10 Tips for Travel with Children

{This is a post - newly revamped - from the archives! But a few friends are doing some travelling with kids soon, so I thought I might update it and repost it ... Enjoy! A xx}

I was going to call this post: When Your Toddler Won't Fit in Your Checked Luggage ... but I would never advocate doing that. 

Not before the trip anyway.

This post is a little different from most of mine ... but if you're a parent who likes the idea of travelling with your kids before they're teenagers, and you don't want to sacrifice your sanity or quality of life ... well you might just be interested.

Now before I go any further, I have a confession to make. We spend all our spare money on travelling. So lest you think I'm some kind of jet-setting millionaire ... nope. I'm just a parent, like you, who happens to make travel a priority. In part, it's because my family lives in the US (and I live in Australia). But mostly, I just love finding the little treasures hidden all around the world. 

Robbie and Nelle do, too, lucky for me ...

As a result, Nelle's been overseas lots in her first 3 4.5 years ... the first when she was just 3 1/2 months old. Since then, I think we've done it all. Breastfeeding in an economy-class seat next to complete strangers. Getting seated separately from Robbie (lucky bast*rd). Car seat dilemmas, delays, Nelle rolling out of hotel bed, colds, flus, and so on.

But goodness, that's making it sound awful. Really, travelling with Nelle was much easier than I expected! And now she enhances travelling for us - she's become very outgoing, and starts up conversations with people. As a result, we meet people wherever we go. We're no longer this insular little travelling island - Nelle branches us out.

Here are just a few of the things I've learned by flying with Nelle ...

Always see if you can get one of the bassinet (cot) seats, or at least a seat with extra leg room. Even if you end up with bub on your lap the whole time, you won't get as many cramps in your legs. Plus you may end up near another child, and the two can entertain each other. (Some may not see this as an advantage.) Beg. Plead.

Consider taking the car seat on the plane. If you have a toddler you might actually find they behave themselves better if they're in their very own car seat. We discovered this by accident ... one airline (ahem BA) wouldn't let us check our car seat for free so we took it on board. It was great! Nelle slept better, didn't wiggle out of the ridiculous kid seatbelt, and was generally happier.

Plus, I've hired car seats in various places and ended up with some very costly, very sketchy seats. We'll be taking Nelle's with us overseas from now on.

NOTE: Be sure your car seat meets airline standards. Check ahead!

Have something for bub to suck on during take-off and landing. This can be a dummy (pacifier) or a bottle or even food. Their ears aren't very good at readjusting to the pressure as the plane gains and loses altitude ... so sucking on something helps out. If you've often heard babies screaming during take-off or landing, this is probably why. Unless they're hungry. Or need a nappy change.

If you're travelling in a pair, order one vegetarian meal. It comes out earlier, so you can share around the baby-holding duties and eating duties. Trust me when I say it's not easy to hold a baby and eat your dinner at the same time.

Give up any expectations of watching a movie and/or drinking free wine. It may happen, but it may also happen that you're entertaining bub the whole flight. After 2 years of flights where Nelle only wanted to sit on my lap, she's now in her own seat - and - I've actually watched an in-flight movie again! Woo hoo!

Lots of food. I cannot stress this enough. Food that's entertaining, nutritious, not sugar-laden, filling, favourite, time consuming to eat. Food in crackly packets. Crackers. Those great squeezy fruit or veggie purees. Those lunchbox-sized tetra-packs of milk. Be creative, but try to avoid food that'll have your little person bouncing off the (very cramped) walls. Best to check with your airline about their security restrictions, but I've found that most airlines let you take on fluids for babies and small children - my experience has just been that they'll swipe or test or make you taste one or two.

Muffins, breads, cookies and crackers are great kid-pleasers - here are some recipes for you to try out:
Easy Peasy Sweet Potato Muffins
Sweetheart Baking Powder Biscuits
Kids Can Make ... Zucchini Cake
Spelt Carrot Cake Muffins
The Best Cornbread
Whatever You've Got Muffins

Olive Oil Crackers
Cheesy Polenta Crackers
Ode to Puffed Corn
Cheesy Party Crackers 
Activated Almonds 
Sea Salt and Rosemary Toasted Almonds
Kale Chips

NOTE: Always try out foods ahead of time - you definitely want food that your child likes, and doesn't react poorly to.

Even if your child seems perfectly healthy when you get on that plane, they might start dripping just after take-off. And heating up. And crying, lots of crying. I always take a children's pain reliever and children's antihistimine with me on the plane, just in case. Again, in a small, labelled jar that the flight security people check out.

Plus, then you won't have to trawl foreign pharmacies for whatever your child normally uses. (How do you say antihistamine in Polish?)

As with the food, check your child's response to the medicine before the trip, and also make sure it's not considered illegal wherever you're going. (Hey, mistakes can happen!)

AND ... I know this stuff isn't 'medicine', but you might consider making up a batch of hand sanitiser before you go, too! 

Take new books and toys - my faves are a little magnetic/erasable drawing board and stickers. Avoid toys with repetitive, tinny music at all costs. Toys will occupy at least a little time, though probably less than you anticipate ... but if you're lucky enough to get a flight with in-seat entertainment - you're in the money! We relax all our TV restrictions on the plane - I figure 4 straight hours of Dora the Explorer won't be too bad for Nelle in the long run. And let me tell you, you can get a couple of those little bottles of wine into you in 4 hours.

Now I've got you excited, because you might have in-seat entertainment, right? Here's a very important tip: Never ever rely on the airline to get it right. You may be sitting away from your partner, the person in front of you might recline for the whole 14 hr flight, or the in-flight entertainment might consist of a classic movie shown on a screen half a plane away from you. You may not get your vegetarian meal or your wine. There may be enough turbulence that you can't use the bassinette anyway. Have contingency plans for these situations. But, most importantly, see #10.

This is I think the most important mantra a parent can have, for any situation. At home, the shops, on a plane, at the hotel, anywhere. I find it's the times when I've made specific plans, or have my heart set on some me-based activity that things go (as they say here in Australia) pear-shaped. Dreadfully, disappointingly wrong.

There are always options to recover your sanity and even your happiness! All your entertainment options  have been a bust? Pull out your camera and go through photos together. Tell stories out of the magazine. Try peek-a-boo. Take photos of your child - see if you can do a series called Tantrums Across the World.

yep. she'll love me for this one later ...

I'm not trying to be negative here, you'll probably have a great flight with your little one! I do though think it's important to be realistic - things can go wrong. But you know what? You're clever, and creative, and a great mum or dad, so you'll be able to adapt. You'll do this! I mean, you've already done way harder things! So, the bottom line is:

Be prepared
Be adaptable

Um, you say, where did that last one come from? My philosophy is that I make it through any situation if I can find the humour in it. I'm not necessarily suggesting you break into riots of laughter going through US customs ... but if things go poorly somewhere along the track, it'll make a great story, right? Just think of it like your favourite Seinfeld episode ...

So have a great trip! And maybe we'll see you in economy sometime :)

PS. Do you have a great tip? If so, please share it in the comments section! That way we can all use it!

Amanda xx


  1. We've found that asking for one adult to be served at the beginning of meal service & the other at the end works well for juggling food & bub. Always check that appropriate baby/kid meals have been booked, we found out the hard way recently on a 20 hour set of flights!

  2. What an excellent, excellent post Amanda! I love the car seat tip. Our best tip is to introduce the littlies to all the surrounding neighbours straight away. If they can build a rapport quickly they may be less likely to hate them the minute things go pear-shaped.

    And thank you SO much for choosing Bondville as blog of the week! I am so honoured!

  3. This post is so timely! We're overseas with the little one as I type.

    We found the Baby Bjorn to be a lifesaver for those hours when pacing, bouncing, and rocking in the back of the plane is a must. Not only did I save my back and shoulders, I was even able to read while swaying. We also took our pram along for layovers...a good way to wheel around our enormous diaper bag (how many diapers do you really need for 30+ travel hours?) and a place for him to sit while we're eating.

    We were told by our car seat manufacturer that our Aussie seat won't work in US cars. I would recommend checking before hauling it with you.

    When traveling overseas alone with our 6 mo baby I found the flight attendents to be very helpful. One even took him for a cuddle while I used the loo.

  4. Hi. Visiting from BYW class. Earlier this summer flying cross country w/ 4 yr. old her ears starting hurting. I tried everything under the sun and she just cried and said, "No, I want you to fix it." Broke my heart.

    Minutes later when she realized we weren't getting off the plane when we landed for a layover she began yelling, "I need air. I want my freedom. I have to get out of here." All the passengers getting off the plane had a big smile on their faces as they laughed behind her back. "Freedom" where did she come up with that?! Thankfully we've flown since then and she'll help herself fix her ears now.

  5. Hello beautiful girl!! I love this one! Tips with a little bit of food attached....perfect!

    Photos are amaaazing!!! Well done!

    Speak soon - love your blog of the week as well!

    Megan xxxx

  6. Thank you so much for this blog! I'm going to Turkey soon with my 14 month old, very active toddler and the thought of it makes me nervous and is distracting me from my thesis! I need all the tips I can get! Re: the car seat, children only have to have their own seat after 2 years of age, right? We looked into this and it seemed we would have to buy another seat, which my husband didn't want to do. We've requested a bassinet though, hopefully we get one. Car seat sounds like a great tip for our next trip though.

  7. Your recipes and blog are amazing! I've just gone a bit pinning mad and forgot to check if you mind pinning? Eek, hope it is ok??

  8. Of course I love pinning! I'm on pinterest at http://pinterest.com/easypeasyorganc/pins/

  9. Such fantastic tips! I have had some shocking travel experiences with the boys and I wish I had this information at the time... variety in snacks, medicines and water are my biggest tips. I am sure many are going to find this information very useful..

  10. @Sherilyn @ Wholepromise Eek! Well hopefully you at least collected some stories for their 18th birthdays ... :)


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Thanks for commenting! Amandaxx