travel

11 failsafe tips that'll make your first time flying overseas with kids easier.

Emirates
Thanks to our brand partner, Emirates

I’ve been flying between the UK and Australia to visit family for 16 years, nine of those years with my kids in tow.

It can be a daunting process and as a family, we have had some good flights, and some not-so-good flights.

In my travels, I’ve learnt that there can never be too much planning when it comes to flying with kids.

So, I’ve compiled my list of tips for your next big long-haul adventure, with a few insider hacks from Emirates’ Department of Family Travel too. I’ve mainly thought about what would be helpful for the first time doing it, but these ideas can be useful for any time travelling overseas with kids.

1. Think carefully about your seats.

If there are four or more of you in your family, don’t ‘wing it’ with seating arrangements. Book in advance and aim to have access to an aisle seat for frequent bathroom visits or walks with toddlers.

If you have a baby under one-year-old and weighing less than 11kg, the Emirates bassinet is a lifesaver – just make sure to pre-book it. I have never been so grateful to place my sleeping baby Leo into his cosy little bed, then sit back and eat my dinner with both hands.

We have also had success booking separate seats so that one parent travels with the kids and the other sits far, far away. This means one of you is 100 per cent ON parenting and the other can relax and watch a film in peace. The further away from your family, the better.

2. Be strategic with the timing of your flight.

I have found departing Sydney (or your closest capital city) around 5pm works well. This means naps can happen in the car on the way to the airport so little kids are not overtired before take off.

Bedtime then coincides nicely after dinner is served and means they should fall asleep at a time not that different to if they were at home. Happy days!

3. Plan your checked luggage carefully.

Take advantage of Emirates’ generous family baggage allowance and stow the pram, stroller, travel cot AND car seat.

You will be so grateful that you did when you reach the other side and see all of your familiar things rolling along the conveyor belt.

On the other hand, when I travel alone with my nine-year-old son Toby, I like to pack light, as it is much easier to lug two lightweight suitcases on and off the terminal trolleys and public transport without my husband’s help.

4. Pack ALL the snacks.

BYO snacks! I find familiar snacks from home are useful, especially when the plane is taking off and the kitchen is closed. This is coincidentally always when mine decide they are hungry.

If your kids are a little older and able to suck on lollies – a couple of easy-to-reach lollipops is a useful way to combat ears popping on take-off.

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Little packets of sultanas take ages for little fingers to eat, which is great for passing all that time on board.

One thing I didn’t know until recently – Emirates will heat up your child’s food or formula for you if you choose to bring your own. But they also have many great kid-friendly snacks and meals you can pre-book online, including options for special dietary requirements.

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A little pre-planning will solve the "I'm hungrys" on board. Image: Supplied.

5. Having wipes in your carry-on is crucial.

I have never been so grateful for my large packet of wipes and a change of outfit when 40 minutes after take-off, my then four-year-old Toby said, "I’m going to be sick" and immediately was. On himself, the floor and the arm of another passenger.

Thankfully the other passenger was an understanding mum and I was deeply apologetic passing wipes across the aisle to her. I hope she packed a change of clothes too.

6. Give yourself plenty of time at the airport.

We try to give ourselves the full three hours before the flight to allow for check-in customs and security. If you have a little tot who can crawl or walk, a baby carrier is very useful for all the standing around.

Airports normally offer priority queuing lanes for families, but pulling out iPads and removing belts and shoes with cranky toddlers in tow is still hard work, so extra time helps keep stress levels low.

Here's another Emirates tip - they offer priority boarding for families with young children, which is fantastic for getting you settled into your seats and the hand luggage stowed, before the rest of the passengers join in the fun. Also, if you're transiting through Dubai, ask for Emirates' complimentary strollers at the airport next to the family check-in desk.

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7. Bring new toys, easy crafts and activities. But not too much!

When Toby was under five, I would buy a couple of small toys for him to unwrap once on board.

A small box of junior LEGO to assemble together or some new crayons and a colouring book. The unwrapping part took time and the new toys had the novelty factor.

Emirates give out the best little freebie kids' activity packs, and Toby was very pleased to receive a super grown-up Lonely Planet kids' pack, complete with jazzy socks.

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Here's Toby's Lonely Planet pack from his flight. Image: Supplied.

8. Enjoy the unlimited screen time.

Your kids might be restricted at home, but when you have to sit in a seat for many hours, let the guilt go and enjoy the entertainment.

Make sure your airline has a good in-flight entertainment system. Emirates' ice system has more than 4500 channels including 150 kids' channels, with hundreds of family-friendly movies that you can start, pause and watch anytime.

On our most recent trip, Toby spent a lot of time crafting his perfect playlist in the music section with Imagine Dragons and Billie Eilish, as he ate or played his way through the interactive games.

I barely slept thanks to my obsessive binge-watching Game of Thrones, which I never get the time to do at home. They have a lot of TV series, blockbusters and independent movies to choose from too. Result!

9. Engage with the staff and be friendly to other passengers.

While we have never distributed earplugs to fellow passengers, introducing ourselves and the kids to our closest travellers does create a friendly 'we’re all in this together' vibe.

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The Emirates crew are always welcoming and I loved that on our recent trip, they came around to chat and take polaroid photos of family groups.

We look a bit scruffy but it was a great memory at the very exciting start of our holiday.

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A memory we've kept. Image: Supplied.

10. Have a layover.

Travelling all the way to the UK without stopping is exhausting and while we have often done that to maximise time with family, we'd much rather stop on the way to make the whole experience easier.

Dubai is super family-friendly with loads of great hotels to stop, relax and refresh yourself in before you start the next leg of travel.

11. Try to have fun (because we're pretty lucky that we get to travel).

There will be moments on board when your child won’t sleep or you have to change yet another nappy and you think, when will this BE OVER?

There will also be moments when both kids are asleep and you look at your partner while watching a movie with ice creams in hand and think, you know what, we are being well looked after and this is actually pretty great!

For more tips and advice around family travel, head to Emirates' Department of Family Travel. They have a great checklist to help you plan your trip from start to finish - download it here.

What are your best pieces of advice for travelling long-haul with kids? Share below.

This article is sponsored by Emirates. The writer and her family travelled on Emirates at their own expense.

Emirates

The Emirates Department of Family travel provides Australian parents a central resource for travel tips and inspiration for their next family holiday. Before boarding, Emirates offers separate family check-in desks and priority boarding. To beat the boredom on board, Emirates' award-winning entertainment system, 'ice', features over 150 dedicated kid’s channels, plus up to 100 interactive games to help time fly. Family-friendly Cabin Crew are on hand to help, offering personalised service and providing toys, colouring books, pencils and game packs. To fight hunger cravings, Emirates offers tasty kids meals catering to all ages. With world-class family amenities on board, including special facilities for babies, Emirates is committed to putting families first.
Click here to find out more.

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