By Emily Morrice (bio)
When I was growing up, flying anywhere seemed extremely special and expensive. I never flew as a child – my first flight was as a teenager – but since those days I’ve made scores of flights across Canada and abroad with my family. With bargain vacations and cheap flights so accessible online these days, flying with your family doesn’t carry the price tag or air of luxury that it has in the past. Flying today is easier than ever, but bringing the kids along is still added chaos, so here’s what you need to know if you’re about to take off with the littles.
Your Carry-On Is Your Lifeline
Pack your carry-on baggage wisely and you’ll be set for whatever life throws at you during those hours in the sky. If you’re traveling with children under age six, bring a change of clothes (or two!) for them. It seems like accidents and spills happen at the most inconvenient of times and flying is prime time inconvenient! If you’re traveling with a baby, make sure baby has 2-3 extra outfits and be sure to pack an extra shirt for yourself, too. A few healthy snacks will help with long lines or delays at the airport. Our kids love the Owlies and the puree pouches! Sneak in a couple of special toys and books as well, but don’t bring them out all at once! Depending on the length of your flight, aim to reveal a new activity every hour or so, if your child will be awake. Make sure these toys are plane-safe, meaning no small pieces or annoying noises. Always pack more diapers and wipes than you think you’ll need. I once had a flight cancellation and was forced to stay overnight with my one year old son with only my carry-on with me. We used those final few diapers to their maximum capacity, let me tell you! I wished I had a few extras, and it never hurts to be prepared.
The Law of Liquids
Make sure you have sippy cups and bottles for your little one, if you aren’t nursing. Though liquids from outside are banned on all flights, families get the go ahead to pack extra liquids for their children. Sucking is helpful to babies during takeoff and landing both for comfort and to prevent their ears from popping, so either nurse or bottle feed during that time. Toddlers and young children will also appreciate having their own water bottle, as the beverage cart may take an hour to reach you. Any liquid medication such as children’s acetaminophen is also allowed (and will prove helpful when your little one is overly tired and uncomfortable).
Sleep is always elusive with babies and kids, but flying poses added difficulty in that department. If your flight is in the evening, as most flights abroad tend to be, do everything you can to get your child to sleep. If they don’t sleep on the plane, jet lag will be more challenging, so do everything you can to keep them comfortable. Clothe your kiddos in their PJs for the flight, or other very soft, loose-fitting clothing. Pack a small blanket and their lovey, as well as extra socks or slippers, so they can take off their shoes without being too cold. Planes aren’t usually as dark or quiet as one would like for sleeping, so consider a white noise machine (we use a free app on our phones) and eye patches. If the goal is getting your child to sleep on the plane, don’t bother introducing them to the small screen in front of them – screen time makes sleep more difficult and less interesting!
Think Happy Thoughts
There’s no easy way to say this – flying with kids is hard. Our first flight as a family was when our son was only 8 weeks old, and since then we’ve flown 10 times with our 3, 5, and 6 year olds. The kids are finally getting old enough that they understand how exciting it is to fly somewhere new, and also that any discomfort on the plane is temporary and completely worth it. As parents we’ve learned the same thing. It’s intimidating and stressful to fly with our kids, even after all these years, but we look at it as a few hard hours with one huge reward at the end – vacation! We persevere through the flight with our kids knowing that because of modern air travel, in a few hours we’ll be in a new place with our family.
Emily is a freelance writer, blogger, and mom of three little ones. When she’s not traveling the world with her family, Montreal is home, where you can find her exploring the local markets, making a mess in her kitchen, and brewing a cup of tea. Find her on Instagram (@emmorrice) and check out her lifestyle blog, Our Nest In The City, where she documents it all.