Overseas travel is back on the agenda! But when you’re flying overseas with a family, it’s not just the price, number of connections and transit times you need to be aware of. Travel consultant MAXINE LAWS shares her top tips for stress-free international travel.
1: Sort out seating
Babies can qualify for a bassinet, making it easier for sleeps – and you get extra leg room! Some airlines will allocate bassinets to you and reserve the seats when you book.
With others, it’s the luck of the draw. Remember to ask when you book.
Children under two are classed as infants and don’t require a seat of their own (so get cheap flights as a result). Those too big for a bassinet will be on your lap. Your child must still be under two when you return from holiday, though, or they’ll have to pay the full child fare for a seat. Child fares finish as soon as they’re 12, and then it’s adult pricing. Ouch!
Be aware: Many airlines charge families to pre-book seats, meaning you have to pay more to sit together. Make sure flight quotes include any such costs.
2: Get travel insurance
Once you’ve booked and paid for your flights, you’re subject to any cancellation fees imposed by the airline. So, make sure you buy travel insurance to not only cover you while you’re away, but in case your circumstances change after you book. My daughter caught bronchiolitis while in the UK once, and we couldn’t travel home. We were insured, though, and could claim for our financial losses.
Be aware: Often there is no charge for the children on a family travel insurance policy. But, the children share the cover limits of the adults, so make sure the cover is enough.
3: Be prepared on the flight
Give each child their own set of tickets (duplicates, of course), and involve them in locating your flight number, the check-in desk and departure lounge. Get them to check what they can and cannot carry on board and talk about why. Creating a quiz based around their holiday is good too. Lonely Planet Kids have great travel books, such as How Airports Work, which children may enjoy.
Pack the tablet or iPad in case they can’t operate the seat-back entertainment system.
Top tip: Create ‘the bag’. More than just a snack pack (although it definitely needs snacks, and remember, drinks need to be under 100ml), fill it with colouring-in, magazines, playdough, Lego, stickers. Keep ‘the bag’ as a surprise for when you need it.
4: Remember – tired kids sleep
If you’re flying at night, tire the kids out before you go. Pack early and hit the theme park for the day before heading to the airport. Every hour of sleeping is an hour less you have to entertain.
Top tip: Put the kids in their PJs (including night pull-ups) before you board. Airlines require seat belts to be worn for a while after you board and take off, and then queues begin for the on-board toilets once the seatbelt sign goes off. Better to have your child ready so they can drop off nicely if they need to.
Watch out for children staying awake too long, as they may fall into a deep sleep just before you land. It’s difficult to carry a dead-weight child and all the carry-on luggage down the plane aisle. Strollers are available at airports, however, should you find yourself in transit with a sleepy one.
5: Try a short flight first – like Fiji
Haven’t travelled overseas as a family before? Try a destination with a short flight first. Fiji is a great choice, with only about a 3.5-hour flight from Christchurch International Airport – the only South Pacific destination with a direct flight from here. Fiji Airways also has new modern aeroplanes to fly in.
Fiji offers excellent family-friendly hotels and lots of fantastic family activities. I’ve had good reviews on Mana Island Resort, know that Naviti Resort offers a good all-inclusive option with a kids’ club, while the Sheraton Fiji Golf & Beach Resort has recently re-opened after a major renovation and caters to families.