So I get dozens and dozens of questions every time we fly with the girls about travelling with kids. I think I’ve really, really covered off the basics, around just travel in general as a family – but I thought I’d put together a little guide for bigger trips overseas!
Timing Your Flights
One thing about overseas travel, especially from Australia, is that you’re likely to be in a different time zone! I always try and manage the time we fly to work best for the kids, even if this means a more expensive flight.
For example, if going long haul to America or Europe, you’re going to be well out of the time zone. So planning to fly overnight and getting little ones to sleep is the best bet!
However, on smaller trips like Bali, I opted for day time both there and back and tried to keep their sleep times as close to home as possible.
I try to avoid late return flights where we have to check out of accommodation early and then store bags and keep the kids occupied till late at night. I find it’s way too stressful and it’s best to just get up and get heading home. The last day (regardless of how good a holiday is) you just want to GET HOME!!!
I also prefer direct flights where possible, minimal stopovers, but if you need them then make them long so you can actually stop and rest, book a hotel and regroup before going again! But, if there is a direct flight, I always book it, even if it costs more – just get it done I say!
If you do have stopovers or unexpected delays etc then the lounge will save your life.
I have Qantas Club access on a ‘spouse’ membership as Jezz is already a member. Spouse membership is awesome cause you don’t pay as much!!
Especially if you are a family, the Qantas Club is well worth the price, as children are allowed entry on your membership. I find the best value for money is for families because of this and of course there are kids areas in most lounges, and snacks to keep them occupied.
You can also use the lounge if you are on Jetstar international flights as well, which we did when we went to Bali and NZ!!
Passports & Travel Docs
When travelling overseas, I keep all our passports and tickets etc in a small clutch-like bag that I can have handy at any time. While you are at the airport you will have to have them out multiple times and you want them to be easy to reach and put away fast.
I also make sure I carry a couple of pens in there as well for when you have to fill out customs and immigration documentation. Nothing more annoying than having to ask for a pen on the plane when these come around!
Another note: Always check you have at least 6 months left on your passport to travel. As well as check the specific guidelines for the country you are travelling too. Do you need to apply for a visa? Are there any travel warnings?
For a country like South Africa, you need to bring your children’s original birth certificates to prove you’re not child smuggling for example. Thanks for that one, Sincerely Mumsy 😉 (it happened to her).
Electronic/Pre-Approved/Fast Track Customs
Customs and immigration can be one of the most annoying parts of travel. I would know because I’ve spent half my holidays in these lines sometimes.
It is well worth checking with the country you are entering if they have any form of pre-approved or fast track programs. This is where travel agents also come in handy sometimes as they are usually aware of these processes.
In the USA, and a few other countries, you can have what’s called a Global Entry card but it’s a huge process to get these and everyone in the whole family needs it, you can’t just travel on the parent’s alone. But if you’re travelling A LOT then it more than makes up for it as US customs lines are HUGE.
In Bali, our villa manager actually arranged a VIP entry/exit. So when we arrived off the plane, a gentleman was waiting with my name right outside the plane (no one else had this, everyone else was waiting outside the airport with signs). We were then taken to a different customs entry for nationals and diplomats (no one was in this line lol) and got through within 5 minutes. From gate to leaving the airport was 15 minutes and that was only because we had to wait for the bags to start unloading!
It is well worth investigating if there is a way to speed up your time in customs and immigration, especially with a family.
Keeping Them Occupied
I’m not going to lie, kids get bored AF on the plane, regardless of how long the flight is. But after a few times, I think they get much more used to it and aware that they are on a plane and they cannot really go anywhere.
Depending on whom you fly with will also determine how hard it’s going to be, so always check a few things before you fly. For example, your more premium airlines have wifi available for free on their flights. This means things like Netflix and Foxtel are going to be at your fingertips. They likely also have free in-flight entertainment ion the back of the seats.
Your more budget airlines are pay-as-you-go type systems and while they might have in-flight entertainment, you’re going to have to pay out the arse for it. Jetstar is around $10 per seat, and that’s not including new release movies, they are extra!
It is worth filling up your devices with offline movies and tv shows before you go. You can do this with almost all streaming services.
I also have a little travel backpack that I bring that includes most of the following:
- Colouring books/activity books
- Pencil case with crayons and pencils (no textas with lids)
- Toys (Nothing with lots of little bits tho)
- Snacks (Never take sultanas, just don’t do it to yourself)
I tend to avoid things with lots of little bits and bobs as they go EVERYWHERE. Hence why I don’t bring textas because all the lids go missing and it’s just annoying lol.
Take Nappy Bags
One of the worst parts of the long plane rides with kids is the inevitable mess that comes. Food wrappers, wipes, empty containers and drinks, crumbs EVERYWHERE!!
If you carry a few spare nappy bags then you can have your own little big bags and keep the mess at bay. Even on a 5 hour trip to Bali, I think I filled three of these.
Trust me, this will just make your trip a lot more manageable and clean space = clean head.
Prepare For Jetlag
If you’re on a long haul flight, and well out of your timezone, then have a plan for jetlag.
When we went to America, I made sure we had 2-3 days in Palm Springs to just RELAX and minimal plans. This means if we had to sleep then we could.
It also meant we watched Blues Clues at 3 am a few mornings in a row but at least we didn’t have the pressure to have to be anywhere or do anything.
Be kind to your selves and just take it easy for a few days to settle in and get the kids sorted.
When you have just come off a long arse flight with kids, your brain will be struggling to function – this is a given!!
Having all your transport at least from the airport to your accommodation will save you big time! Organise the hotel shuttle, book a driver or have a car hired 🙂
If you have little kids, bringing a travel stroller is a great idea, but if you have a big pram then I advise against as it will just be a nightmare to carry around!
I hope that answers a lot of the questions I’ve had of late but if you’d like to ask anything more don hesitate to DM me over on Instagram.
Also be sure to check out our blog on travelling to the USA with kids.