It is that time of year again – the annual expat pilgrimage to visit family and friends during the school holidays. I love escaping the heat but as my family grows, the actual traveling to and from can be stressful – especially when it requires an airplane journey halfway across the globe. Traveling should be fun. Should be….
Over the course of my time spent in Abu Dhabi, I have received excellent advice from friends on how to travel and what to bring. The lead up to traveling is stressful enough. When it comes to traveling with small children, nothing is worse than public meltdowns, freak outs and tantrums – and I am referring to myself. In the past I have overpacked and still forgotten things. There are a multitude of creative activity packs on Pinterest but really…who has time for all of that? When I was a kid I was lucky to be traveling at all and secondly to have earphones worked so that I could watch the movie (not of my choice) playing on the screen in the front of the cabin.
What I aim for now is to travel light. The less, the better – but ensuring that the kids have just what they need. Now that I have done several long haul flights myself with children in tow, I am sharing what has worked best for me.
Believe it or not, babies up until about 10 months are the easiest to travel with. Of course you don’t think this when you are a new mom, nor does hearing it make traveling any easier. The first time I travelled with my little one, his diaper bag was super stuffed with things I never ended up using. Below is what I travel with now (my 3rd baby).
Baby bag –
- Nappies/ Disposable Nappy bags – Depending on the length of the flight and waiting times. For a direct flight to NY I usually pack 1 per hour to be on the safe side. Don’t forget the little bags to put your dirty nappies in. No one likes a smelly nappy on the plane. It is great to have handy incase need to do a change in an unexpected place.
- Wetwipes – brand new pack. You won’t use them all but good to have available for unforeseen mishaps.
- Pacifier – I don’t use pacifiers/dummies on a regular basis but I keep for traveling. It is something new for your child and could help if they are feeling uncomfortable. If you bring the pacifier, remember to bring the pacifier strap to keep it connected. Nothing worse than a pacifier falling on the floor of the airplane. Good luck trying to find that!
- Medicine – There is no worse feeling than your child starting a fever whilst traveling. I always pack a few suppositories or sachets.
- Powdered formula/ milk – If you breastfeed, then you are golden. You don’t need to pack bottles or formula – just a coverup. However, if you are not breastfeeding then I found that it is best to pack enough milk for regular feeding schedule plus + 2 extra feeds (incase of delays during traveling). With this I packed 2 empty bottles + 2 bottles full of water. I did try 4 bottle full of water but it gets too heavy. That is probably too much but I get OCD about someone else washing the bottles out of my sight. You can wash and reuse during flight if necessary. Water is available on the flight, however, having the water in the bottle avoids waiting if flight attendant is busy. Those few minutes of a baby crying can be stressful for everyone!
- Baby clothes – Packing 2 of everything is sufficient – 2 pj’s, 2 outfits, 2 blankets, 2 muslins- ok, muslins are small – so maybe 3.
- Baby Carrier – Ok. Whilst this may actually be more of something that you wear rather than pack. For me, I used this when arriving at my destination. Leaving from Abu Dhabi, I use my stroller – which gets packed at the door of the airplane (yes – that is me holding up the line!). You are unable to pick up the stroller in baggage claim until you arrive at the final destination. The Baby Carrier makes traveling through the airport so much easier. These have been the only times I have ever used a Baby Carrier – perhaps I really should use more.
Children’s Bag (up to 6 years)
My kids get super excited when it comes to traveling. Unfortunately they also like to get into everything they are not supposed to. These are the things that I use when traveling to keep them occupied and keep my sanity. It is up to you if you want to make them carry their own things or try to fit everything (for all kids) into one carry on.
- Coloring book/crayons – I find it is best to purchase new and keep hidden from children until you get onto the plane. It will be exciting for them to have a new coloring book and new crayons. Most flights do have children activity packs but it always good to bring your own too.
- Favorite toys. A few of their favorite things. We limit to 5 each – this also helps us remember when it comes time to pack up on the plane. You know that you are looking for 5 items. Depending on your childs age – make them responsible for carrying. (from about 2 ½ years depending on your child). Remember you know your child best so do what you think best.
- Snacks/candy – We had a problem with ordering a toddler meal one year. My son got a regular meal that he did not eat. Packing some extra snacks so that your kids will not become hungry during the flight. Hungry = Cranky = STRESS!!! I previously was not a big fan of giving the kids candy because I thought that the sugar would make them hyper, however, when it comes to flying – anything goes.
- A favorite book – Bring one of your childs favorite book. I suggest only 1 because if you have more than 1 child, it can add to the extra weight of things.
- Clothing – One full change of clothes, PJs and extra underwear/pullup nappies. Depending on what time you are flying, if you pack a set a pj’s for your child to change into during the flight.
- Waterbottle – Don’t forget to bring their favorite waterbottle. In our house we use the kid size Camelbak. If there is no juicebox or covered cup available on the flight, you can use this to put the drink in to avoid spills.
- iPad/tablet – This is the big kahuna. We keep this as a last resort right before any meltdowns occur. Keep your children’s favorite shows on the tablet. Whilst there is a large selection available on the flight, sometimes they won’t have your childs favourite shows (don’t forget the charger!).
Let’s not pretend that you will have time to read the latest Glamour magazine. If you are traveling with more than 1 child you will be lucky to have a chance to breeze through the Sky Mall Magazine and watch 1 movie (in tid bits over the course of 14 hours). I don’t usually pack a separate carry on bag for myself as there is already enough to carry. I just make sure I have a big handbag.
Below are the 7 things that I always travel with on long haul flights:
- Hand Sanitizer
- Hand Lotion
- Lip balm
- Candy – back up for the kids to be used in emergency situation.
- Hair ties – Amazing what these can be used for in time of need. I was once able to avoid a public meltdown by using this to fix a toy that had broken.
- Mints/or minty bubblegum – Tell your kids it is hot and spicy so this can be a little luxury only enjoyed by yourself to avoid travel breath.
- Extra set of clothing – lightweight dress, top with leggings. It is good to have incase anything gets spilled on you. I have always used the extra set of clothes. Spills or no spills – it is always nice to freshen up right before landing.
Daddy’s bag –
Let’s not forget the Man of the House. He will be the one lugging the suitcases, carry-ons, ordering taxi’s and helping with the kids. Whilst his carry on needs to be light – there are a few things that need to be in his bag:
Like I have mentioned this is how I pack. Everyone is different and this can just be used as a guide. Depending on how many people are traveling, you can combine or condense. At the end of the day, I just hope that you find it useful. Safe travels….