsible enough.
– Order the child meal if they want it (just make sure you order it before travel day).
– Be kind and respectful to everyone around you – be the person you want them to be.

seoul airport

Melissa (5) and João (3) at Seoul Airport, waiting for our connection flight

Do you have any other tips? Let us know!

3 replies
  1. Tatiana Saito
    Tatiana Saito says:

    Nossa, que trampo, né? Já tinha esquecido como era trabalhoso viajar com criança.

    O Igor ficava com dor de ouvido sempre que viajava de avião, ainda bem que passou.

    • Thais Saito
      Thais Saito says:

      Na verdade, só dá trabalho da primeira vez, porque depois já se aprende naturalmente o que funciona e o que não funciona. A dor de ouvido de avião é a pior.


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