How to Travel With Kids & My Australian Adventure

By May 16, 2011January 9th, 201538 Comments

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travel with kids

G’Day! Just this last week I returned from my second trip to the land down under! The first time, about 18 months ago, my husband and I decided to brave the 15 hour flight ourselves and leave the kids behind. We had a fabulous trip, but I knew that this next time around I wanted to travel with kids—even if it meant suffering through a very long day of travel, a severe time change, and taking them out of school. Sometimes it’s fun to actually live the geography and culture you read about in text books!

travel with the kids

I’ll be honest! I was a bit terrified at the thought of travel with kids, especially when it comes to my children trapped in an airplane for that many hours on end. But, I’m used to it. My husband is a pilot, and naturally, travel/airports/airplanes are part of that package. We are an adventure seeking family, with our eyes constantly pointed toward the horizon of our next crusade. This time, it happened to be Australia, and I wasn’t about to give up that plan because a silly ride in an airplane stood in the way.

travel with kids

I’ve flown with babies, toddlers, and now two school agers. What links the three? It’s simple: PLANNING. Know your obstacles, plan your defense. Don’t board that airplane with a screaming three year old and absolutely nothing in your arsenal to throw down in case of an emergency. Be prepared for your journey. Stock yourself with all the necessary components to attack any situation with a level head and calm nerves. I’ve had lots of friends ask for tips on how to travel with kids. My first word of advice: ACTION PLAN!

travel for family

Think of your trip like this:
What might I need before the flight?
What might I need en route?
What might I need after the flight?
(And, never forget about the return flight as well!)

travel with kids

Don’t just think of the easy things either. Snacks are a given. But, what if little Johnny Boy gets sick after eating the said snack and has an upset stomach? What if YOU get a headache? What if little Suzy girl just can’t sit still and needs something to keep her hands busy for that long flight to visit Grandma? The answers to these questions depend on you, Miss Globe Trotter. Were you prepared? Did you do your homework?

travel with children

Of course, you can’t bring a whole first aid kit, tool kit, pantry, and arts and crafts table along for the ride. You have to pick and choose. Give and take. Bring a little, save a little for next time. I can’t give you an exact recipe for every situation, but I can show you what I bring along so that you can gain a bit of inspiration and a starting point for your own action plan when it comes to travel with kids.

travel with kids

First aid kit-

Container: It could be as simple as a plastic Ziploc bag or a small fabric zipper case.

What’s in MY bag: Small package of tissues, 2 safety pins, small bottle of Tylenol, small bottle of Tums tablets, a few Pepto tablets, 2 tampons, chap stick, a few band aids, breath mints, small bottle of lotion, and small container of baby powder.

You could add: Earplugs, change for a dollar, baby wipes, bobby pins, any medication you might need, hand sanitizer, ponytail holder, emergency telephone numbers, etc…

TIP: I just use a clear plastic Ziploc bag for the sheer convenience of getting through the TSA and being able to just pull it out of my purse without thinking and at a moments notice. (since my first aid kit contains liquids).

children travel

For the kids—

Container: When my boys were small, I had them each carry small, individual back packs loaded with their supplies. It seems like the larger shoulder bag works better these days. I took the duty this trip of looking after our travel goods.

What’s in MY bag: Assorted selection of small activity books (both educational and fun), a pen and pencil for each child, video game for each child, a few toys chosen by the child (ones that neither made any noise, nor had lots of pieces. Things like Hot Wheels cars, dolls, or a small pair of binoculars work well.) snacks, small notebook with plain paper, and a small sweater or hoodie to wear if it gets cold.

You could add: A personal DVD player, crayons or colored pencils, origami paper, a change of clothes, extra diapers, etc…

TIP: When my kids were younger, I brought along a secret treat bag with enough small novelty toys/snacks to give one to each child, every half hour of the flight. If there were any boredom issues, I would trade toys around, keeping things fresh, new, and mysterious! Their favorite activity to date: lacing cheerios on a piece of yarn. Yes, it takes a bit of planning (just a small bag with cheerios and a piece of yarn with a bit of tape at the end to keep it stiff), but it’s cheap and so easy.

TIP: When traveling overseas, be aware of customs laws and know that snacks you have in your bag might have to be thrown away before reaching your destination. In our case, we had apples and granola bars—both no-no’s in Australia.

things to do with kids

For you—

Container: I usually load everything I might need into my handbag or purse. This trip, I shared the boys shoulder bag to save on space—and it all fit!

What’s in MY bag: Magazines, a book or two, camera, iPod, snacks, my first aid kit, cash, wallet with ID, and passports.

You could add: Touch up makeup, water*, pen, puzzle books, medication, neck pillow, socks, etc…

*I know it seems odd to bring your own water on a flight, and I guess on a domestic flight it might be, but most overseas flights will ration the water they give out to the passengers.

travel with kids

When you plan right, and your trip can start without a hitch, it makes for a better vacation experience! No one wants to be that person with the crying child (I’ve SO been there!) or the person stuck sitting next to the crying child! (I’ve been there as well!) It’s all about thinking ahead, and stocking your bags with the supplies needed for a smooth flight. Be prepared, anticipate the worst and hope for the best. But most importantly, don’t forget to pack plenty of patience!

travel with kids

Do you have any great tips for traveling with children? Welcome aboard! Please share them here!

About Emily Louise

Emily is a apron-wearing, camera-wielding, mother and pilots wife who has found her niche in discovering a reason to celebrate every day and enjoying the simple things life has to offer.


  • WishTrish says:

    Excellent post, of course! But my real comment is this: Did you REALLY capture a photo of the Opera House under a rainbow?! Incredible timing, immaculate framework, timeless photo. Love it. 🙂

  • Blond Duck says:

    I’m printing these out!

  • My husband and I took a trip to Australia in October 2010. I know that you and your family had a WONDERFUL time!

  • Tammy says:

    Hello Emily, I’m a US expat living in Sydney and new to blogging. I’m not sure how to do this, but I wanted to see if you’d be open to me re-posting this entry on my site. I’m trying to build up resources for people who might be relocating here and/or families who might be visiting expats living here. I think your post is so practical and sincere it would be great! Please let me know what you think. Warm regards and happy travelling, Tammy

  • Angie says:

    Love these tips! We just got back from our first official vacation with our toddler (16 months old) which was a week at the beach and a 12 hour drive each way. Being prepared is definitely the key and really made our trip pretty smooth. I also love the advice to pack plenty of patience … truer words have never been spoken 🙂

  • adriel says:

    Glad you love Australia so much! 🙂 It really is a beautiful place for a holiday. My best travel advice for mums is… plan, plan, plan before you go… and then ROLL WITH IT once you’re off! Also, take a few extra (emptied) SD cards and a mini-hard drive to back up photos as you go. (But that’s coming from a photo-obsessed mummy so may not apply to everyone!)

  • Kimberly says:

    Great tips! Hubby and are love traveling- which means we drag our boys along now too 🙂
    I am a HUGE planner (lists after lists after lists) & my biggest tip is to pack large pieces of luggage with smaller bags inside (I like to put each complete outfit in it’s own freezer bag) because there is nothing worse than a big, messy suitcase and stuff spread all over the hotel room. I did a travel month on my blog back in March and posted all of our tips from traveling with our infant & toddler to our experience chaperoning pre-teens across Europe.

  • Amy W. says:

    Fantastic article. I don’t know if I would be brave enough to fly with a young one. In fact, the thought makes me have a nervous twitch. I have flown with my son when he was 8, and that was fine, but I can’t imagine taking my 2 yr old on a long flight – or any for that matter.

    I will remember these tips deep in the recess of my brain if the need should arise.

  • Brave woman, awesome trips! Will go read more to see if I can get my courage up!

  • Thanks for this great post! It came at the right time too! We are set to go on our first family holiday with BiP in 2 days to NYC and it’s going to be a LONG flight with her on my knee (she’s almost 13 months) your tips are great! I am going to make a bag of small toys and ration them! Great tips!

    Gorgeous photo’s and love your blog!

  • Leila says:

    What a great post! As an Aussie I’m so glad that you enjoyed Australia!! If you ever get a chance visit the West Coast (which is where I’m from), I think you’d love it.

  • Great tips. It is so important to feel we can travel with our kids, instead of seeing them as a hindrance to our vacation.

  • Kelly Deneen says:

    Wow, you are good!!

    I have only traveled by airplane once with a kiddo/s, and at the time my daughter was 9 months old and not mobile yet. While my plan of her napping on my lap worked out once we were in the air, I did not plan well for being stuck on the tarmac for 1.5 hours before take-off. Oy. I wish I would’ve packed more snacks, bottles, etc. Your ideas are perfect for car travel too!

  • Nini says:

    I often wonder how our love for travel will change or transition once we have kids. Can’t wait to go check this blog out. One of my friends just moved to Australia to live and I’m obsessed with visiting there now!

  • Steph says:

    Looks like ti was a wonderful vacation! What great pics and memories… Love the “what’s in the bag” tips. Thanks!

  • SharleneT says:

    Nothing is more exciting than the age you discover that the little darlings can actually carry some of their own things and don’t go running off in 35 different directions at the most inconvenient times. That follows after they can go to the bathroom by themselves in a restaurant… Oh, I love the phases of motherhood! Kind of miss them… You have so many adventures of fun ahead of you. Enjoy and thanks for sharing.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Charlie has been overseas twice now at the age of 6. Africa is on the agenda for next year. These tips are all great. I do recommend if you pack DVD players, iPods, etc. that you get a charger that is FAA approved and will fit the airplane seat socket. Most carriers have power ports nowadays for international flight. That way you won’t freak out when the battery dies in the middle of the movie or flight with 8 hours left to go!

  • Life As Wife says:

    I love your tips but I think I might LOVE your gray trench coat more!!!

  • For my cherubs, packing for the trip is half the fun. Seriously. They get a big kick out of making a packing list, laying everything out, making substitutions, organizing it all…an adventure in and of itself. ps – LOVE the pics!

    • Thanks Sue! I also get a kick out of the packing- starting days in advance and organizing each outfit with accessories, shoes, etc… But that’s a whole other story!!

  • We are braving our first plane trip in September to Disney so this post was really helpful! It will be a short flight thankfully (beats 12 hours in a car!) but its the take-off that worries me since she won’t be able to sit in my lap!

    P.S. I love Sydney too! Australia is gorgeous but so is New Zealand! Hopefully one day I’ll be able to take my family!

  • My niece just moved to Australia last week after visiting over Thanksgiving. I can see by your photos why she loves it!

  • Laura says:

    Happy Monday! I would love to visit Australia.

  • Tugboat says:

    GREAT tips!!

  • sounds fun and overwhelming!

  • BLOGitse says:

    We love Sydney too!
    Holiday greetings from Tuscany, Italy!

  • Anjie says:

    Great tips! I’m not sure when I’ll be brave enough to travel with my kids. I tend to WAY overpack. Heck, we just went to a wedding and stayed in a hotel overnight and the car was PACKED!!! (And the wedding was only an hour and a half away) Eek…

  • I’m enjoying that my boys are old enough to take care of themselves when we travel. Heck, they travel by themselves now. Well, the oldest does and the youngest will for college next year:)