Surviving a short plane journey with two small boys

flying with small kids

They were 21 months and 3 and a half.  Some thought that we were brave.  But it was only two and a half hour flight, we knew people who’d travelled to the US solo with two kids, and even to Australia.  We could do it.  So why we were terrified? We’d brought the bigger lad when he was 12 months and he (mostly) behaved, but this would be two of them, to bounce off each other, and we’d have three seats between the four of us.  When travelling with young kids you just don’t know how things will turn out and in such a confined space you’ve got the reactions of the other passengers to deal with if your child misbehaves. Hence the terror.

But we were determined to get to our Tuscan campsite so we had no alternative but to get organised and do it.

I got prepared well in advance. Here’s what I did, apologies that some of these tips are very basic but it’s amazing what you forget (I, for example brought no sandals or flipflops for myself,  just the converse I was wearing, but a problem that results in shoe shopping isn’t really a problem at all).

Raisins help with waiting...
Raisins help with waiting…

Hand luggage

Practical things first, a complete change of clothes for each boy (socks and all), 6 more nappies than I thought we’d need, lots of babywipes,  and a clean t-shirt for the adults were all in the hand luggage.  We gave the three-year-old a small backpack of his things and placed it inside a larger backpack to avail of the 10kg free hand luggage limit on the flight, but to keep his bits  together in the smaller one, easy to fish out at a moment’s notice was very handy.  The changes of clothes and nappy bits were in ziploc bags, handy to pull out when needed.  Spare soothers and the smaller boy’s blankie were also very close to hand and we brought some emergency Calpol just in case in our liquids bag.

Pack a light blanket in your hand luggage. If you’ve a child that needs to sleep it’s great to be able to drape it over them. Make sure it’s a dark colour though! We use a red velour one from IKEA that we have a few years, it works as a sunshade to throw over the buggy when a child snoozes during the day.

We paid for two 20kg bags for our 2 week holiday but bought these fantastic Cabin Max bags from Amazon which hold an enormous amount but fit into the Ryanair hand luggage cage.  We’ve used them loads since and they are really handy.

Snacks

Judge me all you like, but I know that to keep my boys happy I need to keep them well fed.  So obviously I packed snacks, many, many snacks but nothing sticky or spilly.  And many, many babywipes, because experience has taught us that just because you don’t think that things are sticky or spilly doesn’t mean that they aren’t.

Snack wise you’ll need to be sensible – fiddly packaging is great as it takes them longer to get into and eat, so little boxes of raisins, mini bags of biscuits and crackers, ricecakes and a factoryful of breadsticks wrapped in clingfilm.  Little pots of dry cereal are handy too and that means you’ve got some little pots with you for the holiday.  If you’ll miss a meal then bring a sandwich for an older child  or if your younger child is still on babyfood some premade pouches are essential, and lighter than the jars.

I packed the snacks in separate small ziploc bags in different hand luggage bags, as if the boys spied everything all at once they’d plague me for the ricecakes/raisins etc until everything was all gone.

Raisins galore

The liquid ban is a nuisance but rather than risk letting them drink out of unfamiliar bottles and drenching us I brought their normal sports bottle and sippy cup with us empty and filled them with water in the airport.

In transit

We brought our double buggy and kept it til the gate in the airport to contain the boys, and to facilitate the run to the faraway gate and it also helpfully held our hand luggage.  In the end we didn’t get a buggy cover (as the one for our buggy was €80!), we took our chances.  It was a bit manic boarding as we hadn’t reserved seats or paid for priority boarding (we did on the way home) and we had to bring the three hand luggage bags and fold the buggy to hand it in.  A very nice couple who had chosen seats on either side of the aisle moved to sit together so that we could take three seats together too.  We were very grateful, although after a few glasses of wine that night we realised that most likely the motivation for their kindness was that neither of them wanted to be seated next to either of our boys!

On the plane we sat the kids with an adult between them, and obviously the smaller one on top of an adult (mostly me) as he was under 2 so didn’t have his own seat.

The toddler wasn’t even two so he was hard to keep occupied with colours etc all he really wanted or needed was my completely undivided attention for the entire time from when we left the long stay car park to when we arrived at the other end, plus lots of hugs and snuggles.

The then three-year-old sat by the window and was mesmerised.  He asked a zillion questions and his Daddy patiently answered them all.  Or at least the ones that were in the breadth of his knowledge, we needed an aeronautical engineer or some class of airport expert for others, but they were deftly batted away by Dad.

In flight entertainment

We had some “artillery” with us which proved invaluable and since I’ll be recommending them to friends, and giving them as gifts too I thought I’d mention them here.  I bought all these items myself and have absolutely no affiliation with the companies or any suppliers. I just think that they help harassed parents so I’m sharing the knowledge.


The winner of the preschooler distraction competition was this fantastic set from Usborne. It’s 50 individual wipe clean cards, with mazes, word puzzles, spot the difference, dot to dots and pictures to finish drawing. Our older boy adored these. We revealed them on the plane and hid them for the rest of the holiday so that they were completely new on the way back, he was thrilled. There’s only one marker though so don’t lose it!

Crayola Color Wonder– this is a great “invisible colouring” product from Crayola- we got a present of one, but I’ve seen them in Tesco and Smyths.

Kids’ Playing Cards– I got a three pack of Spears Cards in my local Tesco for less than €4- the boys made up their own games with them too, great for the airport and for sitting on the deck on holidays.

Colouring things Bring crayons or colouring pencils- NOT markers. The lady in front of you doesn’t need to find that her jacket has purple spots now.

A new matchbox sized car (each). Brilliant to push around when waiting in the airport if you have extra time. Ditto plastic animals but not ones that are too noisy. Your local euro shop is great for these

Sticker books– we had bought a couple in discount stores but this Usborne (no affiliation, honest, they are just good products) one proved to be the favourite, mostly because you have to find the duck on each page, and who doesn’t love a duck hunt!

Other Holiday Help:

We stayed at Park Albatros and booked with Campotel.

Thanks to advice from a friend we didn’t rent carseats from our car rental company, they couldn’t guarantee them and we had concerns about knowing how to fit them, so we brought the toddler’s Maxi Cosi Tobi and bought a  Bubblebum  inflatable booster seat for our older boy (he’s big for his age) and that rolled up into our hand luggage.  Ryanair charged €10 each way to bring the toddler seat, to rent one was multiples of that and we had no regrets about bringing it . I did get a cover for the carseat that we brought with us – a canvas bag from Heatons that’s meant for storing duvets, worked a treat for €5, the purpose-built ones cost a fortune. The carseat left us at the outsize luggage part of check in and we got it back on the luggage carousel.

Have you any more travel tips to share with other readers? I’d love to hear them, so why not leave them in the comments below.

PLEASE NOTE:

This is not a sponsored post and any items that I recommend in the post are based on personal experience. I paid for all of the products involved.

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12 thoughts on “Surviving a short plane journey with two small boys

  1. Brilliant post and so helpful. I would never have thought of most of those in a million years! I particularly like the empty cups one – genius! I had no idea about the car seat thing. I’d be blindly paying the rental company hand over fist so thank you for that 🙂

    Such an adorable photo. Your boys are gorgeous!

    1. Thanks for commenting. Apparently some countries are more expensive than others for carseats and some are more reliable than others, but it worked out well for us.
      The photo was taken in Pisa airport just before they ran away and into a Customs Office and emptied the bin onto the floor!

  2. Someone said to me once that 12 months to 3 years are really the worst times for travelling with kids. They were right, though I have to admit that by 2.5 my daughter was pretty distractable with a sticker book. We travel Trans-Atlantically at least once a year, and I agree with everything you’ve said. Ziploc bags are vital! (Never heard of an inflatable booster seat, though. Must look into that.) I did write a post about packing once: http://awfullychipper.blogspot.com/2012/02/very-boring-entry-about-packing.html

    1. Thanks for commenting Christine, I well believe it. If we were going somewhere this year I think the flight would be easier as the smaller boy is getting easier to keep busy with colouring and stickers.
      I LOVE your packing post, I can see myself going back to it again, it’s not boring at all, getting organised is great. Let me know how you get on with the inflatable booster if you try it.

      1. Looking at the website I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be allowed over here by US regulations, and it’s easy enough for us to borrow a booster when we visit home. But still, ingenious idea and I will keep it in mind just in case someone asks on a blog some day and I can point them in the right direction!

  3. Great post Sinéad. Rory’s story cubes are great to keep kids busy while travelling but they require some interaction with the parents. We have 2 sets at home (Original and Voyages) and they’re a very popular (and Irish too!) http://www.storycubes.com

  4. I flew last summer with my, then 2 year-old, twins. I did pretty much the same as you, but we also had a couple of story books in tow because my pair love having things read and re-read over and over and over, so we get loads of mileage out of just one book! The other thing we did was buy a book beforehand called ‘Going on a Plane’ so the girls knew exactly (-ish) what to expect from the airport/plane journey -waiting in a queue/finding seats/seat-belts/loud noises/etc. I definitely think it helped and they were model passengers! Phew!
    Your little fellas are gorgeous!

    1. Thanks for leaving the comment Sadhbh. How could I forget books? We literally don’t leave home without them:) We brought a couple in the hand luggage and a couple more in the main luggage for bedtime stories. Thanks for reminding me.

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