Flying internationally with kids. It requires a lot of thinking, and planning. But it can be stress free (for the most part). I have covered what I never travel without; and now in collaboration with Travel Start, here are some tips on flying with kids.
1) Documentation - passports, invitation letters, proof of accommodation, affidavits, visas
- I make sure all the passports are together in a travel wallet or pouch. This way they are easily accessible or at least easy to find. Do make sure that your passports are all valid for at least 6 months after travel and that you have enough pages left for entry / exit stamps. I also travel with certified copies of all of our passports.
- Often times, countries require invitation letters from friends or family that you will be staying with. While they are not always needed when checking in or at customs, always have a copy of the letter on you.
- Hotels will always send you a booking confirmation, whether you have booked this yourself or through a travel agent. Be sure to have a copy of this to present at customs. It will also help to have the address on hand if you are catching a taxi or uber.
- I travel solo with my kids a lot so I always need a letter from my husband stating that I am allowed to travel with the kids. This letter needs to be certified, have his details on it as well as mine and the kids, plus I include a certified copy of his passport, just to be extra cautious.
- It's great when your visas are included in your passport - this way I know where they are, and I don't worry about losing them. However, some destinations send you your visas electronically which means you do need to have a printout of this.
Need a visa to Dubai? http://www.travelstart.co.za/blog/dubai-visa-application-for-south-africans/
2) Toddler Safety Harness
I know that some parents do not like these, but I think they are the best invention for moving through airports. My kids still have the freedom to stretch their legs while we are moving between terminals, but I can have a hold on them. There are really cute ones that look like backpacks. I recommend doing a practice run at home so they are used to wearing it before you travel.
3) Arrive early
Starting your journey feeling rushed and frazzled is not a good feeling; especially when you are traveling with kids. Rather get to the airport at least 2-3 hours before your flight leaves (International flights require this anyway) so that you can check in comfortably, clear customs and let the kids stretch their legs before boarding. It may also be a busy airport or one that has trains / busses to catch to get from one side to the other. Take this into consideration.
4) Research and plan - airlines and seats
TravelStart has a great list of Child-Friendly Airlines. These provide kid friendly in-flight meals, travel packs for the older kids (coloring in pads and pens, games / toys, blankets etc). Etihad Airways even offers a Flying Nanny! If you are traveling with an 'infant' there are bassinets at the bulkhead seats which are available for you to use. If you don't require the bassinet, pre-booking seats ensures that you know where you will be seated and also that you are seated together with your husband or partner so that both, or one of you, can keep an eye on the kids.
If you travel solo with kids, remember that the air hostesses are able to help you. Don't feel ashamed to ask them to keep an eye on your sleeping tots while you stretch your legs or use the restroom. (I make a point of also making 'friends' with the passengers around me. Keep a lookout for other parents, elderly couples, who would be willing to also keep an eye on them for you.) But, kids are busy, and can be noisy and most passengers understand this.
Looking for cheap flight to and from Cape Town International Airport? https://www.travelstart.co.za/lp/airports/cheap-flights-cape-town-international-airport
5) Don't fly with unnecessary baggage
It might sound simple enough, but when you are packing, leave the big books that your 3 year old has to read and don't pack in the 5 extra pairs of shoes in case (I'm mainly speaking to myself here). I have discovered great links on Pinterest for what to pack when traveling with kids. But this doesn't only apply to checked in luggage. Remember, you will have to lug a lot of Carry-On with kids, your bag, their bags (eventually), strollers, etc. Pack light and clever
6) Have fun
While flying with kids can be a little overwhelming, remember to have fun and try relax. This is where your holiday begins!
Here are some extra tips from TravelStart for Flying with Children