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Flying with Children

Travelling with small kids can be an amazing experience but also quite a task especially when it involves long flights. One of the key aspects to consider while planning such trips is the sleep schedule of your children. A poorly planned flight routine can lead to a lot of stress, not just for the little ones, but also for the parents. With some thoughtful planning, you are sure to have a fantastic trip together.

Comfort

Comfort is key! Make sure your child is dressed in cosy clothes for the flight, and pack extra outfits if needed.

Schedule

Align flight times with nap or bedtimes to minimize stress and exhaustion.

Duration

One of the biggest challenges with children is that they have no real understanding of time. This can be particularly challenging during long flights.

 

Entertainment

It’s always a good idea to pack plenty of activities, games, and toys to keep your little ones entertained.

Food and Drink

Don’t forget to pack healthy munchies and drinks for your child – it’s always a smart idea to stay hydrated while flying.

Familiarity

Pack a favourite stuffed animal, a blanket, a special toy, or any other item your child finds comforting. This can provide a sense of security and familiarity in an unfamiliar place.

Helpful tips to make flying with children a easier

Flights

  • Direct flights are in general more expensive, but they can be less stressful for small children. When searching for flights, do some research on the airline’s website to see what they can offer your children. 
  • If you travel as a family, consider paying for pre-booked seats. It is not guaranteed that you will sit together when you check in without pre-booked seats. If there is a change in the type of plane shortly before departure, then you are only guaranteed your seat category (Window, Aisle, Extra legroom) and not any specific seat. If they cannot offer your category seat, you can claim money back from the airline.
  • Do some research on what services the airline can offer you. Do they offer strollers at the airport, facilities to warm bottles, baby changing stations, bassinets, kids entertainment, kids meals, special seats, priority boarding etc.  Some airlines offer spare nappies for emergencies.
  • Compare airlines to find the best luggage allowance options. Also, make sure you know from what age a child will pay for a full seat on the airline.

Unaccompanied Minors

Depending on their age, children may fly unaccompanied.  The ages may vary depending on the airline.
As an example from Lufthansa, children between 5 and 11 may only fly if they are travelling with someone older than 12, or are making of the Lufthansa care service.
The Lufthansa care service can also be booked by parents for unaccompanied children from the age of 12 up to a maximum of 17 years. This ensures that the child receives support, especially in the event of a disruption to their flight, such as a delay or cancellation.

Tickets for unaccompanied children cannot be booked online, only through service centres.
Consider direct flights to make it easier for the child

Luggage

  • Organise your hand luggage in such a way that you can easily find items you or the children might need during the flight.
  • Confirm with the airline what baggage regulations apply to infants and small children. Hand luggage for infants is sometimes included in the adult allowance. 
  • If your child can bring hand luggage with them, it might be a good idea to have it as a small backpack that they can put under the seat in front of them. This way you don’t have to open the overhead locker each time someone wants something from their bag.

Comfort on board

  • Ensuring your child is comfortable during the flight by dressing them in cosy clothes and bringing a favourite blanket or pillow can make all the difference.
  • Small children tend to cry during take-off and landing, due to the change in cabin pressure. To help elevate the pain in their ears, give them something to suck on like a lollypop or something to chew on.  If they are old enough you can consider buying them earplugs that help equalising the air pressure in their ears. An example is SANOHRA Fly for Kids
  • Bring along a comforting toy and something to keep them busy like colouring in with crayons or board games. There are movies and games on most long-haul flights
  • If so inclined, talk to your doctor about something you can give them to help them calm down and sleep. Remember they are swept up in the excitement and have no concept of how long the flight is, and my personal opinion is, that it is better to have something to help them relax and make the journey better for them.
  • It can be cold inside the plane, so always pack in some warm clothes.
  • During taxi, take-off, landing and turbulence, passengers, including children must wear a safety belt. Prepare your child for this beforehand.
  • Babies may not use the bassinets during taxi, take-off, landing and turbulent weather conditions.
  • If the airline allows it consider taking a carrier along. If they can’t sleep or get sick it helps to put them in it and walk up and down the aisle. A good example is the Manduca Babytrage
  • Some airlines allow the use of child restrain systems, child car seats or baby carriers to make your child comfortable and secure. Check beforehand with your airline whether your child restraint system is suitable. Example information from Lufthansa – “Child restraint systems that consist only of belts attached over and/or around the backrest of the seat cannot be used on board. The child restraint system must only be attached using the seat’s lap belt. There is no possibility of attaching ISOFIX equipment.”

Entertainment

  • One of the most important things to consider is packing enough snacks and entertainment for your kids. 
  • Bring plenty of age-appropriate books, toys, and games. 
  • Many parents suggested stickers to keep them busy, just make sure if they stick it to the tray table, they can be easily removed.
  • Water reveal drawing – Painting for kids without spills. You can search online for “Wassermalbuch” Here are examples on Amazon.
  • Avoid toys with small removable parts. When it falls on the ground you will not be able to search for it, and this might cause distress to your child.
  • Carrying a tablet or portable DVD player with your kids’ favourite movies or TV shows is also a great idea.

Food and drinks

  • Find out beforehand if the airline offers child-friendly dishes.
  • There are limitations on the amount of liquid you can bring on board.  No more than 100 ml per container is allowed, with a maximum total of 1 litre per person. This does not apply to baby formula, toddler drinks or food. Confirm with your airline on what is allowed
  • The food service usually starts as soon as cruising altitude is reached. The staff will then start to prepare the meals and it can take up to an hour after take-off before everybody is served a meal.
  • Pack healthy snacks that are easy to serve. A melted chocolate can be a real problem. Pre-pack the snacks in sealable containers to store leftovers for later.

At the airport/transit

  • Plan ahead to make sure you have all the documentation ready as needed.  It can be stressful to search for passports while holding a child in your arms. 
  • The standard workflow at an airport is: Arrival, check-in and luggage drop, security, passport control and then going to your gate, followed by boarding. Plan for each of these, know what you will need, what you can expect from your children, and how to make it easier for them. Things to consider are for example, whether they can do the security screening with you, whether they will be able to walk to the boarding gate or whether you will need a stroller, do you foresee any situation that can cause your child anxiety, and how will you handle it.
  • Pack hand luggage, backpacks and purses efficiently, remember you will have your hands full, literally.
  • It is easier to travel with another adult like your partner or a friend, but if you do need to travel alone with children, you need to be organised and well prepared.
  • Find out beforehand whether the airport offers assistance for parents, for example, strollers, family-friendly restaurants, and family restrooms.
  • Plan enough transit time, but also not too long. Remember children walk slower than adults and as soon as you rush them they get anxious. Some airports offer a transfer service you pay for. It is well worth it to ride to your departure gate on an airport buggy and have priority at the security checks.

Packing List

  • Toys
    Toys

    A favourite comfort toy and other age appropriate toys to keep them entertained.

  • Snacks/Food
    Snacks/Food

    Stick to healthy snacks. Try to avoid too much sugar as it gives too much energy. For babies, formula already measured in bottles and baby food.

  • wipes
    wipes

    Always have wet wipes or a wet towel handy to clean dirty hands and faces. It will help the child feel refreshed. A dry microfiber cloth or towel to dry wet hands or liquid spillage.

  • Extra clothes
    Extra clothes

    A clean set of clothes, warms socks and a warm top. For babies, everything you need to do a nappy change.

  • Medication
    Medication

    General first aid like a thermometer, disinfectant spray, plasters, ointment, pain medication.

  • Blanket
    Blanket

    A small blanket to make thigs more comfortable or warmer.

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Documents and paperwork

Minors might need extra documents when travelling with their parents, a single parent,  alone or with non-guardian adults.

The Rules vary by EU country, so check for specific destinations.
✈️ Airlines often require specific forms for authorizations, so confirm before flying.

Besides the documentation required by the airline, there are also rules for travelling with children to South Africa, accompanied and unaccompanied. These can be found on the Department of Home Affairs website.
Tip – they do require a copy of a birth certificate / equivalent document or passport containing the details of the parent or parents of the child
Here is a link to the  Suggested Parental consent letter from the Department of Home Affairs. It does not need to be notarized.

For documentation required when travelling to and from Germany, please check the Bund.de website, or contact the relevant authorities. Also, see the travel during a school term section below. 

Info on the web

Related content

Public transport in Germany

The German public transport system is extensive, reliable and very affordable. The Deutsche Bahn AG is the national railway company and is state-owned. The DB offers

Travel during a school Term

The school rules in Germany are very strict and every student is obliged to attend classes and other school events. You therefore cannot take your

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Raising a family in Germany can be a wonderful experience, but with any new adventure, it’s important to be aware of the cultural, legal, financial, and emotional differences you may encounter. Although there are similarities between raising a family in Germany and South Africa, there’s no doubt that you will face new challenges and opportunities that come with living in a new country. You may find that the German education system, housing policies, and healthcare system differ from what you’re accustomed to and it’s important to educate yourself on these differences before making the journey. Additionally, navigating the legal and financial systems can be challenging even for native Germans, let alone someone new to the country. Therefore, it’s essential to do your research and seek out support to make the transition smoother for you and your family. Remember, this is an exciting chapter in your lives, and with the right preparation, it can be a rewarding and enriching experience for all.

 Having a baby in Germany.

Having a baby in Germany can be a very fulfilling experience for parents-to-be. The country is known for its excellent healthcare system, which provides quality care for both mother and baby. Maternity and paternity leave are also very generous, allowing parents to bond with their child for an extended period of time. Furthermore, there are numerous resources available to new parents, such as support groups and classes, that can help ease the transition into parenthood. Additionally, Germany has a strong emphasis on family values, making it a welcoming place for families with children. From top-notch medical care to a supportive community, having a baby in Germany can be a wonderful journey for those who embark upon it.

Registering your child at birth

Your new baby needs to be registered at the registry office (Standesamt) within seven days of the birth in order to receive a birth certificate

Having a baby in Germany

Thinking of starting or expanding your family in Germany? Luckily the standard of German healthcare is very high and Germany has great maternity and paternity

Parental leave (Elternzeit)

Parental leave is an important benefit in Germany that aims to support new parents during what can be a challenging and demanding period in their lives. It is designed to give mothers and fathers the necessary time off work to bond with their newborn child, as well as to manage the many responsibilities that come with being a parent. Parental leave is an essential component of Germany’s labor laws and reflects the government’s commitment to supporting families and helping them achieve a healthy work-life balance.

  • Parental Leave – Very informative page from the Make it in Germany Website
  •  Elternzeit – Handbook Germany
  • Pamflet from the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs

Parental allowances

The following websites offer detailed information about Family benefits:

Parental allowance in Germany (Elterngeld)

As new parents, both you and your partner are entitled to Germany’s generous parental allowance. If you or your partner has recently had a child, you may be eligible to receive parental allowance (Elterngeld). This benefit, funded by the German social security system, is given to all new parents to cushion the loss of earnings caused by the birth of a child. To encourage both parents to spend time with their new baby, the German federal government has adopted a Scandinavian-style policy whereby the entitlement to parental allowance can be shared between the child’s parents. The benefit therefore enables both

Kitas

Kitas

Kita is a German abbreviation for “Kindertagesstätte,” which translates to “daycare centre” in English. In Germany, Kita is a term used to refer to preschool

Schools

As a concerned parent, it is vital to grasp a clear understanding of the German school system and how your child will navigate through it. It is important to keep in mind that every educational system varies and it can be overwhelming if you are not aware of the differences. Understanding the variations in teaching methods, grading systems, and school organization can help your child succeed in their academic journey in Germany. Apart from academic adjustments, your child may face cultural differences, language barriers, and social integration challenges that must be tackled head-on to ensure their smooth transition. Being familiarized with these differences will assist you in guiding your child academically and providing them with the support they need to achieve their goals in the German education system. See the referenced page below for more information.

School Information

The German School system is quite unique and distinguishes itself from the South African models in a number of ways Types of schools There are different types of schools to choose from in Germany. The main system is Public schooling, but if  There are different types of schools to choose from in Germany. The German public school system is renowned for its comprehensive approach to education. Students from all backgrounds have access to free education. Other options are:  Montessori  Waldorf schools, based on Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophical human studies. They are state-approved or state recognised independent schools. Jenaplan-Schulen The Catholic church also runs

Parental rights and responsibilities

As a foreign parent residing in Germany, it is important to understand your parental rights and responsibilities. You have the right to raise your child and make decisions about their well-being, including their education, healthcare, and general upbringing. You are also responsible for providing for your child financially, which includes covering the cost of their basic needs such as food, clothing, and housing. Additionally, you may be required to cooperate with the German legal system and comply with any court orders related to your child, such as custody arrangements or child support payments. You must familiarize yourself with Germany’s laws regarding parental rights and responsibilities to ensure that you are meeting all of your obligations and protecting the best interests of your child.

The following websites offer valuable information:

Vaccinations

The vaccination schedule from the RKI (Robert Koch Institut) is available on this website

Measles vaccinations in Germany are now required when you register your child at school.
Parents can be fined thousands of euros if they violate the law

U-Untersuchengen

Regular check-ups are intended to help identify illnesses and developmental problems in children at an early stage. If necessary, support options or treatments can also be recommended. 
Ten free “U-Untersuchengen” are offered for each child. They begin immediately after birth and last until the child is six. Many health insurance companies also pay for further examinations during childhood and adolescence.

In Baden-Württemberg, Bayern and Hessen, the U1 to U9 examinations are mandatory by law.

Where to buy formula and baby food

The following companies are highly recommended.

Müller,  Rossman and DM sell baby products and food. When you are expecting, you can register at baby clubs at companies like Kaufland, Lidl, Rossman and DM to receive discounts and baby welcome packages.

Dressing you child correctly for the weather

If you’re struggling to dress your baby or toddler for the weather, look no further than Baby-wetter.de. This fantastic website is packed with tips, tricks, and advice on how to ensure your little one is always snug and comfortable, no matter what the forecast may be.

Support groups

Expat pregnancy & babies support group and website – Gravidaminga

Social and sport

Looking for a fun and safe place for your kids to play in Germany? Check out Spielplatztreff! Their extensive database includes thousands of playgrounds nationwide with reviews, photos, and amenities.

Afrikaans

The following website has a list of resources for your children to read or watch entertainment in Afrikaans

All grown up

What are the citizen options for my child who grew up in Germany with South African parents. This section will be updated soon

Terminology

Maternity Terminology

We created a searchable table to help you look up the German words you might need during and after your pregnancy.

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Women’s Health

Contraception Contraception is a vital aspect of reproductive healthcare, and it is readily available at pharmacies. However, to obtain birth control pills, IUDs, and diaphragms,

Visiting a doctor

When I first came to Germany, I was fortunate to still frequently travel back to SA, so I did all my check-ups there and tried

Learning German

There are several approaches to learn German, all of which can help you achieve your language learning goals. You can opt for convenient online sites