I often hear people exclaim astonishment when you tell them you flew with kids. Even more so when you tell them they were fine or that they loved it. Flying with children doesn’t have to be scary or stressful. With a little preparation you will be ok and your holiday will not start in tears. Here is my advice.
Take a deep breath and stay calm. It is the best thing you can do. Kids pick up on your stress and will mirror it, and so will fellow passengers. So keep calm and be positive and fun.
The next best thing you can do is to be prepared. This is essential for any flight but especially long flights. Acknowledge that you will be in a difficult situation and simply be prepared to deal with whatever may come up. Talk with your child about the flight and make them feel comfortable with it, demystify the unknown and even get them excited. Then prepare yourself with a special bag full of distractions and snacks.
Snacks for the Flight
Number one snack is something chewy to help your child’s ears pop on takeoff and landing. You can keep it healthy and use something like sultanas or go for a chewy lolly or two. We find Mentos work well. Take some plain crackers of some sort. These are good for upset tummies and will fill the hole while you wait for a proper meal. Then pack some snack foods like dried fruit and popcorn, lollipops are good time wasters, and a few special treats too. Remember to pack snacks for you too – a ‘hangry’ parent is no use to anyone. You can usually take drinks on to a flight if it is obviously for the child, otherwise take their favourite bottle or cup and fill it up on the flight. And remember to give them extra fluids to counteract the dehydration of flying. Now is not the time to be strict on treats, let loose and give in, it will make your trip much easier.
Yes, food can be a distraction but activities are better. We usually buy a new colouring in book or a blank drawing book and always take crayons as you don’t need a sharpener for them. Stickers are great, just be careful where they get stuck to. A mini playdough, pipe cleaners, bubbles for chasing at the airport, a small wheeled toy and then you can bring on the technology. Load up your gadget with a favourite movie and a new movie for them, put a few songs just for them as well. And don’t forget the headphones, not everyone wants to listen to Toy Story or the Wiggles. For the same reason try not to pack noisy toys, even if they are their favourite. Do let them chose one toy to take with them. You may need to steer them towards an appropriate choice but make sure they feel like it was their decision. Usually this is a much loved teddy for us and generally not the Barbie doll with a million little things to lose off her.
Space is often an issue when traveling and you don’t want to be taking too much ‘stuff’. So make use of what is already there or things you are already taking with you. Play ‘spot the …’ with the inflight magazine. Use a baby wrap or blanket to create a tent over your seat. Use your imagination and encourage your child to use theirs.
Keep it Secret
Whatever you pack try and keep everything a secret. When you take something out of the bag, don’t let them see everything else you have. Often it is the surprise of something new to play with rather than what it is that is the distraction. If you have time, wrap a couple of things in lots of layers of paper so they can waste time ripping it all off. Even better is to have a small surprise in between each layer to draw the game out even longer.
Where to Sit
As for where to sit I advise to not sit near the quiet zone for obvious reasons and not near the noisy toilets where you are annoyed by the lights and constant stream of people. Anywhere else is just fine. Over the wings is apparently a smoother ride. You cannot book the emergency door row with extra room if you have children, for obvious safety reasons but if you are lucky you may be able to get the front row in the centre, which gives you a little extra leg room, a little floor space to play on and you don’t have to worry about bumping the seats in front of you. If you need the baby bassinet you will get these seats anyway. Though to be honest I don’t see many people make use of these basinets as they are made for very small babies, they cannot be in there when the seatbelt sign is on and kids often just want to be held anyway. Get priority boarding for the fact that you dont want anyone else taking up your overhead baggage space, you want everything close and handy. And you can take your time squeezing down the aisle with all your bags and your child without worrying about holding other people up or having others in your way. If you put your child in the window seat they can lean against the wall to sleep, if you get an aisle seat you can get in and out easily.
When you leave your front door, smile. Smile at your taxi driver, he may help with your bags. Smile at the check in counter and you may get a better seat. Smile when you get to your gate to get priority boarding. Smile at the people sitting around you, they may be sitting next to you on the plane. Smile at the air hostess, say hello and you will find it easier to get help during the flight. Keep smiling. It is infectious and people will feel confident that you will not be an inconvenience during the flight. Because unfortunately there are some people who make travel difficult and some people who don’t agree with kids traveling. Be the one to change their mind. Smile at your kids to make them feel loved and happy and comfortable. Smile.
If you have the room, pack a pillow. Not only is it a comfort of something familiar from home but it makes it so much easier for them to be comfy and encourages sleep. If you are lucky they will sleep for the whole flight and you will be left with a bag of awesome distractions for the flight home. Yes, don’t forget you need to survive the flight home too so keep some things hidden away or plan to buy more before you depart.
If you are flying at night try to keep to some routine. Let them wear pyjamas – they will be comfy and warm and are a big sign that it is bedtime. Read a story if that’s what you do at home. Then let them sleep. But don’t stress about it being sleep time and forcing them to sleep. They are excited and uncomfy just like you.
Allow time to rest on your first day when you arrive. Even if you all get some sleep on the plane you will still feel unrested so don’t plan a day full of activities for your first day. But don’t sleep during the day either; try to get into schedule with the local time zone as soon as you can then have an early night to bed.
So there you have my tips for flying with children.
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