Flying with kids can be fresh hell

Last updated 08:21 16/07/2013

MINIMISE THE PAIN: Plan ahead when flying with small children.

Related Links

Kid-free zones on planes Avoiding kids in family destinations No kidding on long-haul flights

Relevant offers


Flying the Pacific with Disney's Moana Labour Day weekend getaways Tantrums on a plane: The horror movie you want to avoid City to surf: A family holiday in New South Wales, Australia A guide to a successful school holiday staycation Bloomin' good deals on spring skiing Kiwi family goes trekking in the foothills of the Himalayas Mt Ruapehu re-casts its magic spell Kind passenger comforts stranger's baby during flight so she can rest Dad and his lad off to the foot of Everest to help rebuild Nepal's schools

It was like a scene from The Exorcist. Two-year-old Taj was spinning on his back in the middle of the airport, screaming in tongues.

We'd survived our first overseas flight with a cunning combination of carrots and sticks, but the three-hour queue at customs in Port Vila was too much.

Flying with kids can be fresh hell. You think you've packed enough toys, books, colouring-in, nappies, bottles and Valium*, but you always forget something. Like underwear for yourself. Just me?

Fortunately, I was wearing a mustard-coloured jacket the day I forgot to bring extra nappies. It was The Day Taj's Bum Went Psycho, to paraphrase the title of the Andy Griffiths book.

"What a lovely little boy," a flight attendant exclaimed. "Can I give him a cuddle?"

"No!" I snapped. "He's, I mean, I'm, er, not well, and, ah, I don't want to pass it on to you." Which was kind of true.

I wish I knew Wendy Buckley back then. The boss at Travel with Kidz is blunt: "We recommend not flying long haul with a crawling baby. It's a nightmare."

She says make all requests at the time of booking, including pre-seating the family together, booking bassinet seats, and ordering infant/child meals.

Singapore Airlines is still the best, with four age-appropriate meal categories, smaller headsets, and spare bibs, bottles, baby wipes and nappies on board.

"We serve the kids first, so the adults can enjoy their meals in peace while the little ones are watching a movie," says Bryony Duncan-Smith, the head PR manager for Singapore Airlines.

Air New Zealand's new Skycouch allows two children to sleep together on a mini-bed, and Qantas Club lounges have family zones filled with Lego, PlayStations and iMacs.

Passengers on Virgin Australia - with its award-winning Red entertainment system - will soon be able to stream up to 300 hours of content on their own devices.

Often the difference between a good and bad flight comes down to staff. One friend, a single mum, raves about Qantas for helping her juggle a baby, toddler, pram, car seat and luggage from Sydney to London. "They even got one of those golf carts to take me from the gate to the transit lounge at Singapore airport," she says.

However, last year her seven-year-old became air sick and "the flight attendant couldn't care less".

It's also aircraft-dependent. If you're on an A380, try to book seats in the small area upstairs, but beware: some airlines ban babies from these sought-after sections. Malaysia Airlines was one of the first to declare it a kid-free zone, and on AirAsia X the first seven economy rows are a "quiet zone".

A survey by flight comparison website Skyscanner found nearly 60 per cent of travellers wanted children confined to a families-only section. Which sounds like a zoo. Frankly, kids aren't monkeys.

* I'm kidding. Well, maybe just the once...

What are you tips for keeping kids occupied on on long-haul flights? Leave a comment below.

Ad Feedback

- Sydney Morning Herald


Special offers

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content