The Mum Network

Guest Post: Naomi Higgins – How to Survive when: Travelling. On a Plane. With lots of Kids.


I watched “I don’t know how she does it” with SJP the other week on DVD. While I was highly disappointed with the lack of true entertainment from the movie, it has got me thinking about my secrets to managing my household. As a mother of 4 kids under 4, a travelling and work-a-holic husband and not a lot of family support…here’s how I do it!

Number 1: How to travel long haul with 3 kids on your own and survive the experience.

Our life has resulted us living in both the UK and USA for extended periods of time. As a result, there have been occasions where I have had to come back to Sydney with the kids, on my own, as my husband wasn’t able to travel at the same time due to work reasons.

When ever I have mentioned a trip to friends, they look at me like I belong in a freak show and then follow with “I don’t know how you do it”.

Long haul travel scares me less than long car trips with little kids. At least on a long haul flight you can get up and move around and someone else is driving (the plane).

Successful long haul flying comes down to intricate planning of the whole door to door journey….not just of the flight itself. Think about how you are going to get your bags off the carousel with twin 3.5yr old girls running around and an overtired 18 month old losing the plot. Think about what happens if a flight is delayed and you have an infant (or two), who still needs formula (or needs to be breastfed).

This is what my planning and execution entails:-

  1. Choose the airline and flight times carefully. I opt for Qantas flights as I have found them to be great with the kids, and I have access to the lounges. I always try and find a long haul flight where the departure time is late in the afternoon or in the evening so I know there is a period of kid sleep expected.
  2. Call ahead and request seating. Whether you have infants that can fit into bassinets or toddlers that like to move…think about your positioning to bathrooms or the galley. I opt for the galley as I like to have access to the kitchen to get rid of food/trays or heat bottles.
  3. Call the airline ahead and request “special assistance” from the checking desk to the air craft doors and at the other end. Yes…it really does exist and put on your stern mummy hat and ensure its there for you when you arrive at the airport. Remind the check in clerk that you need it at the other end. This is vital for getting overtired kids through customs and luggage off carousel’s.
  4. Plan the airport time. Don’t be at the airport too early and run out of patience with the kids before you board. But don’t leave it too late and stress yourself. Allow some kid hypo running time, along with small snack/potty breaks. If you have a baby, ensure baby is awake pre board or has a cat nap only pre flight e.g. in taxi on route to airport.
  5. Have small amount of easily accessible treats to engage little people to not run away while you await the boarding of your flight. No different to having small puppy and a pocket full of little puppy snacks. I choose jelly belly beans.
  6. Board aircraft early and get set up. This is really important. Make sure you have quick access to things like pacifiers, bottles, wipes, treats. A book or two, one loved toy and one distraction toy (playdoh, wind up toy). Once on board, you know that every minute that goes by is a minute left on your journey. It will end. You will make it. They cannot get off.
  7. Don’t expect to do anything for the duration of the flight but be on guard for the kids. You won’t sleep. You probably won’t eat or drink much either. I’d almost suggest you refuse all your meals and just have muesli bars or fruit so you never have to worry about them knocking over your tray/drinks etc.
  8. Pack and individually wrap small gifts to whip out through the flight. For example, wrap up a card game, sticker book, tiny playdoh container…little things that act as a surprise to reward good behavior and distract if they can’t sit and watch TV.
  9. Assuming you have been successful in obtain a night flight, they will eventually fall asleep. There are some great homeopathic options available which help calm them down. Try and keep to usual bed times (plus an hour or two), read a book, and tell them its now time for rest. I opt for arm rests to be raised and encourage kids to lie in any way possible to shut their eyes. Much easier with an infant who you can put in the bassinet. Take a light wrap to put partially over the bassinet so people don’t constantly gaze down at sleeping or nearly sleeping baby.
  10. Pre order kid/infant meals (they won’t have them unless ordered ahead). And then ensure snacks in case nothing is edible!
  11. Pack one change of clothes per child under 5yrs. Spillage is inevitable.
  12. Ensure there is someone to meet you at the other end to help you from airport to final destination. For example, family if returning home or pre booked transfer car (private preferred).
  13. First thing to do when arrive at destination…EVERYONE gets in the shower! Trust me… it before anything else and then worry about the rest of the day with clean bodies.
  14. Don’t be afraid at any time, to ask for help from strangers. As a mother, we possess good gut instinct, and I think you can suss out reliable helpers in a crowd if needed. And ensure you make the hostesses work a bit. Its their job to ensure the passengers are ok after all!

And…Good Luck!


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