House Sitting with Kids – Free Accommodation

By Melanie | Accomodation , Money

After the cost of flights, the next biggest expense on a family holiday is accommodation. What if I told you that you could have free accommodation in your choice of location, even in peak season? An apartment in Paris, a mansion in Los Angeles, an off-grid retreat in rural Spain, or a beach house in Sydney, just to name a few. You would probably be wondering what the catch is, or think that it is too good to be true. However that is exactly what house sitting offers.

House Sitting with kids

In December 2016, my family house sat for the first time, using the services of Aussie Housesitters. We took care of a 1200 acre cattle property in rural New South Wales for 6 weeks. In addition to living in an absolutely gorgeous home and enjoying country life, we were responsible for three dogs and two chickens. We had minimal chores as far as the property  – watering gardens and ensuring the cattle had water. A farm manager checked on the cattle regularly and we could phone him if there were any problems. It was a wonderful experience, we have remained friends with the home owner, and are going to be house sitting for her again in winter 2017.

What is House Sitting?

House Sitting is the arrangement where a Home Owner has their house cared for by a House Sitter in exchange for free accommodation. The House Sitter may be required to simply occupy the house, or may also be required to care for pets, maintain the garden and/or swimming pool and various other domestic responsibilities.



Benefits of House Sitting

The Home Owner is able to go on holiday with peace of mind, knowing that their home, garden and pets are well looked after. The usual concerns of having someone collect the mail and put rubbish bins in/out, fears of the house looking empty and being a target to burglars, and the considerable expense and stress of boarding kennels and/or cattery are all avoided.

The benefits are not all one-sided though. The benefits to the House Sitter include:

Free Accommodation

In the majority of cases, no money changes hands. It is important to discuss expectations around use and payment for utilities, internet etc however.

Use of a Vehicle 

Some House Sits include the use of a vehicle. If public transport is not available or longer distances are involved to access services and attractions, this can be a god-send. Be sure to discuss insurance.

House Sitting with kids

Family Friendly facilities

Separate bedrooms for parents and children often means that everyone sleeps better. Drinking wine and watching movies on your phone in the hotel bathroom while the children sleep gets old very quickly!  More space is good for everyone’s sanity.

Family homes usually come with toys, books, games, DVD’s , bikes etc., which will be a big hit with the kids. Obviously you should check with the home owner first, to find out if there are items or even entire rooms which they would prefer not be used.

A fully equipped kitchen (which may include use of perishables – discuss with the owner) allows you to self-cater, again a big money saver. I’m not suggesting for a minute that you forgo the delicious street food of Penang or the best pasta of your life in Umbria, but it can be on your terms. If the kids are tired and difficult, you can eat at home, without worrying about toddler tantrums in the middle of a restaurant. You probably prefer to grab something quick to eat at home rather than wading through puddles in a monsoon to eat out. It also gives you the opportunity to prepare familiar food if you are having difficulty finding something that won’t be rejected by cautious palates.

A washing machine and clothes dryer means you can pack fewer clothes, saving costs on the hefty baggage fees.

Live Like a Local 

Chances are that your House Sit will be in a residential area where you will have the opportunity to see how the locals live. Shop at the market, avoid the overpriced tourist traps and mingle with the locals, rather than being stuck in a resort. The Home Owners will usually leave you a list of recommended restaurants, attractions, grocery shops etc too. Take advantage of the local knowledge to find the best services at local prices.

House Sitting with kids

Experience a Different Lifestyle and Try Before you Buy 

Always dreamed of a beach front home, fancied yourself as a farmer or wondered whether your family could make apartment living work? If you have been thinking about moving house, House Sitting allows you to  immerse yourself in the neighbourhood and discover if you are ready to commit to the location, without spending a fortune. Staying in a hotel just doesn’t provide the same insight into everyday life. House Sitting with kids provides the opportunity to try a different way of life without making an expensive long-term commitment.

Caring for Animals 

Most (but not all) House Sits involve caring for animals. I have seen Sits advertised which requested care of large farm animals (horses, cows, sheep, goats and alpacas), dogs, cats, rabbits, ferrets, birds, chickens, fish, lizards, rodents and turtles. Obviously you would only apply for positions with animals with which you have experience and are confident. For families who are unable to have pets for various reasons, or who are travelling longer term and missing their beloved pets, caring for other people’s pets is a great opportunity.

House Sitting with kids

How Do I Become a House Sitter?

The easiest way to find a House Sit is by Word-of-Mouth. Do you know of any family members or friends who are going away on holiday? Ask if they have considered using a House Sitter and offer to help out.

Social Media is another great source. Facebook groups, Internet forums and other Special Interest Groups will sometimes advertise for like minded people to House Sit e.g. Waldorf Housesitters, Christian Housesitters, Single Parents Housesitters etc.

If you are looking for somewhere outside of your social circle, or somewhere overseas, you may have more luck joining a House Sitting website. There are many, but all provide roughly the same service: in exchange for a subscription fee, you have access to advertisements for thousands of vetted and verified House Sits in many different countries. While the membership fee varies, it is worth remembering that just one or two nights free accommodation instead of paying for a hotel, will recoup your fee.

Some of the most highly recommended sites are: Trusted Housesitters, Mind a Home, Aussie Housesitters, and House Sit Match.   Trusted Housesitters has the greatest number of listings, across 45 different countries, while Aussie Housesitters specialises in Australian listings. House Sit Match point of difference is that they interview both both Home Owners and House Sitters and ensure they are matched to find the best fit. This may provide additional peace of mind when House Sitting with kids.



House Sitting with kids

How to get your first House Sit

Once you have signed up to your choice of Housesitting site and paid the membership fee, you need to create your profile. You want to stand out from the thousands of other housesitters, while showing that you are trustworthy and reliable.

Heading

Make sure your heading will spark interest and catch the attention of home owners. “Dog-loving House Sitters extraordinaire” will inspire more interest than “Family of four seeks free accommodation.”

Profile

Your profile is a House Sitting CV, of sorts. It should be written in a professional tone, but still show your personality and offer insight to your character. This is your opportunity to introduce yourselves, with names, ages, usual location, profession, any helpful skills and a brief background history. You should especially mention travel and house sitting experience, including pet care and gardening. Discuss your reasons for house sitting. (Hint: make it about the experience and what you can offer, don’t focus on the free part!) Don’t forget to check your spelling and grammar, and have somebody else read it through to check for errors.

Photos and Video

Upload photos of your family. You should have  a clear close-up of the entire family, at least one picture of you interacting with animals and at least one showing your family engaging in hobbies or interests.

Most House Sitting sites allow you to upload a video as part of your profile. This is a fantastic way to give a very clear insight into your family and really show who you are. It doesn’t have to be professional, just relax and be yourselves. You can cover the same introductory information as the written profile section. Home owners feel more confident about allowing you to stay in their home if they’ve seen you interacting in a video rather than photos and a written introduction alone.

References

Obtain references from employers, landlords and character references. You can also obtain a police check, although it’s not essential. To obtain a police check in Australia, contact the Criminal Records section of your state police department.

Cover Letter

Send your application with a detailed, personalised cover letter. Mention the host and their pets by name. Be specific if you are familiar with their area or have cared for that breed of dog before, for example. Offer to meet face to face if you live nearby or by Skype so that you can chat about what is involved and get to know each other better.

Apply Early and Often

Sign up for daily email alerts when new House Sitting positions are advertised and apply as quickly as possible. Home owners may be inundated with dozens of applications, and may not even read them after the first ten or so.

Keep applying. I applied for twelve positions before we were successful with our first House Sit. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t receive a response, or are declined because you aren’t the right fit. Keep applying until you find the position which is right for your family. Being flexible with your dates and locations will definitely increase your opportunities. House Sitting with kids is a fabulous way to have a holiday you could only dream of, at a fraction of the expense.

 

House Sitting with kids

What do you think? Would House Sitting be a good fit for your family? What would your dream House Sit look like? More questions? Let me know in the comments.

This post contains affiliate links which, should you choose to purchase, provides me with a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for your support.

Surviving an overnight flight with kids

By Melanie | Flying

Last week we flew to Penang, Malaysia on an overnight flight with Air Asia. Sounds easy enough, right? Not quite.

I booked a too-good-to-be-true deal on flights from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur with Air Asia. (For tips on how to find amazing flight deals check out my article Cheapest Flights guaranteed.) The cheapest flights often depart at the least convenient times – usually very early morning or late in the evening.

We started out with a 3.5 hour drive to Sydney airport, arriving in good time to check in and find some dinner. Then we had an 8 hour flight to Kuala Lumpur, which departed at 9:30pm, followed by a two hour layover and then a one hour flight to Penang, arriving early in the morning.

Let’s just say it was a learning experience! Here are my tips to survive an overnight flight with kids and arrive refreshed and ready for your holiday.

Overnight flight with kidsOvernight flight with kids

Prepare your kids

We had several discussions in the weeks leading up to our trip about what would happen and what our expectations were on the flight. Immediately after take off there would be a meal served (which we were not having, since we had already eaten in the airport), then the lights would be dimmed and everybody would be trying to sleep. The children knew that there would be no in-flight entertainment and they wouldn’t be allowed electronics or books since it was past their bedtime.

We talked about how it might be difficult to sleep comfortably sitting up in their seat, having to keep their seatbelt on even while sleeping and generally discussing the order of events. In my experience, it’s difficult enough to deal with half-asleep overtired kids without springing surprises on them in the middle of the night.

Overnight flight with kidsOvernight flight with kidsOvernight flight with kids

Keep to normal routine (as far as possible)

Before the flight, we had dinner at Sydney airport, brushed teeth and changed into comfortable warm clothing (which we called pyjamas).  We had brought along the essential bedtime stories for our two year old (currently Brown Bear Brown Bear, The Very Itchy Bear and Where is the Green Sheep) to read during the meal service, as her cue that it was sleep time once the lights were dimmed.

Overnight flight with kids

Create a comfortable environment

The air-conditioning in planes can be very cold, especially when you are tired. On a full service airline, blankets are often provided, but if you are travelling on a budget airline you will need to be prepared with warm clothing.

Ensure clothing is comfortable and non-restrictive. Sleeping upright often results in pretzel-type manoeuvres – you don’t want the further complication of getting tied up in clothing!

Make sure your children have had a good dinner and have water accessible and that they’ve used the toilet before settling down to sleep.

You may like to consider headphones and an eye mask to reduce distraction but my children were not comfortable with them. They were, however, grateful for their travel neck pillows which minimised uncomfortable head droop.

Overnight flight with kidsOvernight flight with kids

Gentle Wake Up

As we all know, some people are larks – bright and breezy in the morning, others are night owls. My two older children definitely fall into the latter category and more closely resemble grizzly bears than any kind of bird in the morning. Add in a late night, restless sleep and a dash of anxiety about a new environment, and you have a couple of pretty unhappy travellers. For that reason, I made sure to wake them up half an hour before landing, to give them time to wake up properly and adjust to their surroundings before attempting to exit the aircraft and face immigration and security.

Overnight flight with kids Overnight flight with kids

Have a quiet first day

This is where we didn’t do quite so well. Having arrived in Malaysia early in the morning, we arrived at our hotel at 9am but were unable to access our room until 2pm. Five hours of roaming the streets in the heat and humidity with tired, grumpy children is not the ideal way to start a holiday! We rectified our mistake with a long afternoon nap in the air-conditioning as soon as the hotel was ready. Early to bed that night, and we were raring to get exploring the following day.

Although overnight flights with kids can be challenging, the benefits of reducing  expenses of both flights and accommodation, as well as maximising your holiday time, are worth it. By following these simple tips, I hope you survive your overnight flight with kids and  make your travel dreams a reality.

For tips and tricks to manage day time flights with young children, have a look at my Ultimate Guide to Flying with a Baby or Toddler.

This post contains affiliate links which, should you choose to purchase, provides me with a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for your support.

Your Family Can Travel is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com and its partners. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.

How to find Family-Friendly Budget Accommodation

By Melanie | Accomodation , Money

Congratulations! You followed my tips and found the cheapest flight, now you need family-friendly budget accommodation.

Whether you are dreaming of a rustic cabin in the mountains, a hip apartment in the city centre or a beachside villa, one thing is certain – you don’t want to pay more than absolutely necessary.

The good news is that a limited budget does not mean limited options.

Choices for family-friendly budget accommodation include:

  • Affordable hotels
  • Guesthouses
  • Hostels
  • Private apartment or house
  • Camping


Try Love Home Swap for free

Hotels

At first glance, hotels may not seem like a budget option, but with some planning, you can often find a bargain.

Booking as far in advance as possible sometimes results in an “early-bird option” with substantial discounts.

Alternatively, you can also find some great discounts by waiting until the last minute, when hotels are desperate to fill empty beds. Unfortunately this is rarely the case during special events, in peak season, or for hotels in prime locations.

Be sure to check that the hotel charges per room, not per person, or you may face extra charges as a family. Some hotels will allow young children to stay for free using existing bedding or will provide a roll-away bed or crib for a nominal cost.

Hotels.com offers stay 10 nights, get one night free and has regular “secret offers” with extremely cheap deals.

Booking.com is a great accommodation search engine which offers one night free accommodation after you have booked nine nights through their site. As well as hotels, you can also search for resorts, apartments, hostels, home stays and even caravan/trailer parks.

HotelsCombined searches more than 40 major hotel chains in 220 countries to find the best prices for you.

Find the best deal with HotelsCombined.com

Agoda is another comprehensive accommodation search engine. Apart from helping you find discounted rates, their speciality is finding hotels which are linked with your loyalty rewards scheme. They partner with thirty different schemes through their PointsMax system. This enables you to either earn rewards points for your hotel stay or to book your stay using existing points.

Tripadvisor is a valuable resource for researching reviews and photos of the hotels you are interested in. Honest reviews by previous guests, in addition to their candid photographs, may give you a rather different impression than that provided on the hotel website!

Expedia and Trivago are other popular accommodation search engines.

Family-friendly budget accommodation Family hotel room

Guesthouse

Guesthouses, Bed and Breakfast and Homestay all fall into the same category. Usually a privately owned and run home which provides accommodation (and often some meals) while providing a personal home-away-from-home feel.

Lacking in some of the facilities of a hotel, a guesthouse nonetheless has the advantages of personal attention and local knowledge to make your stay more enjoyable.

It is advisable to check before booking if there are any restrictions on young children as shared facilities and noise constraints can be an issue at some establishments.

Family-friendly budget accommodation Guesthouse

Hostels

Previously the domain of twenty-something backpackers, hostels are now frequented by families and retirees alike.

Although a bunk in a dorm room with a shared bathroom is the cheapest option, it is probably not the best choice for a young family. A family room with an ensuite bathroom is far more suitable and still a very reasonable price.

Hostels usually have a shared kitchen, enabling self-catering, to save even more money. Add to this facilities such as games room, lending library, tour desk, and bike hire, all at a reasonable price, and you can see why a hostel makes the perfect family-friendly budget accommodation.

In addition to the accommodation search engines listed above, search HostelWorld or Hostels.com to find hostels at your destination.

Last weekend my family visited Sydney, Australia. The hotels I looked at were in excess of $400/night for the five of us – much more than we could afford! Instead we stayed in a hostel, in a 6 bed family room with private bathroom for $200/night. The location was unbeatable – minutes walk to Central railway station, Chinatown (for delicious affordable meals) and Darling Harbour. Breakfast was also included (D.I.Y toast and cereal). We were not the only family with young children staying and certainly felt welcome. It wasn’t without its problems – it was quite noisy overnight and the shower wasn’t as clean as I would have liked, but the location and price outweighed the negative aspects.

Family-friendly budget accommodation Hostel

Private Apartment or House

Renting a private apartment or house has many advantages over a hotel room or hostel dorm. A kitchen enables self-catering which, apart from the obvious financial benefits, allows families to eat familiar food at times which suit, without the added pressures of eating in a restaurant or cafe.

Having separate sleeping accommodation for parents and children (and separating siblings where necessary) generally results in better sleep for the whole family. It’s no fun having to huddle in the bathroom with a glass of wine, in fear of waking the sleeping children in the hotel room!

A laundry is also very valuable on any holiday longer than a few days.

Many private holiday rentals also come equipped with cribs, high chairs and even toys.

I have booked private holiday homes through AirBnB many times with great results. They have homes of all sizes and styles in 191 countries, so you should be able to find one to suit.

Other sites for renting private homes are:

  • VRBO mostly in the United States and Europe
  • Stayz 40 000 properties throughout Australia

Family-friendly budget accommodation Welcome home sign

House Sitting

Until now, our focus has been on family-friendly budget accommodation. How would you like family-friendly FREE accommodation?

House sitting means that your family take care of another person’s home (and often pets) while they are away travelling. No money changes hands and it is mutually beneficial for all involved. Your family has free accommodation, with all the facilities and benefits of living in a fully furnished and equipped family home. The owner can enjoy their vacation safe in the knowledge that their home and pets are being well cared for.

Obviously you need to ensure that both parties are compatible in terms of expectations and requirements. A family with a toddler may not be best suited to a home filled with fragile antiques. You may be delighted to walk a dog but allergic to cats. Are you confident caring for reptiles or farm animals? An enormous selection of house sits of many types ensures that you can find the best fit for your family.

Last December, my family house-sat for a beautiful home on a rural property near Canberra, Australia for four weeks, through Aussie Housesitters. We cared for three dogs and two chickens and watered the gardens. In exchange, we had the most wonderful summer farm holiday: collecting eggs, playing with the dogs and enjoying the serenity of country life.

Other recommended housesitting sites include Trusted Housesitter and Mind a Home.  These sites charge a joining fee, but it is well worth it to obtain free accommodation.

For more detailed information about how it works, and how you can become a Housesitter, have a look at my post on Housesitting with kids.

House Swap

A variation of Housesitting is House Swapping, also known as home exchange. Two families swap homes and sometimes cars – either simultaneously or at different times, facilitated by a paid membership to sites such as Love Home Swap, Home Link or Home Exchange.

Family-friendly budget accommodation House

Camping

Whether it’s back-to-basics in a tent in the wilderness or a luxurious motorhome or RV, camping has much to offer in our search for family-friendly budget accommodation.

Camping fees can be a fraction of the price of a hotel, with opportunities to experience your destination in an unrivalled manner. If you are staying in a country area, the camping itself is a major part of the holiday. Fishing, swimming, and campfires create priceless memories.

A city holiday is another matter. Campsites are usually located outside cities, so you will have to take into account travelling to attractions and sight-seeing. Do you really want to drive your massive RV through the medieval laneways of Rome? Is public transport available to take you where you need to go?

Camping is also weather dependent. Sleeping in a tent is great fun for the whole family on balmy summer nights, but not so much when it is pouring rain, howling a gale or just plain freezing.

Family-friendly budget accommodation Camping

 

Whether a hotel, hostel, home or tent is the best fit for your family, you now have the tools to find family-friendly budget accommodation.

This post contains affiliate links which, should you choose to purchase, provides me with a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for your support.

Your Family Can Travel is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com and its partners. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.

Cheapest flights guaranteed with these easy tips

By Melanie | Flying , Money


You’ve decided to take the family on holiday but are short on funds. You dream of white sand, palm trees, turquoise water and cocktails with little umbrellas, but don’t want to max out your credit card. Never fear! Your dream holiday is much more affordable than you thought. I’ll show you how to find the cheapest flights to make your family travel dreams a reality.

Cheapest flights beach

Cookies

If you have been researching the cheapest flights for a while and felt that the prices are getting higher each time you look, you are correct! Many websites use cookies to track your browsing history and remember your previous searches. The more times you search for the same destination, the more likely you are to book, so the price rises.

The answer is to hide your search from cookies so each time you search appears to be your first visit to the site. This can be done by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) or an Incognito browser.

Alternatively you can clear your cookies and/or search history after each visit or use multiple devices.

Cheapest flights cookies

No, not those kind of cookies!

Subscribe

Subscribe to newsletters and follow airlines and cheapest flight Search Engines on social media, to ensure that you are notified as soon as a sale is announced. Followers and subscribers will often receive advance notification before sales are advertised to the general public.

Join groups like Secret Flying and I know the Pilot , which advertise error fares and last minute sales.


Kiwi.com - Book Cheap Flights!

Search Engines

Googling cheapest flights will reveal a dizzying array of choices, but how can you know which are a genuine bargain and which are making profits for third-parties?

Tried and tested search engines for finding the cheapest flights include:


UK Skyscanner 120 x 60

Of these, my personal favourites are Skyscanner and Google Flights. It is always a good idea to cross-reference more than one site and check with the airline’s own website to see if you can get the cheapest flight by booking directly.

Skyscanner and Adioso both have the facility to save your search and notify you when the price drops.

Cheapest Flights Destination board

Travel Agent

In these times of D.I.Y. travel booking, it can be easy to forget about traditional travel agents. However, some agencies can be very helpful with finding the cheapest flights, by offering a price match guarantee. When you find a cheap fare online, consider showing it to your preferred travel agent to see if they can price match it for you.

Flexibility

The ability to be flexible which dates you fly can save you hundreds of dollars. If you know where you want to go but don’t mind when, Skyscanner allows you to search by cheapest month. So for example, you could search Sydney to Kuala Lumpur by cheapest month, to see that August is significantly cheaper than April.

Every destination will have peak, shoulder and off-peak seasons. Off-peak can sometimes be a fantastic experience (e.g. snow holiday in Europe) for a bargain price.

If you are inflexible with the time you need to fly (two weeks in mid-September) but don’t have a destination in mind, use “Everywhere” as your destination in Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights.

Even varying your departure and arrival by one or two days can create a significant saving. Monday, Friday and Sunday are generally the most expensive,while Tuesday and Thursday are usually much cheaper.

Obviously, avoiding holidays and festivals if at all possible will help you find the cheapest flights.

If you are unable to be flexible with either dates or destination, it’s generally best to book as far in advance as possible. While there is a possibility of last-minute specials, it is not worth the stress of missing out altogether.

Cheapest flights Arrivals Hall

Alternatives

Once you have decided on a destination, research other airports in the area. It may be cheaper to fly to a smaller airport and catch the train to your destination. Of course, you need to account for the extra cost and time. If you need to add on a night’s accommodation and ground transport costs, it may not be the bargain it first appeared.

Although the search engines are very comprehensive, they don’t feature every airline. Google airlines which fly to/from your destination to see if a local budget airline has been overlooked, then book with that airline directly.

Consider booking each leg separately.  Sometimes multiple one-way tickets are cheaper than a return fare. This also gives you the option to plan a stopover. Two holidays for the price of one!

Add-Ons

Sometimes budget airlines do not have the cheapest flights! By the time you pay a surcharge for luggage, meals, entertainment and priority seating, in addition to booking fees and taxes, your bargain airfare may not be looking quite so cheap. It’s definitely worth researching all-inclusive airlines to see whether the price is comparable.

Bringing your own food, electronic device and flying with carry-on luggage only will help reduce costs. If you do choose to fly with checked luggage on a budget airline, always pay for it at the time of booking your ticket, you will pay a hefty premium if you wait until you are at the airport.

Cheapest flights Lego family catching bus

Package holiday

Depending on where you are travelling and the type of holiday you enjoy, a package holiday may be an affordable option. If you can find a good deal, it can sometimes work out cheaper to buy a package holiday than to purchase flights and accommodation separately. This is even more likely if airport transfers, meals, excursions, kids club etc are included.

Rewards and Loyalty Schemes

Free flights and accommodation sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? However, that’s exactly what you can get with rewards points and loyalty schemes. If you anticipate flying with a particular airline or staying in a certain hotel chain regularly, sign up for their loyalty scheme as soon as possible to start earning reward points towards your free flight or stay.

So there you have it – 9 sure-fire ways to save you money and help you find the cheapest flights. What are you waiting for? Make your travel dreams a reality today!

Cheapest Flights tropical beach

If you found these tips helpful please let me know in the comments.

This post contains affiliate links which, should you choose to purchase, provides me with a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for your support.

Your Family Can Travel is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com and its partners. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.


Ultimate guide to Flying with a Baby or Toddler

By Melanie | Flying

For most of us, the thought of flying with a baby or toddler is as appealing as a trip to the dentist! The fear of your child crying for hours while your fellow passengers tut-tut and shake their heads judgmentally is enough to make any parent break out in a cold sweat, but it doesn’t have to be this way. With some simple planning and preparation, you and your child can board your flight confidently.

I have been flying with a baby or toddler for eight years now, with great success. Here are my tips for an enjoyable trip.

Babies are the easiest age to fly with – highly portable and usually happy to go anywhere, as long as mum is close.

The best way to avoid earache from pressure changes on take-off and landing, is to ensure baby is sucking – breast- or bottle-feeding or with a dummy/pacifier.

Baby Sleep

Most airlines have bassinets available on longer flights on request, but they must be booked well in advance and priority is given to the youngest infants. Maximum age, weight and length vary between airlines, so check when booking.  Even if your baby won’t sleep in the bassinet, it provides a safe place to put them down while you eat your meal. For safety reasons, the baby must be removed from the bassinet each time the seat belt sign comes on and the bassinet will be packed away by the crew for landing.

Although airlines carry baby food and nappies/diapers, it is best to bring plenty of your own to ensure you have the preferred type.  Crew are usually happy to warm a bottle on request, just allow plenty of time.

Flying with a baby or toddler Sleeping baby

Change Time

A diaper/nappy wallet or small bag avoids the need to take an oversized bag into the toilet for nappy change. It is already challenging enough in such a confined space. Make sure to bring a complete change of outfit for both baby and yourself. You don’t want to spend hours covered in pee, poo or vomit.  Baby wipes are an essential item for a multitude of reasons – wiping down questionable surfaces, clean up messes, freshen up, “wash” hands and so much more. I love these biodegradable aloe vera wipes for sensitive skin.

Stroller or Baby Carrier?

Depending on your destination, you may want to bring a stroller.  A lightweight umbrella stroller which is easy to fold/unfold and to manoeuvre in crowded places is ideal. Check that your destination has footpaths – small wheels do not work well on cobbled streets or gravel paths.  Some airlines will insist that it is checked with your luggage, while others allow you to take it to the gate. Keep in mind that it will most likely be handled roughly by the baggage handlers, so think twice before bringing your valuable iCandy or Bugaboo! You may wish to protect your stroller from dirt and rain with a gate check stroller bag such as this one.  An ergonomic baby carrier is invaluable for hands free negotiation of customs, immigration, baggage claim etc.  There are many types available to suit different body shapes and budgets. I highly recommend the Ergobaby 360 or, for tropical climates,  the Beco Gemini Cool, which has a mesh section to keep baby cooler. You will have to remove it to go through security however, so practise taking it off and putting it on without help before you fly.

Flying with a baby or toddler Baby carrier

Hands free convenience with a baby carrier

Toddlers are more challenging than infants, but with prior planning and preparation, your flight can still be enjoyable.

I’m not promising uninterrupted movie watching while sipping champagne, but you and your toddler can survive a long-haul flight with your sanity intact!

Before your trip, read books and watch videos about flying on a plane and discuss how, just as in the car, the seat belt must stay on at all times, as well as expected behaviour (e.g. aisles are not for playing or running, keep feet off the seat in front). You may like to set up some chairs and role play with your toddler and their toys.

Entertainment

Entertainment is the key to a happy toddler in-flight. Older toddlers may be happy watching some familiar television shows on the in-flight entertainment system, or playing electronic games for a while, but a short attention span means you will need other options. Many travellers recommend stocking up on small toys from a charity or dollar shop and gift wrapping them for the child to unwrap at intervals.  Toys which don’t have multiple small parts to get lost are best.

Some ideas are:

Painters or masking tape can be used for making roads, race tracks, fences or noughts and crosses (tic tac toe) on the tray table and is easily removed without leaving a sticky residue.

Toddler Food

A child’s meal can be ordered when you book your flight, but mealtimes don’t always coincide with the times that your toddler is hungry, and they may be unwilling to try new food is such an unfamiliar environment. Packing your own supply of snacks will avoid the inevitable hungry toddler melt-down.  Try to minimise the amount of sugar since they won’t be able to burn it off. The crew can supply drinks and warm your bottle on request. If you are flying without another adult to help, ask the crew to hold your meal until you have finished helping your toddler with theirs.

Flying with a baby or toddler exotic fruit

Toddlers may be unwilling to try new food

Toddler Sleep

When it is time for bed, try to follow your bedtime routine from home as closely as possible. For example, after dinner take your child to the bathroom for a “bath” (wash hands and face with warm water), brush teeth and change into pyjamas. Back in your seat, read a story together then snuggle down with blanket and pillow. Most children are amazingly adaptable and can sleep in odd positions. Once your child is asleep, don’t be tempted to catch up on all the new release movies that you have missed over the past two years. This may be your only chance to sleep!

Being organised and maintaining a positive attitude will go a long way to ensuring a successful flight.  With these tips you and your child will be happy jetsetters!

Flying with a baby or toddler Mum and daughter walking on beach

 

For tips specific to overnight flights, check out my post on Surviving Overnight Flights with Kids.

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