In my previous article about Flying with children, I described how I became an ‘expert’ on traveling with my little ones. Some trips are smooth, some are difficult. Every age comes with different equipment and different challenges. Much depends on the trip itself, the weather during the flight, the departure and destination airport (you can read about the family-friendly Athens airport here) (link to Celeste blog article on Athens airport), the season, the people on board and so on. I will share my personal experience and tips in a series of articles about Travelling with Kids and Flying with Children.
Flying with kids can only be successful after a good preparation. This is the key to a successful trip. I first prepare a packing list and I start the packing some days before the trip. I never do any packing on the last day before the trip. I do not want to have any last minute washing or ironing and the last day is all about resting and relaxing. Find here my personal packing tips for traveling with babies and young children:
- The baby diaper bag
Make sure you bring plenty of wet wipes and always have a spare set of baby clothes with you. Take only the essentials for the trip and toss everything not necessary. Do not put your passports and other ‘adult’ items in there. Keep one (backpack) bag for your own items and a diaper bag for the baby. My carry on bags can always be carried in more than one way, on my back, at the back of the stroller, the diaper bag can go over my shoulder or, on the stroller handles and/or underneath. I have a small purse with my valuables and passport around my neck underneath my clothes. Make sure you bring bags that fit under the chair in front of you on the plane. You will need to get stuff out of the bags all the time and it is very unpractical to have your bags in the overhead lockers. Put a plastic supermarket bag, they come in handy in so many ways!
- Check-in luggage
Bring only the necessary! Even if you have a luggage allowance of 20 or 30 kilo… remember, traveling with children requires lots of extra’s: strollers, diaper bag. There is already too much to carry. When you are traveling alone with children, you are the one who has to lift all the bags from the luggage belt. Save up old underwear, play clothes, damaged pajamas etc. I use them one more time during our vacation and then throw them away on our last day before we go back home. This means less to carry and more space on the return. Same with toiletries: I bring shampoo, soap bottles that are half empty and toss them at the end of my trip.
- Pack smart
When traveling from hot to cold climates, put jackets, /socks etc in the zipped compartment on top of your suitcases, upon arrival and before you exit the terminal, you can access or jackets without opening the complete suitcase.
Take as many as you can. Snacks are my lifesaver on board. The children do not like the airline food and so I bring them so special threats that are usually off limits in our daily life. They actually look forward to flying because they will get: ‘’crisps and apple juice’!
- Clothes to wear during the trip
For myself, shoes must be comfortable, preferably sneakers. I need to walk, carry and hold children for many hours. Same for my clothes; as comfy as possible. I always wear dark colors: spill – and stain proof! I don’t wear a belt and choose pants that are easy to take on and off in the few seconds that are left for me visiting the toilet. The same for my girls. No difficult pants and/or buttons. I wear them leggings and always dark color with patterns. Any chocolate or lemonade stains are less visible and we can still look ‘OK’ when we arrive. The girls wear shoes that they can easily take off and they ALWAYS wear socks. I do not want them to be walking around barefoot in the plane….For babies: I used to always dress my babies in a top with separate pants. I found it too difficult to change them wearing the full sleepsuits. A bonnet is important too. It can get chilly onboard. And we put layers. The climate on board can vary from very hot to very cold. I stack one or two pashminas in my back. In a Ziplock, they do not take up much space and they can be used to stay warm, to sleep under, to play with and so on.
Finally: the extra pair of clothes. I pick stuff that does not take much space. Leggins for the girls, knee-high socks etc. I squeeze everything in a plastic Ziplock. (I am a great fan of these bags. I use them to pack my shoes, my underwear, makeup, phone charger and other wires, and basically anything that could spoil in my suitcase or bags. They are also very practical for the liquids security control at the airport.
- Toys in your carry-on bag: I used to buy something new and give it to them before take off. But lately – I must admit – I bring a tablet. I do not give them any electronics (computer/phone/tablet) at home. I personally do not want them (yet) for my children. But I bring a tablet when we are traveling. They love it because they only get to use it on board. Secondly, it saves up so much space! It saves me carrying lots of toys around. I also bring my iPod with children music. They love sharing the headphones and listening to their favorite songs.
For a baby, you do need some soft toys. Choose the ones that do not make a sound or switch the sound off.
- Wet wipes: The magic item! A new pack of wet wipes is big and heavy. As I am sure that I will not need 64 (the usual amount of wipes in one new pack), I bring a pack that is half empty.
- Give older children their own bag to carry: My eldest is 6 now and she brings a small trolley that she pulls herself or a little lightweight backpack.
- Medication: Think of packing necessary medication in your hand luggage and make sure that you get a letter from your doctor in case they are liquid medicines. Our allergy pen is accepted in hand luggage but needs the doctor paper to be passed from security. A friend of mine recommends a bottle of essential oil, eucalyptus, lavender, fir, chamomile. For example, a few drops rubbed in the palms clears the air in so many ways. Another one to consider is Bach rescue remedy drops.
- Marker: It’s busy at airports. When my kids were younger I was worried of losing them. I always carry a (permanent) marker in my bag to write my phone number on their arms.
Have a great trip !