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Flying with children is a challenge for any parent, but there are ways to make long-haul flights with kids into a more enjoyable experience. I've been traveling with children since 2002 when my son was still a baby. Read on to hear our advice for flying with children and more.
TIPS: FLYING WITH CHILDREN
In this episode of Epic Education Radio, I talk about flying with children and how to make it the best travel day possible.
Our experience flying with children started soon after my son was born in Tokyo in 2002. I had produced the first grandchild, and my parents lived in Atlanta Georgia. There was no way I was going to keep them away from their grandson!
Long-Haul Flights with Kids
Flights between Tokyo and Atlanta took around 14 hours...and that's if it was a direct flight! We often had layovers, which were cheaper, so you can imagine that it was a very, very long day flying with a baby. My daughter was born in 2006, so then we were flying with two children.
Tokyo was home until 2013, and with each year came more flights with kids: to the United States, to Thailand, to Bali, and to Mexico. We learned a lot about flying with children during that time, and then we left for long-term travel in 2013. Lots of long-haul flights with kids since then.
Below are a few tips from my big "flying with children" post, in audio form, with a little commentary below.
Before You Fly: Flying with Children
One of the most important tips for flying with toddlers and other young kids is to make travel day a special day. Build excitement. This may mean giving special toys, snacks or other items that aren't part of the normal routine.
If flying with teens or tweens, then skip the toys and offer up new books on their Kindles or new games/apps for devices.
Practice Travel Day: Long-haul Flights with Kids
Prepare your kids for a long travel day. Help them understand what's going to happen and the importance of your family working as a team to get to your destination.
If you're new to flying with children, then it may be worthwhile to practice travel day. Do some role play. Pretend to be the security officer or the immigration official. Model how they are to act and react in these situations.
Family Flight Times: Flying with Children
Many family travelers advise trying to schedule flights during a child's normal sleeping hours. This is good advice, but there are times when we choose to do something different. When we're on long-haul flights that cross numerous time zones, the time of arrival is more important to us than the departure time.
For us, we prefer to arrive in the late afternoon at our destination. That way we can be drop off our stuff in our accommodation and then still have a few hours in the sun before bedtime. I think getting some sun helps reset our circadian rhythms faster, and it's worked well for us so far.
Packing for Long-Haul Flights with Kids
Our most important packing tip for long-haul-flights with children is to pack one set of clothes for every member of the family. That includes you. Lots of things can happen when flying with children so make sure that if something messy happens, you have something to change into.
Believe me, I know.
I also mention that we feel it's best to pack completely the day before your flight and check the weight of your luggage before you go. A small, portable luggage scale can save stress and hundreds of dollars over the course of its use.
When you add tags to your luggage, always remember to add more than your home address and home phone number. If you're traveling, then you aren't at home, right. Add your email address, twitter or skype handle, etc.
At the Airport: Flying with Children Tips
Are you ready for our top advice for flying with children? Here it is: get to the airport early. Really early. Flying with children is a time-consuming process anyway, but many stressful moments are avoided if you simply arrive at the airport three hours early. Or even earlier.
Since you've arrived early, now you have time to let the kids lead you through the airport to the gate. This is a great way to teach some real-life skills. Show them your gate number and how to navigate the airport signage.
Then let them take you to the gate. If they go off track, steer them in the right direction, of course, but you have time.
On the Plane: Long-Haul Flights with Kids
We think it's important to secure your seats and get airplane blankets and pillows right away.This goes double for long-haul flights with kids. Any extra warmth and cushion should be welcomed.
Make sure your go-to bag with the essentials (including Kindles, games, tissue and spare clothes) are all within reach and not in the overhead compartment. You may need them when there is turbulence or when the plan is taking off or landing.
Set your watch to the time of your destination. This helps get your mind in the time zone where you'll arrive. If your kids don't have a watch, buy them a cheap one for travel days, and set it for the destination as well.
Finally, when on a long-haul flight with children, we highly suggest sleeping when the kids are sleeping. That way, you'll be less groggy when they wake mid-flight for a trip to the toilet.
After You Land: Long-Haul Flights With Kids
Our final tips for flying with children are pretty straightforward: drink lots of water and have your accommodation booked ahead of time.
Everyone will be sleepy and dehydrated after a long-haul family flight. Drink up, and get to your accommodation quick. Drop off your stuff and go run around and tire the kids out for their first night's sleep in your destination.
Any Other Long-Haul Flight Tips?
These are just a few of the tips I mention in our big post, but these are the tips I talk about in this episode. There are many others. What's your best tip for flying with children?
LINKS & RESOURCES
- The full post on flying with children (all 30 tips)
- I follow almost all of Craig Mod's flying advice here. Whether I'm flying with children or not (and yes, that includes a face mask).
- Buy a portable luggage scale before flying with children
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means, at no extra cost to you, we might receive a small commission if you make a purchase or book using those links. My opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help you when flying with children and long-haul flights with kids!!
Full-on family travel fundamentals. Epic Education Radio is interviews, stories, and advice for people who decide to make travel a priority in their family's life...and for those who want to. Tune in each week to hear stories and advice from new traveling families, and hear how they've handled various family travel-related issues like education, socialization, working, budgeting, accommodation, road-parenting, safety, technology and more. We talk gear, websites, apps and other resources for traveling & nomadic families, and answer questions from those who would like to do something similar.