Discount Europe travel with kids doesn't have to suck

Aletha Wilkinson
Head of Lifestyle

No three words strike fear into travellers’ hearts as profoundly as ‘flying with toddlers’.

In fact, the only thing that could possibly make that phrase more frightening is if you throw the words ‘budget airline’ into the mix.

A long-haul trip with small children on a discount carrier is, quite rightly, many people’s idea of hell – and that includes parents themselves.

If you’re childless and the thought of 20 hours sitting near a food-smeared small human with a mouth full of yelling makes you feel uncomfortable, you can probably guess how much worse it is for that kid’s mum and/or dad.

All of the above being true, imagine my trepidation at booking myself and my two-year-old on a Scoot flight from Sydney to Athens, via Singapore.

In economy.

Not only that, but we were going to be landing in the middle of the night, with an hours-long stopover at Changi airport, before blearily boarding at 4am for the Athens leg.

To say I was dreading the journey is an understatement and a half. I was packing it. But guess what, dear readers – I had nothing to fear, because Scoot was bloody brilliant.

Lucie and the Scoot kids’ meal: a hot dog, a Ribena and some pretzels. Healthy? Not quite. But plane meals don’t count, right? Picture: Supplied/Aletha Wilkinson

Reason 1: Easy stopovers

You can fly via Singapore. This in itself leads to several benefits. First, Changi Airport is glorious – it’s literally been voted the world’s best airport, with a butterfly garden, incredible shopping, fantastic food and superlative family services. It’s also only about eight hours from Sydney, which is a very manageable flight time. The main alternatives either require you to route through Dubai or Abu Dhabi (each a whopping 14.5 hours away) or they involve three separate legs to get to Athens. Big tick for Scoot. As I mentioned, we had a lengthy stopover, so I booked us a room at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport, located at Terminal 3, which gave us the chance to bathe and have a couple of hours’ sleep.

Reason 2: Super-friendly crew

The staff really do go above and beyond, and they’re incredible with kids. Lucie and I have travelled long-haul a lot already, and I can hand on heart say that the flight crew, or ‘Scooties’ as they call themselves, were the kindest and most patient we’ve encountered on any airline. There was none of the abrupt busyness you sometimes get on much more expensive carriers. Nothing was too much trouble and they spent time making friends and being silly with her.

Reason 3: Dreamliners are better

It’s not your imagination – flying in a Dreamliner really does make travelling better. Boeing 787s have four times the moisture in the air as other long-haul aircraft, meaning you don’t land feeling like a dehydrated husk of a human, which in turns means you’re less likely to have horrible jetlag. The mood lighting and whisper-quiet engine noise make Dreamliner travel particularly peaceful, and the overhead bins are especially generous so there’s no jostling for space to stow your carry-on bags. Oh, and there’s in-flight wifi. We flew in a combination of economy to get there and Scootbiz, which is more like any other airline’s premium economy, on the way home, and both modes of travel were enjoyable – really.

Reason 4:  Feel the serenity

One of the things I was most scared of when opting to fly Scoot was the fact there’s no seat-back entertainment. Yep, it’s like travelling back in time to the 1980s, when you had to amuse yourself on a plane. Except now, instead of everyone craning their necks to see a shared projector screen up the front of the cabin, everyone just has their smart phones, Kindles and tablets. For a fee, you can access a power socket at your seat to keep everything charged, so that aspect is covered. But the biggest, most surprising upshot of all this is that when the cabin goes dark, for the most part people switch off and go to sleep instead of staying up all night watching endless movies. Makes the likelihood of arriving fresh-faced at your destination that much greater.

Would you believe I once thought I would be a ‘no screen time’ parent? Picture: Supplied/Aletha Wilkinson

Reason 5: The money, honey

Let’s be real, as nice as those Dreamliners are, you don’t fly Scoot for the ambiance. You pick Scoot because it’s affordable. And boy, is it affordable – when they have a sale you can grab tickets to major European destinations for as much as half the price of the major airlines. That gap, when you’re travelling with kids, can mean the difference between taking a family holiday or staying at home.

Sure, there were a few niggles (hot tip, make sure you take either cash or a credit card with you, as up in the air, Visa debit isn’t accepted). But show me one single airline you’ve ever flown with that makes every journey perfect in 2018 – the so-called ‘golden era’ of air flight is over and there are compromises to be made everywhere in this day and age.

It’s a thumbs up from my tiny travelling companion and me.

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