Travel can be a stressful event for many. AIP travel is a bit more complicated. Here’s my experience involving:
- Young kids
- Multiple connections
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AIP travel is possible
Now, let me say for the record: Yes, it can be challenging. No, it’s not impossible. Don’t let any of these factors prevent you from exploring the world! My husband and I travelled with our young boys (2.5 and 4.5 years) from Canada to Singapore over the Chinese New Year period in February to visit my family. We had a wonderful time reconnecting with my immediate family and relatives and the boys got to meet my nieces and nephew, plus experience new sights and culture.
Buying your air tickets
Buying tickets involved many days of research, trying to find the most sane itinerary online and through travel agents. I also had to factor in the consideration of food restrictions at the cities/ countries we were transiting at. For example, if I were to fly via Delta or United, I would have to transit at the US and meat/ poultry products from Canada are not allowed. That would have posed a bit of a problem for me. If you are transiting at multiple countries, check with the respective countries’ regulations to ensure that you are able to bring your packed foodstuff.
In the B.C. (before children) days, it didn’t really matter when my husband and I visited one another. We chose the cheapest and most reasonable itinerary, brought plenty of reading material on board as the American airlines did not provide individual AVOD (audio/visual on-demand) in-flight entertainment and tried to snooze our way to our destination (We’re usually pretty much non-responsive by the third flight…).
Post A.D. (after delivery) days, air travel required a bit more planning. We were lucky to get a really smooth itinerary with Qatar Airways, which allowed us two connections – one at Montreal and the other at Doha. The connections were slightly below 3 hours long, perfect for a young family. We would be travelling for about 26 hours including connection times, so I knew I had to pack at least 3 meals and snacks to tide through the long flights.
Choosing your seats
If you can, choose an aisle seat. Not too far from the lavatories (especially for people with Inflammatory Bowel Disease/ IBD). It also allows for greater ease of movement and access to your baggage stored in the overhead storage bin. In addition, if your young child is potty trained but still unable to wait to use the lavatory, this would allow faster access to the toilet! In our first flight, my eldest son was on the window seat, I was in the middle, and a burly man was on my right. The poor kid didn’t make it to the lavatory on multiple occasions!
On our return trip, we exceptionally gave him a diaper to wear. This helped prevent any potty accidents during the long day of travelling. I explained that it would be easier to have a diaper on in case he couldn’t make it to the toilet on time, and my son agreed to wear a diaper. As a result, we were both less stressed out. Children love window seats, but only get those if you can occupy the whole row, or if your young child is still wearing a diaper (or willing to wear a diaper during flights). We were on flights with 3-3-3 seat formations, as a family of four we opted to sit in two separate rows (one pair in front and one behind, 1 parent per child).
Long haul travel is difficult, even for an adult traveller. Add in the AIP element to the mix and things get interesting. Top it up with two kids under 5 and you risk looking like a pack mule. So my goal here today is to teach you how NOT to be a pack mule. Learn from my
First off, pack LIGHT. As light as you can possibly get (with kids). The stuff that I insisted on packing in my carry-on bag when I was a single solo traveller (cosmetic pouch, book, as many toiletries as I could cram into the tiny, resealable plastic bag, etc) – that all goes into check-in luggage now. The only personal items I made use of in transit were hand cream, lip balm, sanitary napkins and pocket tissues. If you require medications, pack them in their original packaging as well as a prescription (in case you lose your medications). We packed our toothbrushes but didn’t even have the opportunity to brush our teeth, as gross as it might sound!
When I first travelled with my elder son, I got him the Baby B’Air flight vest which worked out great. I considered getting him the CARES safety harness after he outgrew the flight vest, but decided against it as the flights were too long to make it practical. It’s a good consideration for shorter flights though.
The rest of my carry-on backpack contained my younger son’s Epipen, Bach Rescue Remedy Sleep spray, diapers, wet wipes, changing mat, child-sized LilGadgets headphones, activity kits, and extra clothes for my children (and 1 extra set of clothes for myself, just in case). As we were travelling with young children I packed their preferred blanket/ plush toy to make it easier for them to fall asleep. Your cooler bag of foods takes utmost priority over just about anything else (except, of course, if you are travelling with a baby/ toddler who is still dependent on diapers).
On the flights to Singapore, I distributed my children’s clothes and activity packs in their personal backpacks. This helped lighten the load my husband and I had to carry, but when it came to the messier parts like security clearance and boarding, it became extra stuff we had to carry and keep an eye on. For the return trip to Canada I packed all their belongings in my own bag. Some people love them, I would not suggest getting those cute sit-on rolling luggage bags for kids as they do not store much and cannot be carried hands-free. I also packed a lightweight nylon bag for bringing an individual diaper, portable pack of wipes and a foldable changing mat for diaper-changing trips instead of lugging the whole carry-on bag to the bathroom.
If you need a stroller, bring one and have it gate checked. If it’s a sturdy stroller you can even use it to lighten your carry-on luggage load (especially if there are no carts available after clearing security).
Ordering a special meal
Depending on the airline you are flying with, some may offer somewhat AIP-friendly meals that can be ordered in advance. With Qatar Airways, I rotated between fruit platter and raw vegan meals to supplement my own food. I had to pick out cherry tomatoes, skip the capsicums and ignore the bread roll and margarine provided by default for the raw vegan meal. There were far too many servings of fruit in the fruit platter so I didn’t finish them or shared them with the rest of my family. Of course, you can also choose to decline being served a meal especially if you are not hungry.
Airlines usually offer children’s meals but they are usually gimmicky and full of sugar and processed foods, so I didn’t bother requesting for them. My youngest son is allergic to eggs, so I chose the vegan meals for him. Not perfect, but he slept through most meal services and was content to eat my packed food whenever he felt hungry. I ordered the gluten-free meal for my eldest son; he snubbed most of the food served and went for the packaged gluten-free roll and dessert (while engrossed by in-flight entertainment). Likewise he supplemented with my packed food as well. Thank goodness for home-cooked food! I hope someday a proper AIP meal or even Paleo/ grain-free option will be possible!
Packing your food
Have AIP food, will travel. This is probably the most critical aspect of AIP travel. Thankfully, you can pack home-cooked AIP travel-friendly food and bring it on board to enjoy. What is important is to ensure that it is well-packed and insulated for the whole duration of your travel time.
I ordered a large cooler bag off Amazon.ca that was big enough to contain 3-4 days worth of food, and yet sleek enough to fit under the seat in front of me. On the Boeing 777 aircraft, it was a tight fit and so I stored it in the overhead luggage bin. It was not a problem with the new Airbus A350 though, as the seats were more streamlined. If you are going on a shorter flight and packing food for yourself, you could get a smaller cooler bag. I really wanted to get the Strongbags Luggage Crew Cooler Bag on Amazon but it couldn’t be shipped to Canada on time. I will probably try to get this for future trips. Remember to declare that you are bringing food or risk getting fined and penalised!
Leave your glass storage containers behind. Plastic rules for travel, and I got a set of Glad stackable containers and a couple of disposable forks and spoons plus some paper napkins (and a bib for my younger son). If you’re anti-plastic, stainless steel containers are a good alternative. You will also need to consider your itinerary, what time you depart and arrive, the number of hours of travel and the expected number of meals you will need while in transit. Most long haul international flights provide whole fruit (such as apples) as snacks that you can request for in between in-flight meal services. Just ignore the candy bars, cookies, and cup noodles!
Bring a reusable set of cutlery and a lightweight plate/ bowl. These may not necessarily be used during your flight or in transit, but will come in handy at your travel destination as you will probably have meals on the go.
What food to pack
Sardines are a great AIP-friendly convenience food, but can be pretty odoriferous in enclosed areas. If you want to get your dose of Omega-3, by all means pack them to enjoy while you are at the airport and not in the aircraft! I stuck to foods that didn’t need heating up.
Foods packed included:
- meat patties (avoid bringing obviously non-halal foods such as pork on flights operated by Middle Eastern airlines as all in-flight meals served are halal)
- boneless chicken thighs
- beetroot salad
- sweet potato salad
- cucumber, carrot sticks and olives with pâté
I didn’t follow any particular recipe for the foods listed but I’ve included some recipe links for inspiration.
For snacks I dispensed coconut chips and raisins in snack-sized resealable bags, along with home-made beef jerky. My children were very appreciative of these snacks. If you have successfully reintroduced seeds, pumpkin seeds make a great snack as well. Likewise, if you have reintroduced rice, you could make onigiri (rice balls) as they make great portable meals (especially for children). If you are living in the US, you would have more options for pre-packed AIP-friendly snacks. I brought Artisan Tropic plantain strips which beat those overly salty pretzels served in flights! We enjoyed the cassava strips by the same brand as well.
Keeping it cold
I made sure that the food were well-chilled before packing and added a bag of frozen peas (AIP reintroduction) to the cooler. However, this was insufficient to keep the foods well-chilled and by the end of the second flight the cooler bag was pretty much at ambient temperature. Fortunately the food was still okay for the rest of the journey. If you are packing multiple meals, consider chilling the first meal and freezing the rest of the meals before packing them into your cooler bag. This way, the frozen meals will keep the cooler bag contents well chilled and yet defrost slowly.
On my return trip, I brought a heavy-duty resealable freezer bag and asked a flight attendant to fill it up with ice cubes once the seat belt sign was off and before they became too busy with the first in-flight meal service. Alternatively, if you get priority boarding with children, you could make the request before the rest of the passengers board. You can easily discard the water as the ice melts and ask for more ice to keep your foods cold throughout the journey.
I saw a father requesting for his child’s packed food to be heated up and the flight attendant apologetically telling him that it was not possible. I have read of success stories on the Internet, so I think it really depends on the person you are asking. It never hurts to ask, but don’t assume it will be done. In-flight meals are heated up in steam and convection ovens, so if you really want your food heated up, it would be best to pack it in an oven-proof container. An option to consider would be a portable oven, like the HotLogic Mini Personal Portable Oven. With a travel adaptor, you could possibly heat up your meals at the airport. I have not tried it personally as I think it could potentially complicate security clearance, and do not wish to take the risk when travelling as a family. Another option would be to look for family rooms at the airport. Some provide microwave ovens for heating of food for young children. It really depends on the airport where you are transiting at.
We packed along empty reusable water bottles and filled them up at water fountains once beyond customs and baggage screening checks. Water bottles with included filters are a great option. I packed a few mint tea bags as a non-caffeinated hot beverage option to enjoy in between flights at airport cafeterias or on the plane.
Getting some shut eye
Avoid the temptation of doing movie marathons while flying, especially if you are travelling with children. If your child likes coziness, you can make a makeshift tent by attaching one end of the provided blanket between the tray table seat in front of your child and the other end tucked behind your child’s seat headrest. My younger son fell asleep within minutes after his tent was set up! Unfortunately, my elder son was over excited by the AVOD and plane ride, thus chalking up only 3 hours of sleep during the whole journey! Needless to say I couldn’t sleep even if I wanted to, as he kept waking me up whenever he noticed me asleep!
Movement is key to a comfortable flight, try to do simple neck, back and ankle exercises while seated in the plane, and forward fold exercises or back bends while waiting your turn to use the lavatory. Walk and climb stairs as much as you can during your transits and avoid sitting if you can help it. Some airports have playgrounds and family areas which are great for releasing excess pent-up energy in young children. Movement is essential on the AIP, and especially for AIP travel.
Here’s a great video on some simple exercises you can do:
Upon arrival at your destination’s accommodation
Discard any leftover food if it’s no longer well chilled. Have it promptly for your next meal if it is still good. It is better to err on the side of caution and pack extra meals than to face a shortage of food due to unexpected travel delays. Find a supermarket to stock up on fresh food and enjoy your time at your destination!
Finally, here’s a helpful site with tips on navigating airport security clearance with more than one young child. I think those were the most challenging parts during air travel!
I hope you found the tips informative and useful. Everyone and every family has different requirements, what may work/ not work for us may not be the same for you. Have you any tips to share about AIP travel? Comment below!