By Rosemary Marchese
Physiotherapist and mum of 3 fit kids
10 tips for plane trips with kids
As a mum of three kids I have done my fair share of plane travel with kids. There would be some of you that have done more, some less. But now that my eldest is 11 I have a bit more experience under my belt as to what works and what doesn’t. And yes it depends on where you are going. And yes it depends on their age.
If you’re reading this you are well aware that I advocate for healthy kids. I’m not fanatical about it. It’s about being real and realistic. And plane travel times are no different. So here are my tips for traveling as healthy as possible on long haul flights, or even short ones, with kids.
10 travel tips with kids
- Explain before you leave!
My first ‘longer’ flight with children was when my youngest was three years old. So that’s a 3, 5, and 7 year old. We had to travel for 9 hours on board. And yes, that doesn’t include commuting to and from the airport and time at the airport. I spent quite a bit of time really explaining the enormity of the trip before we left. Plus I got them excited. I reiterated over and over again how long the trip would be.
A good way to do this is to put it terms of what they understand. So, for my 3 year old it was in relation to how many movies she could watch before she had to go to sleep. For my 5 year old I related it to longer than a school day to give her some perspective. The 7 year old got it. And he also ‘got’ that he wasn’t to ask ‘how much longer’? But each kid is different. If you have babies this doesn’t count of course!
- Stick to the time zone you ahead.
Stick to the time zone that you are travelling towards as much as possible. If you have one flight to do then this may be a little easier, e.g. Sydney to Singapore. If you are heading from Melbourne to Rome then that’s a different story. The longer haul flights will take a little flexibility on your behalf. You will need to slowly start to work out when you would like the kids to sleep. Unfortunately that may not always go to plan but you can try.
If you are landing in the morning at the destination then it’s always best to try to get the kids to sleep at least some of the flight.
- Stick to bedtime rituals
This may mean brushing teeth and reading a story before sleeping. For babies you may need to have bottles on standby. Encourage sleep – whatever it takes! Dim the lights and even try eye patches if you think they will work! Some kids may even like a little travel pillow.
- Get kids to carry their own backpack of supplies
Travelling should be fun for you too. Once the kids are old enough – and I did this when mine were 3, 5, and 7, it’s time for them to carry their own backpack. I make sure they don’t overfill it. But this is their chance to put in their cuddly toy to help them sleep, a book to read or an activity to do. Plus, I always insist on them carrying one change of clothes plus a jumper to wear on the plane. The backpack should contain healthy snacks. Plenty of them.
- Avoid the crappy snacks on planes
While I have noticed some airlines trying a little harder to provide healthy snacks, many are failing at this. Watch the packaged food ingredients list. Things are not always as healthy as the packaging promotes.
- Stay awake for day landings!
This is the tough part. But if you land in the morning or during the day some time, avoid napping. Whiel you don’t have to head from the airport to Disneyland you can still have a nice day planned. Explore your destination city so that you can encourage the kids to stay awake.
If the kids are too young to last a normal day at home, then allow them to have their usual nap during the day of arrival too. Just don’t let them oversleep during the day.
- Hydrate before departure
We all know that plane rides can dehydrate. Just don’t wait until you get on the plane to get your kids to drink water. You can almost guarantee they won’t. Use the days beforehand to make sure that they are drinking plenty of water.
- Book the bulkhead
Travelling with kids can mean you carry that little extra stuff. Sitting at the bulkhead can mean a little extra leg room and space to put your stuff. If you are in need of a sky cot you will find them here too. But not on all flights. Plus they book up very fast. Book ahead to avoid disappointment.
- Know what’s included.
Do your research. What’s included in your airline ticket? Do you need to book the iPads for movies or is there one at at the back of every seat? Is food included or do you have to pre-order meals before take off? Don’t’ assume all airlines are the same!
If you are travelling with kids that have allergies or intolerances take extra food of your own. Double-check the menu to see what your child can and can’t have.
- Suck up the technology overload!
When at other times you may like to ‘limit’ technology use this may not be the best time to enforce it. If it’s keeping them quiet and relaxed then you may just have to let go. Just make sure it’s not at the expense of sleep or posture. Watch your child’s neck position and avoid sustained neck or shoulder strain. Make sure they look up from time to time!
And for all of you remember to get up from time-to-time to avoid stiffness and development of clots. Drink plenty of water, eat healthy and try to sleep. Be prepared! Enjoy!
Rose is a Fit Busy Mum of 3 fit kids. She aims to empower mums who are time poor. She acknowledges that mums are ‘busy’ but tries to inspire them to regain their fitness through simple everyday habits that she promotes through her book ‘The Fit Busy Mum: Seven habits for success’.