airport with three children

Does flying long haul get easier with older kids?

On Friday I will be flying from Auckland to Vancouver with my three daughters (8, 6 and 4 years). A lot of people have commented to me how much easier this trip will be compared to when I flew France to Sydney alone with them a few years ago. I always pause before commenting on this because, yes … many things will be easier, but there are things that are not easier and many more things not easy. I often suggest they need to spend a day with my 4 year old first … she is an absolute fireball that kid … when she is good she is awesome … but when she loses it she totally loses it! There isn’t much in between ….

Here is how I anticipate this to go:

Travel to the airport

I think this will be pretty smooth. I will bring the kids home from school at lunchtime so I can give them a quick shower, lunch, and do a last check that we have all of our stuff.

We have a short taxi ride to the ferry, a 40 minute ferry ride, and then a few blocks to walk to the airport bus which take about 45 minutes to the airport. As long as it is not raining this should all be pretty straight forward.  I make sure that I can carry all our main luggage and one day pack, my 8 year old will carry a day pack too.  Because I use my Macpac for our main luggage I still have 2 hands free for crossing roads with the children in the city.


Getting through airport

I noticed when we flew in April that we did not get fast tracked in the luggage queue (which normally happens with 3 young children) even though it was 10pm and my 4 year old was in meltdown. We spent 90 minutes in that line before staff took pity and moved us the front. Admittedly my husband was with us so I am hoping that being solo parent with three children may help me this time.

My Magic Ribbon is not so magic now the girls are older. My 4 year old still loves it but if the older girls won’t play along it just causes a meltdown. I am still taking it this trip but it may well be the last time I use this. It has been totally magic until now though!


The flight

We have a night flight leaving at 8pm and we fly non-stop to Vancouver (13 hours) which is awesome. This is probably the best departure time I have ever had at night with the kids. Normally it has been much later at night.

I suspect my kids will all go to sleep around 10.30pm/11pm – once lights are dimmed. They will get to watch a movie, or play some games with me – have some food – and then I will start encouraging them to find their space for sleeping.

My 8 year old would watch  movies all night if I let her but my 6 and 4 year old usually get bored after 30 minutes so we have activity books and games with us to play.

I take plenty of snacks as I can never be sure if they will eat their plane meals.


Sleeping on the plane

I think this is going to be harder than last time – mostly because the girls are so much bigger now and it gets harder to curl up. Also with 4 of us we have to sit across the middle which means no window to lean on. Last time we flew solo my youngest was only 23 months so didn’t have her own seat. Although it was hard having 4 of us in 3 seats during meal times it was OK for sleeping.

My 8 year old really struggled to sleep when we flew to Vietnam in April. She is VERY tall and that was the first time she had to sleep totally upright. She got quite upset about it at the time so I am hoping she will be more relaxed this time.

On the way home from France three years ago … I had a 23 month old on my lap next to them. The sisters slept beautifully together.


My 6 and 4 year olds – I think the main problem will be stopping them from fighting for space on my lap as they curl up for sleep. I expect they will both have heads on my lap and curl up on their seats. I am predicting a few meltdowns here.


Zoe sleeping on the plane

My 4 year old on the way home from Vietnam … we will miss having a window seat this time


Me – I have no expectations. Any sleep is a bonus and the rest of the time my mantra is “rest is almost as good as sleep”.


Getting through Vancouver airport

No idea what to expect here. Could be great, could be awful. Really depends on how much sleep the kids get!  The thing I find hardest now they are older is they are too big for me to carry, with luggage. When my youngest was 2 I could always just throw her under one arm if needed – very helpful if she is having one of her epic meltdowns – LOL.  Now – she is just to big and strong for that. Hopefully the excitement of seeing their Dad will get us through customs with smiles on our faces.


Only 3 sleeps to go …. fingers crossed we have a happy travel day together …








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