Home > family, travel > My Tips On International Travel with Children

My Tips On International Travel with Children

June 27, 2013


In 3 and a bit weeks my husband and I are taking our 8 and 3 year old boys on a 14 hour plane journey to America. We have done this journey before, well twice before if you include there and back. That was theirs (and ours) first ever international flight.

Like any good over zealous planner, before our first international flight with children, I searched the internet for tips and tricks and answers to the questions I had. I prefer actual blog posts as they tend to give the nitty gritty details and experience instead of the travel magazine’s standard tips of ‘take plenty of toys and snacks to keep them amused’

First, a shout out to those blogs that I read and got ideas from:

Preparing to Go

I am a big believer in preparing toddlers as much as possible for what’s ahead. If my little munchkin went straight onto a plane without hearing about it first, it would have been meltdown city.

Our Holiday Book

I made him up a book, very basic, just outline the steps we would take and what happens on plane. ie “when the plane goes up or down, we have to have our seat belts on. When the lights go out, it’s a good time to sleep” Then we read it to him many times before the big day.

This time around, we are using the book again but also using a countdown calender. Because he is into counting, this is a great tool to keep him from asking, ‘we go today on big plane?’


For my eldest, I got him a book from the library, ‘Not for Parents: New York City, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know’. It is a great book aimed for the primary aged children. There are a few different ones for different cities.

We also found some useful You Tube video’s that showed my eldest what the plane flight would be like. He loved watching it and a love affair with A380’s began.

The Airport and the Flight

Plane at Gate

We spent some time at the gate before we had to board, the boys got to see the Qantas A380 parked at the gate. There was also a little play area which is great for a certain 3 year old to have a play on before being confined to a seat.

For those with babies/toddlers still in nappies, there are baby change tables in the airplane toilets. For some reason I could never find the answer to this question online! I asked the flight attendants when I got on board which toilets they were as they aren’t in all of them. (well in economy, not sure about the other sections)

As for those stinky nappies (you are bound to get one) get the strongest smelling nappy bags you can find. Also fragranced nappy wipes and have extra. Wrap the nappy in wipes then double bag. It seemed to work for me. Also try some scenarios at home (with bagging the smelly nappies) so you know what works. You definitely don’t want to stink out the airplane toilet!

In regards to food, I ordered the special children’s meal for them. This is something you need to do while booking the tickets or if you have a travel agent, check yourself with the airline a few days before you leave. These meals come out first and gets them started.

Child Plane Meal

Generally they have pasta and sauce, (or similar simple dish) some sort of fruit, a sweet treat, juice box, bread roll, water and a couple of other things I cannot remember.

In regards to Qantas, they do bring around a couple of snacks and fruit at different points. The A380’s also have a ‘snack bar’ (again this is economy) at the back of the section which has soft drinks, water, fruit and cookies.

Entertainment wise we are lucky enough to have an iPad so I loaded it up with toddler apps/games on it before we went. Our youngest did play with it for awhile and played the little back of the seat tv’s as well. He also thought turning the overhead light on and off was heaps of fun . Hoping he has grown out of that one. He popped the tray table up and down too, as well as mine.

I did have some colouring books, pencils and cars for him to play with but the pencils went all over the floor and I had to keep reaching down to get them. Very hard when the people in front of you have their seat all the way back the whole trip. I think I’ll try a pencil roll this trip and hope that works better.

My 8 year old (then 7) managed to keep himself busy the whole trip, he loved it. He controlled his own tv, had meals, wrote in his book and read. We had to remind him to have an actual sleep. Which he did. They both did thankfully.

Remember that tip everyone says when you have a newborn? Sleep when the baby is sleeping? Do it on the plane too… sleep when the kids are sleeping.


A Cajun Down Under told me an awesome tip, as she has done many transatlantic flights, is to pick up the routine from the local time. When we arrive in LA it will be 6.30am, so act as if it is 6.30am, don’t worry about what time it is in Australia, just focus on the hear and noew. Of course if your kids are all over the place and need a nap, give them one! But it was a great tip that worked for us on arrival in the States as well as getting home.

Enjoying the Holiday

Kitchen Hotel Beacon

When planning the holiday and where we would stay, I needed to have somewhere with a kitchen, not only for me and my gluten free needs but also for the boys. It was great to have a kitchen and fridge to keep cereal, milk and yoghurt in for quick breakfasts in the morning.

I reminded myself to check my expectations of the boys. Don’t expect them to be on the go sightseeing from 8 am to 10 pm, it just won’t be pleasant for anyone.


Schedule a few free days or kids only days. Couple of times we took the kids to a playground or water park, of course we wouldn’t have done that if we were alone but it breaks things up for them.

The most important tip: have a wonderful time!

Have you got any other tips when travelling overseas with children?

Top image courtesy of potowizard / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

All others my own

Categories: family, travel Tags:
  1. Mary Preston
    June 29, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    These are all great tips.

    • nellbe
      July 1, 2013 at 7:57 pm

      Thanks Mary 🙂

  2. June 30, 2013 at 9:23 am

    Kitchens are so important when you travel – opens up so many more options!

    • nellbe
      July 1, 2013 at 7:57 pm

      Hi Matt, I agree! Especially in NYC where a fridge isn’t standard. Thanks so much for coming by and saying hello.

  3. July 20, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    My girls loved those books that just have one pen and all the different colours come out on the page. Can not think what they are called for the life of me but I know they sell them in Big W. That way you only have one pen/texta to keep track of. But I guess I pads can do the same kind of thing these days :-).

    • nellbe
      July 20, 2013 at 9:08 pm

      Oh that’s a great idea! Will have to remember that one for next time.

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