Traveling with multiple children is a hot topic for international families. This article reveals how one Amsterdam Mama-of-four successfully manages 8-hour flights. Learn all her secrets for flying with kids.
Learning to Travel with Kids
I really struggled with the idea that I was going to have a baby far away from Canada and everything I knew. I debated flying home to have my baby, then realized that would not work as my husband couldn’t just come and hang out for 6-8 weeks while we waited. So I accepted that I would be having my baby here in Amsterdam, without my family and booked a ticket for 6 weeks after his “official” due date. Lots of time right?
Little did I know that he would be 3 weeks late. Adam (my son) and I flew to Canada when he was less than 3 weeks old, 20 days to be exact. I packed light, wrapped him up into a tight little ball against my chest and left for the airport. That was my first flight with a child. I have had many since then with my 2, 3 and then 4 kids. I always travel to Canada alone, and my husband meets us later.
I have traveled with newborns, while pregnant, with toddlers, crawlers, restless kids and sick ones. I’ve been spit on, thrown up on, dropped food on, slept on – and yet to this day I never bring a spare shirt for myself….
What to bring when traveling with a newborn/baby (based on an 8-hour flight):
- At least 2 changes of clothes for baby.
- 5 diapers (at least, depending on length of the flight). Count on 2 hours per diaper and add an extra one.
- A couple of light blankets for breastfeeding and covering to stay warm when sleeping. The 2nd can also be used to cover the change table.
- Something for the baby to suck on.
- Saline nose spray: I tend to use it only if my kids are stuffed up or showing signs of being close.
- “Zetpil” Paracetamol or other newborn/baby medicine for fevers and discomfort.
- Zinc Oxide for bum rash (or other similar type)
- Formula and a couple of bottles (if I wasn’t breastfeeding anymore), but even when I was, I had one with me just in case. A hungry baby is not fun on a plane. Pack enough formula to include potential delays. I always packed them in pre-measured baggies that I could just dump into warm water given on-board.
- A little book to read through with pictures and a couple of small toys.
- Baby food (age appropriate) – always brought my own, including snacks.
- Snacks for me.
Sounds like a lot but this always fits in one shoulder bag. I always travel light. Once my kids were too heavy to carry, I used the smallest buggy I could find – a small $10 fold-up one that I could roll right onto the plane and stow as carry on.
For older kids:
- Everyone carries their own backpack; full is full.
- They are allowed to bring a couple of special things (blanket, teddy).
- A couple of toys or (activity) books.
- I always put in a couple of small presents that are craft based and can keep them entertained on the flight when they are tired of the videos.
- Sandwiches for the airport.
- One change of clothes (I have one daughter who always throws up…).
- They wear comfortable clothes and easy to put on/take off shoes.
In my bag:
- Tickets and passports.
- Medicine for fevers, discomfort, congestion and motion sickness.
- Elastics and barrettes for girls.
- Empty water bottle to fill after going through security.
- Extra snacks.
- A pashmina type of scarf (handy for so many things).
- Computer, phone, camera.
- Letter of permission to travel with my kids without my husband!
- Expect a long tiring trip with no time to read or watch a movie. It can only get better. Keep expectations low!
- Never get on when they pre-board for families. It can mean up to an extra hour on the plane. Let your kids run around the lounge instead. Even if you are one of the last people to board there is still plenty of time to get installed and you can more easily scope out any extra available seats!
- Make sure your seats (and baskets) have been confirmed ahead of time and get to the airport in time to avoid stress.
- Travel as lightly as possible. Makes it easier to run for it if you need to catch another plane or carry a tired child.
- Get rid of any ideas of healthy meals for the kids and have extra treats on hand. Sometimes it’s better to let go.
This approach can help get you through the last hour, which is always the longest. The last couple of flights we took, I actually managed to watch a movie or two - luckily there is a pause button and I have a short attention span!
I don’t have any magic tricks but I do travel lightly and am very organized. I don’t forget anything, which means check lists and no last-minute packing. I manage to keep my kids busy with puzzles, drawings, Lego, or walks and talks with the crew if they aren’t interested in the personal entertainment system (which doesn’t happen much anymore). I arrive absolutely exhausted every time, while my kids are ready to jump into grandma’s pool. But every time I walk through customs and see my family waiting for us, it makes it all worthwhile.
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Lianne is a Canadian mother of 4, entrepreneur and author of Lianne’s Quick Guide - for the busy woman. Her first title is called Babies 0-6 months and can be purchased directly from her website. She lives & works just outside of Amsterdam and can usually be found biking around on her bicycle built for 6. You can find her on Facebook and on Twitter.