Dreaming of taking trips to incredible destinations? Dreaming of taking your children around the world to experience new cultures and take on new adventures? Having nightmares about the long flights? We have all been there!
From when my children were old enough to have a passport (so basically the first few weeks), my husband and I have been taking our children on trips around the world. Our first long haul trip was with our 6 month old daughter to Turkey. Of Course we were terrified. As new parents and never having travelled with children before we couldn’t even anticipate what it might look like. To make it worse, him and I had this image of exhausted parents not having slept for 24 hours pacing back and forth in airplane consoling a screaming baby in our minds. Our first experience wasn’t too far off from that image to be honest. On the way to Turkey, we had crying, no sleep, we had many many outfit changes and throw up. Lots of throwup! Not a great way to kick off a 2 week vacation. BUT we sat down, and we worked out a great plan for the return, taking into account everything we had experienced. It was almost perfect! We got it all worked out and we were now prepared. Fast forward 6 years and 2 kids later, we have taken many long haul flights including Egypt, Singapore, Indonesia, and The Philippines.
I want to share with you my tips for taking long haul flights so that you can get past the anxiety of flying with children and start enjoying all the amazing places this world has to offer!
- MAKE SURE YOU HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED!!!!! AND LOTS OF IT!!!!!!
- This means you have your formula, bottles, diapers, changes of clothes, burping cloths (multiple), soother(s), medication (tylenol AND advil, something for gas, saline nasal drops, chew toys, toys, snacks, wipes, tissues etc.
- Other must haves (depending on your destination): baby carrier and stroller (always umbrella or cabin strollers)
- Do not let your diaper bag be one big treasure chest of baby stuff. Use ziplock bags to separate everything. Make sure that everything has a place so you can get to it easily. You don’t know what you will need and when so you have to know where everything is.
- CREATE A MINI DIAPER BAG!!!!
- This can be a larger ziplock bag with a small portion of everything. This is the bag you will keep under the seat in front of you. In a throwup crisis, while the seat belt sign is on, you don’t want to get caught with everything in the overhead bin.
- In this bag you will have 2 complete changes of clothes. That’s 2 undershirts and 2 sleepers (always travel in sleepers), 2 or 3 portions of formula, a couple snacks, and a couple toys, 4 diapers, wipes as well as medication.
- This is the hardest stage in my opinion. They are in between the dependant and independant stages. They are still sitting in your lap, need changing or help using the bathroom, share your meal, get antsy and want to explore and move.
- All that applied for baby apply here too. Have all you need, get organized and create a mini bag.
- Additionally, try purchasing a small toy that will be “new” to them. Do not introduce the toy until you need to on your longest flight. If introduced too soon, it will lose its novelty. Stay away from toys that need batteries, have small pieces, have too many pieces or make noise. If your child is on the older end of toddler, you can buy them a small backpack with some of their favourite toys in it that they can carry. This will make them feel a bit more independant.
- Get up with them and walk around. Do not hesitate to allow them to crawl, or walk through the cabin when the time is appropriate. Just as we have a hard time sitting in one spot for 10 or more hours, imagine how they feel.
- Pack snacks for you and for them. If they are under 2, they will not have their own meal. This means one of you is sharing! Have extra easy snacks to eat in between meals. Stay clear of anything that will spoil quickly and nothing that will be too messy.
- Let rules, slide a little. This might mean a bit more screen time. Having noise reduction headphones for some movie time is not a bad idea.
- If you’ve gone through the previous stages, this stage is breezy. Sometimes a bit windy, but generally a breeze.
- Here you will encourage full independence. Your child should have their own backpack, which they have packed with their own toys, colouring, snacks, water bottle, change of clothes, headphones, etc. They carry their own bag which they will keep under their own seat.
- Try to keep toys simple but have a variety. Opt for a mini lego set (perhaps 10 pieces they can make and remake), card games, mini coloring book and crayons (felt markers get messy and pencil crayons need to be sharpened), cars, dolls, animals, etc. Basically hit up Dollarama and see what you can find! Take your child with you so they can choose or make it a fun surprise for when they board the plane.
- The timing of your flights are sometimes out of our hands but if possible, plan your longest leg to be during your child’s regular “night time”. Hopefully, they will get a decent few hours of sleep and so will you!
- Keep hydrated. Drink lots of water.
- If possible choose your layovers carefully. Layovers should be long enough for you and your children to get out, walk around, and relax but not so long that you make your trip extra long. 2-4 hours is more than enough.
- Do some research on what the airport of your layover has to offer children. Airports like LHR (Heathrow), NRT (Narita), SIN (Singapore), ORD (Chicago O’hear), and many more have great children’s areas and activities to keep your littles busy. Before you travel know what the airport has and where everything is located.
You can’t always anticipate what will happen and all children react differently but these tips will hopefully make it all a bit easier.
Travelling with children is tough but the reward is beyond describable. If you have the time and means to expose your children to the world then go ahead and do it! You will see the world in a whole new way through their eyes. Their observations, questions and memories will be so different than yours. Trust me, the way they view the world, is so much better than the way we do.
Mona Ismaeil is a modest fashion blogger, writer and community organizer. Mona advocates for Muslim women and promotes their civic engagement, builds interfaith bridges, and is passionate about bringing awareness about Islamophobia to light in public forums. A trained teacher and seasoned educator, Mona lectures on a variety of subjects across the province, including Islamophobia, bullying, building acceptance, and multiculturalism. Her favourite things to do are to travel and spend time with her 2 children enjoying all Edmonton has to offer! www.mymodernhijab.com
For more of Mona’s travel thoughts she also shares in Taking Children Out of School for Vacation