Travelling with children. Three words that can single-handedly make hairs stand on end and send shivers down the spine of every parent known to mankind. Organising the essentials (think itinerary, passports and visas), packing and lugging your bags through the airport, obtaining boarding passes, checking in bags, navigating the security screening, dealing with hunger pangs and getting around the airport when it's just you is more than enough to conquer. But when you add a tiny human or two into the mix, well... things can understandably seem daunting.
But it needn't be that way. With a little bit of foresight and a whole lot of tip following, travelling with your little ones can be a manageable, enjoyable, and incredibly rewarding experience.
Before you arrive at the airport
Plan, plan and then when you think you've planned enough, plan some more. It's important to remember that travel in the years before children required a lot less multitasking, research and organisation.
When it comes to airlines, children under the age of two are classed as a baby and will be required to sit with an adult on the plane or occupy a seat (on their own ticket) in an approved child restraint system. Children between the ages of two and twelve will have their own seat on a child fare.
Before you book your flights, be sure to research all of the different airlines available and ask the important questions to identify which airline will best meet your needs:
- Are there baby/toddler/children's meals available?
- Is there an option to check strollers at the gate, or do i need to check in my stroller at the oversized bag drop-off?
- Are there loan strollers available?
- Are there infant bassinets available?
- What are the in-flight entertainment options for children?
- What are the baggage allowances per passenger?
- Can you check-in online from home (save time and prevent tiny hands from mauling the check-in screens = win-win!)?
Consider evening and night-time flights. Planning flights around your child's bedtime is a good solution when it comes to minimising the chance of having to contain a bundle of energy.
Once you've booked your flights, write a list of everything your child/ren could possibly need during the flight before you even start packing. This list will be your go-to, and you will need to pack these items in your carry-on bag. Think entertainment, medication, food, water, a change of clothes, nappies, wet wipes, etc. Best leave those ice skates, scalpels and letter openers at home, because anything with sharp, pointy edges or anything that can be used to harm someone (or even resemble an item that could harm someone) will be confiscated at security.
If you aren't sure whether an item meets the 'may cause harm' criteria, consult the Australian Government's TravelSecure website to ensure there are no issues with any of your planned carry-on items.
Another valuable site to visit is the Civil Aviation Safety Authority dangerous goods search. Search any item and it will tell you whether the item is permitted or not. I like to imagine the Family Feud *bah-booow* sound when my item comes up as not permitted.
On domestic flights, there is no limit to the volume of powders, liquids, aerosols or gels that you can take one board in your carry-on baggage. But all aerosol containers must have a fitted cap or locking device.
For international flights, you can carry a reasonable quantity of inorganic powder, liquid, aerosol or gel items for a baby or infant. There is no quantity restrictions for organic powders such as baby formula, but carry-on space is precious and limited, so pack only what you need for the duration of your flight and any delays that may occur.
Getting to BNE
Time, and plenty of it, will be your best friend when it comes to getting to and navigating Brisbane Airport with tiny humans in tow. Take the stress out of your journey by allowing extra time for the unforeseeable - traffic delays, issues with public transport or finding a park, peak period congestion, etc especially in peak travel periods like school, Easter and Christmas holidays. The more time you allow, the less likely you will be frazzled and have to do the mad dash across the terminal to make your flight.
If you're looking to park at the airport and don't have a travelling companion to help with the additional arms, legs and suitcases, consider the ParkValet concierge service. Book online, drop off your vehicle (Level 3 of P1 at the Domestic Terminal car park and Level 1 at the International Terminal car park), and the concierge will assist you with your luggage to and from the terminal. Too easy!
If you have wonderful friends and family who have put their hand to drop you off, consider booking ParkShort, so they can extend the goodbye and help you get the luggage and children into the terminal.
Brisbane Airport is a child-friendly environment and our staff are on hand to accommodate families as much as possible, particularly through the often-dreaded but incredibly necessary security screening process. It is a requirement by law that staff screen everyone, regardless of age, at the security checkpoint. Here is a list of things you can expect to encounter:
- Babies and children will have to be taken out of carriers or strollers for screening.
- Babies can be carried by an adult.
- If children can walk without assistance, they will be asked to walk through the screening point on their own. Children will not be screened via body scanners.
- Strollers, prams, and carriers must be screened via the x-ray machine along with any other carry-on baggage.
Once you've made it through the security screening process, the hardest part is done. Phew! Now it's time to take full advantage of the services and facilities on offer at BNE before boarding to make that 'holiday feeling' start within the terminal and keep everyone (the kids) happy.
Explore the shops to pick up any forgotten in-flight necessities, whether it be Children's EarPlanes to help equalise little ears or fun card games to keep the kids entertained.
If you are more organised than me, get familiar with the incredible food and beverage on offer throughout the terminal and share a meal as a family. After all, it is a well-known fact that full tummies often equal happy and compliant children.
Biggest pre-flight tip I can offer as a parent? Visit one of the many parent rooms located throughout the Domestic and International Terminals, all of which are equipped with baby change facilities, toddler-sized toilets, feeding chairs and microwaves. Find a parent room here.
Whatever you do, avoid cracking open the emergency entertainment pack within your carry-on before you board your flight! Tiny humans are curious, adventurous beings, and BNE is the perfect environment to engage in exploration and education. Why not try the following:
- Old-fashioned plane spotting. Find a window in the terminal where you can watch planes take off, land, disembark and refuel. Talk to your kids about the processes involved and allow their inquisitive minds to come up with questions and observations.
- The terminal is also the perfect place to participate in people watching, where you can give the kids a goal of finding 'five ladies wearing red' or 'two purple suitcases'.
- If you are after a slightly less creepy alternative to the above, a game of "I spy" will pass the time.
- If you are travelling internationally, there is a permanent interactive screen located on the Village Green of Level 3 where the kids can play a range of airport-themed games.
The most important part of travelling with children? Enjoy the experience. It's meant to be fun. By following the above tips and taking the time to be in the moment with your little ones, you are bound to leave BNE with some wonderful memories that will make you smile for years to come.
More tips from travelling parents
Over on our Facebook Page, we asked travelling parents to share their best tips for flying with little ones in tow. Here are the best tips from the comments:
"We board last, take a lightweight stroller to the gate and travel very lightly so that we don't end up losing favourite stuff. A good pair of kids earphones and one favourite toy is all we take and never had an issue. Travelling to Europe, it's best to fly to South Korea and get comped a 6 star room and food then over west the next day. The timezone then stays the same and they are awake during the flight and get a good nights sleep in a real bed then back onboard mid morning to arrive in the arvo. Best way to travel with kids." by Jill via Facebook.
"New books and small toys from the cheap shop, iPad and kids headphones plus favourite blanket or toy, snacks and loads of patience!" by Jodie via Facebook.
"Give them their own little carry on bag, packed with small snack bags - cut up fruit, sultanas, yoghurt, popcorn. The things that keep little fingers busy! Plus a scrapbook or colouring book with pencils, I usually invest in the wind up ones, saves sharpening 😉 on a few flights, I took the extra effort and bought a few little toys (etcha sketch etc) and wrapped them all so that it was a surprise and something to again keep little fingers busy!!! Food has always been key for my kids, it’s the first thing they say when they get in a plane (or in a car/bus/train). Definitely worth spending the extra time the night before being prepared!!" by Anna via Facebook.