The recent sunshine this week in Northern NSW has got me thinking about Summer Holiday Family Traveling Tips – Flights Edition. Yes, we all love our family summer holidays but there can be challenges, particularly when flying in is part of your itinerary. Follow some of these tips and you could have your best holiday yet!
Firstly – Thanks to Chris Webber of Travelzoo who inspired this article. Chris’s version is available online.
Costs rise with children’s age
- Most parents don’t fully appreciate the additional cost to the family holiday once toddlers pass their second birthday and then they wish they had travelled more when their babies were younger, so make the most of the time you have!
- Travelzoo estimates that the average rise in cost of a typical two-week family holiday is more than 40% from early summer (early December) to peak (mid-Late December – early January). Smart families with babies and toddlers who are not yet restricted by school-holiday dates should try to travel at either end of the summer to still enjoy good weather and avoid the price hikes. In Northern NSW, the prices generally don’t hike until after December 1 and post Australia Day (26 January). There are still plenty of summer days left, so take advantage!
- And don’t forget the age when child fares cut out with the airlines. For some airlines the age is 11, some even younger. Consider your travel dates to reduce slipping in to the “adult” ticket price range.
- Can be enough to challenge the most patient parent! Give yourself plenty of time to check in. Sure, it may mean waiting in the lounge a little longer (see airport lounges and club memberships below), but it may also mean taking the stress out of panicking that you will miss your flight. Checking in is hard with little ones in tow. I always do a “bag check” and count the bags left so make sure everything is as it should be.
- Put a coloured ribbon on each of your checked bags so that they are easily identifiable at the other end. A patterned one is best as it is unlikely that anyone else will have the same. Make it fun and get the kids to find the bags with the right ribbon.
- Losing your luggage is a reality many of us have faced. Put a copy of your itinerary in the top of each bag. This will enable the airlines to find you quicker.
Airline Baggage Allowances – check your limits
- Some airlines offer as much as 23kg of checked baggage for infants, but most offer around 10kg as well as the option to check in a collapsible stroller/car seat. However, some low-cost carriers offer no baggage allowance for infants at all, so you’ll either have to pack light and share your suitcase or pay extra to check in a bag for your child.
- You can save money by “booking” luggage in advance. You can do this online or before you go (though I think it is at least 24hours prior to departure). Rates are significantly cheaper than the “at the gate” rates.
- Also, I got caught recently. As a Qantas Club member, I was allowed extra baggage in Economy class. This was not allowed for when I checked in (as part of the automatic luggage weigh in/check in process) and the computer tried to charge me for the extra bag. Know your limits – I was able to get my extra bag for free – merely because I knew my limits and had checked it out beforehand – then queried it with the ground staff. This is a new Qantas policy so don’t be caught out.
Getting to the baggage carousel safely
- Many a first-time parent flying with a baby has been caught out by this one. Airlines will allow you to take the stroller right to the plane doors. However, it is then placed in the hold and you won’t see it again until the baggage carousel. Parents travelling alone with a baby should think about how they will carry baby and carry-on luggage with them once they get off the plane at their destination. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Wear appropriate clothing. I could tell you the story about the baby pouch, baby, Mum, skirt and high heels… Needless to say it ended badly with Mum flat on her back, legs in the air and complete strangers rushing in to help. Baby was ok. I recommend trousers and low shoes when traveling with littlies.
- Same goes for wheelchairs. You can request that the wheelchair is bought to you at the gate so you can use your own wheelchair when disembarking. You may have to transit from their “slim” wheelchairs, but at least most of the way will be in your own.
- Before you leave re-do your bag check. Count the number of people AND bags (!) to make sure you have everything. Also, double check your labels to ensure you have your own bags when you leave.
Bulkhead seats are popular
- The majority of airlines do not offer infants under 24 months their own seat, unless you pay a full fare; that means that they will spend the flight on your lap, so reserving a comfortable seat is imperative, especially for long-haul flights. However, choosing your seat can come at an extra cost, as seats with extra leg room can be in high demand. It is worth it however!
Consider buying access to airport lounges or Club Memberships
- Firstly, check that there is a club airport lounge in each of your destinations. No point having access if you can’t get reciprocal rights (ie. no Qantas lounge rights in Vancouver, Canada – found that out the hard way!)
- Airport lounge access may be expensive, but there are deals to be had and it can often work out cheaper than a family lunch at an airport restaurant and the facilities are far superior, with space to relax before boarding without the stress of stopping babies trying to crawl off across dirty airport floors.
- If you are on a long haul flight and with a few hours in between connections, a lounge can be a great way to have a quick shower and freshen up mid-travel. They supply toiletries as well and overall it makes the whole traveling experience much more pleasurable (especially when travelling with children and they need a shower too – great opportunity to put them in their pjs if the next flight is overnight!)
- If you are a club member, an added benefit can be priority check in. This is always great when traveling and saves the hassle of long queues.
- Also available to some club members is priority boarding. This allows you the opportunity to get settled and organised early in your seat – a great (and welcome) benefit!
The food to take
- Forget anything sugary or sticky and stick to the healthy! Not only will it save a huge amount of mess, but you will have happy children at the end.
- However, don’t forget a peppermint or lolly handy for the descent. There is nothing worse than the plaintive cries of a young child who is having trouble with their ears in the descent. It breaks every mother’s heart.
- Depending on the airline, it could be feast or famine. Prepare for either contingency, noting that you can always save some for later if there is too much (or at least you will have some choice).
The pre-boarding bathroom stop
- To avoid the bathroom stop as soon as the plane lifts off, do a quick “loo run” before boarding. Helps the most nervous of travelers and with a bit of luck you will get to avoid the airline bathroom altogether (at least on a short flight)…
Be super-organised and plan as much as possible in advance
- Planning in advance is the key when flying with infants; make your requests as early as possible and ask them to confirm your additional requirements in writing to minimise any hiccups with your booking at the airport.
- Also, some airlines provide bassinets (mobile travel cots) that clip on to flip-down tables in bulkhead seats. Check if your airline provides this and if not ask if you can bring your own small carry-cot to use during the flight.
Parents – choose your accommodation wisely!
- The term “family room” varies from hotel to hotel – for a holiday that doesn’t end at 7pm every night, ask for a room with a little separate space so that you can catch up with your partner, knowing that your kids are safe and sound asleep next door.
- Otherwise, think about other accommodation options such as apartments or holiday homes. You will have more facilities available to you (ie. cooking, entertainment) and it may work out cheaper overall than more than one hotel room. Don’t forget to read our articles on Tips for Renting a Holiday Home and Avoiding Holiday Rental Scams – Top Tips.
Car Hire – the tips
- So you have made it safely to your destination airport, the next thing to do is maybe pick up your hire car. For a little extra you can hire car seats and a GPS. You will be amazed at how much stress these extras can avoid and are always worth considering when making your booking. Certainly saves on lugging the extras around.
- Don’t forget to pack your drivers license.
And generally for holidays…
- We have traveled a lot with our kids and worked out pretty early that they get bored very quickly with the things we want to do. “Bobs” (Big old Buildings), Museums, Art Galleries and Shows really don’t cut it. Therefore pick things that you know the kids will love. We have some ideas for Fun Winter Beach Activities, but with care (ie. shade and sunscreen), these can also be transferred to summer.
- There are a multitude of activities available for family holidays – particularly on the beach and in nearby creeks and waterways. Remember what you did as kids on holidays and recreate that fun for your own family!
We do hope you find these Summer Holiday Family Traveling Tips – Flights Edition interesting and useful when organising your upcoming Summer Holiday. We have purposely sent this out early – so you have HEAPS of time to plan!
Happy holidays – dream about what is possible; believe you can do it; make the most of your annual leave; plan, book and enjoy your holiday; then dream about where you will go next! It is your turn!
…and… if you are looking for a resort-style luxury beachfront holiday home for your family holiday, romantic break wedding accommodation, (watch our video here), or a girls getaway contact us at La Maison Pacifique for availability and a quote…. Remember, our rates compare really well with local 5-star resorts – and La Maison Pacifique is private – on the beach – walking distance to cafes at Cabarita Beach – perfect spot for whale watching (June to November each year) – children optional!
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Until next time – enjoy your day wherever you are from La Maison Pacifique “The Peaceful House” and your boutique designer luxury holiday home vacation rental in Casuarina, New South Wales, Australia – half way between the Gold Coast QLD and Byron Bay NSW, Australia.
Property Consultant & Interior Designer
La Maison Pacifique
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