I am about to embark on a MAMMOTH flight with my two- and four-year-olds. Gone are the days of putting out my ONE travel outfit the night before, buying stacks of magazines, hitting the library for three books to keep me busy no matter my reading mood and buying a few snacks at the newsagent before boarding…
Now prepping for a flight – ANY flight, whether two hours or 14 (the length of my upcoming DAY journey – ugh) is a military-precision operation that begins weeks before we are due to fly.
Some of these tips you may have heard before and some may seem obvious to you, but I lap up articles like these before I travel just in case one of them has something new to teach me that could be a game-changer.
Here’s hoping I have one or more game-changers for you!
- Start early
As already mentioned, I start prepping weeks in advance. If I’m out and see something that could be useful on the plane, I buy it straight away. The week leading up to a holiday is crazy busy and you might not make it back to the shops in time.
So the antibacterial toilet wipes, travel-size tissues or fun trinket for the kids to play with gets bought early and kept in the corner of the cupboard until it is ready to be distributed to its appropriate travel pouch/bag.
Thinking “I have time” is actually a jinx, I’m convinced. The amount of times I’ve gotten on the plane and thought “Dammit, I wish I had bought xxxx….” taught me this valuable lesson.
- Do laundry
Following on from the above point of being prepared, I make sure ALL the laundry is done and our cupboards full before I take out everyone’s clothes.
We leave on Friday, today is Tuesday. I made sure apart from what everyone is wearing today, that anything that could be washed was washed and packed away in the correct cupboards before I started my packing.
My mind is enough of a jumble to then have to remember that my son’s favourite pyjamas are in the machine, my daughter’s sleeping bag in the dryer and hubby’s favourite travel t-shirt in the laundry basket.
So after everything got packed away today, I could go through everyone’s cupboards and take out everything I would need for the holiday and it was all there in front of me so nothing gets left behind.
It all got put to one side and for the rest of the week we will wear items that aren’t going on holiday with us and we won’t use something we may have needed otherwise.
Just another side tip here: take out the clothing they will need on the plane first (a full outfit, including nappies, undies, socks, the lot) and work from there. I like having my plane outfit ready to go so there is no thinking on the morning of the flight when we are generally running around the house like headless chickens cleaning and locking up.
- Speaking of plane clothes … take back-ups!
Pack extra – for the baby, for the toddler, for the kid and for YOU!
When it’s just you travelling without kids, you can get away with one outfit if you keep yourself fresh and perhaps may have to dab at a minor spill now and then.
But with kids, anything can and will happen.
Firstly, for kids in nappies, I like to take a full second outfit as well as a light onesie pyjama-type thing as a back-up to my back-up. I don’t know if it’s the cabin pressure or what, but I have been caught with enough poo explosions to know that something is different in the air up there and you don’t want to be caught on a cold plane with a naked child because their outifts are unwearable to the point they will probably need to go straight in the bin on disembarking.
That’s not even taking into account your littlie will be eating in a closed and confined space and will almost certainly spill something red and sticky on themselves … and you. Which is why the adults need back-ups, too, to account for a mess of epic proportions, no matter which orifice it spews out of your offspring (apologies for the imagery, but it needed to be said).
- Have two nappy packs
Here’s why: airplane toilet cubicles are teeny tiny and nappy changes are the absolute worst part of travelling with a nappy wearer.
For long flights especially, I take the amount of nappies my child generally wears in a day and I double it. Remember: be prepared – for poonamis, flight delays, snapping sticky tabs…
I put these along with a spare disposable changing pad and big pack of wipes in a large ziplock bag that will go in the overhead compartment. I then have a compact nappy wallet with two nappies, a disposable changing pad, small pack of wipes and nappy bags that I can quickly grab to make for a quick and hassle-free change. And I fill it up from the big packet when I get the chance throughout the flight. If you have space, I also have a spare pair of pants in the smaller bag in case there have been any leaks, but if you have to wait until you get back to your seat to dress them, that’s OK, too.
- Buy travel-friendly products
Not only are travel minis adorable and fun to shop for, they’re a germaphobe’s best friend in a situation where you have to share a loo with hundreds of strangers.
This is the first flight we are taking where our son has been toilet-trained. I (the above-mentioned germaphobe) am freaking OUT! My hubby has flat-out refused to let me put a kid who hasn’t worn nappies in a year in a nappy for the duration of the flight, which means I am seeing many a disgusting bathroom trip in my future.
That said, I have bought products that do double-duty in an effort to cut down on sprays, cloths and portable seats I just don’t have room for.
These Dettol anti-bac wipes are for surfaces AND hands. So they can be used to wipe loo seats before he needs to sit and his hands after he has “washed” them in a sink a hundred people have touched before him.
I also have a mini bottle of hand sanitiser and instead of having to queue when the rest of the plane is queuing to brush teeth just before landing, I have tooth wipes for the kids, which will make do until we get to where we are staying. These ones are a South African brand I stocked up on before I knew Jack ‘n Jill sold them, too.
On that note, I never go anywhere without a brand-new bottle of Children’s Panadol in my bag, just in case.
- Get clever with your entertainment
Obviously you know what to bring to keep your kids occupied. If they will sit and watch the inflight entertainment the whole way, well, let’s just say it – I’m jealous. Because you know those magazines and three books I mentioned earlier? Now I don’t have the time nor the space for them!
I DO pack a Kindle, but to be honest, I don’t remember the last time my Kindle even made it out my bag on a flight.
I live in hope, though, and still always pack it in case that is the flight my children magically learn how to sit still for hours on end – kinda like the first few months after the babies were born and I went to bed each night hoping that was the night they would sleep through. And just as for the first six months that hope was shattered each and every night, so too I suspect will my hopes of relaxing on this very long day flight.
And so I pack oodles of stuff for them to do:
- Everything is brand new – that builds excitement for them and gives me another minute on each item as they turn it over and work out what they can do with it. Also they’re less likely to reject a new story or toy.
- I have made an almost-identical pack for each child to avoid any arguments over who gets to play with what when.
- The exception is one or two items I have bought for them to play together – a playdough set and a balancing blocks game.
- You want to keep things as easy to use and pack away as possible and items that will make the least mess, so no paints, glue or glitter.
- And unless you want to make enemies of your neighbours, I wouldn’t recommend any noisy toys such as talking dolls or action figures or singing books.
- For this flight, they have a matching pack of:
- Storybook with never-read-before fantastical tales to discover
- Peel-and-stick foam art ‘n’ craft sets
- Magic Reveal colouring book – these are magic for parents, too, as the pencils or markers don’t write unless they are on the page, so no having to explain to the flight attendant why the tray table is covered in red squiggles
- Notebook + different sets of stickers and colour markers to draw
- And the headbands were an awesome find at JB Hi-Fi the other day for $24.95. It’s a fun headband with headphones built in. I cannot tell you how frustrating it is when your child does decide to sit still and watch some TV but cannot keep the headphones on, so they get frustrated, give up and start looking to you for entertainment – and after five hours of art ‘n’ craft, Mummy will need a rest.
- I also do my research and download a few new apps on the iPad to supplement the tried and tested ones – and for the love of all things electrical, make sure all your devices are fully charged the night before you leave.
- Pack the right snacks
And by the “right” snacks I’m not talking sugar-, gluten-, flavour-free. Hehehehe. Again, each parent has their own style, so by all means pack loads of these types of snacks if that is what your kids want/need. And please don’t judge me when you see my bag o’ goodies, because the second I enter the airport I get into fun, full-fat, full holiday-treat mode.
What I mean by the right snacks is anything that takes a while to eat – so a box of raisins they can eat one by one is great for this purpose, pretzels work well, too, as does a little bag of cut-up grapes. I also like to throw in individual baggies of treats like breadsticks, biscuits and lollies.
Having a good selection of snacks can really save the day when kids get cranky waiting for the food cart to make its way to your row all the way at the back of the plane, during the big gaps between meal services or if they don’t like the food on offer.
- Buy/rent gimmicks to make your flight more comfy
Now this one comes with a disclaimer: airlines vary on what they will and will not allow. It’s worth checking with the airline before you spend any money on this.
I have bought each of my kids a Fly Legs Up – it’s a hammock-type sling that hangs over the tray table and you fill it with cushions to make a flat, bed-like area for the kids to play, relax and (crossing fingers) sleep. On the flights I have been allowed to use it, it’s been an absolute win. There are similar products on the market, you just need to choose the one that’s right for you.
Another nifty device I used when my son was smaller, was the Kids Fly Safe by CARES. This is a harness that turns your airline seat into a carseat-type chair that holds the child in place instead of allowing them to slip through the flimsy lap belt. This worked a charm.
These items can be purchased but there are also companies that hire them out, which can save you a few dollars if you’re not a regular traveller.
- Use ziplock bags
I’ve already said how I use a large ziplock bag for my nappies, but I also use them to separate all my items in the bigger cases to allow me to find things easily and quickly. Each art pack will be in a separate bag, as will their individual snack packs and spare clothes.
These tips are all about making your experience as streamlined and simple as possible and I find this cheap item makes a big difference.
- A bonus tip for Mum
In the spirit of streamlining your packing to make room for all the extra stuff you now need as a parent, here’s one to help you cut down on your clothing.
I NEVER thought I would take fashion advice from my dad of all people, but he gave me one ah-mazing travel tip that I always use and it has changed my life!
In my youth, holidays were an opportunity to showcase my newest and favourite outfits.
This became an absolute logistical nightmare when it came to packing as the new pink top only looked good with a certain skirt and pair of shoes, which went with NOTHING else, but HAD to be included so the outfit could be complete. I would land up taking eight to 10 pairs of shoes on each holiday!
Now, unless you’re a Kardashian, I’m sure many of you would agree that that is utterly ridiculous for a two-week trip.
I’d like to think that with age I have become wiser and more practical, but the truth is I have just realised that NO ONE CARES what I am wearing, except me. So my dad’s advice has been pretty easy to implement.
What is it? Choose a colour scheme for your trip.
Simple, yet genius.
So I will be taking my blue-and-white sandals, which will match my jeans, my blue-base skirts and my denim shorts, and whatever tops I want to match with those. They will also look lovely with my navy dress and blue-and-white striped t-shirt dress.
It also helped me cull my massive “maybe” pile – the new black dress will have to wait for another holiday to be shown off, and my black-and-white shorts with black singlet will also be left behind.
Whatever you do, PLEEEEEEASE don’t tell my dad I actually listened to him – he will never let me live it down.
- Please note, none of the products mentioned above are available in Adexa’s Treasure gift books. This is not an advertorial, it is the writer’s opinion.