Flying from Australia to the USA with kids – Disney holiday planning

Heading off to Disneyland or Walt Disney World with the family? Here are my essential tips for flying with babies, toddlers and children from Australia to the USA

Flying with kids

Disneyland is a huge holiday destination for Australian families, particularly this year for Disney’s 100th anniversary. But flying all the way to the USA can seem a bit daunting with children. What if they cry all the way there? What if they get bored? How do I keep them comfortable and settled on board a long-haul flight?

Fear not! We’ve done a lot of travelling over the years and along the way I’ve picked up several handy tips, tricks and hacks for navigating airports and flying with children – which I’m going to share here with you in this article!

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Pre-Disney Trip Flight Planning

Am I allowed to take our car seat on board a plane?

A car seat modified to be pulled by wheels with a travel cart. Stock photo: Bigstock.com

A car seat modified to be pulled by wheels with a travel cart.

Usually, yes. But before you book your flights, do your airline research.

Taking your baby or toddler car seat on board a flight can be really handy. Some parents have even been innovative enough to strap their child’s car seat to a wheely trolley. This can make airport travel even easier as it acts as a makeshift stroller. The narrowest kind of car seat works best for this so that it fits between seats down the aircraft aisle if you are taking it onboard. You can choose to either take your car seat onboard with you or check it as luggage, usually for no charge.

Considerations are that many airlines require you to pre-book your car seat, undergo a pre-flight car seat safety check at the airport if you intend on using it inside the aircraft cabin on the seat, plus there is a child weight requirement. If you intend to use it as your child’s seat be sure to be ready to board to fit the car seat before general boarding of an aircraft. Your car seat doesn’t count towards your carry-on baggage.

Do airlines charge for car seats?

No, airlines don’t charge anything extra for children’s car seats. As an added bonus, if you’re hiring a car in the USA then you’ve already got your child’s seat with you and so don’t have to hire one with the car.

A child car seat placed next to a window on an airplane. Stock photo: Bigstock.com

A child car seat placed next to a window on an airplane.

How do I get a bassinet on a flight?

An airline bassinet for infants - stock photo: Bigstock.com

An airline bassinet for infants

If you are traveling with an infant, airline supplied fold-down bassinets in aircraft front bulkhead rows can be a very useful resource.

Aircraft bassinets generally accommodate newborns up to babies aged around one year old. They allow infants to lie flat and get some quality sleep – and give you a break from holding them for the whole flight!

Bassinets and their design vary from airline to airline, as can their child weight limitations (they usually have around a 9-11kg maximum limit). They can’t be used during take-off, landing or during turbulence.

Aircraft bassinets may need to be booked in advance. Front seat rows and bassinets can be in high demand, so be sure to book them as early as possible and make yourself known to the airline upon arrival.

Infant seat belts

During take off, landing and turbulence, even if you have an airline bassinet to use, you’ll be required to hold your baby whilst using a special aircraft infant seatbelt which loops around them and clips to yours.

A flight attendant will help you to get everything set up, safe and comfortable.

American Target stores sell cheap strollers (Photo source: Target.com)

Can I take my pram on board with us?

Yes, if it folds down to an appropriate size and weight (usually under 9kgs). There are some very small travel strollers available on the market.

You are also usually able to take your pram all the way to the Boarding Gate and then check it at the gate if you prefer, or if it is too large or heavy. You will need to check that your airline will allow using your pram all the way to the boarding gate prior and/or at check in.

If allowed, let airline staff know you have your pram with you when you arrive at the gate. They will assist you, or arrange for your pram to be stowed in the cargo hold underneath the airplane cabin, last thing.

If stowed in cargo at the gate, airline staff will usually arrange to get your pram out and have it waiting for you right outside the aircraft door when you disembark at your destination. Sometimes you may need to pick it up at the baggage carousel or oversized luggage area.

Do airlines charge for prams and strollers?

No. Airlines don’t charge to carry prams and will usually also allow you to carry an extra nappy bag in addition to your normal baggage allowances.

Will my pram be damaged by the airline?

Possibly. If you have outlaid a large amount of money for a quality or designer pram, it may be wise to swap it out for a cheaper pram for your trip. You may not want to run the risk of an expensive pram being damaged by over-zealous baggage handlers, or even lost completely. My own expensive stroller’s frame was damaged during just one Australian domestic flight – lesson learned!

Unless your pram is essential for your young baby, or already well-used, consider buying a less expensive pram or stroller before leaving, or at your destination. Cheap umbrella strollers are fine for toddlers and can cost as little as $30 from a US discount store like Target. It’s an option definitely worth considering!

Can I hire a stroller at Disneyland?

Strollers are everywhere at Disneyland

Strollers are everywhere at Disneyland

Yes, you can hire single and double strollers at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Learn more about Disney Park hire strollers in our Disney holiday planning tips article here.

Are blow up plane cushions for toddlers worth it?

The answer is yes, IF they are allowed on your long-haul flight. Blow up pillows that wedge on the floor between the seat row in front of you and your seat, otherwise known as toddler beds are now quite popular. These flight seat wedge cushions make it possible for larger babies and toddlers to stretch out and sleep more comfortably.

The big question is – are they even allowed? The answer is – sometimes. Some airlines see them as a safety hazard (blocking an aisle). Some allow them on window rows only. We’ve even had an airline not even allow our large blow-up travel pillows, so it really depends on the airline and their policies.

Should I buy a travel pillow for myself?

YES! Whatever you do, take some kind of travel pillow. Travel blankets can be great for everyone too if you have the space.

Travel pillows have so many uses – even if it’s just to sit your feet on if you are vertically challenged like me! Most airlines don’t supply a pillow or blanket. Buy a travel pillow before you go if you can (Kmart Australia often have some great ones), as airport shops do charge a premium. Either way, just get one – you’ll thank yourself later.

How do I find out if airlines allow parenting aids?

Ring up the airlines and ask them directly

Ring up the airlines and ask them directly

When it comes to parenting aids on flights – prams, car seats, bassinettes, cushions – the truth is, airlines are going to airline. Some may ban certain things, some offer everything.

Decide how important these things are to your family, do some research and then book and pre-warn your airlines accordingly. Be sure to remember that every USA connecting airline you book may have different rules. Don’t be afraid to call up each airline for their current policies.

The best advice I can give you is draw up a spreadsheet or note and list the airlines and what they allow BEFORE you book, so that you don’t get caught out.

Other fun travel accessories for kids

A quick online Google will bring up all kinds of gadgets and airport ride ons to make kid travel life a little more fun. There are carry on suitcases that convert into scooters, Trunki pull-along carry on suitcases, large suitcases with a built-in toddler seat on top and more and more innovative designs appearing all the time. Whilst expensive toys, they are probably worth some consideration – particularly if you do a lot of travelling, or have a long airport wait during your travels.

Everyone may need to take their shoes off at airport security

Everyone may need to take their shoes off at airport security

Travel tip: At the airport, many USA security points require everyone to remove their shoes for the x-ray machine, so it’s a lot easier to manage if the kids are wearing slip-on shoes rather than lace ups.

During your flight

Delta Airlines have in-flight entertainment

Delta Airlines have in-flight entertainment

How do I keep my kids happy whilst traveling?

My girls at the airport

Sometimes the best laid plans of keeping kids happy in airports and onboard flights works, sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s okay.

I’ve often found that you don’t mess with what already works at home. Take what keeps them happy at home when you want some quiet time.

Take their ipad or other fun tablet or gaming device along – whatever is going to keep them occupied. Travel day can be a super-treat day!

Do they love Bluey? Download every episode before your flight. They’re into Coco Melon but you hate it? Bring it anyway. I guarantee you’ll love it onboard if it keeps them happy. They love to play Minecraft? Have it installed for offline play. Don’t forget their headphones, charge cords and a USA adapter. Some USA flights have actual power plug sockets. Most others have USB plugs at least.

There’s also usually a kid’s channel and games on most airline’s onboard entertainment systems.

Toss the normal screen time rule out the window if that’s what’s working for your kids. They will barely touch their devices during your days at Disneyland anyhow. Remember, no one knows who you are on board. There are no parenting rules or judgement other than keep the kids happy, occupied and/or asleep to get to your destination!

Some USA flights have a power plug available to charge personal devices

Some USA flights have a power plug available to charge personal devices

Leave fiddly items at home

Whilst crafts are great they probably won’t keep the kids happy for hours on end on an airplane. Kids tend to drop small loose pieces on the floor which roll under seats and create drama, plus they often require a lot of noisy supervision.

That said, if colouring books or crafts are your toddlers happy place, even better if they are light, disposable and cheap so you can dump them later, go for it. Just be prepared to be constantly retrieving crayons or coloured pencils from that cramped floor space!

The basic rule of thumb is – go with the flow of whatever works for your child.

What do I do if my child is crying on a flight?

Nothing other than what you normally do to pacify them. Reassure them and tend to their needs.

Every person on that flight has been a a child once and many have had a child of their own. They get it and if they don’t, just ignore them. Babies and children have just as much right to be on board as anyone else.

Babies cry sometimes - just do the best you can to soothe them as normal.

Babies cry sometimes – just do the best you can to soothe them as normal.

For babies and kids, especially kids with heightened sensory perceptions, ADHD, Autism or other challenges a flight can be a confronting, noisy and scary place. I know it’s easy to say, but your child comes first. Those adults seated around you will be just fine. Most people on board are understanding of how difficult it can be travelling with children. The others usually have white noise on their headphones and barely hear a thing anyhow! If you’re feeling uncomfortable with a fellow passenger’s behaviour, tell a flight attendant so they can support you.

Why do babies cry so much on flights?

Apart from the obvious reasons – food, fatigue, noise, scary new people, sometimes nothing at all – during takeoff it can be that their little ears block, just like ours do. And that can be painful! Make sure you have a dummy, pacifier or bottle for your baby or toddler to suck on during takeoff and landing approaches to unblock their ears. Breastfeeding is also quite doable when your baby strapped onto your front with the airline infant seatbelt.

How do I unblock my child’s ears on a flight?

To avoid kids’ ears being blocked on take-off and landing, the obvious solution is simply telling them to swallow to clear their ears. But that won’t work for all kids. Chewy sweets and lollies can also work well for older children (not under 3’s as it’s a choking hazard of course). That said, I once had my four-year-old throw up on takeoff, so use this sweets technique according to your child!

Take a change of clothes

Our throwing up adventure on board leads me to suggesting that you also dress your child in layers. Alternatively, take a change of clothes on board with you. Also extra nappies for infants. Not just for comfort, layers help if they do happen to throw up, spill a drink, say they’re cold or hot, etc.

A baby in front of us once ended up systematically loosing his wet clothes right down to his diaper – mind you, he was still smiling happily at everyone and didn’t seem to mind a bit!

Take lots of snacks!

The same thing goes for snacks. Take a big selections of snacks that you know they love (but won’t hype them up!). Just make sure you leave any kind of fresh food or fruit onboard or dump it in the provided bins at the airport, as you can’t take it into the USA.

Don’t forget your child’s favourite kind of drinking bottle (empty any drink bottles into the sink provided at airport security. You can always refill them again afterwards).

Scrunchy back packs can be pushed under the seat in front of you

Scrunchy back packs can be pushed under the seat in front of you

Travel tip – if you can avoid putting your bags in the airplane overhead locker during your flight, do. That way you can easily access everything you need right at your feet. We almost never use overhead lockers on flights, and my kids are teenagers now! Plus it eliminates that overhead locker scrum when those seatbelt signs go off after landing. Take at least one soft scrunchy back pack or bag that will fit under an aircraft seat in front of you.

Be as kind to yourself as you can be when flying with children. The name of the game is keeping you and your kids as comfortable and happy as possible. You’ll be having an awesome holiday at Disney in no time!

Buy your Walt Disney World tickets here and use our discount code

Buy your Disney tickets online before you go to save money! I have a Disneyland California and Walt Disney World tickets promocode for you – a huge USD $20 off! Just click on this link and enter the promocode at checkout.

Book tickets online to Walt Disney World in Orlando or Disneyland California for the first time on Klook using our LETSGOMUM20 promocode to save USD$20!

If you enjoyed reading this article, please consider giving it a Facebook “Like”, share or we’d love to hear about your own Disney experiences in the comments below!

Disclaimers: Let’s Go Mum may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you with bookings made with Klook
All prices and times quoted were correct at August 2023, the time of publishing this article, but can change frequently. Please always re-check for current prices.

This page may contain affiliate links. If you book a stay or an attraction through one of them, I will receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for your support!

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Flying from Australia to the USA with babies & children - Disneyland holiday tips

 

 

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About LetsGoMum

Hi, I'm Barbara, mum of the Let's Go Mum blog. We'd love to hear from you! You can contact me anytime with ideas on where you think we should go or what you think we should try...just drop me a line at barbara@letsgomum.com.au!
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