Travelling with kids can be stressful, particularly if you are flying long-haul. Believe me, I know all too well as I have been travelling internationally with my kids for the past 9 years – actually since my son was 2 months old (he is now almost 9!). I have gone through every child development stage on our travels – literally from breast feeding, bottle feeding, solids, finger foods etc, and I have travelled with many different airlines, through many different airports. My children are now aged 8 and 6 years old and have been fortunate enough to experience living abroad for many years in a country that is not the same as their passport country. So for us, travelling with kids could not be avoided. We have now come out the other end where travelling with kids is much less admin when it comes to food – hallelujah – and less prep is needed as my kids are now able to cope with eating what food is given to them along the way. I thought I would provide a few tips on food and eating for children when flying, coming from my own personal experience. I would also love to hear the experience and advice of others.
The three most important tips I can give are: 1. Be organised, 2. Stock up on snap-lock bags, and 3. Take plenty of wet wipes!
Firstly, before embarking on a long journey, particularly flying, planning ahead is very important. Take a look at the times of your flights, and if flying across time zones, think about how the new time zone will affect your child’s current body clock. Generally on an international flight, the meals served may not be at your usual meal times, so take this into consideration when flying. The meals served on the plane may not arrive when your child is hungry – even if you order the kids meals. Because of this it is best to pack your own healthy, easy and familiar snacks so that your child can graze in between if their body is recognising they are hungry. This will help to avoid any unnecessary mid-air meltdowns!
Another important thing to remember is to ensure your child drinks lots of water, as flying can be dehydrating. A good idea is to take their own water bottles that can be easily refilled on the plane and that might encourage them to drink frequently. Try to avoid sugary drinks such as juice or soft drink as it is just empty calories and sugar, and it is best to avoid any adverse effects of a sugar rush that might occur in the air whilst your child is tired and in an unfamiliar environment.
If travelling with a baby or toddler, inevitably your child will need milk of some sort, whether that is breast milk, formula or cows milk. If you are formula feeding ensure you pack enough formula to last you the entire flight PLUS extra in case of flight delays or in case the baby is extra fussy and will feed more often than usual. I used to pre-measure my formula and put it into small snap lock bags (very space efficient and sterile). In addition I would take a thermos with boiled water in it, which can then be refilled on board. If traveling internationally be mindful of liquid regulations and do your research before departing. Bottles of water are also a great sterile option and the bottles can be heated on board by the airline staff. Also take a small container of washing up liquid, your bottle brush and some sterilising solution in case you need to reuse bottles on the plane. Don’t wash them in the toilet though – use the kitchen area of the plane.
If your child is on solids, you can pack your own pre-made food (if stored correctly). However, when my children were younger, flying was a time when I had to forcibly relax the reigns and realise that it was easier for me to pack store bought baby food – particularly on the longer haul flights. The pouches of food you can buy at the supermarket are particularly easy and space efficient. Also remember to pack extra as you MAY be required to open and taste test at security check points, depending on which country you are in. I have had this happen to me at Heathrow airport on many occasions despite the food being sealed from the supermarket. Also – remember to pack eating utensils for small children – plastic spoon and fork.
For those children that are slightly older, if you can order the kids meal after booking your tickets it is more child friendly and usually arrives first so they don’t have to wait. Some airlines are better than others and this is really trial and error. For the snacks, try to avoid sweets such as lollies to keep your child happy as it will inevitable backfire at some point on the flight! Pack finger friendly and preferably ‘dry’ foods for long haul flights. You want minimal mess and don’t want to risk food going bad. Pre-packed ‘wet’ food is fine for short haul flights if packed correctly.
Aim to pack snack foods in snap lock bags that are already pre-portioned and easy for your child to take and eat straight from the bag. Snap lock bags are also more space efficient than plastic containers. Some snack ideas for the plane are:
– fruit squeezy pouches
– low sugar muesli bars
– rice cakes
– rice crackers
– vegemite sandwich (or other spreads such as jam, nut butters etc)
– wholegrain crackers
– trail mix (almonds, cashews, raisins etc.)
– whole fruits such as apple or banana (although check regulations on where you are flying to, and if not allowed these can usually be found on the plane)
– dried cereal or granola
– low sugar biscuits
– dried fruit (apricots, raisins)
Also – pack wipes – lots of them! Flying with kids can be messy! Good luck and safe travels.
* Please note this is information from my own personal experience over the years. Always be sure to research the current liquid regulations and rules of the particular airline you are flying with.