The Milk Memoirs

One part chronicle, one part resource of all things breastfeeding and family life…with a good dose of fun,crafts & mommy realness

Survival Tips for Air Travel with babies and children


lixyAirportBeen thinking about traveling with your littlest baby? But you’re not so sure. Thinking whether they or you would survive the long haul. How well they would handle it or what you would do to make it all go smoothly? Or maybe you’re already picturing what would happen if your child loses it and you become enemy number 1 on the plane? And, then whether it would be worth it at all…Let me help you here…do it. Carpe Diam, dear. It’s always worth it. Besides, who’s to say it’s even going to be half as bad as you imagined?

Truth is, you actually have no idea how it all could go down. Whether it’s your first or tenth time, with children you just never know. The in-transit part is not your destination, it is but only a small part of the incredible memories that you’d be making. So don’t let the fear/worry of travelling with kids ruin it for you. All you can do is plan and prepare, and then relax and roll with flow.

Besides, if they’re under two years of age, they don’t pay for a seat – I mean, if that’s not motivation enough, then I’m not sure. And even so, if they are older than two, I still say: just do it.

So, have you been thinking about it? I know we certainly have. In fact, we’ve done it before – and rather successfully, I’d like to (thankfully and unsmugly) add. Post that trip, we were asked by countless moms and dads for a few tips and tricks for what helped make our trip so smooth. Now whilst I’d like to say, here you go, here’s the magic formula, the truth is, there is none. Suprise! I think we were mostly just lucky. Morgan-Lee is just that kind of child. You know, of the trooper variety. However, we couldn’t be too sure first time up, so there were a few things in our prepping that I believe certainly helped with the overall experience.

We’ve recently pushed our travel plans further back on the calendar in lieu of other goals we wish to achieve in this year, but it’s still on our horizon. And trust me, it’s never too early to start planning travel. And with kids in tow, it’s actually just easier on everyone’s sanity levels to plan as early as you can. Even if this means only just agreeing on all the places we’d like to go to. I wasn’t always like this of course, pre-married days, it would be me deciding I want to go and then five days later I’m off.

Now enter married with children life, and a lot more consideration needs to go in. So where to begin?

This is how we’ve broken it down:

1. Travel documents

    Yours and baby’s – make sure yours is up to date, with enough pages for visa’s etc.
    Baby needs her own passport, and is valid up until the age of 5??
    When applying for baby’s passport, both mom and dad have to be present, along with your personal identification documents. Although, they weren’t too much of sticklers with us about it, rather safe than sorry. I would hate to stand in the queue only to be told I didn’t have all the bits together.
    New travel documentation requirements
    Now at the time we went traveling with Morgan-Lee, they didn’t have this stipulation in place. Now that we’re thinking of traveling with both girls, it honestly does feel like any extra schlep we have to go through. But the law is the law, and accepting and abiding by it, just makes the whole process easier and a lot less stressful.
    Each child under 18 years of age needs, in addition to their passport be in possession of an UNABRIDGED birth certificate(UBC). That is the certificate stipulates both parents details on there.

    If your child was born after January 2013, it is very likely your child already has a UBC. And apparently if you’ve applied for your child’s passport post June 2015, the passport itself should have all parental details and thus would not need a UBC as well.( I will confirm this once we do it ourselves)
    Then, of course, if one parent only will be travelling with the children, a letter of consent from the other parent is required.

2. Warm up and dip baby’s toes a bit in the travelling waters

    Do a dry run prior to your travel day. Or at least get the little ones a little familiar with the airport- the buzz, the noise, the vibe. The last thing you want on that day of travel is a freaked out kiddy. Not all kids need this, however. And some do. Either way, what kiddy doesn’t enjoy getting to watch the aeroplanes?! It could be a quick fun trip out, if you made it so. And your mission for that day is to create some excitement and eagerness for the day of travel. You could also use your time there to ask the ground staff any burning questions you may have about travelling with baby. They are normally super helpful.

3. Quick Check-in

    So you know when they say you need to be there like two to three hours before your international flight? well, Im not sure what the hell they expect from you when your flight is at 7am though. Pitch up at 5 am? Right. Got it. But they only open up at 6:30?! Hmmm, does not compute. What’s the point? A point they also fail to tell you.
    Waking this little beasty up at such an ungodly time truly broke my heart. Especially since we know how much she loves her sleep.

    Waking this little beasty up at such an ungodly time truly broke my heart. Especially since we know how much she loves her sleep.

    This was what we, and a few others discovered that morning. We hung around the airport trying to keep little beast happy, who was now severly short on sleep thanks to the 5am call time. My advice to you is, do get there early, you don’t want to be stuck in any sort of queue, since you do want to secure you seating arrangements. However, book-in online before you get there, and be sure to print your boarding pass.

4. Seating arrangements

    Not sure which is the best seat in the house for your particular aircraft? No worries, go check out this cool site here. You just need to know the model of aeroplane you will be flying on. Aside from comfort while travelling with children, that site has ensured that I’ve always(mostly) had great leg room and enough space around me to not feel like the walls are closing in on me.

5.Best Airports to catch a nap on

    So after trying to catch a nap on many a different airport in my younger days, and struggled. I used to have a good giggle at both my attempts and the attempts of other people whom I watched at airports’. I started to realise it’s actually a thing. So much so, there’s actually a website dedicated to it. See here. (There’s another site that I really liked, but cant seem to remember it anymore.)

    Seriously. You can actually check out which airport has the best places to nap on in between your flights. That is if you’re not all fancy pants and get to chill out in the slow lounges, etc. (Which by the way is more accessible than you think!) But thanks to that site, I knew that Hong Kong’s airport actually had an awesome sleep area!! Who’da thunk, right? Anyhoo, so hubby and I could spend our 8 hour Hong Kong stopover completely kicked back, far from the noisy airport buzz. That was pre-kid days, but that would be a great place for any mom to put her baby to sleep at.

6. What about Milk/Formula?

    It is against the constitution to deny a mother her right to feed her child. This includes breastfeeding. We flew SAA, and even though Morgan-Lee was off the boob for a long time already at that point, the lovely lady at SAA pointed out this out to me.

    In terms of formula, same applies. I asked how much I’m allowed to bring on board, and they replied with “as much as you would need”. Obviously, this would need to be within reason – for your own sake and convenience. So don’t pitch up with an extra-large tin, you know? 🙂

    I calculated how much baby would normally have with in the time period that we would be travelling, and then doubled that – for just in case. ‘Cause you know motherhood is made up of “just-in-case scenarios.

7. Yes, you can bring baby’s own foods

    I asked the ground staff if I could bring food along with her, as she was allergic to egg and tomato. The answer was similar to the formula question: they cannot deny you that. You have the right to feed your child. I was just worried about check-in at security. So obviously it would come down to how you pack and store this food.

    Major guideline here is that it needs to be identifiable by security. For the trip leaving home, I had packed in all her meals separated into containers for each meal. (I used Avent Via cups – not just for storing breastmilk!) 😉 These are able to store more than enough for one meal, are transparent enough to identify the contents, seal really well, and are freezer and microwave friendly too.

    However, on our trip back home, I was obviously not going to cook, so after checking in at security, I bought her roast chicken and hot chips at one of the airport vendors duty free area. This was a winner for us…except I didn’t buy enough for the flight home. Urrgggh…Broke my own rule of doubling up your backups! I had depended on the inflight meals. Which had tomoto on. Every single meal option had tomato. So I turned to the kiddy meals, which either had tomato or egg on. Fabulous. At this point, my smally was moaning at me already, “Hungeee! Hungeee, mama!! Want ffffood!” .(Hmm, not much has changed since.)

    So in an absolutely desperate call, I ordered the tomato based pasta (the lesser evil of the two allergies)…and then proceeded to…(wait for it) suck off all the tomato sauce from each and every bloody spaghetti strand I served her. Now, yes, a lot of you might be quite grossed out by that. The rest will understand. But seriously get over it, I’m her mother. She is of me. Desperate times called for desperate measures. I was still keeping an eye on her, but mostly she was just happy she got to eat, and returned to happy baby right after she had her last bite. Obviously though, by the time we landed in JHB airport, she was covered in hives…fabulous. Still in wonderful spirits, just looking rather bumpy and like she had overdid it with the blusher brush.

    So please learn from my mistakes, and always be prepared. It would have been awesome if I had packed in her anti-allergy meds too.

8. Drinks:

    Up until that point, Morgy hadn’t had juice in her life before. Not even a sip. (Can you tell, she was our first child?) So she was slugging down the water most of the way. Which is not a bad thing at all. You want to keep yourself and your children well hydrated throughout this trip – an even slightly dehydrated baby/child is can be a grumpy traveller. And quite the opposite of what we’re aiming here for.

    Take your own bottle with. Granted you can’t take water through security, you can however, take your own empty water bottle with and fill it up once you’re through security. This can save you quite a fair buck as you wont have to keep buying water at the stores.

9. Spill proofing

    I’ve seen mom on board use what Press and Seal (its like cling wrap, but actually sticks way better) for any cup, and voila, just like that any cup is now a spill-proof cup. (we buy our’s at Checkers)

    Bring your own bottle – see about about drinks above. (You can clear it past security, and fill it up once you’ve gone through to wait at the gates.)

10. Snacks:

    Pack more snacks that you think you would ever need. And try to pack in easy no mess no fuss kind of snacks. And even though Im not a sugar fan, I don’t think there is any harm in packing them in if you feel it may save your sanity. But here are some less sugary snack ideas:

      -Think cereal bars or protein bars that have white carob or white yogurt covering. Last thing we need is more brown hand stains on our clothing. I normally love SUPA shape protein bars, however, that normally equates to brown sticky hands gunning for my shirt or just begs to be wiped off onto my pants. So Woolworths yogurt coated protein bars are our preferred choice for the kids.

      Try to steer clear of yogurts…Yes, its healthier, yes my child loves it too. But it’ll probably end up spread all over your shirt. And the seat. And the floor. Promise.

      Same goes for regular chocolate. And in anycase, if you don’t really need to, you probably don’t really want to be sugaring up your littles on the plane where there’d be little place for them to expend all that extra energy.

      Think rice cakes (those flavoured options or yogurt covered ones make them less boring)

      -Interesting crackers also help. Or animal shaped cookies.
      Popcorn is also an easy one.

      Also if you’re looking for a less sugary alternative to the regular lollipop, you could try the vitamin lollipop. (yes vitamins come in lollipop form as well.)

11. Pack a Scarf. A very large scarf

    Note the scarf: Actually looks so much smaller here on this pic than it actually is.

    Note the scarf: Actually looks so much smaller here on this pic than it actually is.

    Serves a dual, or maybe trio of purposes. Warmth, blanket, pillow..maybe quatro if you include fashion.

    I so wish Mike was game for taking a pic of our girl sprawled out like a starfish all over me on the plane. But he’s such a goody two shoes, he refused to use any equipment whilst in the air. Love him. But now I don’t have a pic of the comedy gold that was me, a human bed, in a completely uncomfortable position (the plank had nothing on that position) for the ENTIRE flight, all in the name of my beasty’s naptime. Ahhhh…Did I mention, hubby slept sweetly too? Right after he took a look at me, giggled and turned to find his sleep position. Point was, she refused a blanket, and every time I tried a blanket she became restless and tossed it off. The scarf however, was light enough not to disturb her, but warm enough to save her from the in-flight aircon. And I know it was warm enough because it kept my exposed arms warm too.

    This applies to the airport aircon too – I just cant stand being cold, and even more so whilst waiting say 8 hours for your next connecting flight. Scarves save the day. Swear.

    I also roll it up to be used as a pillow in some cases. Or as per it’s original purpose I use it to keep my/babies’ neck and chest warm should the need arise.
    And if it’s a pretty one, even better.

12. Let them run

    Find your gate early and let them run around. Don’t try to confine them whilst they’re not on a plane yet, as they wlll be stuck in a small space for a very long time. So best they get their wiggles out, or as much of their wiggles out now than go loopy onboard where not much running is possible.

    This was also where Morgy made so many friends – during her “waiting at the gate” wonderings.And im not talking about kiddy friends. These were actual adult flight buds she made. Sweet, generous people. Ones she always manages to find no matter where she goes. And once on board, it was a complete win, because often, as it turned out, those same buds she made were our actual on flight neighbours. So she already won them over, and if any wobbles came out, they’d be more understanding about it. Dont be afraid to make friends, mom. Rather that, than enemies, I say.

13. Lipbalm

    I used to be not too bothered about lip care, except when I’m in the air. (and now that I’ve discovered a few natural home-made balms during my breastfeeding journeys) However, the commercial one that I’m a huge fan of, especially for in flight, is Blistex. If you can get the colour tone one, even better – so that you won’t have to look like the colourless face of death. Morgan-Lee took well to it as well, as she normally hates anything that is too thick on her lips.

14. Help those Little Ears

    To help little tiny ears find equilibrium in air pressure changes, it helps to have them suck on something or drink something during air pressure changes. This is particulary effective right as take-off or landing is happening. Some have recommended giving them a lollipop, which may help your kiddy. My kids enjoy water, and so I had Morgy slug down some water during these times.

    If baby is no longer on a milk bottle or sippy cup, I’d recommend one of those disposable suction/sports water bottles. This worked perfectly…although, it could also be that I just hit it lucky with my one as an easy traveller, as speculated before. The first take off we did, we sat right by the window and I did blow by blow commentary for her as everything was happening. She was totally into it, so much so that when we were finally up in the air, she did a resounding YAY, and clapped hands. It had even the most nervous of flyers giggling at her excitement. When that happened, I think it was a done deal, this girl was going to be one of our best roll dawgs ever!

15. Entertainment

    Don’t rely on the on-board entertainment alone. Morgy didn’t even watch one minute of it – granted she didn’t really watch any tv until I was preggers with Parker. But the point is, onboard may not be your child’s flavour, so bring along a tablet with their favourites loaded.( legal copies only of course.)
    Of course, you’ll probably have to switch it up a bit with more than screen time, depending on how long your flight is.

    In fact, I’m more of a do’er kind of entertainer mommy than a tablet/screen mommy, so what we are sure to bring along are:

      Toys – not your most expensive ones, and certainly not truckloads of them. Take one for maybe every 1.5 to 2. 5 hours of your flight, but no more than six medium sized ones. (it’ll be a nightmare to carry all of that around.) Be sure to rotate them, and don’t let the children play with all of it at the same time, otherwise the novelty wears off too soon. It’s like using your NOS too soon, dude! : )

      To up the excitement ante, try wrapping each toy up. What kid doesn’t like ripping gift wrapping off .(Ok, fine, my eldest kid doesn’t, but she’s not the norm) These also don’t have to be new toys, they could be old toys that the kids do love but have forgotten about already.

      However, if you were thinking of it, why not try hitting up your local Crazy store for some cute little toys to wrap up. That way if they do get lost, it also wont be the end of the world.

      However, we found that just the one toy held Morgy’s attention for most of the flight for when she wasn’t sleeping, of course. It was the Leap Frog house with a bajillion cute buttons and combos to press, and had a slightly adjustable volume setting perfect for flying. Not too soft to be lost under the sound of the turbines, and not too loud for your neighbours (always better to be the considerate flight neighbour who doesn’t irritate the crap out of the rest of the passengers). We LOVE Leap Frog. Those people know what they’re doing, man.

    So we didn’t need much else, however, next time up, I’m definitely stocking up on these:
    air travel collage

      1. Triangular Crayons – no thanks khoki’s, love you, but on a flight, I don’t need extra stains on me or my child. Crayons do the job wonderfully for us. Also if you’re going to do crayons, try and get these triangular ones, so that you don’t spend your flight hunting them down on your knees under the chairs between everyone’s legs as they roll away at every slight movement.

      2. Blank writing books – my girls go through cheap blank books like it’s nothing. So these will definitely be a must on board for us. Besides, doodling can help a lot of time go by for any kid.

      3 Colouring book: Another definite on our packing list next time, but nothing too bulky though.

16. Nappies

    A good rule of thumb that I was once read about, made it my own, and actually applies to most things baby-related, but especially so to basically any place where we might go that has no quick access to purchasing nappies: “Pack what you need, along with back-ups. And for whatever you think you’d need as backups, double it!!” May seem like overkill to you, but I’d rather be stuck carrying extra nappies that I didn’t need, than stuck without nappies that I so desperately need. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    Also we packed in our checked in luggage enough nappies for our stay there as well. I was pretty sure there’d be stores there that would stock our nappies…we weren’t exactly going to the bush. But I hate being inconvenienced. And schelping to the store whilst on holiday for nappies(?), instead of catching the cruise with baby on the glass-bottom boat for some snorkelling, is my idea of inconvenience. But that’s just me.

17. First-aid kit

    A kid with a fever onboard is not my idea of easy- or stress-free travels – quite the opposite actually. At that point in our lives, we hadn’t yet experienced a fever or sniffle with Morgy, so we went very naively onto that plane with the notion of “ if we need anything, Im sure the hostess will help us out.” Now whilst that may be true, you know its best if you just come prepared. So be sure to pack in:

      -band aids
      -antiseptic cream
      -Allect (allergies)
      -And any of baby’s personal meds that they might need, including vitamins
      -Throw in some Disprins/Panado’s for yourself too.

18. You can change that diaper faster than you think!

    you still have about 10 minutes between them starting to prep you for descent and acual descent. You can change that filthy sucker in 2! Just put your back into it!

    As luck would have it, Morgy had just crapped her pants as our descent prep started. And knowing how horridly she would break out into a rash if she even sat in it for ONE minute, I started hemming and haaing about whether i should obey that little seatbelt light and wait till we descend, land, then taxi before I changed her. It wasn’t going to workout well if i did. So I consulted the flight attended, who asked me, “how fast can you change her?” Challenge accepted…I changed her so fast – and decently- in no time flat and was back in my seat fast enough to not piss of any flight attendant. So don’t hesitate momma. You know what’s best for your child. Just work with the staff.

19. Hanging toiletry bag

    Speaking of diaper changing: There’s not a whole lot of space in those toilets. DUH. And to be nifty in there, it helps if you still have everything at the ready, without having to hold it up with your one knee, whilst your Daniel-son crane stance your way through that diaper change. Instead, invest in one of those hanging toiletry bags. With nappies, wipes, creams, etc all shoved in there and ready for you. In fact, get one for yourself too.It just works, and also you won’t have to put it down into any yucky puddles left behind by other “considerate” passengers.

20. Bring your Strollers/Prams

    You are atually allowed to do a check-in of your child’s stroller right at the plane. This is an absolute boon, as it can get a bit much trekking everything over to the plane. Once at the plane, the friendly staff will check-in your stroller. And once you disembark, it will be waiting for you outside the plane again, ready to help allievate those tired arms. Just be sure to not have a bulky model. This not only makes it a little inconvenient for them to handle, but also ups the chances of it been broken in transit. We used the Graco travel system, and it survived the whole baggage handling treatment just fine.

    Strollers can also double up as luggage trolleys when baby is not in there, as well as a cot for when baby needs a nap during long layovers.

21. Learn the art of Baby Wearing

    Whether that’s a wrap or sling, or whatever. Baby carriers free up your hands, and if you have the right one, can save your back! Not to mention, it gives baby the perfect place to sleep no matter where on the airport you are.
    We didnt use one for Morgan-Lee, however, you can bet your bottom dollar, next time, we are all over it! 🙂

Now, just to note, I found that traveling with children, has only brought out excellent service. We were always treated so kindly, as if nothing was too much trouble at all, and often they insisted on going the extra mile for us. They showed us just how convenient they could make our flight experience be.

I will never forget the first flight attendant’s first bits of advice to me after asking if this was my first time with a kid on board: “Your child is your only concern. Don’t be bothered by anyone else. Any stress you exude, your child will pick up on it and mirror that. We are here to help you with anything at all. And if anyone gives you a hard time, let us know. Now, then…relax and enjoy your flight.”

And I did just that – not that you gotta tell me twice. I love flying – even as much as we’re being squashed up like cattle up in there, I have to admit, I still just love it. Part of the travel experience for me, I suppose. And thanks to our experience with Morgan-Lee onboard, we now actually really like travelling with children. In fact, it was made so easy for us by all staff, that Mike now ONLY wants to travel with children. 

Touch down: Our super trooper traveller kiddum.

Touch down: Our super trooper traveller kiddum.

Now please understand, following this list of our’s does not guarantee that no meltdowns will happen…if you thought so, please hand your crazy card over here, so I can stamp it for loyality points. Because, come, come, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, this is parenthood after all. What kind of life would it be without a bit of a surprise/inopportune public wobbles now and then.

Family onboard:A child in perpetual motion, means blurry family selfies are an accepted given.

Family onboard:A child in perpetual motion, means blurry family selfies are an accepted given.

But what I do guarantee is that at least you’ll be prepared, and that should at least take care of SOME of your heart palpitations you may be experiencing during this planning phase. 🙂

So yes, not every child may have the same reaction, but you just never know- they may pleasantly surprise you. And if they don’t, and you followed all of the above, at least you’ll be prepared. Now, relax, breathe deeply and enjoy your flight!
Happy travels! x
Do you have any travel tips or tricks that have worked for you and your child/baby?Please feel free to share! Im keen to hear.


Author: mommabeartrax

Mother of two (and counting), pregnant with the third and have a sweet little angel in heaven. A very happy wifey, blogger, lover of life and laughter, a clumsy swimmer, loyal friend, Im funnier in my head than I actually am, I am a qualified HypnoBirthing Child Birth Educator, I get inexplicably excited about good food, baking & crafts. Although, I think baking and crafts are just trying to fill a void that my Kenpo and gym-rat days used to fill. Lastly, according to the rest of the world, I fix your printer. But I'm actually a Software Architect.

4 thoughts on “Survival Tips for Air Travel with babies and children

  1. The timing on this one could not be more appropriate! THANK YOU!!!!


  2. Pingback: Up the ease factor with these Air Travel Packing Tips | The Milk Memoirs

  3. Pingback: Our US Summer Vacation: The fun starts with the journey | The Milk Memoirs

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