Think you can’t possibly survive an international flight with kids? Especially one that lasts longer than three hours.
I’m so surprised by the number of parents who panic over flying with kids. Even to the extent that they won’t travel with them.
I don’t want that for you because travel with kids is amazing and flying with them can be a fun experience… if you know how to do it right.
I’ve been flying with my girls since they were six weeks old. Starting them young has helped them to be comfortable and happy flyers.
They really are a joy to fly with and I’ve only had one stressful moment with them. Kalyra was 2 years old, and tired on our 6am flight and refused to put her seat belt on for takeoff. We calmed her down pretty fast. Lucky it was mostly business travelers preparing for their morning meetings and not trying to sleep.
Sometimes flying with kids can be horrible if there is nothing to entertain them; if they are hungry and tired; if there are no fun and unique surprises (and that can simply be a small screen in front of their seat); or they are uncomfortable.
How to survive an international flight with kids
We’re sharing these tips in sponsorship with Qatar Airways, a very family friendly airline. Qatar Airways recently won ‘Airline of the Year’ by the prestigious 2017 Skytrax World Airline Awards, which was held at the Paris Air Show.
With our flying with kid’s tips, we’ll share how Qatar Airways helps to keep children engaged, comfortable and entertained on an international flight.
1. Start with preparing your child for the international flights
Since their first flight, we have painted a picture for them of flying being a grand adventure. Yes, we even talked to them (and let them feel our excitement) about it when they were babies.
“Oh, we’re going flying. It’s so much fun, you will love it.”
And then we talk about the various aspects of flying and what is fun about it. We ask them what they are most looking forward to and look at the airline (and destination) online. Now that my girls are older, they do this themselves.
Involve your children in the flying experience. Sit them on your lap when you book the ticket. Let them pack their bags.
Let them read the boards to find their flight and departure information. They can hand their tickets and passports to the attendants and roll their suitcases as they look for their seat numbers.
The more in control they feel of the flight experience the more they’ll warm to it.
You can see how Savannah boarded the plane when she was 17 months old
2. Have ample food for your child on the international flight
Be sure to pre-order your child’s meal before your flight.
We’ve been caught out before on an international flight where the kids were given adult meals as we did not specify kid’s meals were required. We thought given that our tickets pretty clearly showed they were kids this would be a given, but apparently not.
Fussy children, like my Savannah, do not enjoy adult’s meals. That was a long flight as we had no back up food.
My next tip then is to always have back up food. Hungry children on a flight is not good for anyone.
Pack plenty of water and their favorite snacks, perhaps a sandwich or two. Be sure your child has a healthy meal before they board the plane as well. Limit sugar as this will only dehydrate them more on the plane.
Be sure they drink a lot of water on the plane to stay hydrated.
Meal time with children onboard Qatar Airways
On Qatar Airways, children receive a meal box packed with fresh, tasty and nutritious meals, a fruit juice and fun treats. The meal packs keep the kids engaged by featuring some of the most loved games and characters from Hasbro.
Your kids can keep the meal box and bring home a fun memento from their journey.
3. Keep your child moving on international flights
Let your child roam the aisles (when it is safe to do so), especially younger children. It keeps them occupied, and helps their bodies let the energy out and feel a little calmer.
Plus, younger children often bring a lot of joy to passengers as they walk up and down giggling and doing cute baby things.
Taking frequent toilet breaks will help your child keep moving. If you need to go to the bathroom, take your child with you and make them go, as much as you can. It saves coming in and out and disturbing the people in your row.
If your child becomes unsettled, get up and walk with them. Or, if need be take them in the toilet for some time out!
4. Pre-book a bassinet
For babies, get in early and book a bassinet. These can be a lifesaver when flying internationally with children. There are limited number of bassinets on the plane.
Plus, it gives the parents lots of extra legroom as they are in the position where there are no seats in front of you.
Traveling with an infant made easy on Qatar Airways
In addition to priority boarding and the option to reserve a bassinet seat, parents travelling with infants will have access to Qatar Airways’ special kit, which includes diapers, baby food jars, a bottle and soft toys.
5. Pack an Entertainment Bag for the Long-Haul Flight
Have a bag for the kids filled with plenty of things to entertain them. We always include coloring, activity books, reading books, journals, and toys or comforters. Download any games or movies on their devices before boarding the plane and make sure they are fully charged.
For long flights you may want to have a bag of surprises. Go to the $1 store and grab a bunch of cheap toys, wrap them up and then every hour let them unwrap one to play with. It will keep them engaged and entertained and excited.
Your child will be entertained the entire Qatar Airways flight
Qatar Airways help to entertain your children with an activity pack given upon boarding. These creative and educational kits come with crayons, stickers and an activity book filled puzzles, fun facts, and coloring pages.
If you are travelling with an infant, they offer a sleepy-time Ella Fun soft-plush toy with an eye mask to encourage relaxing sleep and a soft-plush book.
6. Make use of the Inflight entertainment for kids
We are still old school and prefer the in-flight entertainment on planes and will always use that in preferences over personal devices. It makes plane rides more exciting for children (and adults). I hope international flights never take them away, even though more people use their personal devices.
It makes the experience different to what they are always used to at home with their devices. And it brings in the element of surprise for them to see what is showing on movies and games.
You want them to see flying as an adventure full of surprises and this helps to do that.
The first thing my girls do when they board the plane is scroll through the entertainment system and squeal when they discover what is waiting for them.
On long international flights they even try to see who can stay up the longest watching the movies on the plane’s entertainment device as it’s once in a lifetime for them!
Play games with them on the in-flight entertainment system and look over the flying map with them. Show them where they are now, how far they have come, how long to go.
On our last flight, Savannah loved looking at the map and seeing how far we had flown. We could even point out destinations we’d been to before like Nashville and Savannah and talk about our memories together
Qatar Airways in-flight entertainment for children
Qatar Airways has an Oryx One in-flight entertainment system, which features thousands of options for young travelers to explore.
Your younger children will love channels such as Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Disney. Infants are given interactive experiences on BabyTV channel, the world’s leading baby and toddler network.
7. Keeping your child comfortable on the plane seat
As soon as you board the plane, get settled into your seats with everything you need for the flight.
Put your child’s entertainment bag under the seat in front of them. Take out anything they may use a lot of and put it in the seat pocket in front of them. This saves having to go in and out of the bag which can be annoying in tight seat spaces.
It can be frustrating to have something in the overhead bins that will help your child feel comfortable and happy, but the seat belt sign is on and you can’t get to it.
If you can afford it, consider an upgrade to premium economy. The extra seat space makes a difference to comfort levels when traveling with kids (or without).
Book a flight with premium airlines that have larger seat space than the budget carriers who cram you and your legs in.
You might want to bring a neck pillow like these for comfort on the plane. My girls love to carry theirs.
Be sure to bring a jacket and long pants for your child as it can get cold on planes.
For younger children, I recommend putting them in their pajamas to signal sleep time. Even if they don’t sleep it may help them lay down and rest. As they are small enough, they can lay down with their head in your lap and the body on their seat.
Put younger kids in the middle or window seat. This keeps them protected from any knocks and spills form the aisle and is better for sleeping. It will help you feel a little more secure in dozing and knowing they won’t escape.
You might want to put them in the middle between two adults as well, just to give the adults a little more side space.
Planes can dehydrate you so be sure to have hand lotion and lip balm for yourself and the kids. Shea butter is a good all round natural cream to use.
The Qatar Airways cabin provides extra comfort for kids
Qatar Airways has one of the most spacious Economy Class seating arrangements in the sky. Your child will have plenty of room to eat, sleep, stretch and play so that you can also relax and enjoy your journey.
8. Help your child earn frequent flyer points
As soon as your child starts flying, sign them up to a frequent flyers reward program. Our girls are in multiple and have saved enough points for free flights before.
Go to the website of the airline you are flying with and create an account. You then give their membership number when you book their flight tickets.
Qatar Airways Privilege Club Kids Programme
Qatar Airways Privilege Club is launching a Kids Loyalty Program where children can earn Qmiles and Qpoints, enjoy an array of value-added benefits and upgrade in tiers using the Qpoints they have earned.
The Kids Programme can act like your child’s online travel diary to help them explore new destinations, document all the adventures and play a prominent role in planning your next trip. As mentioned in Tip 1, involving your children in the planning of a trip is essential to them having a wonderful time.
9. What about at the airport?
Waiting for a plane at the airport can be a boring harrowing experience, especially if you plane is delayed or you have stopovers. It can make your flight experience so long and exhausting.
Some airports are designed with kids in mind, whereas others are incredibly dull and boring. Our girls have always found ways to entertain themselves with dancing competitions and chasing games.
Spend time with them watching the planes taking off, again this helps prepare them and get excited for their plane adventure.
Allow them to have a treat from one of the food stores while waiting for your flight. This can help them pass the time.
You can window shop with them or sit quietly and read books and people watch. Kalyra and I often like to make up stories of the people we watch.
Qatar Airways’ child-friendly hub, Hamad International Airport
Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar caters to parents and children by offering a wide range of child-friendly facilities, such as Mac stations that provide interactive entertainment, to family rooms for privacy and comfort.
Hamad International Airport features a series of bespoke bronze playground sculptures spread throughout the concourse where children can play and have fun before the flight.
If you are in transit and have a few hours to spare, you can even enjoy family time together at the 25-metre, temperature-controlled indoor swimming pool, located in the Oryx Airport Hotel.
10. What if your child is afraid of flying?
It’s normal for a child, or adult, to feel nervous or afraid of flying. Here are a few tips to help them:
- Talk to them about their fears and possibly your own. Don’t turn from it or pretend it doesn’t exist. Direct their focus to a time when they felt afraid before – perhaps it was another flight.
- Did what they fear come true? Remind them that most of the things we fear never happen.
- Then focus on the reward at the end of the flight. Why is it worth flying to that destination and focus on the fun you’ll have there?
- When turbulence hits just tell them it’s like driving on a bumpy road. It’s very normal of a car to experience that and it doesn’t put you in danger. The plane is going over a bumpy path sometimes with the air pockets (explain that one if you can!) It happens all the time and is nothing to be afraid of. Just put your hands up in the air and enjoy the bumps.
- Hold their hand on takeoff and ask if they will help you be brave. This is what I did with my girls when they were very young. Strangely enough, I was terrified of flying and me showing up to be brave for them, actually helped ease my flying fears. Allow them to be the one to help you and it will take their mind off their own fears.
- Breathe deeply. I recently helped Savannah get through her intense fear on a boat cruise over to the Channel Islands. The waves and rocking of the boat scared her, and I just held her hand and repeated the mantra to her in a quiet and calm voice, “Deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth, that’s all you have to worry about.”
5 Kid-Friendly International Destinations
Qatar Airways flies to the following kid-friendly international destinations from the USA. We recommend them as exciting destinations for families, and we have a few posts to help you with your planning.
Singapore is a fantastic destination for families, particularly for those visiting Asia for the first time. It’s clean, organized, and filled with family-friendly attractions
Read More: 8 Fun Things to do in Singapore with kids + Where to Eat & Sleep
2. Western Australia
We spent six months traveling through Western Australia, and we can tell you, it’s spectacular. Qatar flies there from New York (I’m stoked to learn this!) Western Australia is full of adventure and incredible natural beauty and has the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Read More: 50 Things to Do in Western Australia
Qatar flies to Muscat, Oman’s capital and largest city. It will feel like you and the kids are stepping into the setting of an Arabian Nights tale. Trade the shiny skyscrapers for palm trees and natural adventures.
Read More: 8 best things to do in Oman
Thailand is very family friendly. Thais love kids and will give them loads of attention. It’s an exotic, exciting, and adventurous destination and is easy travel for South East Asia.
Qatar flies to Bangkok, which is a gateway to many incredible Thailand destinations like Chiang Mai and the Thai islands. We highly recommend it for families.
Read More: 19 Helpful Tips for Traveling to Thailand with Kids
5. South Africa
Of course, your children want to see African animals in the wild. It also has spectacular scenery, beautiful beaches, and has great food and wine.
Cape Town is my favorite city in the world. It’s spectacular, has a laid-back lifestyle and plenty of fun for adults and kids. Qatar flies to Cape Town.
Read More: 7 best things to do in Cape Town, South Africa
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