Culture Baby Blog
  • The Long Haul Flight with Kids - Part 1
  • Monica Dreger
  • cultural parentingmoving abroad with kidsParentingraising global citizensraising world citizenstraveltravel with kidsvacation
The Long Haul Flight with Kids - Part 1

Part 1 - Advance Preparation. Stay tuned next week for parts 2 and 3!

I just arrived in Athens, Greece after flying ten hours on the plane with my three ‘lively’ kids. I survived. My mantra throughout the preparation and anticipation of the flight was "at its worst, it's just one day". That little sentence helped me pack, drive to the airport, get us to the gate and actually board the plane. Tomorrow could only be better.

I've done this overseas trip alone fourteen times so far, tugging one, two or three kids. As I fly by myself (my husband meets us in between most times) you can only imagine the looks I get from fellow passengers when we board....abject terror! These are some things that I have learned - most of them the hard way.

Preparation for the Flight

Preparation is the ultimate key to success. I start preparing three weeks in advance, if I can.

Booking. There are many options you can chose from when traveling with kids. Under 2 years old, you can purchase a ticket OR have them sit/sleep on your lap and you only pay airplane insurance. You can order a bassinet for both options but you have to be quick - they are the first seats to usually fill up. If you don’t get the bassinet seats, you can try to bring a FAA approved car seat - if there is an extra seat on the airplane, they will let you bring it and put your child in it. If the plane is full, they will need to stow it underneath. Since both have happened to me, I bring it only if we will need a car seat at our final destination (eliminates risk of shlepping for nothing).

Meal. When you book your flight, you can also order kids meals, vegetarian, kosher or a number of other options. My kids don’t eat on the airplane so I order a kids meal just because there are more packaged snacks which I can use later.

Play. When the kids are toddlers, we watch airplane shows, talk about the captain’s ‘rules’ (these are OBVIOUSLY not my own I keep telling them!), and play obsessively with toy airplanes. 

Rules. The basic rules that I try to subconsciously implant in their brains are: No standing, no yelling on the plane. We sit and eat and sleep on the plane. Repeat this 125,367 times to your toddler every day. It might just work.

Packing. The dreaded packing. Light. I find that parents are naturally prone to pack way too many toys, clothes, accessories for their kids in fear of the “what if”. So after I have packed what I think is logical, I go back and take away half of everything stuffed in the suitcase. I have yet to run out of clothes or toys on a trip - just saying.

Backpacks. Once a child becomes two years old, he/she gets their own backpack. With it comes great responsibility! They get to pack 1 stuffed animal, 2 toys, 1 book and 1 treat. However, they must lug their own bag! Anything else that ‘needs’ to come along the trip must fit in their backpack...sorry lego masterpiece...I have noticed that the older the kid gets the sooner the backpack is stuffed; my oldest had her backpack planned the moment she found out we were going to Greece….three months in advance.

Communal bags. Don’t be afraid to stuff any other needed things in their bag. I will divide snacks, wipes, clothes in their bags so that I only have to carry one bag myself.


Part 2 soon...

  • Monica Dreger
  • cultural parentingmoving abroad with kidsParentingraising global citizensraising world citizenstraveltravel with kidsvacation

Comments on this post ( 2 )

  • Jul 16, 2014

    I absolutely dread the trans-Atlantic, connecting flight I take to Greece from NYC twice a year. I’ve done it four times thus far with my 19 month old and it keeps getting worse now that he has a personality. What saves us is food. We eat snacks I’ve packed non-stop— especially popcorn. I’ve tried Benadryl but it doesn’t do much, though three hours of sleep is nothing to scoff at. The ultimate nightmare however is the European law that requires lap infants to be strapped to your seat belt. It causes tantrums in my kid (mind you, no American airline, flying domestically or internationally, dictates this). Also, since I always have to connect in a European city and strollers are checked through to the final destination (weird law!), I always pack the Ergo to race through Schipol or CDG or Heathrow or wherever to make it through immigration and security and on to the next flight.

    — Alison

  • Jul 16, 2014

    Excellent advice…

    — Jeannine

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