Flying with a tiny human

We recently flew to the other side of the world with our wilful, impatient and fun loving four year old. To me the idea of taking her on a 35 hour flight to New Zealand was terrifying – I’m not a comfortable flyer myself and I was worried she’d pick up on that.

I did loads of research on what to do and what to take and ended up taking far too much so I thought I’d do a little list of what I’d do next time.

Here is what I’d recommend.


In over 35 hours of travel we weren’t served one thing that the tiny human would commit to eating. We are really lucky in that our daughter will eat almost anything that is put in front of her but as it goes the food we were given on the flight was either bland, too salty or just not very nice! I’m pleased we had planned for this though and had our failsafe box of snacks.

We thought long and hard about what to pack as we didn’t want anything too sugary, anything that would get sticky or anything that would be messy. In the end we filled up a sectioned off lunchbox with raisins, cocktail sausages cut in half, dry cheerio cereal rings, sausage rolls, squares of cheese, some blueberries and some plain popped popcorn. On any flight over an hour I’d consider taking snacks for children – anything to avoid a hungry tantrum.

Take a couple of bottles of water and some straws as well – those cups they give you on a flight are a wet lap waiting to happen! Sport bottles of water are great for helping popping ears on takeoff and landing.


This was a tough one – with our hand luggage allowance from Qantas was quite limited so we had to be really careful what we took with us. Some of the stuff we took was totally unnecessary but some of it helped us out of a few tight spots. The things I’d recommend would be –

  • Playdoh – they’ll probably eat it but the small tubs were great and easy to tidy up. It is quite heavy though so if you are tight on weight allowance some sticks of plasticine might be better as it lighter and flatter to pack
  • Playmobile – a couple of the little sets were fab to keep her distracted and filled up several hours with good imaginary play
  • Shopping List Game Shopping List Game – play for her brain as well as her hands. She loves this game and it was easy to pop it all in a zip lock bag to save on space while keeping everything safe.
  • Magnetic Transport Puzzle  – this was our favorite. Really easy to pack down, very light, came in its own packaging and lots of fun for us all
  • Stickers – because all four year olds need 60,00,000 stickers on their person at all times
  • Colouring – don’t rely on the ‘fun packs’ airlines give you and make sure you take your own pencils and a pencil sharpener as well. We also liked the water colouring books as they don’t involve plane seats or trays getting drawn on and no leaking pens in pockets either.

TV Entertainment

Everyone told us not to worry too much as she’d just end up watching films and TV on the behind seat entertainment systems. Which would have been true if she was around 4 inches taller. As it was she needed two pillows to be able to see the screen which wasn’t comfortable for her – for this reason alone I was so so glad we’d taken a tablet with iPlayer on it. She managed to watch a couple of films but it didn’t hold her attention for anywhere near as long as we’d hoped.


This has now become an essential part of travelling with our tiny human. She loves to play the Cbeebies games, Mr Potato Head, Justin’s World, Jigsongs, Little Fox and Magic Fingers drawing games. Stay on the safe side and take a power bank charger with you as well in case your battery starts to run low. I’d also recommend taking a pair of headphones of your own that are comfy enough for your little one to use.

The most important thing to bear in mind when you travel though is that children will be children. If your child is anything like mine you can be 98% sure that there will be a tantrum at some point and while it is embarrassing there isn’t anything you can do about it. They are young children who don’t understand what is happening and who are over excited and over tired – you can only try your best but you must also try as much as possible not to get stressed and overwhelmed by the situation. If you start to really struggle ask the cabin crew if you can move around a bit to give the people around you a rest but ultimately you and the people on that plane have to spend a few hours with each other and then you’ll go on with your separate lives. At the most you’ll be an inconvenience but as long as most people can see you are trying your hardest they tend to understand.

And get some wine or gin from the drinks trolley. It might not help with the tantrums but it’ll make the not caring part a little easier……. 😉

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