Tag Archives: flying solo

Flying with small children; the hand luggage

{For THEE most impressive and detailed advice for travelling with kids, there are two blogs I can’t recommend enough. Please see Tips for travelling with kids (journeysofthefabulist.wordpress.com) and Travel (freebutfun.wordpress.com)}

As I struggled up the aisle behind a dawdling 4 year old, a clumsy 2 year old and with a 1 year old strapped to my back, my arms weighted by 4 winter coats, a big sports bag and a cloth shopping bag, I thought to myself am I mad to bring so much hand luggage. When I landed in Dublin having stopped over in Amsterdam with most of the sports bag contents untouched, I concluded I was. However, on the return journey, with woes of foregone journeys taunting me, I decided to be “mad” again and I was glad by the end of it all that I was. By the time I landed in Tokyo I had used all and ran out of some of the contents of my hand luggage.

What I have learnt about flying with young children over the past 4 years of flying solo (without my husband) with first one, then two and now three children under five is;

  • Anticipate the worst; and prepare for it
  • Distraction is the key

And what I have learnt to pack;

*Spare clothes for everyone, especially yourself. Having been thrown up on three times on one flight (turned out it was a tummy bug), I not only dress in old clothes that can be binned, I also bring at least 2 spare upper wear for everyone and trousers for the kids. Leggings are great, because they fold up small. This past flight 1 year old did a “code red” nappy, it was just everywhere. 3 year old spilled orange juice all over her. 4 year old got saturated by a gush of water from the bathroom tap. It can and does happen.

*Food, food and more food. On a long haul flight food is provided, but sometimes it is not to the taste of a young child (I recommend ordering the children’s meals, which you often have to do in advance). And sometimes it’s not to the child’s schedule. I bring at least one instant meal for each child, sometimes a spare, lots of healthy snacks and one or two not so healthy ones for when emergency distractions are needed. Don’t pack drinks in advance, because they will take them off you at security unless it is milk for a baby. They usually have ample supply of drinks on the flight.

*For smaller children; a nappy (diaper) an hour. Seriously, Murphy’s Law is the only law of the airs when flying with babies. Babies can be sensitive to the change and have upset tummies. Plus, if you are giving them more to drink to settle them and keep them hydrated it only makes sense they’ll go through more nappies. Every single time I have flown I have used at least 12 nappies and sometimes I’ve even given some to other Mothers whom have been caught out. Sometimes an airline will have some, sometimes they won’t and sometimes somebody else will use up their supply before you need them.

*Tissues and wet tissues.

*DISTRACTIONS. A lot of, if not all, airlines provide inflight entertainment on long haul flights. However, for young children they often can’t hear it very well, or they may not be in the mood for TV, or (as has happened me twice) the inflight entertainment system may not be working. It is really useful to have some things packed to keep them entertained. The list of possibilities is endless, depending on what your child likes. Having something they’ve never seen before in the goody bag usually goes a long way. If you want to pack light, what worked really well on one flight was buying the kids a new toy in the airport. It kept them entertained for a few hours. I like light things such as Origami paper and finger puppets. However, here are the 3 things I have found to be useful each time for children between one and five.

Activity Book

  • Activity books for their age group. Coming from Japan the “baby books” are brilliant as they are loaded with crafts (necessary supplies provided), stickers, stories, games and other activities. (The one pictured also came with a DVD, all for 700 yen). I always carry a small scissors and tape in the hand luggage, but these aren’t even necessary for some of the crafts. On our last outbound flight, 4 year old and 3 year old spent most of the time playing with these activity books. On the inbound flight they had activity magazines (Peppa pig and Thomas the Tank Engine), which weren’t as effective, but did keep them entertained for about an hour.

Sticker puzzles

  • Sticker puzzles. I brought both jigsaw and sticker puzzles on our outbound flight. The jigsaw puzzles were a bad idea. 1 year old got her hands on them and the pieces went everywhere. 4 year old and 3 year old enjoyed the sticker puzzles, where each sticker is numbered and you stick it to a corresponding numbered grid to make a picture.
  • WASHABLE markers and paper. This kept 1 year old happy on and off during the flight. She did draw on the seat and bulkhead while I was distracted with the others, hence I stress “washable”! On the inbound long haul flight 4 year old enjoyed writing in a notepad with just a pen for about an hour.

There you have it, the bones of the hand luggage I cannot be without. Don’t forget to visit Tips for travelling with kids (journeysofthefabulist.wordpress.com) and Travel (freebutfun.wordpress.com) for even more great tips.

How I survived flying solo longhaul with 3 babes

Narita to Schiphol

I recently flew from Japan to Ireland, via Amsterdam with my 4 year, 2 year old and 1 year old. I was dreading the flight, it’s a tough journey alone, I knew it would even more taxing with 3 children so young. This is how I “survived”!


We had an ordeal before we even departed Japan (see Unforeseen Passport Control problems at Narita Airport). I was a mess as we took off from Narita on the first leg of our journey, when the Chief Purser brought me a glass of champagne. It helped hugely; with every sip of bubbly, which I normally never drink, I felt my spirits lifting and my body relaxing. It was the only drink I had throughout our travel and I normally wouldn’t recommend drinking when flying, but it was the perfect timely antidote to get us off on the right foot.


I am no martyr, I ask for assistance when I need it. However, before I even had to ask on any of our flights or in the airport, people were volunteering to help in any way they could. The staff on the outward journey were among the best I’ve ever been blessed to have on a flight. They took turns coming to our seats to see if we needed anything and to ensure we were happy and comfortable. It so happened that on the outward flight there was little need for assistance, but on the return journey I was very grateful to my Mom who flew from Dublin to Amsterdam and waited with us until I boarded the last flight to Japan. Also, on the flight from Amsterdam to Narita, I was very accepting and grateful for the help that came from the family seated beside us. The couple, who had 2 young children of their own, helped with everything from setting up the inflight entertainment for my four year old and two year old, to bringing my son to the toilet when I was in the middle of feeding the baby.

Kindness & Praise.

It’s amazing how far a warm smile from a stranger can carry you. Even more amazing the kindness and respect people show you when they realise you are travelling solo with young children. I was so overwhelmed and surprised by the attention we received throughout our travels. I almost felt like a superstar as random people on the flight and in the airport stopped to complement me on travelling alone with 3 young children. On the plane I suppose it was obvious I had no other adult with me, but how people knew in the airport is beyond me. Maybe it was written on my face! And I certainly got a lift out of all the praise we received. I did not expect it as, until the journey, I had no idea that what I was doing was so unusual or impressive. The staff on the long flight (Narita to Schiphol) told me that I was their first with children so young. They made such a big deal of my “accomplishment” it gave me the added boost I needed to stay positive and relaxed throughout our travel.


Having 3 children in 3 years prepares you for the lack of sleep, as I didn’t get to sleep on any flight. On the way out the 3 children did sleep at the same time for an hour, but I used that time to go to the toilet and freshen up, rearrange hand luggage and wash the baby’s bottles, beaker and eating utensils. Other than that I had at least one child awake at all times. Also, having the right things with me went a long way in keeping myself and the children happy. Having adequate supplies of distractions and food for the kids made sure no-one got the grumps and made my job easier.

Asides from all that, the single most helpful thing was my mindset. I have a little mantra I use religiously for life in general to keep positive and sane; this too shall past. At the end of the day, I knew that time stands still for no man and before long the journey would be just a proud memory…and a WordPress post! 🙂