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How to Avoid Having a Nightmare Flight with Kids

From a toddler smearing poo all over the cabin window to kids turning into mini wind-up toys after being dosed up on Phenergan and kicking the back of passenger’s seats, we’ve all heard horror stories about flying with children. Jetstar flight attendant and mum-of-two JULIA SWIFT shares her tips to ensure a smooth trip

A mischievous child in a plane
A mischievous child in a plane.

With domestic and international travel returning, many parentsthoughts are turning to how to survive a flight with kids. Lots of us fear that dreaded flight with young children, especially if youve never done it before, or haven’t for a while. Im a mum of two kids, aged six and nine, who have travelled many times. And, as a flight attendant, Ive seen travelling with kids from both sides. When booking our flights pre-kids, we never factored in the time the flight departed, just whatever the cheapest fare was. We’d allow just the right amount of time to check in and stroll to the aircraft. Wed bring one bag on board with just a book and a jumper, we didnt care where we sat. With kids you need to plan and prepare a lot more. Here are my top tips.

Happy family taking a plane
Happy family taking a plane

1. Booking: choose the best flight times for your child.

Booking a 6am flight from Melbourne to the Gold Coast might be the cheapest option but waking a toddler up at 3am is not going to start the day well. Think about what time they normally wake up –what time could you comfortably leave the house to arrive at the airport? Maybe they have a nap around 11.30am? That could be a perfect time to fly.

2. Seat choiche: pre-book your seats

When you pre-book you can guarantee you are all seated together, and select where on the plane you want to be. We also have infant bassinets on our Jetstar 787 international Dreamliners you can request via customer service as soon as you’ve made your booking. Think about booking an extra seat if travelling with an infant. This way you can possibly bring a car seat onboard for them to sit in too. 

3. Avoid stress: allow plenty of time at the airport

Airports can be stressful places. People are rushing, and extra testing and paperwork due to COVID-safe protocols can be a minefield, so get there early. Kids know when we are stressed and feed off that! If you are calm and have time to chill, they will too.

Mother with her baby on her laps in a flight
Mother with her baby on her laps in a flight

4. Documents: Make sure you and your child have the correct identification and documents to board the plane

Make sure youve checked everything you need document-wise days before your trip and have them handy in your bag (document wallets are good). Triple check what testing you need for departing Australia and for arriving at your holiday destination.

5. Snacks: take plenty of healthy snacks with you

Kids love food, so bring lots of snacks. Try to avoid lollies or chocolates though — you dont want them having sugar they can’t burn off in a small space! Think rice crackers, cheese and biscuits, chopped cut up carrot/celery/cherry tomatoes /apple, trail mixes, popcorn, chips. Ive seen clever parents bringing snacks in sectioned storage containers. Have backups too in case the whole lot falls on the floor! Otherwise, snap lock bags for each item are good.

6. Comfort: help your child cope with ear pain

Little ears can hurt due to the changing pressure in the aircraft. If you have young kids who use a dummy, they are great for them to suck on during take-off and landing. Otherwise give a bottle of milk or breast feed. If older, lollipops create that sucking action too (on landing). It can also be a good idea to give your kids some baby/child Panadol (in a bottle under 100ml) before landing to help with any ear/tooth pain they may get. Put it in a snap lock bag in case it breaks. You can also now get chewable kids Panadol for older kids so you don’t have to worry about the liquid rule.

7. Bring extra: make sure to take on board additional wipes, diapers, and clothing for both you and your child

little girl sleeping on the plane
Little girl sleeping on the plane

Make sure you pack a changes of clothes for you and bub in your hand luggage. Things happen —poop explosions, vomit, drink spills. Layers are another good option as you get hot and cold. If you want them to go to sleep on the flight, bring a sleeping bag or wrap if that’s what they’d normally wear in bed. Pack enough nappies for the trip, plus a few extras. A couple of pull up nappies (even if your child is toilet trained) are a good idea. We had a situation coming in to land when my four-year-old let us know he really needed to go to the toilet. I couldn’t take my son to the toilet because the seat belt sign was on, and he couldn’t hold it. Luckily, I had the pull up, so without the seat belt coming off, the nappy went on. Wipes are also great for sticky fingers, as well as to wipe down the seats and tray tables to get rid of germs. Also consider taking a blanket, which can double as a pillow.

8. Be organized: keep important things at hand

Store things you’ll need on hand in a little bag that can go under the seat. Theres nothing worse than needing wipes on take-off and them being in the overhead locker.

9. Relax: stay calm and keep in mind that the flight will end at some point

Remember that kids cry. Try to remain calm, dont worry too much about those around you. Sometimes the baby is crying to help clear ear pain, or they just dont want to be restrained in a seat belt. Wed rather them cry for 10 minutes and be safe, than be happy and unsafe. Weve all been there, and we know how you are feeling. 

Jetstar cabin crew member Julia Swift with her kids in Tasmania
Jetstar cabin crew member Julia Swift with her kids in Tasmania

For more tips on flying with kids and to see Julia’s adventures follow her on Instagram @mumsgottatravel

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