A little organisation goes a long way when flying with young kids. Safe to say we’re a bit out of practise when it comes to travelling with children these days, but with many jetting off, it’s time to get prepared.
Does the prospect of a long haul flight with a screaming baby or wayward toddler fill you with dread? Best to think like a scout and “Be Prepared”. When it comes to hand luggage, it is a fine balance – you don’t want to overload yourself (especially if travelling solo) but you do want to make sure you’ve got the essentials covered. Now we’ve also got the added pressure of staying COVID safe while flying.
Deep breath, you’ve got this Mama!
1. Travelling with young kids during COVID
2. Kids’ suitcases and luggage
3. Carry-on luggage for mum: Suitcase vs Backpack
4. Baby Carriers
5. How to keep young kids entertained on the flight
6. Food for babies and kids on the plane
7. Getting a child to sleep on a flight
8. Toiletries and medicine
9. Spare clothes
10. Travel documents and all the extras
1. Travelling With Young Kids During COVID-19
Obviously, the pandemic has thrown a massive spanner in the works of global travel. Even more so here in Hong Kong with extended quarantine period, washouts and flight bans. Keep in mind the following:
Do you need a COVID-19 test to board your flight?
This may be a requirement by either your airline or your final destination country (and any countries that you might be transiting though) and the rules are constantly changing. You may need an RT-PCR test, a RAT or nothing at all. Children under a certain age may be exempt. Be sure to check the fine print.
Do you need to be vaccinated to travel by plane?
Again this will depend on where you are travelling to and your visa status. Some countries like Singapore require you to use the designated VTL with its own set of requirements. In places like Australia and the UK you can enter if you are vaccinated but must quarantine if you are not. The rules change again if you are transiting. A good rule of thumb is to double-check:
- Requirements for your destination
- Requirements for your airline
- If those requirements change while you are transiting through another country
COVID-19 Precautions In Flight
- Your little one might be too young for face masks so you might like to try face shields instead
- Pre-flight keep them in the stroller or carrier as best you can, maybe even with the rain cover over to create a little bubble (just check airflow in there!)
- Disinfectant wipes are your friend – have them sit closest to the window, wipe down all hard surfaces including windows, screens and armrests, take them with you to the bathroom and wipe down the change table before use
- Hand sanitiser, hand sanitiser and more hand sanitiser
2. Kids’ Suitcases, Luggage And Bags
Get your kids excited (and maybe helping) as they traverse the concourse with their own special suitcase. There are loads on the market these days including ride-on and brightly coloured wheelie bags.
Our picks for ride-on are the JetKids Bedbox by Stokke and the ever-popular Trunki. The Trunki is definitely more affordable and does have more packing room (we also love the many brightly-coloured designs), but the JetKids has the added bonus that it coverts to make an in-flight bed (see more sleep aids below). Check out the updated Cloudsleeper model with an even comfier inflatable matress. Whichever you choose, your kids will love pulling along or riding on their own little luggage. Do be careful not to pull too hard or suddenly – the last thing you need is an airport injury!
Jetkids Bedbox is available at Mothercare, Baby Central, Giggles Baby, Homeless and HKTV Mall. You can also find Trunki at Baby Central as well as many other Hong Kong baby and toddler stores. The best price we found was on HKTV Mall.
Budding artists should check out the BenBat Go Vinci Backpack. Its hard case serves as a tabletop for some gate-side colouring and has a frame on the front where you can display the finished masterpiece! The only downside to this style of luggage is that it doesn’t give the option to rest little legs that tire easily through airports.
Read more: Baby And Toddler Stores In Hong Kong
3. Carry On Luggage For Mum — Suitcase vs Backpack
Everyone knows (and speaking from experience) travelling solo with a baby is tough! You might be all sorted with your baby in the pram through security and at the gate, but then it comes time to board. All of a sudden you have a stroller to fold up (and potentially carry on) and a bag to carry. Not to mention corraling your kids!
When flying solo with a baby it can be much more practical to opt for a backpack. That way, you can have the baby in the carrier, backpack on your back and your hands-free for handing over boarding passes. Then it is just an added bonus if (when!) someone comes to lend you a helping hand to board.
If you want to ditch the pram completely (or if your kids are getting that bit too big), there are a few adaptable options on the market. The Mountain Buggy Sky Rider is a sleek, black carry-on suitcase equipped with a harness so little ones (up to 15kg) can be strapped in. Perfect if you aren’t going to need the stroller at your destination! Mothercare stocks the older version – the Mountain Buggy Bag Rider.
Those with older kids could also consider the Micro Lazy Luggage. Your little one (up to 20kgs) can ride holding on to the handlebars. They aren’t strapped in though so do take care!
4. Should You Take A Baby Carrier On A Plane?
Even if you intend to keep your stroller with you right up until the gate, a baby carrier can be indispensable onboard. Many young ones will manage to fall asleep on you but will wake the second they are put down. A carrier can literally take the load off your arms while you walk the aisles. It will also come in handy when travelling with young kids if you have a long walk to pick up your stroller or need your hands free to chase after other children!
If you have a wrap or sling style (try the Moby Wrap or Maya Baby Wrap both available on Amazon) you may find them more comfortable when sitting on the plane, rather than something with too many buckles or clips.
5. How To Keep Babies And Toddlers Entertained Flights And Layovers
The key is to have a wide variety of small, quiet, new games and activities up your sleeve.
Travelling with a young baby, while daunting, is actually relatively easy. They mostly eat and sleep and so there is very little “entertaining” to do. Teething toys and necklaces are great at this age (we love this one from Aussie brand Audrey And Me), as are toys with mirrors and scarves for games of peek-a-boo.
Once they’re a little older you need to get a bit more creative! Apart from the obvious iPad (fully charged) and loaded up with their favourite movies, songs, games and books (download Epic! – Kids’ Books and Videos for access to thousands of age-appropriate books, available on iOS and Android) you could try out some of the following ideas:
- Colouring books
- Stickers – just a cheap roll of colourful polka dots can keep little fingers busy
- All the snacks (see below) — medicine pill trays work well to keep them organised and entertained
- Suction toys to stick on the windows
- Finger puppets
- Soft books – we have our eye on the My Holiday Quiet Book from Little Beans Toy Chest, it has vacation-themed pages and lots of felt cut-outs to inspire holiday vibes
- Bags of colourful ribbons
- Dry erase books like this Wipe-Clean Airport Activities Book from Baby Central
- Pipe cleaners to twist into different shapes
- Gift wrap a few new toys (or old ones!) and let your kid do a “lucky dip” every couple of hours
- Small cars to play on airport play spaces
- Headsets for listening to their iPad – make sure they’ve practised using them first
The Li Yuen Street East and West lanes are great for cheap and cheerful options!
Editor’s note: A big thanks to those who responded with ideas to the Sassy Mama Instagram stories on the weekend and also those who contributed ideas in various WhatsApp groups.
Read more: How To Travel With A Newborn Baby
6. Food For Babies And Kids On A Plane
There is nothing worse than a hangry child. Airline food is questionable at the best of times and this is not the time to experiment with new flavours! Stick to things you know will keep your little ones satisfied. In-flight snacks are not only a necessity but are also a great way to keep children of all ages occupied. Think small foods that can be easily picked up by little fingers and that take a little coordination to get from container to mouth.
You could try:
- Cereals (just watch the concentration of a toddler getting an individual rice bubble into their mouths!)
- Raisins or sultanas
- Small pieces of cheese
- Teething biscuits
- Finger sandwiches (or cut them into fun shapes)
- Veggie sticks with dip
- Fresh fruit, the list really is endless!
For young, bottle-fed babies you’ll need to bring enough milk or formula for your flight and ideally at least one to two extra just in case. Cabin crew should be able to provide you with hot water, but if you’re worried, bring a thermos of boiled water so you can mix on board. Liquid restrictions are a bit more relaxed for parents travelling with young kids.
7. Getting A Child To Sleep On A Plane
A sleeping child on a plane is like the holy grail! For overnight flights try to replicate as much of your child’s bedtime routine as possible. Have them change into their pyjamas, make sure they have their favourite toy and then try and make the environment as comfortable as you can for them. If your child has their own seat, set them up for bed. A black pashmina works wonders at making an airline seat more snuggly and most importantly, you can drape it to block out cabin lights (which can be a nightmare when they are still on at 2am!).
The JetKids Bedbox by Stokke, mentioned above is a great option to help them get some shut-eye. Just check that it is allowed by your airline (Cathay Pacific, Air Asia, Singapore Airlines all make the list).
There are also various inflatable footrest options around. Again, just be sure to check your airline’s policy regarding devices like this. There are often restrictions about where in the plane it can be used – for example, only in a window seat so that it doesn’t obstruct exits in an emergency.
Younger babies may be content to sleep on you, in a carrier or in the bassinet.
Try not to stress too much Mama, sleep is going to be disrupted, naps might be missed but the world will not end. Just take it one hour at a time and it’ll be over before you know it.
8. Travelling With Young Kids: Toiletries And Medicine
A little pouch with must-haves for both you and the kids is essential. Be sure to have:
- Travel-sized toothpaste and toothbrush
- Moisturiser, hand cream and lip balm for you
- Hand sanitiser, disinfectant wipes and general wet wipes
- Plenty of nappies and cream if your little one isn’t toilet trained yet
- Small medical kit with panadol (for you and the kids), bandaids, throat lozenges and any other medications you feel might be necessary
9. Spare Clothes
Children and mess go hand in hand. Let’s just assume that they (and probably you) are going to need a new outfit at least once during the flight. And if not you’ll have some nice fresh clothes to change into at your destination. Make sure everyone has at least one spare outfit and underwear packed just in case.
A waterproof or plastic bag is likewise invaluable for dirty clothes, leaking containers and any other slip-ups that might arise.
Read more: Where To Buy Kids Clothes In Hong Kong
10. Travel Documents And All The Extras
Keep all your important documents together. Obviously, you’ll have your passports and boarding passes, but don’t forget any relevant visas and a pen for filling out arrival cards. If you are travelling solo with young kids, it is also worth carrying a copy of your children’s birth certificates as well as your marriage certificate and significant other’s passport.
Some countries are getting very strict about children travelling and will ask to see a letter from the non-travelling parent stating that they know the journey is happening. Always better to be safe than sorry when dealing with immigration authorities.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in July, 2019 and updated in March, 2022.