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March 14, 2017 6 min read

Flights and accommodations are booked and you are already in vacation mode.  The story for so many of us, until we realize that we will need to actually get there and with kids, ahhhhhh!!!!! 

Have you been there?  I have.  We as a family love to travel.  We haven’t done anything too extravagant yet, but we do go away at least once a year on a destination holiday (the ones where you need to fly) and every year I stress about the flight, except for this year, because I have conquered the longest flight of them all South Africa to Calgary. 

Last year at this time we were prepping for the ultimate journey across the globe, Durban South Africa.  We would be spending 7 weeks in South Africa completing the adoption of our youngest.  Our eldest was 5 and this was going to be her first trans-Atlantic flight, and her first experience with jet-lag.  Coming home from South Africa, was a different story.  We now had two children, and one who was still figuring us out and moving to the opposite side of the world.  To say I was nervous is a total understatement, I was terrified.  What if they didn’t sleep at all?  What if they didn’t eat?  What if they got sick, or Tony got sick or I got sick in-flight or in South Africa?  What if their ears hurt? What if they cried, the whole flight?  You get the picture.  For all you parents who think like me here is how we coped:

  • PJs: Put your kids in them, it helps them realize that it is in fact bedtime and they are much easier to settle with them on. We brought extra pairs and every time we had an overnight flight we put the kids in them.    
  • Screen-time: For the night flights we needed them to sleep and we needed to sleep.  We banned screen-time before the flight and during.  We figured both kids would be more likely to go back to sleep if there weren’t any available and 95% of the passengers were also sleeping so there weren’t any temptations at night. 
  • Spare clothes: We brought several changes of clothes for all of us.  We would change the girls as soon as it was “day” time and always kept another set handy in case of spills, accidents etc.
  • Pre-plan: We had looked online at Heathrow for some options for lunch, specifically because I’m celiac and 100% or more gluten free and our eldest is also gluten intolerant.  We knew what terminal to be in and where to go.  It saved us from looking FOREVER for something. 
  • Walk: we walked a lot at the airport.  We hardly sat at all.  We kept both girls moving as much as we could, knowing that they would be sitting for a long time once on board.  We even found a playground in London for them to burn off their energy.  We have also allowed our girls to walk the aisles of the plane while they can.  It’s helpful for kids to take a break from their screens or toys on the plane and just stretch their legs.  If they’re young, they will definitely make a friend on the plane and sometimes that can keep them busy for hours. 
  • Snacks: anyone with kids knows this rule.  You never leave home without them, just like your VISA.  You keep snacks close at hand at all times.  It can help little ones to clear their ears if they are chewing while landing and it can calm kids on the flight.  We had a whole backpack full of snacks.  We weren’t sure if Mia would eat the food offered on the plane and we weren’t sure how the gluten free would taste.  Thank goodness we brought what we did!
  • No Jet-Lag and melatonin: these are a dream!  They are homeopathic pills that help you reset your internal clock.  You take them in-flight during your journey.   After arriving in South Africa we took melatonin for the first three days at night to help us settle.  Melatonin doesn’t work for everyone, and it can have some strange side-effects like crazy dreams.  As far as jet-lag, it is what it is and some kids will struggle just as adults do. 
  • Crafts: we find bringing markers, pencils and paper is far more engaging than toys.  I have many friends who go and stock up on little trinkets from the dollar store before their flights, but to me, that’s just extra garbage that I need to deal with once we arrive.  Drawing on the plane or colouring is just so simple. 
  • Comforts of home: if you can, pack your child’s pillow and of course blanket.  It will help them settle when it’s time to rest.  I have always said, whether they sleep or not on the flight we need to make them comfortable and relaxed and this is a great way to do that. 
  • Benadryl: not everyone will agree with me on this one, but for overnight flights or for that kid who just won’t settle Benadryl can help. For some kids Benadryl or any antihistamine has the opposite effect and they are more wired than ever, but for both my girls it works. 
  • For infants: we did lots of travel with Mia in her first year.  My biggest recommendation is allowing a bottle during take-off and landing.  It keeps them relaxed and helps their ears with all of the swallowing. 

Hope those flying tips help.  Let’s move onto packing.  Here is what we always make sure have:

  • Lots of underwear: is it just me or do kids go through these quickly. My eldest has never had an accident, but anytime she changes out of her bathing she takes a new pair.  My new rule is, bathing suit locale, loads of underwear.
  • Two to three tshirts: doesn’t matter the length of the trip, inevitably your kids are going to choose to wear the same thing over and over. We brought loads of shirts to South Africa thinking we would need them.  Firstly, anywhere you go you can get laundry service, even at a hotel and secondly, kids don’t care. 
  • Diapers: this is an interesting and one I struggle with all the time.  Do I take them or leave them?  I always bring them, maybe not for the whole trip but enough to get us through a week.  This way I am not anxious about finding a supermarket to buy diapers from.  I always make sure to take way more swim diapers than I think I need as well.
  • Medicine: I travel with a Ziploc of kids’ meds should we need them. Just the regular stuff, Benadryl (liquid and cream), Advil and Tylenol.  Same as the diapers, I don’t want to risk being stuck and worried. 
  • Books and toys: we bring limited of these, hoping that most of our holiday will be spent exploring and not inside, but we do always make sure we have something for those rainy indoor days.
  • Everything else.

Keep in mind that travelling with kids isn’t easy.  Not every journey or flight or even accommodation will work out.  We have switched hotels mid-trip realizing that we need the hotel can’t provide, we have cut trips short and then we have also made memories and had fun!  Whatever you pack or however you plan for the flight keep your kids in mind and follow their cues.  For lots of kids (mine for sure) that change of routine is really hard and even though they want to have fun, there’s some uneasiness about it all.  Try to relax and enjoy, I know it’s easier said than done some days and I definitely need this reminder often, but it’ll be so worth it in the end when you can relax and enjoy spending time with your kids away from home. 

We would love to hear from you about how you travel or if you have a big trip coming up let us know where it is you are headed.  Leave us a comment below.

The coolest plane we have been on, a double decker!

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