Everything you need to know to plan flights with children • Our Globetrotters

Everything You Need to Know to Plan Flights With Children • Our Globetrotters

Traveling by plane with children can be a challenge, but good planning can make the experience much more enjoyable. From selecting the perfect time to fly to reserving the best seats, every detail counts to ensure a comfortable, stress-free trip. Here's a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the essential steps before boarding a plane with your kids.

When to fly with children

Choose your favorite the right time to fly—not only the time of year but also the time of day—can make a long trip with kids a lot easier. Travel during off-peak periods (i.e. outside of school holidays, long weekends, religious events, commuter peak times) and avoiding major hub routes will naturally increase your chances that the flight you book will not be not complete, and you will get the seating arrangements and travel times you want.

Day or night flights?

There is no foolproof solution, but try to book long-haul night flights when children usually fall asleep. This can cause some inconvenience when they are too tired and waiting for takeoff, but as soon as the cabin lights go out and the engine noise starts, you have a better chance of them getting a few hours of sleep. Also see our jet lag tips for long-haul flights.

For infants on shorter flights, I prefer to schedule them for midday nap time. This can cause some disruption when they're trying to fall asleep, but it usually gives me an hour or two of peace where I'm not constantly entertaining, keeping the peace, cleaning hands, or watching the toilet. , and I can focus on my older child.

Travel in one go or make stopovers?

This will depend on your children and their ages, but I always suggest trying to do everything in one go with short stops if necessary. We once made the mistake of taking two overnight flights with a six-hour layover in the middle, thinking that would maximize the kids' sleep. The kids may have slept well at times, but my husband and I didn't sleep a wink. We ended up in a transit hotel in Kuala Lumpur with two hyperactive children insisting on playing while we desperately fought the urge to scream.

We learn from our mistakes. I will always take a direct flight option if it exists, even if it costs more. Otherwise, if you arrange a layover, make it at least 24 hours long so you can leave the airport, get some fresh air, tire the kids out properly, and get some sleep before resuming the trip.

Where to sit on the plane with children?

This is the million dollar question that can make or break your travel experience. There is no single answer, and it will really depend on the age and size of your child(ren) and how many people are traveling together. Here are some points of view to consider.

Using Bulkhead/Bassinet seats with infants

  • If you are traveling as a couple with an infant, always choose the bulkhead/bassinet row. You'll have more legroom and a place to lay your child down while they sleep. As they grow, you may be able to let them play at your feet (although this is against aviation regulations).
  • The main disadvantage of sitting in the bulkhead row with an infant on your lap is that you will still have to hold your child during takeoff, landing and turbulence, which can often wake the baby. It's also quite a bright and noisy area on the plane as people are queuing for the toilets and the flight attendants are busy in the galley. In this case, something like Cosigo Fly Babee bassinet cover could make things easier.
Example of a Fly Babee crib blanket used on an airplane

Seating for older infants – the middle seat trick

  • When traveling with a larger infant who no longer fits in the crib (you can push this to the limit!), or more than one child, I recommend finding a full row closer to the rear of the plane .
  • This can be risky if the child doesn't have their own seat (you can of course pay for one), but a gamble that has often paid off is to reserve the window and aisle seat, or if you sit in the center , both aisle sides with a free seat in between.
  • Airlines tend to fill from front to back, so the further back of the plane you are (but avoiding being above the toilet), the better your chances of your bet paying off and that you get that free seat between you to spread out with the armrests up.
  • If someone is placed in the empty seat, airline staff are normally good enough to try to move them if possible (and the passenger is normally more than willing to comply!)

If you're still unsure about the pros or cons of a particular seat, I highly recommend checking out AeroLOPA for advice by airline and plane type on the best seats.

Persistence and verification can pay off

Don't give up if you can't get the seats you want when booking. Keep calling the airline to check. I always ask a few days before the flight how full it is to try to determine my strategy!

Note that booking an infant ticket does not automatically reserve a cradle seat (we learned the hard way), it must be requested. There may simply not be enough bassinet seats during peak periods (for example, around holidays like Easter and Christmas). If you don't ask for them early enough, airlines may sell them for the extra legroom or give them away to their priority customers. They can also prioritize same-day distribution to the youngest infant on the plane.

If you have pre-booked particular seats online, it is always worth check again a day or two before flying.

I once refused to take my seat on a 12 hour flight until they changed our seats to the cradle row after we had pre-booked and confirmed. Despite checking by phone two days before and having the right to pre-reserve our seats on our ticket, we were not allocated the correct seats upon arrival at the airport; they had given our entire row to customers on the domestic flight that was departing a few hours before we joined the connecting international flight.

If you still haven't received your pre-flight seat choice by phone or online, ask at check-in, plead with the gate staff, and resort to tears with the crew once you're on board— it can really be worth your sanity to have the right seats on these ultra-long-haul flights.

Being a member of the airline's loyalty program can also work in your favor, so we always sign up (for free), even if it's the only flight we'll likely ever take with that airline.

Another point to note when pre-booking seats is that a infant seat only comes with infant food—that is, baby puree, if you're lucky! If your child eats solids, you will need to organize their meal or share yours.

(NB, did you know you can order a child's meal on your adult ticket? They will deliver these special meals first, then when the normal trolley service arrives, just ask if they have an extra main meal - they do almost always have!)

Similarly, reserving a child seat does not automatically guarantee you a child's meal; you must pre-order it from the airline at least 24 hours in advance (some airlines require 48 hours in advance) or risk disappointment.

You can see our article on 10 Theft Mistakes With Toddlers to see how we discovered these points the hard way.

Don't forget to think about alternative seating arrangements

  • When traveling as a couple plus a baby, consider sit separately, especially if the plane is not full and you can move around. This gives one of you a break from both being on duty for the entire flight, as long as you remember to switch places during the flight!
  • In fact, some people even deliberately book their seats separately. Note, however, that the exchange of people between cabins is frowned upon or, on some airlines, strictly prohibited (an infant can only sit in a row equipped with an additional air mask, which may not be available in business class).
  • With more than one child, the separate seating trick can also work really well, depending on the layout of the plane. You can sit with a family member one behind the other, which can help eliminate "kick in the seat" issues (try as hard as you can, all children seem to go through a phase where they can't resist it!)
  • We found that when traveling with toddlers and an infant it was best to have one adult with the infant and the other with the toddlers further away so they didn't disturb the baby who was doing well his efforts to sleep!
  • Are your children old enough to travel alone ? This thought might terrify you now, but I know parents who swear by it! Check with your airline at what age they accept single travelers, but when you feel that your child(ren) are mature enough to remain undisturbed for an entire flight, why not put them in economy class and you offer an upgrade?
  • Some of you are probably horrified, but think about it – the parents are relaxed and ready to start their vacation, and the children feel a huge amount of independence and adventure in an environment where you know they will be looked after by the family. cabin crew.

Is it worth upgrading to Premium Economy class with children?

If you're looking to upgrade your comfort to get more space, note that on most planes, premium economy seats have a screen in the armrest, meaning the armrests don't fold down and you can't spread out across the row, which you may prefer to do as your children get older.

Of course, my ultimate solution is to fly business class every time, but in reality, it's a choice only available to the privileged among us! (But keep racking up those loyalty points!!)

More reading about flying with kids

The best place to start is to check out our homepage about flying with children where we share invaluable tips from our 10+ years of traveling with kids. Then head to:

  • Getting to your flight – prepare for flight day, navigate the airport and board
  • Entertain the children on board – best tips for getting through your flight, best travel toys and dealing with in-flight crises and delays
  • If you are a first-time parent, you will also find our guide to flying with a baby useful for more of those quirks you might not have thought of, from ticketing an unnamed child to using loyalty points.

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