Being able to travel internationally as a family is a great thing and it is something that miles and points make more cost-effective all the way around. But, the process of getting to your destination with children can be difficult sometimes! We have done it with our children several times (at all age points from newborn to 7 years old) and here are some tips that we have picked up that can make international travel with children easier!
5 Tips To Make International Travel With Children Easier
In no particular order, here are our 5 tips – please leave your tips below in the comments as well!
1. Buy Headphones
Yes, airlines give headphones/earphones out to customers but those are not normally that good (in economy). Not only that, but they are really not meant for children-sized heads or ears. So, buying headphones that will fit your child(ren) is a great way to help them to pass the time aboard the plane (whether it be watching the in-flight entertainment, listening to music, or even just to keep some noise out). Not only that, but this is not just for the airplane and done – obviously, you will get great use out of the headphones going forward.
The ones that our children use (we have older ones for some of them but they are similar as well) are the Connectland Stereo Headsets. They can be bought on Amazon for between $12-14 and come in different colors. They are perfectly sized for children and they offer good sound. If you have a younger child (like 3 and under), these headphones work great for our little guy and have nice characters on them as well. 🙂 They are currently priced at $19 – Thomas and Friends Kid Safe Headphones.
2. Bring Cups With Lids
One of the things you really do not want to do on the plane is to be changing clothes because they spilled their drinks! Flight attendants are only too happy to pour your child’s drink into his/her cup w/a lid as they don’t want that spill to happen either!
Really, any cup with a lid will work and, again, it will be good for anytime and not just on the airplane. The cups we recently got our kids are actually perfect for air travel because you can pack a snack in the top of the cup while you use the cup itself (and straw) for the drinking!
The cups our kids have are called Snackeez and are 16oz cups that do not spill. They are perfect to fill with snacks and a drink and your kids are set. Our kids love them! They are widely available in various colors (at Target, Walmart, Walgreens, Amazon) for right around $9 each.
3. Get Out Of The Airport
If you have a long layover, especially if it is on the domestic side before boarding the long-haul flight, it is good to get out of the airport for a little while! While airports are doing better installing kid-friendly play areas inside, if you have a 6 hour layover (hopefully you don’t!), that can get old fast.
If you are headed out on an overnight flight, getting the kids to expend some energy can be huge. Consider checking into renting a car for a few hours (it counts as a day but still may be cheap enough) and head to a nearby park or open area to let them run around and play. We have done this and this makes a big difference in helping them to sleep on the plane! Just make sure you leave plenty of time to return the car and get to your gate!
Another option is to get an airport hotel for a while. A lot of airport hotels offer day rates (which most do not let you use points for) or you can just book for the night if you are getting there around noon and leaving several hours later (so you wouldn’t actually spend the night). If it is in the airport, you do not have to fear traffic plus it can help to have to take those longer walks to get to the airport. Once in the room, the kids can play or things like baths, showers, etc. can help get them a bit worn out – and clean for the trip!
Or if the hotel requires a shuttle ride, that should put you far enough out of the airport that you can take a walk or run on the sidewalks/roads with the kids to also get them tired out. Not only that, but there may be cool views of the runways and they could do some plane-spotting!
4. Check Your Seats – Again!
If you are trying to pick the perfect flight, especially award flights, chances are good that you are booking early. If you do that, it can be quite easy to pick seats that put your family altogether. But, don’t assume that just because you already selected your seats that you are set! There are times that there are aircraft changes or schedule changes or just changes that cause the airline’s system to reboot many seat assignments. If you wait until the time of check-in, you may find that you are no longer sitting together and the plane is full! Yes, this happened to us and yes, it took a lot of work to try to get seated together (but the plus with this is that most people do not want to sit near a little child without a parent nearby!).
Just make it a habit to check your seats every so often which only involves logging into the reservation and looking at the details. If you do find that a switch has occurred and seats are at a minimum, call the airline and talk to them. They often can help with this unless it is already under airport control (near departure).
Tip: If you book flights on Turkish Airlines directly through their website, you can select your seats in advance. If you book through a different site or as an award with a partner (like United), you will not be able to select seats until 2 weeks before. At that point, you need to call in. Otherwise, you can do it at check-in.
5. Leave Time
While running with kids can wear them out, having to run through an airport because you are running late is never a good idea with kids! Be sure you leave some time in the schedule and with your arrival at the airport. It is never time wasted since kids love looking at the airplanes and the major airports have a lot to look at anyway. If you travel a lot, the airport charm may be lost on you by now, but for kids, it can always be something new and exciting.
If you are traveling with a lap child, it also pays to leave time in your schedule. Every so often, there are problems with infant tickets and that can take time to get resolved. Having that extra time when you get to the airport allows for problems to be solved before your stress get near peak levels.
Bonus: Pick Your Aircraft
Now, this one may not be as important, depending on your kids’ entertainment options and ages. But, for us, picking the right plane can be a huge difference when it comes to easier travel! For example, getting on certain Air Canada planes with the older in-flight entertainment systems and seats is certainly not as comfortable and attention-keeping as something like United’s 767-400 planes. If you can get on one of those planes, the seats feel better, the screens are better, kid movie selections are better, and the retrofit of the aircraft is easily seen – even in economy.
To find which aircraft seats may work the best, head over to SeatGuru and enter the airline, flight number, and date you are thinking about and check the reviews, pictures, and various seat configurations and recommendations. It can help make a long flight a little easier if you do this!
If you are traveling in business class, absolutely do this! Since there are still some business class cabins with angled seats, they are certainly not preferable to the total lie-flat seat. Believe me – kids (and adults) tend to slide on the angled lie-flat so it would be better to pick an aircraft with a lie-flat seat.
Note: Airlines do change aircraft at times so this is more of a bonus point and something to look for than a definite for us.
I know there are many others, but these are some of the tips that have helped make international travel with children easier for us. Travel with children can be a real joy – the opportunity for them to see new places, to reunited with family, to have a fantastic vacation. Planning ahead can make the transportation part of this more enjoyable, or at least not a complete misery!
What are some of your tips that work with traveling with children?