Plane spotting at Chicago O'Hare airport Plane spotting at Chicago O'Hare airport © H. Michael Miley/Flickr

How to: travel with small children

Travelling with toddlers, twins and on your own with little ones can be extremely stressful. Travel guru Carrie Bradley shares her expert tips for surviving the long haul.

by 25 October 2015

Once the initial excitement of taking to the skies in an aeroplane has worn off, or the overhead voice makes the dreaded ‘delayed’ announcement, any parent needs all the help and advice they can to make it through the flight and to the arrivals gate in one piece. Especially if you have an over excited and over tired toddler in tow, and even more so if you are travelling single-handedly or with twins.

In the second of our two part interview, ex flight attendant and travel consultant Carrie Bradley, author of, shares her tips on travelling long haul with toddlers, the perks of flying business, first and by private jet and selects her favourite toys and apps to keep the little ones entertained.

What advise do you have for surviving long haul flights with little ones? Is it really wise?
Definitely, the world is there to be discovered and mini travellers enjoy the adventure too, so the journey is well worth it. Ultra long haul flights are often the toughest due to the lack of space and boredom. I recommend:
• Breaking your journey up and having a night or two in transit.
• Board last. Boarding first is not a wise choice with toddlers, instead make sure they are last on, so your little one/s is not confined to the plane until the very last minute and they don’t have to wait for all the other passengers to board. Your partner can board ahead to make sure you have space for your luggage.
• Spend time before your flight downloading their favourite apps and shows on an iPad so they can spend time quietly playing and watching programmes.
• Wrap small toys up and give them to them one-by-one throughout the flight. It will keep them busy!
• Pack plenty of snacks.
• If you are travelling with a partner, take turns with the childcare. Have one of you on duty for an hour and then swap.
• Consider sitting separately with one parent sitting in front of toddler so he/she avoids kicking the seat in front of you and disturbing other passengers. It will also allow the other parent to have a bit of a break.

Making it look easy: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie arrive at LAX with their six childrenMaking it look easy: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie arrive at LAX with their six children

What is your advice for parents travelling on their own or with twins/multiple children?
If you are travelling alone, a baby carrier is a must or a stroller like the Yoyo that can collapse into a very compact piece of hand luggage, and fit into an aircraft overhead locker. There are often airport meet and greet services you can book to help you through the terminal, such as Marhaba in Dubai. The cabin crew will also keep an eye on your baby and be an extra pair of hands when you need to pop to the toilet etc. Just ask.

Is it worth travelling in business or first with young children?
The extra space is always useful, especially if your child is too large for a bassinet or baby seat. A night flight with a lie flat bed also makes the flight more comfortable for everyone. You also have access to airport lounges. Some business travellers obviously want to work on the flight, so any noise could disrupt them - that's what noise-cancelling headsets are for.

How do you deal with those travellers who turn their noses up at noisy children?
I usually ignore those passengers as best as I can and try and distract my children from being too noisy. And of course apologise if the situation warrants it.

How feasible is flying on a private jet with children?
It is definitely worth considering, especially when seats are available on the ‘deadhead’ section of flight, which is essentially when a VIP chartered flight has to fly empty on one of its sectors after dropping off or flying to the next pick up point. Of course, flexibility is lost but ultimate comfort is yours and there will be no concerns about disturbing other passengers and all for a fraction of the usual cost.

What toys are useful for keeping children entertained?
For babies I would advise stacking cups, teething toys, soft books, a mirror and an activity ball. And for toddlers, reusable stickers, fuzzy felt, magnetic boards, Crayola colour wonder books and pens and Tomy mini water colouring in mats.

Many people frown upon little ones watching TV on phones and iPads etc. but it can be a saving grace on long flights. What do you recommend?
Watching their favourite programmes will keep them busy and happy and many apps and shows are also educational. If you are in the UK, then BBC iPlayer is very handy. Just download your favourite show for free before you go. If you download some VPN software, then you can have access to all shows from all over the world. Many children's shows and apps are also available on iTunes. Mine has loved 'Baby Jake' as well as the universal favourites, 'In the Night Garden', 'Peppa Pig' and 'Ben and Holly's Magic Kingdom.'

© Eduardo Merille/Flickr© Eduardo Merille/Flickr

What are the best apps for babies?
• Baby View Pocket iOS – this is good for 0-18 months and especially younger babies. It is similar to the black and white sensory books, but moving.
• Fisher Price offers some free apps including the 'Laugh and Learn' collection, with shapes and music games. There are currently only a few Fisher Price games for android devices (some animated nursery rhyme books), but if you use Apple there are several free great ones on their App store, which are fun and educational.

What apps help keep toddlers entertained?
• Bizzy Bear on the Farm - a little gem full of pictures and animation as you read and explore the farm. Ideally for 2-4 year olds. (iPhone/iPad)
• My First 101 Words - this educational app helps to teach first words, with video clips which help to engage your little one. (iPhone/iPad)
• Peppa Pig - series 1-4 for free. (Android only)
• Fun For Toddlers - a fun sounds and puzzle game with over 80 different sounds. (Android only)
• Farm 123 - an educational and fun magical pop-up book and game, which helps little ones learn to count. (Android only)
• Candy crush, Color drops, Peekaboo Barn, ABC Toddler, Race Penguin, Mouse Maze, Duplo. (All iOS and Android)

Click here to read part one of our interview, where Carrie advises parents flying with a baby, including choosing the right airline, what to pack and carry in your hand luggage, tips for making it to the check in gate on time and on board tips.