So I’m not an expert on the subject but I do have LOTS of experience traveling many miles across the ocean with 2 small children. I’ve learned several things along the way that would have been nice to know the first time! Here are some tips I’ve found helpful.
- PLAN AHEAD!! A couple of days (or more) before travel start making a packing list. This is to help guard against overpacking. It’s easy to overpack – especially if you’re traveling overseas with children.
- Bring extra empty bags for the items you will accumulate on your trip. Most airlines allow 2 – 50 lb. bags per person. However, this doesn’t always apply to domestic travel outside the U.S.
- Find out about the in-flight services offered to children. For those with babies, you can request a bulk head seat where they attach the bassinet for your little one to sleep in. Order your child a kid’s meal for the flight. You can call ahead (usually 24 hrs.) to order your child a kid friendly meal. It’s usually something more appetizing for children and it makes them feel special!
- Most countries require 2 blank pages in your passport that say VISA. We (and some of our friends) have learned this the hard way. In most cases they won’t let you on the plane. If you do make it on, they will either send you back, or in our case, fine the airline a hefty price.
- Traveling with children just takes longer, so even though they say to get there 1 hour before for domestic flights and 2 hours for international, with kids you should add at least 1 extra hour.
- For international travel, children under 12 only pay 60% of the base fare plus the tax, and children under 2 sitting in your lap, only pay 10% plus tax. In most cases infants in your lap will get a checked bag, but check your airline for details. If they don’t offer this on the website, be sure to call in to get your discount.
- It’s important your children sleep on the plane. Don’t feel guilty if you have to help them along with this using natural remedies or prescribed ones. We often have to pry Joshua away from the kid’s movie channel with his bloodshot, watery eyes to make him sleep. You don’t want tired, grumpy kids when you’re trying to get off the plane!
- Plan for those L O N G layovers! A 15 to 18 hour layover can be a doozy. We learned early on that it’s not realistic for small children to stay content for that long. We started going into the city or getting a hotel room for several hours. It may seem like an extra expense but it is well worth it! Grumpy parents influence grumpy kids and vice versa!
- Pack your toiletries in ziploc bags. You don’t want to open your luggage and find that your entire shampoo bottle exploded all over your clothes!
- Remember to RELAX! Children are smart and will pick up on your stress. When your child throws up on the business man’s expensive shoes, apologize but know you probably won’t ever see him again! Or when your child screams uncontrollably out of sheer exhaustion, relax and know your job is to comfort them to sleep. Those angry stares are probably coming from people who don’t have kids!
Above all, try to make the flying experience an enjoyable one. Our kids absolutely LOVE flying because we’ve made it a fun experience for them. And now that you have all these handy tips, practice by coming to see us in South Africa!