Tips for plane rides with kids: Lessons learned from flying solo with children

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If you're about to embark on a plane journey on your own with tiny maniacs in tow then bookmark these hot tips for flying solo with kids. You've got this, parents!

It’s family holiday time, and many of us will be hitting Changi Airport with the kids on our way to visit family and friends overseas, or simply escape Singapore for a fabulous Christmas holiday in the snow or by the sea. Surviving a long-haul flight with younger children requires a huge bag of tricks, and a divide-and-conquer strategy with your partner. But what about when you’re tackling that plane trip with the kids by yourself? I’ve had to haul my little wild ones to Sydney and back to Singapore solo a few times now, and here are some lessons I’ve learned, the hard way:

 1. Don’t forget to order the kids’ meals!

Kid-friendly meals get served well ahead of the rest, and the last thing you want is your starving child having a meltdown because the kid across the aisle just got handed a tray of goodies with juice. Hop online and do it now, before you forget. Because you will. (You need to do this at least 24 hours in advance.) Also, feeding the kids first is more manageable than wrangling your tray too.

2. Suck it up and pay for that window seat

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Get a window seat! It makes a) for distraction and b) for containment! Photography: Margo Brodowicz via Unsplash

Aisle seats give you easier access to the restroom, but they also give tiny maniacs an easier escape route. One flight I took began with prolonged wails of “I want the windowwwww!” followed by a tantrum in the middle of the plane aisle. I didn’t learn my lesson, of course. The highlight of one of my flights was a stewardess waking me up from a microsleep to let me know my eldest had escaped from his chair, fallen asleep on the floor and she’d just tripped over his head.

 3. The luggage allowance police show no mercy

Check the rules around your baggage allowance! You might think it’s more sensible to bring one large piece of luggage because you can’t physically handle two kids, carry-on bags with your arsenal of toys and snacks to stop the kids going crazy PLUS more than one piece of luggage… but if your suitcase goes over the allowance per bag, you’ll end up doing the repack of shame at check-in. Think you’re entitled to the kilos of luggage that come with all those tickets you’ve paid for? (Or at least a bit of lenience?) Expect a big fat CANNOT.

4. Beg, borrow or steal one of the airport strollers

If you’re visiting grandparents who have a stroller waiting for you on the other side, don’t bother schlepping yours to the airport (oversized baggage claims can be really tedious) – but do whatever you have to do to get one of those prams at Changi, as they’re hot property right now. Grab one of the young airport staff, and look as helpless as you can so they take pity on you – not hard when you’re wrangling the kids in a slow-moving queue in immigration, trying not to curse the child-free travellers whizzing through with their finger and passport scans.

 5. Toddlers and Trunkis don’t mix

Ah, the Trunki. So good in theory, and probably great for slightly older kids who can carry the damn thing themselves. But if you’ve got a toddler, the novelty of riding the Trunki outside the living room wears off pretty quickly (and so will the novelty of dragging your kid to your boarding gate). Revert to Step 3 unless you want to carry the kid and their luggage when they get tired. That woman in the photo above? Keep up that smile of determination, lady!

6. If the kids fall asleep, run for the restroom!

If, by some miracle, your kids fall asleep at the same time, go to the toilet. NOW. It doesn’t matter if you don’t need to go; you will not get another window. Your alternative is wearing adult diapers.

7. All parenting rules go out the window

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Toddlers and iPads on a plane? Yep: knock yourselves out, kiddos. Photography: Jelleke Vanooteghem via Unsplash

That means seven hours or more of screen time. We’re in pure survival mode now.

8. Swallow your pride and take any help you can get

If a kind stewardess offers jellybeans to help distract a kid having a meltdown, take the damn jelly beans. You might even have a lovely steward suggest that they mind your kids so you can go to the restroom: see that bit above about ‘going when you don’t need to go’? Thank your lucky stars and run for it. (Honestly, Qantas is just the best for helping out frazzled parents on a flight.) And ask to hitch a ride on the buggy that’s often waiting when you land – it’s there for those who need special assistance, and that includes parents with young kids! You’ll get whizzed through to immigration, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to jump the queue, have someone help you with a pram if you need it, and even help you get your luggage!

Good luck out there – and happy holidaying!

Like this story? Here’s more we think you’ll enjoy:

Changi Airport for kids
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Family-friendly airlines we love
Bringing your helper on holiday: what you need to know

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