Travel Tips – International Flights With Kids

Back in January a reader asked the following on the Planning With Kids facebook page:

I’ve got a question and maybe one of your ‘likers’ has some advice. My husband and I are travelling to Canada from Australia with our four kids (ages 6, 5, 4, 2.5) in a few months time. Any suggestions on what to pack for carryon luggage? Individual packs or trolley bags for each of the kids? Should my husband and I just each take a carry on? Any suggestion for things to pack for the kids to keep busy? I’m aware that we have a 14 hour and 11 hour flight ahead of us just to get there so there’s going to be lots of time just sitting.

There were some fantastic tips and suggestions added to the discussion and as we draw closer to school holidays, I thought it would be a good time to share a collection of these tips. You can see the full facebook discussion on long international flights here.

International Flights With Kids – My Tips

I shared links to my posts that I have written about international travel with kids:

International Flights With Kids – Tips from facebook audience

Limit carry on

Jessicats Zografos – We endured a 23 hour international flight to Greece with our then 2.5 year old twins and 10 month old baby. Because your hands will be filled handling the kids, I’d recommend having as less carry-on baggage as possible. Have a bag of essentials for the kids (change of clothes, snacks, undies, babywipes, tissues etc), a bag of ‘entertainment’ (games, books, coloring activities etc that they can share) and a bag for you and your husband to share with your essentials.

Lisa Claiborne – We just came back from a trip to Europe with kids aged 9, 7 and 2. While all kids are different, one thing I would warn against is actually OVER doing the carry-on luggage. You can end up being laden with a million books / toys / and other stuff that they don’t end up using, which can be exhausting to have to shift around / pack / unpack / carry etc. To be perfectly honest my kids spent about 75% of the flights watching TV. I had no objections to this because they were happy. I figure at 30,000 feet for umpteen hours, you’re in survival mode, so anything goes!


Charmaine Wan – Pull ups for the youngest if not potty trained, makes changing nappies easier. With older kids, talk to them and also get them to help where possible. Most importantly, relax… And enjoy.

Allison Clark – Have a nappy and a few wipes in individual ziplock bag (x the number you need) then for changing you don’t need to rifle thru the whole bag to find what you need, just grab one ziplock bag!! Also spare set of clothes in a zip lock bag per kid incase of accidents (maybe more than one) and to freshen up on the stopover.

Carey N Graham McMahon – The only thing I would change is the amount of Nappies I took. On the way home I thought I had a heap, turnds out we had a detour to fiji for almost 12 hours, so that heap turned out to be not enough….

Bags on wheels

Ann-Marie Cahill – We recently travelled to Borneo with a 5yo and a 2.5yo. Not as long or as populated as you (one day…) We did have a small wheeled backpack for each boy, with his own camera, teddy, spare clothes, magazines (toy story, ben 10, cars2), and a little bag of treats they picked out (primarily snakes to suck on during the flight for dodgy ears).

Lisa Claiborne I know people swear by the pull-along suitcases and those Trunki cases too, but I disagree, I feel they are too cumbersome (and how do you open one in an enclosed space, e.g. a plane cabin) anyway? Backpacks all the way!

Jacinda Jones – Agree with Lisa above, small backpacks for each child rather than trolley bags or trunki’s – they get bored with lugging those around after 5 mins and you end up carrying them. Make sure you get comfortable backpacks that they will happily keep on. Keep your carry on to an absolute minimum, you end up having to carry kids as well at some point (although yours are older, maybe you’ll get away with it).

Hotel for transit time

Lisa Zulfiqar – We love to travel and kids do as well. Forgot to mention, do try to pack at least a spair tshirt and trousers for any spills, wipes are a must and a little first aid pack. Tissues, band aids, cream for cuts/bites and a MUST is a packet of chewy lollies to chew only when taking off and landing to help with the air pressure for the kids so you dont end up with sore ears… Do try to find out how much transit time between your 2 sectors and book a hotel in the airport even if it is only for 3 hours. We always try to do this at least you can let them run around and you know where they are. Also good time to freshen up, it is amazing how much better you feel after a quick tub. Biggest thing is patients and funnnn…..

Jacinda Jones – Definitely book into a hotel during stopover if you have more than a couple of hours, its makes such a difference. Attempt to get a good nights sleep before you leave, you do not want to be tired. Make yourself oblivious to the other passengers, I stress with the guilt of disrupting them, but get over that. Most people are incredibly understanding and helpful. Accept that its going to be a slog, but will be worth it when you get there.

Technology and pre-check in

Sally Frawley – This is one instance where technology is your friend. If you have an ipod touch or iPad you could load up some audio books and get a double adapter jack for two kids to listen at once. Oh and try and precheck in for your seats.

Jacinda Jones – Definitely enforce a sleep time on flight when all technology goes off – your biggest threat is overtiredness, thats when the s@!t hits the fan (but dont be disappointed if they dont go to sleep!) Fill out all your forms as soon as you get them on the flight, last minute filling out annoying forms for 5 kids will be stressful.


Lauren McCusker – I recommend taking lots and lots of snacks. We brought juice boxes for takeoff and landing, but he didn’t need it. The flight attendants were really nice about giving us a sippy cup of milk for him so save space and hassle and don’t bring drinks. For toys, I brought some favourite books, a new colouring book, some washable markers (Crayola brand, they wipe off everything with a baby wipe), stickers, alphabet flash cards and a few small favourite toys.

Carey N Graham McMahon – For the 9month old, I packed her stuff in mine and my husbands bag.. mostly books, and a favorite teddy bear. We also packed them each a spare outift, a blanket and lots of nappies and wipes. I have a ergo carrier for her and she was on my back during transit (super easy) The only thing I didn’t pack, only because I wasn’t sure was food for the 9month old. They did each get their own tray of food (which was really good, my boy loved every drop). Be sure to preorder it tho… Found out that you can baby food on the flights. oh and pack lots of snacks too/…


Lisa Claiborne – sticker books and magnet books by Tiger Tribe are just brilliant for travel!! Also, a set of wipe-off cards called “50 Things to Do on A Plane”.

Jacinda Jones – Each of mine get inside their backpack – an A4 pencil case with paper, coloured pens and STICKERS yes! lots of stickers (they usually get given a colouring book from the airline but generally i find you cant rely much on the airline toys they are rubbish). They can chose a special toy to take – within a size limit.

Laine Yates – Your kids are close in age so they can share “age appropriate” toys – reusable stickers are favourites, wipeable activity cards like the usborne travel card packs, little travel games and UNO is a favorite of ours too. Pack balloons for long waits in transit and hotel rooms – balloon tennis is fun and doesn’t take any room in ur luggage!

Spare clothes

Jodie Daniel – Take some layers of clothes (sweatpants, sweatshirt and spare undies). For the adults, I would take one small bag to carry all your important documents/passports/purse…. and one larger carry-on that has wheels (and pack spare undies & bra). I arrived in Israel once and my bags didn’t. All I had was the clothes on my body, and as passover started that day, all shops closed within hours of me arriving. I never travel without some spare clothes now.

What are your tried and tested tips for international flying with kids?