Tag Archives: Flying with kids

6th June 2015

Flying with Small Children Part 3 – Tips, Tricks, and Handy Advice

My first ever flight with a baby in May 2012. We're now 20 sleeps away from flight 18!

My first ever flight with a baby in May 2012. We’re now 20 sleeps away from flight 18!



Luggage allowance varies very much per airline – and whilst some allow you to check a buggy and car seat into the hold in addition to your luggage allowance, others will count it as part of your allowance. Check this before you book with an airline, as going over your allowance can be very costly.


Most airlines will allow you to take a fully collapsible stroller to the doors of the plane, which is very handy if you have young children. However, they usually won’t deliver it back to you until baggage reclaim at the other end. This poses problems if you have a baby and no way of carrying them between the plane and luggage carousel, but there are a few options.

Some airports / airlines offer complimentary strollers for use before/after check-in (this is a helpful list, but may be a little out of date) – Emirates is one such airline, but they aren’t always available, so it’s worth having a back-up plan.  If you have a baby carrier like a Baby Bjorn or Ergo, take it onto the flight as hand luggage so you have it as you leave the plane. There is also a stroller that collapses small enough to be taken as hand luggage, called Baby Zen YoYo – we have this stroller and it’s very, very handy (UK link, UAE link). Or you could try my new toy, the Ride On Carry On, which attaches to a pull-along cabin-sized suitcase (UK link, UAE orders 050 4762350).


Formula Milk: Baby milk is exempt from the 100ml liquids rule – but you need to be prepared to taste a third of what you take through security. So if you take 3 bottles, you will be asked to taste one of them. As soon as you get to security, get the bottles out and tell them it is milk for your baby.

I always pre-measure the powder and store it in 2 x Avent Milk Powder Dispensers (UK link, available at Baby Shop and major chemists in the UAE). I then take ready-boiled water in sealed bottles, pouring the powder into the water and shaking to mix when we needed it. As a rule, I take 2 extra bottles/powder than we need in case of delays or spills. I also usually grab a couple of pre-made cartons of formula once we are in the airport lounge to be extra prepared.

Sometimes the air pressure causes my Dr Brown bottles to leak a little bit during take-off, so I store the bottles in a plastic bag. I then top up with a little mineral water if necessary.

If you are in the UK, you can also pre-order ready-to-drink formula cartons from branches of Boots in airport lounges. You can find the branch with this link www.boots.com/en/Store-Locator/. If you forget (or manage to leave your powder at home in a last minute panic), don’t panic as I’ve always found Boots to be pretty well stocked. In Dubai, it isn’t as easy so make sure you are fully stocked with powder/water in bottles.

Water / Drinks for Children: This is a big no-no. I usually fill the boy’s water bottles with a little water each for the car journey to the airport and then drink it / pour out in the bathrooms before security so they are empty as we go through. Then we buy bottled water to re-fill them when we go through.

Food Pouches: Food puree is considered liquid, so make sure you take it out of your bag and tell the security staff (I made this mistake once and had my whole bag searched as I was none the wiser!) You may also be asked to taste it. Airports usually have quite a good stock once you go through (and your baby may also get a jar/pouch as part of their meal on the plane). Check this in advance so you know how much to pack/buy 


If you have a small baby, make sure you call your airline as soon as you book your flights and pre-book the seats with basinet. This will make your life a lot easier at nap times as you will have your arms free (and it also makes a handy storage facility for baby’s toys / activities when they are awake). The other benefit is that you will have a lot more space for bags and be situated right by the toilets for baby changing. Some airlines require you to take baby out of basinet whenever turbulence occurs (Emirates, for example) and others allow you to keep them in (British Airways comes to mind). You will be told the rules when you board.

However, baby grows quickly and the size/weight allowance of the basinets varies greatly by airline. This ridiculously helpful chart (last updated April 2015) will give you the info you need – and it’s well worth consulting before you book. If you have a choice to go for an airline where baby still fits in basinet, go for it – it will make your flight so much easier.

Once children are slightly older (like mine, aged 16 months and 3 years), I actually prefer to move back to regular rows of seats. This is mainly because we can store our bags under the seats in front right from boarding (with a basinet, you will only be allowed to bring them down from overhead lockers once in the air) and because they can use the seat-back televisions right from boarding to the moment we have to leave the plane (unlike basinets where the fold-out TVs can’t be used during take-off and landing). Do not underestimate the power of a TV to play with / watch while you are trying to unpack and settle!


Keep them in their seat: My wise expat friend Fiona gave me a tip when I first started flying with children: make them aware that their seat is their space for the whole flight and that walking up and down is not an option. I have never let my children walk up and down the plane and in 17 long-haul flights, they have never asked to do it. Despite having two very active little boys who can’t sit still for a second at home, they have never even been aware that leaving their seats (apart from toilet breaks) is even an option. This has made life so much easier for myself and my husband and I still think it’s the best tip I received! I am aware that we only fly 7/8 hours at a time, so it may be a different story if you fly for 15 hours straight – but do it on your terms. Give them the freedom and they will take it – again and again and again…

Buy headphones: If your child is old enough (in my opinion, this is about 18 months), buy them fun headphones and present as a gift when you board the plane (my boys have some with frogs – UK link, UAE available in Virgin Megastore). The moment we did this was the moment flights got easier! Stanley loves having his own headphones – and once he heard the inflight entertainment, he started to focus on it for longer than a few minutes! For little ones, you can try practicing at home before the flight. Wilfred will get his for the first time during our next flight. Make sure you buy headphones designed for little ears, as their ears are very sensitive.

Extra nappies: Take two extra nappies than you think you need. There’s something about flying that makes my children rather, well, frequent! It is also very wise to pack an extra set of clothes per child – not only for toilet accidents / nappy explosions, but in case turbulence / pesky little hands send your drink flying. It’s also worth me adding that although my 3-year old has been potty trained for 6 months now, we always pop him in a pull-up for a flight (which he still wears at night, so it’s not alien to him). It’s always dry at the end of the day, but it gives me peace of mind in case he suddenly announces he needs a wee during take-off or landing!

Food on board: If your child has their own seat on the flight (over 2 years old), they will get their own meal – but it’s not always automatic that they will get a child’s meal, so pre-book this in advance. If you have a baby on lap, they will probably only be offered a jar of puree (if that) – and if you have a baby between 12 months and 2 years, that won’t cut it. I usually pack a pot of mess-free finger foods and leave it in the fridge until the moment we leave the house – like cheese cubes, sausage chunks, sweetcorn, bread sticks etc. I also pack extra snacks for both children, such as rice cakes, fun fruit snacks, and raisins. Take more than you think you need in case of delays, but pack into clear zip-lock bags rather than pots to save weight.

Helpful reminder: I have generally found it easy enough to fly with my boys – but there has been the odd occasion when they have cried for hours straight or thrown bread rolls or shrieked at two second intervals. People have always been quite understanding, but we do get the odd angry glance, tut, loudly-spoken comment. Over the years, I have learnt to ignore it and stay calm. I just remind myself that we will never see any of these people again – and that in a matter of hours, we will be at our destination and everything will have been worth it. And it is! It always is! I promise!

4th June 2015

Flying with Small Children Part 2 – How To Entertain Them

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 22.10.16After Part 1 earlier in the week discussing how to pack hand luggage, I thought I’d write a post with ideas for how to entertain your children for (what seems like) endless hours sat still.

For older babies and toddlers like Wilfred (up to 2 years), I have a rule to pack one treat for every hour of the flight. Don’t expect a full hour of entertainment from each activity – but spacing the gifts out like that keeps things fun and fresh.

For older children like Stanley (2+), I prefer to hand over their bag so they can help themselves throughout the flight. He has his own seat, so he has the space to get creative. He is also old enough to navigate his way through the entertainment system or play games on the iPad – so I don’t really need to pack more than 3 or 4 extra activities for him now he’s a bit older, along with lots of snacks.

So when it comes to babies and toddlers, here are some ideas…


Magnetic Scribblers
Chunky Crayons
Colouring Book
Small Wind Up Toys
Flash Cards
Water Pen and Book
Changing Colour Ball/Toy
Small Cars
Books with flaps / interactive elements
Apps for the iPad, including Sago Mini, Nighty Night, and Fairy Tales

And for small children…


Magnetic Scribblers
Sticker Books
Magazines for TV Shows they enjoy
Drawing/Writing Activity Books with Dry Wipe Pens
Water Pen and Book
Crayons and story book colouring book
Their own headphones
Apps for the iPad including My PlayHome, CBeebies Playtime, Busy Shapes, and Tally Tots

I hope these ideas help if you are flying soon with your brood. I’ll be posting Part 3 in the next few days, with ideas for snacks to take on board and general tips for flying (such as taking milk through security and how to get small people to sit still for so many hours!)

2nd June 2015

Flying with Small Children Part 1 – Packing Hand Luggage

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 21.40.52I don’t consider myself an expert at flying with small children by any means (the bread rolls thrown across the aeroplane, coffee-splattered outfits, and mid-air nappy explosions are testament to that) – but having flown 17 long-haul flights with children in tow in the past 3 years, I do have the packing down to a fine art at least.

The way I do it is simple, but makes life so much easier when you are grappling with overexcited, overtired small people…

So here are the 4 steps.

1) I pack a shoulder bag with essentials that I need access to quickly and easily in the airport.

2) I pack a roll-along cabin bag with everything we need for the flight – and it’s divided into four plastic/canvas bags. Wilfred has a bag with his goodies, Stanley has a bag with his goodies, there is a bag dedicated to food, and there is a bag for my things (a few magazines and headphones for the moments the boys are quiet – i.e. – 5 minutes of a 7.5 hour flight). If I’m flying with my husband, we split these over two roll-alongs. If I’m on my own, I still pack in this manner, but I need to be more careful about the weight.

3) Once we’re in the gate waiting to board the plane, I take a few minutes to move any essentials from my handbag into the relevant bag in the roll-along. I usually buy ready-made formula in the airport for Wilfred, so this also gets moved into the food bag.

4) Once we’re on the plane, I pull out the 4 x bags and put them under the seats in front (or if we have the basinet seats, I wait until we’re in the air and then put them by our feet). The handbag and roll-along go straight into the overhead locker and I don’my bagBags 2t need them again until we land.

Since I discovered this method of packing, it has made things so much quicker and easier to fly.

Ill post Part 2 soon, which will have recommendations for keeping small children entertained on a flight…




26th March 2015

10 Things To Consider Before You Travel With Small Children

10843724_1518629858409350_1182248532_n1. Start a countdown to your holiday, by all means. But fully expect the holiday to be mentioned 63 times a day for the remainder of the countdown. And fully expect to regret starting the countdown by the middle of day one.

2. Spend some time creating a pack of activities to keep your little one entertained during the flight. But don’t be disappointed when they spend more time prodding the seat-back TV, pulling the arm-rest up and down, or removing the earphone plug of the unsuspecting passenger next to them on repeat.

3. Always pack a spare change of clothes. For both of you.

4. Feel free to pack a cute little backpack or roll-along for your little one. Just make sure that you have a spare hand to carry / drag it, as the novelty of having their own bag will wear off within five minutes of arriving at the airport.

5. Packing a healthy meal in your hand baggage is a lovely idea. It will ward off the hunger when your small person tucks into all the best bits of your meal and leaves you with a dry bread roll and wilted salad.

6. Pack books, snazzy earphones, and magazines in your bag. You will need them for approximately 32 minutes, before turbulence wakes your child up from their nap.

7. If your child is travelling on your lap for a long-haul flight and you currently enjoy feeling your arms, make the most of that sensation. You will soon be fantasising about it at 40,000 feet.

8. It is well worth heading to the gym before your flight to prepare yourself for carrying your own bags, your children’s bags, and your children of various sizes and weights. You will be expected to do all this down a narrow plane aisle, without hitting anyone on the head with a child’s trailing foot.

9. When you reach your destination, get ready for people to clock the amount of luggage you are travelling with and laugh. A lot.

10. If you are travelling to a different time zone and don’t like coffee, start practicing to like coffee now.

10th June 2014

Flying with a toddler

We are flying back to the UK tomorrow to spend our summer in cooler climes (with temperatures in the mid 40’s every day in Dubai now, it’s not a pleasant place to be. Even the carpark is hitting 37’C and quite literally feels like a sauna as we’re dashing between air-conditioning and car – not fun!)

Tomorrow will be Stanley’s 15th long-haul flight at the age of two – and being such a seasoned little traveller, I am often asked about how we entertain him for such long stretches of time in a seat. My rule when flying with a toddler is the following: pack one new, exciting thing to read / get creative / play with for every hour of the journey. So here’s what we will be armed with tomorrow…


Clockwise from top middle:

Mini Pots of Playdoh. This will only work if your child likes sorting the dough / isn’t too messy when they mould with it! Stanley is the former and likes to sort the colours by putting the dough in the pot with the coordinating colour lid. I bought him this Playdoh Party Pack (click here) that has 10 tiny tubs so he can sit and sort to his hearts content!

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Colouring Book. This book has the full story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, with every page ready to be coloured in (click here). The double whammy of a story and a colouring book makes it great value as toddler entertainment goes!

New Pencil Case and Crayons. We are bringing crayons from home, but putting them into a brand new pencil case (this will excite Stanley; it’s the simple things!) He’ll probably spend some time putting the crayons in and out, doing up the zip, saying his colours, so the pencil case is entertainment in itself.

Sticker Book. Toddlers love stickers and this book contains colourful pages laid out to create pictures. However if he wants to stick them all over his face / the seat / the back of the seat intront, that is also fine; they are re-usable meaning that they peel off in a second.

Pocket Scribbler. I’ve found these magnetic scribblers to be great for flights, keeping him occupied for ages (it was invaluable when we had a delay of 4 hours with an 18-month old!) They are so small and lightweight – and cheap too! (click here)

Dettol Hand Wipes. Planes and airports are grimy places, so these will be well used by all of us.

Raisins. Take ages to eat a whole box, healthy, barely take up any room… I’ll have a few packs in my bag.

Sticker sheets. More stickers! They are such a good time waster for toddlers!

Fruit snacks. I’m packing a variety of snacks in colourful packaging that look like naughty sweets,  but are in fact made from nothing but fruit. He’ll have fun peeling, guessing the shapes, and scoffing (nb: hands get sticky so you do need those wipes!)

Interactive book. I always pack interactive books – whether he can lift up flaps, wind a clock, stroke textured areas, or (in this case) use a dry wipe pen to scrawl across the pages (under supervision as it won’t wipe so easily off the seat, hands, and other passengers). Stanley is obsessed with his alphabet, so this book should keep him very quiet (click here)

Cut and Play Fruit. This mini set of cut and play fruit will keep him happy for a while. Again, it depends on your child – if they play quietly or like to sort (like Stanley), it’s a good bet. If they hurl things, maybe leave this one out! (click here)

I will also pack a full charged iPad with lots of new apps (Stanley loves jolly phonics, so I will be hunting for geeky apps like that when I come to load it up tonight). There are also a few of his favourite TV shows uploaded so he can watch them on route (we don’t bother with earphones – I find the dull hum of the plane is enough to drown it out for other passengers – and most are wearing their earphones anyway). And I will probably throw in a few favourite books too.

This time, we are also rolling out his new Trunki for all his things – entertainment, snacks, wipes, spare change of clothes, nappies, and his bunny. He gets to pull it along in the airport (or catch  a ride if he’s feeling tired) and my bag can then be solely dedicated to Wilfred (I’m not making the mistake of ruling out a spare change of clothes for a baby through lack of space again – I did that once and he had to wear a blanket as a sarong the whole way home…)

photo-3 copy

Once we’re home, I’ll write a post about the best apps for toddlers on flights, as I’m sure these will come in useful for anyone travelling this summer (we don’t use the iPad much at all at home, but it really does come into its own when we are flying. Thank god for technology).

See you all on the other side!