Flying with kids

I am notorious for my terrible memory. I forget as much as I remember but the up side to this is that I usually forget the things that make me sad/angry/worried/stressed etc. The down side is that this usually results in me repeating said action that made me sad/angry/worried/stressed. The best example of this is flying with my kids.

Before getting to that though, I should first mention that I am not a good traveler. I suffer from motion sickness and I’m also incredibly fidgety so sitting in one place for longer than half an hour turns me into a grouch.

Travelling with our two girls isn’t so bad when my husband is there with me. Even though my youngest hates car drives, she somehow calms down (which means screaming her head off for 30 minutes instead of an hour) when he sings funny made-up songs to her. If we’re flying it just means that we each commandeer one kid and try to keep them busy. It’s when I travel solo with the kids that things get interesting.

My first solo plane trip with my eldest went like a breeze when she was just under 2. We were flying from CT to Dbn on the earliest flight. I scooped her out of bed in her PJs and off we went. My husband dropped us off at the airport only to find out that there was a delay. No stress. I got her breakfast and then we waited outside the boarding gate until our plane arrived. Before we even took off, she was fast asleep on my lap. I also ended up nodding off and only woke for the descent. I held her hand as we got our luggage and then mentally high fived myself all the way to my folks place. Easy peasy!

Enter Child No 2.

Our second born is the most affectionate child you will ever meet. She is loving and happy and extremely friendly. The only thing that really grates her carrot is sitting in her car seat. She will literally scream until she throws up. Its awful. This has been the case from her first trip home from the hospital until now. Being strapped into her car seat isn’t optional so to deal with this situation we chose instead to rarely go anywhere. We would weigh out the benefits of leaving the house verses the trauma to all of us of her screaming for the entire ride. I would get panicked, my husband would try to drive faster to cut the trip short and my eldest would withdraw into herself because she was worried about her sister. Not a great experience. For this very reason I decided that I would fly to Johannesburg with my girls when we relocated last year and that my husband would drive up a day before to get the apartment ready for us. A six hour car drive versus an hours flight. It was a no brainer! I booked our flights to Johannesburg and was feeling quite happy with myself for having averted a crisis.

If you are a parent you will know that even the best laid plans can go off the rails at the last minute. The night before we flew out, my baby came down with a terrible fever. She was only 6 months old at the time and that whole night I carried her as she shivered and cried and burned up. Thank goodness we were at my folks place and I had my mum there for support. I was freaking out. The next morning I packed the back pack with all the meds I thought we would need as well as a change of clothes for both girls, jerseys in case it got cold on the plane, snacks and the tablet to keep my eldest entertained. With the baby bottles and flask in there as well, the bag was heavier than I had planned for. Once we had said good bye to my folks and Durban, I placed the still feverish baby into the baby wrap so that she was tucked against my chest. With the backpack on my back I had my hands free to keep my 3.5 year old close to me. All was going well (not including my now aching back from the heavy weight I was carrying front and back) until my daughter decided that she needed to pee. Now. As in right now. I kept telling myself that at least we were still at the airport and not already on the plane. We managed the visit to the ladies room without me dropping the baby or the bag but by then I was sweating buckets. Our flight had already started boarding and my plan to take advantage of the option to board early with kids went out the window. My little one started wriggling and crying because she was probably melting from my now raised body temperature. I took her out of the wrap and carried her in one arm (she was not a light baby!) and held onto my daughter with my other hand. My wonderfully imaginative eldest daughter is prone to spontaneous bouts of ballet dancing. One of these bouts occurred as I was handing our documents to one of the hostesses. I am not proud to say that I used my Shouty Voice even though she was well within eyesight. My nerves were frazzled and I didn’t want her out of my sight for a second. We finally made it into our seats which happened to be the last row on the now packed plane because when it rains it pours. I gave my daughter the tablet and a snack immediately then gave the baby her overdue dose of Panado and got her milk ready. She drank her milk as we took off and thank the heavens she slept almost the whole way.

When we landed I couldn’t put her back in the wrap because there just wasn’t enough space to maneuver a crying baby single handedly so I carried her, struggled into my back pack and bullied my eldest to walk in front of me because she couldn’t fit next to me in the narrow aisle as she wanted. She was in a grumpy mood because I was in a grumpy mood and I just could not wait to be on solid ground again. As soon as we exited the plane, I breathed a sigh of relief and we went to get our luggage. After squishing another bout of ballet dancing (poor child), I grabbed our ridiculously heavy suitcase and made my eldest sit on it while I pushed the trolley with one hand (hoping that she wouldn’t fall off) and carried the baby with the other. I was sweaty, my back ached, I felt like a horrible Mum for shouting at my kid for just being a kid and I was worried about our baby girl. I was overwhelmed. As soon as I saw my husband waiting for us I started ugly crying with relief. But you know, on the sly so as not to freak the kids out. I was SO happy to see him! I swore never to fly alone with the girls again.

Six months later I booked flights for myself and the girls 😂

My Tips for Flying with Children:

  • Don’t do it! (Just kidding! 😉 )
  • Choose flights that coincide with their nap time so that your kiddo will be sleepy on the flight
  • Pick seats either right at the front or right at the back of the plane. You want to be as close to the toilets as you can if you have potty trained kids. Also, then you won’t have as many people able to make judgey eye contact with you when your child is throwing the most epic tantrum
  • Try not to give your kids too much liquids in the 4 hours before the flight and make a toilet stop before getting on the plane
  • Only pack what you need in your baby bag. A heavy bag can weigh you down as you walk to and from boarding gates especially if you have more than one child to manage
  • Keep snacks that are juicy (dried mango, jellies, lollipop, etc). This will keep them busy and the juiciness will prevent thirst. Try to avoid salty or dry snacks
  • Entertainment in the form of a tablet is ideal. It’s one lightweight device instead of carrying different toys and books. Load it up with your kids favourite shows
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask to board first. Ask the hostess to help you with your bag as you leave the plane. Ask someone at the luggage collection area to move your suitcase onto your trolley. You will find that people will be very willing to help you.
  • Lastly, remember that this is just a short period of time that you need to get through. Remember this when your kids are being boisterous. They are just being kids.

This post was done in collaboration with Travelstart. Here’s a handy infographic that will make your experience MUCH easier than mine!


6 thoughts on “Flying with kids

  1. Hi Nadia. I am embarrassed. I am one of those ones with a “judgey eye”, or should I say, I was one. After reading your article, I now have a new found respect for mothers who travel alone with little children.

    I have no idea how you or other mothers manage with one toddler on a plane so I can only imagine the trauma you must have been under flying with two little children.

    Thanks for the tips on flying with children. Very useful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was also one of those people throwing the stink eye at parents who couldn’t control their kids on a plane. Now that I am a parent I realize that you really can’t expect kids to have that type of self control when they are so young. Also, NO-ONE wants that screaming baby to be quiet more than their parent 😂 It is a horribly stressful experience to not be able to walk away with your kid and calm them down.

      That was just a 50minute flight. How parents manage international flights is just beyond me 😱

      Thanks for reading!


  2. Ha! And here I thought I was alone in this! Feel like springing out a ballet pout myself right now! Good news is, it gets better as they get older, at least they carry their own backpack 🤪
    PS: motion sickness stinks! Eliott and I both have it and it’s horrible….well done my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The first time I traveled with the brat, he was 4 months and officially not a brat. We got an upgrade because the stewardesses were all moms too and they moved me up to first class where there were less people and more privacy to feed and soothe him. Over the years, we’ve been at the receiving end of nasty ass looks from people who thought the husband and I were making him or letting him cry on purpose to ruin their flight time or just because we were terrible parents. Now, flying with him is fun(ish). We’ve done road trips too and they’ve all been fairly smooth albeit with more stops along the way but that’s how it goes, right?

    Liked by 1 person

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