Flying with your child: a strategy for packing and en route

I present to your attention a guest post on a burning topic «travel with children» from Svetlana Nekrasova. Recently, we also had a similar article about traveling by car with a child, Well, in this case, personal experience is associated with air travel. Hope this information is useful to someone..

Our relatives think that we are a little crazy, our friends are adventurers, but in reality we are a happy young family who once left a provincial town to get to know better first Moscow, and then the whole world. We periodically move from one place to another and, what is especially surprising in the environment, our most active movements began with the birth of our daughter.

Flying with a child

She is now 2 years 5 months old. Here are our longest travels so far:

Moscow (where she was born) - Far East (daughter is 6 months old, 6 days in a regular train compartment)
Far East - Moscow (daughter is 9 months old, 8 hours by plane)
Minsk - Far East (daughter is one and a half years old, flight with one change, in the amount of 1.5 days on the road)
Far East - Thailand (daughter 1 year 10 months, flight with two transfers, more than two days on the road)
Thailand - Far East (daughter 2 years 2 months, flight with two transfers, about two days on the road)

We had different crossings. We either completely vacated the house and left for a long time, or collected only the most necessary things, and the rest of the things were just waiting for us in the apartment..

We went for the first time when my daughter was six months old. Six days in the train compartment gave a lot of impressions, experience and confidence that now we can handle any journey.

A walk while the train is parked, my daughter is six months old

A walk while the train is parked, my daughter is six months old

Snack on the top bunk of the compartment

Snack on the top bunk of the compartment

Only once did we have a strong climatic contrast - from winter to summer. There is a difference of three days between these photos, and the temperature difference is 55 degrees (from -25 to +30).

Winter in the Russian Far East

Winter in the Russian Far East

Winter in Thailand, about. Phuket

Winter in Thailand, about. Phuket

We are no longer afraid of long trips with a child. I believe that this is largely due to the right attitude and confidence that everything will go well. Of course, we always turn on our heads and think over everything in advance to make the road more comfortable. Over time, our family principles of travel have developed, which make each next move even more comfortable..

  • The main principle of our travels is to organize travel so that the child is interested on the road with a minimum set of toys..
  • Each trip is a gaze into the world, knowledge of its new facets. When we ourselves are interested on the road, then the child does not get bored..
  • In addition to entertainment, there is another important point - this is the observance of the regime and its adjustment. We take seriously the issue of choosing flights and drawing up logistics of movements. So for long flights we prefer night flights, with a long transfer (15-20 hours) we check into a hotel, and at the airport we always find the opportunity to wash and even wash the child if necessary.
  • And there are also important principles regarding things and products that we take with us: clothes - tested, toys - interesting, food - favorite.

And now I’ll tell you more about how our travel preparations go and what allows us to make each flight comfortable and interesting for the whole family, including the child..

The content of the article

Collection strategy

Regarding the fees, you can of course give a simple advice - travel light, and then the fees will also be easy. However, it is much more difficult to implement such advice in practice, especially if you have a child and a long trip..

We traveled with a wide variety of luggage, from ten bags to two backpacks. The first trips were exhausting - the child was still very young and we had little experience. They collected a lot of things and hardly placed their luggage. Our hands were not enough to carry everything at once, they were worn in batches.

After each regular trip, the husband said, next time we will at least halve the number of things. The next time came, and we could barely fit into eight bags instead of ten. So, empirically, we developed our own collection strategy. We went to our wintering in Thailand this year with two regular backpacks (school-sized) and a small bag. Everyone was happy!

So, our fundraising strategy:

1. Lists.
Based on the goals and duration of the trip, a list of things for the trip is compiled. Since there are three of us now, there are also three such lists..

2. Joint discussion.
We discuss in advance with my husband what is important to take with us. We discuss controversial issues. For example, whether to take a blender or not, take a tripod or not, what kind of clothes will come in handy and in what quantity. Even at this stage, the husband tells us what weight restrictions we have (depending on the airline) and what bags we take (we have a choice of suitcase and backpacks of different sizes and bags). We also exchange recommendations of traveling bloggers, whose sites we browse at the stage of preparation for the trip.

3. Primary collection.
In advance (five days in advance), everyone looks through their belongings and determines for themselves what they will take on the road. If you can do without these things before leaving, then immediately put them in your bag. If the thing is still in use (of course, there are most of them), then we simply separate it from the rest of the things (in a separate drawer of the chest of drawers, or in a bag, or in convenient stationery folders with a button).

This is how the primary collection of things takes place, an understanding of the volumes of the desired appears. Often, during the initial collection, we put aside more things than we actually take. During subsequent revisions, the excess will be left, but it will be much easier to decide what will go and what will not..

The primary viewing of things happens for everyone in their own mode. When I have 20 minutes to spare, I open my closet and put my travel clothes on a separate shelf. Then, when time reappears, I go to the shelf and select a few books that I want to take with me. When another 10 minutes appears, I put everything I need in a cosmetic bag. It turns out that everything remains in place, I continue to use a lot, but there is some structuredness of things and the isolation of those that I want to take.

4. Basic fees.
The main fees are due the day before the trip, preferably in the absence of the child. Most often I go for a walk with my daughter, and my husband is going. The main task is to roughly put all things in bags / backpacks / suitcases and make sure that everything fits. At the same stage, it becomes clear whether it is still necessary to reduce the number of things on the road. Most often you need))) Especially for children)))

At the same stage, a checklist is drawn up. It differs from the list of things for the trip in that opposite each name there is a square for a check «put» and the checklist is drawn up in as much detail as possible, recording each unit. So, we do not write «wires», and we prescribe each wire in separate paragraphs: charging for the phone, charging for the camera, USB-wire for the camera, and so on.

Each family member has his own checklist for collecting things

Each family member has his own checklist for collecting things

5. Final fees.
They pass the day before. Almost always together. The daughter usually sleeps at this time. Most of the things my husband gathers in silence (it is better not to disturb). Firstly, complete concentration helps not to forget anything and at least approximately remember what is where, if you need to get it. Second, things get together faster without distraction. Thirdly, my husband has a talent for packing. He has more space in one backpack than I can pack in two. At this stage, all things are added up according to checklists. We no longer think whether we have taken everything or not - all this has already been thought out a hundred times at the previous stages. The task is to add things that are recorded in the checklist.

6. Collection of products.
Last but not least, a bag of food is collected. Most of the pre-cooked food is eaten within the first 24 hours, so this is a temporary luggage..

This is how our usual travel preparations go. There were, of course, more spontaneous ones, when they gathered in chaos and haste when moving from Moscow to Minsk, there were very light gatherings when they flew to Thailand and almost did not take clothes with them..

Depending on the upcoming trip, preparation can be more thorough or, on the contrary, relaxed. But in general, the above-described collection strategy always allowed us to get ready at the optimal time and without nervous breakdowns, even when our daughter required increased attention or slept less than usual..

I will dwell a little more on the features of collecting children's things..

Yes, it is this category of things that turns out to be the largest and most important. The unpredictability of the climate, the temperature at the airport, plane, hotel requires a set of different things. Plus, you always take more, because children are so unpredictable, and a T-shirt soaked in juice and wet pants need to be replaced.

When collecting children's things, it is important not to invent anything, but to take what the child wears regularly now. As a rule, these are the most comfortable things for the child. There were cases when, during the gathering, I found among my things never worn dresses or pants and decided to take them with me. Almost always, these things remained unclaimed, as their shortcomings were revealed along the way (the dress was large, and the pants were narrow and uncomfortable). Now on the road I try not to experiment, but take proven things..

An important point, which many do not attach due importance to, is to take a few children's things that will allow a completely new place for a child to give the feeling of a familiar home. We always take with us our daughter's favorite diaper (we use it as a blanket), her pillow, her plate and mug, and several toys. She is very happy about these things. They become for her a connecting thread between the past and the present..

I'll tell you about toys as a separate item..

What toys to take on the road?

The right toys for the road make getting there even more enjoyable. We divide them into three groups:

1. Favorite toys, from those that are at home. We hide such toys two weeks before the trip, and then they are perceived with special delight by the child. Of course, we take toys that are easy to transport. We leave everything fragile and poorly washed at home.

2. New toys - purchased or handmade. New toys can captivate a child for a long time, not only on the road, but also later, during the period of adaptation to a new place. I sew felt toys. They are very lightweight and compact. It should be borne in mind that it takes time to find interesting new toys in stores and prepare your own. I am puzzled by this question usually in two weeks.

Finger animals made of felt

Finger animals made of felt

3. Not toy entertainment. This includes a notebook for drawing, pencils, stickers (story books, just stickers and a sketchbook), children's books (preferably in thin binding and paper cover)

I also buy all this in advance. I just look at the products in different situations and find the format I need or an interesting idea. I know my daughter's preferences in toys well and follow them. I'd rather buy another typewriter with which she plays well than a doll, in the hope that she, as a girl, will show interest in her.

Be sure to take motor toys: cars, animals on wheels and stuff like that. With them, you can come up with many games without even leaving the seats in the waiting room..

We put some of the toys in a bag, which we check in as luggage. That is, there will be no access to these toys on the road. We put some of the toys in a backpack, which remains with us as carry-on luggage and access to the toys is easy. And we put a few more toys (the smallest) in our pockets (both me and my husband). These toys are very helpful when it is inconvenient to climb into a backpack. For example, in a taxi, while getting to the airport or during check-in.

I remember a funny case when, when passing through customs, my husband was touched and asked to show what was in the outer pocket of his shirt (something bulging and hard). You should have seen the face of the customs officer and the smiles of those around you when my husband took out a little goose from his pocket - daughter's favorite toy at that time.

What food to take with you?

For ourselves (adults), we take products that are easy to transport. I don't really worry about our food. I know we can always buy ourselves something if we want. And we can endure and spend a few days on sandwiches, if there are no other options.

It won't work like that with a child, so a different principle works for the child - take your favorite food, even if it is not very convenient to transport.

So, I often take oatmeal with me. I cook it before the most expensive one and pour it hot into a pre-prepared container (the most common food container). I offer my daughter still warm porridge at the first meal. Yes, it is somewhat inconvenient to transport, there is a chance that it will spill (it never happened, the main thing is to pack it correctly), it is not always convenient to eat it in field conditions, but it is nourishing, not dry food and my daughter loves her. I cook a little more than my daughter usually eats, so the head of the family also eats.

For other products I use sachets. Food bags are our last trip hack. In Thailand they got so used to them that now we continue to use them. I now distribute all the food on the road in portions into sachets. For example, I take cookies not in one package of 0.5 kg, but in four packages of 5-6 cookies. For one meal, just a bag is enough, and I throw it away with the crumbs. You can safely give such a bag to your child. It is convenient to hold and there is not a lot of contents (in case of falling and spilling, it is not a pity to throw it away and it is easy to collect).

If, for example, I boil eggs, then I put each egg in a separate bag. Then it is easy to clean without even taking it out of the bag and after eating the bag for disposal. Much less garbage and more convenience.

I do the same with horns, sausages and sandwiches. I used to cook chicken drumsticks and put them in bags. The principle is simple: take out a bag, eat it, throw it away.

We are reluctant to take fruits and vegetables on the road. Firstly, they are heavy, and in order to fill them up, you need to eat a lot. Secondly, they are not always convenient to transport and eat (bananas are crumpled, oranges and mangoes are filled with juice and the peel is inconvenient to peel, and so on). Thirdly, many fruits cause increased bowel function, which can cause additional inconvenience..

We still don't take anything fermented milk on the road.

I think over the menu for the trip in advance and for 4-5 days before the trip I exclude these products from our diet (especially from the child's menu), otherwise we risk finding out on the road that the food carefully prepared by my mother is already tired. Persuading and persuading in such cases does not work..

We had a moment when I was so carried away by the last days in Asia (we then lived in Chiang Mai) that I forgot to adjust our diet. We found delicious sausages in dough in the supermarket and enjoyed snacking on them, saving time on cooking. On the way (which lasted about two days), the daughter said that she had eaten sausages and completely refused them. And I relied on them !!! In general, my daughter ate bit by bit on a bun and a chocolate bar. By the end of the trip, she was so hungry that she ate noodles with soy sauce with great gusto at a Chinese cafe in Beijing, where we had another transplant..

First experience with chopsticks (Hong Kong airport)

First experience with chopsticks (Hong Kong airport)

We eat hot food after a day of dry food (Beijing)

We eat hot food after a day of dry food (Beijing)

The tastes of all children are different, in the matter of food it is worth focusing exclusively on the preferences of the child. I try to take products that have been cooked / cooked at home (for example, bake pancakes or boil dumplings), and you can buy cookies / chocolates on the road.

We also always take disposable spoons, a thin towel and water in small bottles with us. With small bottles at the inspection, they are most often allowed to pass without problems (we explain that for a child), but with large 1.5 liter bottles they will definitely not be allowed in. By the way, at the customs control in Beijing (the strictest and most thorough control during the entire flight), they did not even allow a small bottle to be carried.

What things will come in handy during the flight?

We always have a clear distinction between luggage and hand luggage - this is logical. Carry-on luggage is also subdivided: one backpack - laptops, appliances / electronics and documents, the second backpack - things for the trip.

When we flew from Thailand, there were jeans, sneakers, sweaters, which were already worn at the airport before landing (it is often cool on planes). There are also spare things for the child for changing clothes and warming, if necessary, and all sorts of useful things, such as toilet paper and wet wipes. Be sure to put cars closer - these are our universal toys in any situation - and a book. We also carry a pot with us. It's comfortable. We use it either in the waiting room, if the toilet is far away, or in the toilet itself.

Our belongings when flying from Phuket to Chiang Mai, Thailand

Our belongings when flying from Phuket to Chiang Mai, Thailand

Travel strategy

Thinking over the trip and fees is certainly a laborious process, but it is worth it to devote enough time and effort to it. If, at the preparation stage, all things are correctly folded, the products are hermetically sealed and all the necessary documents are gathered together, then the process of picking up becomes at least twice as simple and comfortable.

Another important point that greatly simplifies road troubles is compliance with the rules. First of all, this concerns the permissible baggage allowance. We have had the experience of overpaying for an advantage. These are unnecessary nerves and unreasonably large sums. We'd rather leave some of the things, and put on the heaviest of clothes on ourselves, than hope at random.

We spent more time at the airports during the entire flight than on the plane itself. Without a doubt, the comfort of waiting largely depends on the airport itself: the work of the staff and the interior arrangement. But the internal readiness to resolve current situations and a long wait is also important..

What to expect for parents with a child at the airport?

1. Lots of people and huge airport halls.

The major foreign airports that we have visited (Beijing, Hong Kong, Bangkok) are such giants that only one appearance took my breath away. Inside, they turned out to be even larger - a real city in miniature. If you move around in a relaxed manner, the plane will definitely fly away, while you figure out what's what.

Interaction as a single team and self-discipline help us save time and effort when flying from major airports. So, when we enter the airport, my daughter and I are left with our luggage, and my husband does a reconnaissance of the area (10-15 minutes). During this time, he finds out where the check-in counters are, finds our flight on the departure board and makes sure that there is no delay, and everything goes according to schedule, finds scales to check the baggage for packing and packing for bags (if necessary). In passing, he determines where there are toilets and other objects of interest to us. It is much more convenient and faster than wandering around the airport with the whole family..

On the way, at the stage of registration and customs control (and other official procedures), we share areas of responsibility. The husband's task is to lead us where we need to, tell us what to do, resolve all issues with the staff and control the documents. I am fully and completely responsible for the safety of the child and satisfy her interest in learning about the world. That is why I don’t ask my husband unnecessary questions, I don’t control his actions and completely throw all organizational issues out of my head. It allows me to focus on myself, on the child and keep inner peace..

2. High loyalty of staff to families with a child.

When traveling abroad, I enjoy the attention that families with children receive at airports. They pass us out of line, check in without a reminder to the most convenient seats in the cabin, offer additional food on the plane, we are the first to be launched on the plane together with the VIP passengers. During searches, my child and I are passed by the frame. The staff smiles and tries to help.

We passed the most thorough search in Beijing. They asked me to open every second bag, they didn't let me bring in water even in a small bottle, for the first time they examined me personally, probed my clothes. But even then they did not wake up my daughter, who was sleeping in my arms..

3. The need to interest the child every minute in what is happening in order to avoid whims and boredom.

Some of the time toys taken with them can easily cope with this task. When they are diverse, it is easy for the child to offer both active games and calm.

How and what we play along the way.

In queues for registration and when going through customs, books and albums with stickers are rescued. I like educational books where stickers are needed to complete assignments. That is, the child does not just receive a sheet with stickers in his hands, but a whole book with thematic pictures and tasks. On the last trip my daughter had a successful book with reusable stickers based on fairy tales.

The book with stickers upon arrival in Thailand was popular with my daughter for a long time.

The book with stickers upon arrival in Thailand was popular with my daughter for a long time.

In the waiting room, my favorite game is with toy cars. On the road with us are two miniature dump trucks that can roll off their seats, ride a race, overcome obstacles and carry someone.

In the seat of the plane (especially during takeoff and landing, when it is important for the child to sit in his arms or be fastened in his seat) - books with nursery rhymes and stickers. We also look at all the booklets for passengers with interest..

Daughter is studying the evacuation plan

Daughter is studying the evacuation plan

During the flight, we play with finger toys, draw in a notebook and come up with games with some soft animal.

Just once at the Bangkok airport (Don Muang Airport), while waiting, we found a children's play corner. This is of course a fairy tale! One and a half hours of time flew by very quickly and imperceptibly. But it was only once.

Children's corner at Don Muang Airport (Bangkok)

Children's corner at Don Muang Airport (Bangkok)

When toys get bored or the situation does not imply games at the moment, then I am interested in what the situation offers.

So, in addition to toys at the airport, a child can be entertained:

  • the study of patterned carpet (or any other floor covering): we step on the lines, step over or jump over them, stomp on the squares, and so on
  • rolling a cart with things
  • screens with cartoons
  • planes taking off outside the window
  • stomping on the steps
  • escalators
  • portable stands near the gates (pass under them, move them). The principle works here: «you can, until you say otherwise»
  • warm your hands under the dryer in the toilet (hit of the season!)
  • count the seats in the waiting room.
Waiting for the flight

Waiting for the flight

A popular way to captivate a child is to play cartoons on his tablet or laptop, but we don't use it. I can show pictures on my phone - my daughter likes to look at them, and cartoons only tire her even more. It seems to be looking with interest, but after that it suddenly becomes capricious and even whiny. So for now we can do without them.

While getting there, we easily agree to ice cream and other sweets. A portion of ice cream, which is eaten with a little spoon, can seat the child for 20 minutes. An excellent opportunity for the whole family to take a break..

Also, my husband and I are changing. For example, first he walks with his daughter in the waiting room, and the next time when his daughter pulls her hand and speaks «let's go there» - I'll take a walk with her.

Two days on the road: how not to go crazy?

Long flights require more preparation and strength, but even here everything can be solved. Traveling in Asia, we were faced with the fact that flights with one and two connections were the only ones that were suitable for our cost. Direct flights (not charters) were unrealistically expensive at the time of purchase. As a result, several times we found ourselves on the road for two days in a row. All this time it was necessary to provide the child with at least some kind of regimen, food, hygiene and entertainment..

All at once: I feed and read a fairy tale while my daughter sits on the pot

All at once: I feed and read a fairy tale while my daughter sits on the pot

Regime - they listened more to the child and adjusted to him. We took into account the change of time zones and helped the child to smoothly rebuild. Sometimes there were two daytime naps instead of one, sometimes later going to bed at night. Somewhere they deliberately delayed the next dream or, on the contrary, woke up early. It is important here to turn off habitual stereotypes and act according to the situation..

Nutrition - each time faced with a decrease in appetite. This is normal, so they were not forced to eat, they listened to her wishes. On the road, we allow more of the usual sweets, from which the child takes enough energy for himself. So, my daughter's favorite treat is ice cream..

Hygiene - to retire to comfortably change clothes and rinse the child was the opportunity in the room of the mother and child (at the Hong Kong airport, for example) or in a regular toilet. So, for example, in Thailand, there were clean toilets at all airports, and I never had any disgust. Wet wipes help out anytime, anywhere, but without paranoia. Frequent washing helps to moisturize the face, eyes and nose, as the air is often dry with conditioners and confined spaces.

Entertainment - we compose a lot, invent and support the child's endeavors with a desire.

What to do if the flight is night?

It requires accepting the situation and solving problems as they arise. Often our worries are not justified, and long night flights are much calmer than small flights..

I love night flights. I remember that I was very worried about the eight-hour flight with my one and a half year old daughter. So, she fell asleep as soon as we got on the plane in Moscow, and woke up when we landed in Khabarovsk, having slept for about eight hours in total. At the same time, we were fed twice. My daughter slept in our arms (there was no place for her yet, and the plane was full) and woke up only twice, during which we helped her change her position and she fell asleep again.

Parental behavior during travel that saves energy and nerves

We do not force the child to sit quietly next to us all the time, we give him freedom of expression. Thoughts slipped through at first «Is it possible so?», «And what will the people around you think», but we quickly got over this and formed our own view of what is possible and what is not.

What difference does it make what people think? If the child is good - he plays, learns the world, and if he does not spoil property, does not go beyond the permissible limits, then we give the opportunity to play as she wants. At the same time, we stay close, do not let the game take its course, but we also don’t drag her away every time she comes up with a new harmless activity in front of everyone..

Once, when checking in for a flight, we had to stand in line for more than an hour (instead of the usual 10-15 minutes) due to the fact that the person in front of us had difficulties. It was a long, boring wait. So our daughter just lay down on the floor (clean, soft carpet) and looked at a book with stickers. Then she got tired of it, and we ran a race in an empty corridor, and then, sitting on the floor, she ate a sandwich. Boundaries are only in our heads, and often it is they that do not allow us to relax, but force all the burden to pull on our little children, who do not yet have such boundaries. They are independent and learn the world with interest..

And another time, during a tiresome transfer in Moscow, my daughter climbed under the seats in the waiting room on her knees and rolled cars. Yes, the floor was a little cold and dirty, but the child was able to switch to play, distract himself, and not whine from boredom. Moreover, dad crawled next to her and they had a great time together. Then they washed their hands, changed their pants and safely waited for such a desired landing on the plane..

Let the child crawl on the floor, eat with crumbs, speak loudly, and do other things that are uncomfortable for adults. We try to react calmly to this. After all, you can collect the crumbs, wash your hands, and if necessary, just apologize.

Svetlana Nekrasova
Blog «Be blown»